The Drug War Clock
January 10, 2004 1:38 AM   Subscribe

The Drug War Clock. Its the 10th day of the new year. The US has spent 1 BILLION dollars on the drug war so far. 43,929 have been arrested, half of which for offenses related to cannibas and 6,587 people have been incarcerated. Happy New Year!
posted by skallas (58 comments total)
 
Thanks, skallas.
I think some of the most interesting lines from the link are these:
"Nearly 4,000 new HIV infections can be prevented before the year 2005 if the federal ban on needle exchange funding is lifted this year.

About 10 new cases could be prevented every day."

posted by spazzm at 2:41 AM on January 10, 2004


cannibas?

Just one more letter and they would have been cannibals...
(cheap snark, I know, but I couldn't resist)
posted by Termite at 3:18 AM on January 10, 2004


This is a powerful site. Personally, I'd legalize recreational drugs -- or better yet, encourage the pharmaceutical industry to create new analogues to marijuana, cocaine and heroin that produce the same, or better effects without the negatives qualities of the current drugs. This latter might be undertaken as a national scientific project, replacing GWB's soon-to-be-proposed Mars landing and probably costing a lot less. You can't get away from the fact that there is tremendous consumer demand for the effects of these illegal drugs, and the market -- if not the government -- should be allowed to meet it.
On the other hand, until that day comes, you all know that drugs are illegal and that you can be sent to jail for using them. The 6, 587 people who went to jail for drug offenses this year could have easily avoided incarceration by doing what is in fact the easiest thing in the world... the thing that literally tens of billions of people do every day without the slightest effort: they could not use drugs. The war on drugs is asinine, but that doesn't absolve the individual user from being the engineer of his or her own miserable fate if he or she uses drugs and winds up in jail. To not take drugs is a really, really easy thing to do, and anyone who fails to do this perfectly simple thing while knowing that failure to do it will get you in terrible trouble, is entitled to only so much sympathy.
posted by Faze at 6:27 AM on January 10, 2004


The drug war is a waste of time, money, and lives, and everyone with brains knows this. However, there are five advantages to elements of society that are gained from continuing it: (1) the approval of brainless asshats; (2) money for enforcement agencies, courts and prisons; (3) reducing the official unemployment rate; (4) profit for criminal organizations; (5) brinkmanship, in that whoever stops it gets blamed for the loss of (1) to (3).

Evidently, these outweigh the advantages to be gained from ceasing the drug war. One or more must be addressed to stop it. How?

(1) Meme propagation. This is already happening, and this is generally how any social evil gets stopped. People stop going along with it and believing in it. At a tipping point, somewhere around where the majority of the population switches from pro-evil to anti-evil, it ceases to be an individual advantage to be pro-evil, and becomes an individual disadvantage.

(2) The prison companies like Wackenhut and private security companies like Group4 (which may or may not be the same company) are enthusiastic participants in the stock market game of Emperor's New Clothes, where it is not companies who make profit who are sought after, but companies whose profits are continually increasing. There is a limit to how long this can go on, but that limit could be a while away.

For what it's worth, companies by their very nature have vulnerable points, and some kinds of damage (like utter discreditation of an iconic CEO) will propogate quickly through a company structure. The right action in the right spot can bring a company down. Many a huge company has gone broke in the past because its source of profit became untenable. How to attack Wackenhut in such a fashion? I don't know.

(3) The unemployment rate is useful solely as propaganda to brainless asshats. The real useful measures for understanding an economy include the total population, the consumption rate, the production rate, the taxation regimen, and a bucketload of other pieces of data, none of which are useful solely on their own. We all know this. See issue (1).

(4) I think 'criminal organizations' are fairly rare, and the drug distribution network is really just a massive P2P array with a large number of source nodes, with something (money and/or drugs) being taken each time a 'packet' of drugs and money is passed from participant to participant. Law enforcement activities against specific nodes just gets routed around.

Otherwise, a drastic random event that changes the environment of drug policy could happen: if an easy treatment for the phenomenon of drug addiction is discovered--much as paracetamol is an easy treatment for the phenomenon of nerve pain--then the only people who will use drugs, after the treatment is readily available, are those who wish to. The involuntary users, the source of the crime problems associated with drugs, would cease. This would free up a lot of labor resources, ranging from totally unskilled former addicts to highly skilled former enforcement agents. Historically the sudden addition of a large amount of labor resources has had various effects, but at least some of these have led to positive advancement, or else we wouldn't be here today. The smart and resourceful create new industries and new technologies, dragging the rest along with them.

Anyway, this is all blue-sky speculation, of course. The drug war will stop eventually, because all things do, but no-one can easily predict why and how. We'll see.

On preview: Faze An individual chooses whether or not he or she will use a drug, but each time he or she makes that choice, it shifts the foundation on which the choice is made. Addiction makes it harder and harder, until it becomes easier and more practical to take risky action--such as crime--than to choose not to take the drug. An individual may be able to gain control over this process's effects on him/herself.

However, the more important fact is that in a large population of individuals, they will be at various points on this choice path, and this will form a bell curve. Thus a society must deal with the fact that a proportion of individuals will be unable to choose not to take a given drug. "One can, therefore assume that all will" is a logical fallacy.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:48 AM on January 10, 2004


The 6, 587 people who went to jail for drug offenses this year could have easily avoided incarceration by doing what is in fact the easiest thing in the world... the thing that literally tens of billions of people do every day without the slightest effort: they could not use drugs.


Bullshit. It is not simply drug use that will land you in jail, but having any association, however slight, to somebody the State believes is trafficking. Take a phone message for someone who turns out to be a dealer? Tag, you're it.

And those tens of billion: *No* drugs? You're telling me they don't smoke, or drink coffee or tea or alcohol? I'm skeptical.
posted by Ayn Marx at 6:57 AM on January 10, 2004


This kind of hypocritical bullshit is why I usually vote Libertarian, even if it's a protest vote.
posted by alumshubby at 7:09 AM on January 10, 2004


Ayn Marx: Don't confuse the issue by trying equate "drugs" with coffee, cigarettes, and tea. You're not that stupid.
posted by davidmsc at 7:13 AM on January 10, 2004


Well, even if the only users on the planet were the 6,587 people who went to jail the 10's of billions statement would be bullshit. There's about 6 billion people on the planet so unless Faze knows about a few twin earths it's a fictitious number.

Most people use or abuse drugs to varying degrees, but most people don't use or abuse illegal drugs. There's a distinction between legal and illegal drugs as well as between use and abuse. Illegal drugs such as marijuana can be used without abuse just as alcohol, caffeine or oxycontin can be abused.

The people calling for strict drug laws try to keep things sharply defined though, otherwise many of these peoples dear old mums would likely be locked up for abusing prescription medications.
posted by substrate at 7:14 AM on January 10, 2004


There's no confusion davidmsc, nicotine and caffeine are drugs. They're just not illegal drugs. When I was in high school many of my friends would suck back a pack of cigarettes between classes to get a buzz from the nicotine. Friends I have now take megadoses of caffeine to aid them in their weight training. Both are abuses of legal drugs.
posted by substrate at 7:17 AM on January 10, 2004


Legalize everything!! Have any of the pro-legalization posters had a very close relative or brother or sister or father or mother addicted for a long time? Do you really believe making crack (exajple) legal is The Answer and the addict henceforth will hold down a job and have a nice family? Why not legalize incest? it is a private thing and the govt should not intefere.
posted by Postroad at 7:26 AM on January 10, 2004


when are people going to pay attention to the *true* gateway to drugs: alcohol.
posted by shadow45 at 7:28 AM on January 10, 2004


Ayn Marx: Don't confuse the issue by trying equate "drugs" with coffee, cigarettes, and tea. You're not that stupid.

Well, David let's be honest, here. Cigarrettes, coffee, (and lets add this to the list for the sake of honesty) alcohol are certainly addictive substances, and definitely do damage to the people who abuse them and can wreak havoc on the lives of people surrounding them. So I'd definitely call them drugs in that sense of the word.

But the damage they wreak on society in general in relativelly small and has to do in large part with the fact that these substances are legal. Nobody knocks down old ladies or breaks into your house to steal your TV to get money to buy a pack of Marlboros or a six-pack of Budweiser.

I'm a recovering substance abuser and I still think that in the case of marijuana, legalization is the best option. It will take people out of prison and free up spaces for violent criminals, and take the cannabis industry out of the hands of gangsters.

I don't have the actual statistics but in countries with more relaxed drug laws, the baseline of addiction remains the same as here. This is because the phenomenon of addiction has as much to do with the user and his psychology and physiology as with the substance itself. For instance, I cannot drink alcohol sanely. Most people can. This is why Prohibition was a failure. It did nothing to decrease the number of alcoholics, and due to it's making alcohol illegal, gave organized crime unprecended power.

In the case of harder drugs like heroin and cocaine, this becomes more problematic since the addictive power of these substances is far stronger. I've rarely met casual coke or junk users.

I'd be the last person on earth to promote drug use. at best, it's a nice occasional indulgence for some people. But locking scores of people up needlessly is causing even more damage.
posted by jonmc at 7:33 AM on January 10, 2004


I've used drugs and not used drugs, and not using is better. It's less expensive, you meet a better class of people, and you don't go to jail. I'd even say that, as states of mind go, being straight is better than being high virtually 99 percent of the time. Since being straight is a nearly total advantage in life, what's the big problem with not using? Using drugs is not a passive thing. You really have to go to a lot of trouble to get them, and when you've got them, you've got to go to a lot of trouble to use them (unless its just pill popping). So really, if you go to jail for drugs, you are stupid above and beyond the call of duty, and merit about as much sympathy as those guys who try to outrun the police on "COPS."
posted by Faze at 7:47 AM on January 10, 2004


"literally tens of billions"

really? are you counting the schizoid personalities of people who aren't taking their drugs (I mean, medication)?

I personally love the drug war, as enforced by NYPD:

enter Central Park--get offered pot from a plainclothes cop. Tell him no thanks, have him follow you for a while, offering again, until he's sure you're not tempted by his offer.

anecdotal? sure. but next time you visit the city and wonder what those paddywagons lying around the edge of the park are full of, you know now.

So, Faze, I guess it's a little easier than some people think.
posted by Busithoth at 8:17 AM on January 10, 2004


Let's get all of the terms straight here:

Cigarettes contain an addictive drug, but other than an occasional seconds-long "buzz" after abstaining for a while, they do NOT alter your perception of reality or impair your ability to reason and function.

Alcohol can also be addicting, and can often impair one's perception of reality and ability to reason/function. On the other hand, alcohol intake can be measured, and the effects can, to some degree, be limited depending on how mature the person is, how much is consumed, etc.

"Drugs" in the contemporary sense are designed for one thing: to impair one's ability to reason and function.

So to sum up: cigarettes - OK; alcohol - can be OK, but sometimes not; "drugs" - not OK.

And yes, I use "the ability to reason and perceive reality" as the baseline. I know that others don't - but they should.
posted by davidmsc at 8:46 AM on January 10, 2004


Postroad, you're the first in here to advocate legalizing everything. Other people's positions were slightly more nuanced, how about talking about those?

Faze, Don't sorry, just as legalizing same sex marriages won't mean you hae to marry another guy at gunpoint, decriminalizing certain non-harmful drugs won't make them mandatory.

Fuck, I've seen some women go nuts when they don't get their diet coke, don't tell me most people never use drugs.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:50 AM on January 10, 2004


Intersting point, dave.

But, because of that very property, alcohol use is highly regulated: drunk driving laws, drunk and disorderly laws, etc.

Wre marijuana made legal, it should and probably would be regulated in the same fashion(ie, don't drive, operate machinery or go to work stoned). For the majority of people, it would be just that, at temporary respite from tensions or everyday reality. For people with the various factors that make up an addictive personality it would be a problem.

Also, if it were legal, it would have it's chemical contents regulated as strictly as a bottle of whiskey, meaning the effect could be measured, meaning people wouldn't be smoking street weed laced with god-knows what. Liquor is required to list alcohol content (in my drinking days i would often choose beverages based on this info) I see no reason why different brands of marijuana shouldn't theoretically be required to list THC content.
posted by jonmc at 8:57 AM on January 10, 2004


Since being straight is a nearly total advantage in life, what's the big problem with not using?

Well, you have to take it case by case... it would be ridiculous for a businessman with a tight schedule to smoke pot habitually or do other drugs. But I'd venture that the majority of pot smokers in America are high school students, just sitting around in their houses that all look alike trying to think of something interesting to do. Or, they're college students who used to smoke pot in high school and found it a satisfying social activity. I mean, you're arguing with reality. If the situation was really as simple as you say it is, don't you think that people would eventually catch on?
posted by Laugh_track at 9:07 AM on January 10, 2004


I don't do drugs but I liken them to things like alcohol, cigarettes, and say, pornography in the scheme of sometimes-bad-but-usually-harmless things. Yes, people with addictive personalities have problems abstaining from these things, but the rest of us have no problem having a beer once in a while, smoking a cigarette at a party, and looking at some porn. I hate the idea that the world needs to be protected and sanitized from everyone that doesn't have an addictive personality. I've always thought pot should be legal at the least, if not also harder drugs -- provided they can only be bought at a pharmacy to ensure safe strains and safe amounts. Addiction could be easily watched/controlled if drugs only came from your local Rite-Aid as well.

Also, it has always kind of surprised me that you could make a plant that grows naturally illegal. Did God screw up by making the plant in the first place?
posted by mathowie at 9:08 AM on January 10, 2004


Here's the deal boys and girls - It's my mind and if I want to keep it straight or fuck it up once in a while, that's my business.

No matter what you say, or how many of you say it, or for whatever reason you say it, it's my mind and you have no claim to it.
posted by LowDog at 9:10 AM on January 10, 2004


Once legalized and regulated, marijuana would enter society alongside tobacco as a product, the use of which, the government is trying to stamp out anyway. I'm for it because I think public indoor smoking bans would become near universal overnight. Of course it's possible to get one's fix in other ways that wouldn't smell up a place, endanger the health of others or burden the heath care system (as much). But does anyone make a tobacco tea?
posted by wobh at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2004


The War on (some) Drugs is going to evaporate the day the Powers that Be decide that the resources are better diverted to the War on (some) Terrorism, with a more thoroughly stoned and compliant populace as the side benefit.
posted by alumshubby at 9:48 AM on January 10, 2004


And the battles continue
posted by Tenuki at 9:57 AM on January 10, 2004


The War on (some) Drugs

Yup. What gets me is that I can hit the bar with my friends Saturday night and drink myself silly, then buy some caffeine pills so I can stay awake and study for an exam on Monday. Then I can walk out of the exam and light up a cigarette to relax.

But smoke marijuana? That's reprehensible.
posted by tomorama at 10:02 AM on January 10, 2004


it would be ridiculous for a businessman with a tight schedule to smoke pot habitually or do other drugs.

i was gonna remark that it's rather well known that often the best smack and coke is found on wall street.
posted by 11235813 at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2004


Measuring how much the war on drugs costs isn't this easy. What the makers of the "clock" appear to have done is take a $19 billion budget and broken it down by second. But the $19 billion includes only about $8 billion for the Department of Justice--i.e., the folks who put people in prison and keep them there--and about $1 billion for Defense, for use interdiction, messing around in South America, and who knows what else. The rest of the $19 billion includes stuff that even proponents of legalization would applaud--like $3.8 billion to HHS for education, rehabilitation, and other programs that have nothing to do with putting people in prison or harassing them. Even if you recoil at putting people in prison for private drug use (as I do), a lot of what we are spending money on in the "war on drugs" is unobjectionable, and even praiseworthy.

It also isn't obvious that we would not have to spend the $8 billion for Justice even if the coercive part of the "war" was called off. A lot of that is for prosecutors and other staff who would be working anyway. Probably a good many could be laid off, but certainly not so many that you'd recoup that entire cost. It's therefore a little too cute to break the $19 billion down into x amount per "second."
posted by profwhat at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2004


alcohol intake can be measured, and the effects can, to some degree, be limited depending on how mature the person is, how much is consumed, etc. [davidmsc]

Marijuana intake can be measured, and the effects can, to some degree, be limited depending on how mature the person is, how much is consumed, etc. Same goes for many other drugs.

"Drugs" in the contemporary sense are designed for one thing: to impair one's ability to reason and function. [davidmsc]

One could easily say the same about alcohol. I wouldn't; I'd say they're both designed to alter one's ability to reason, to change the way one functions and experiences the world, generally in both positive and negative ways; and that that's not necessarily a bad thing provided one doesn't take it too far.

There are always going to be a certain number of people who do take it too far, and become psychologically or emotionally dependent on their drug of choice -- whether it's booze or pot or Scientology -- and that's unfortunate. But making those drugs illegal isn't going to solve that problem, and doesn't prevent those people from obtaining them; it's just going to make them turn to the black market, which is far more damaging to society as a whole than the original drug use would be. (Witness the rise of organized crime during prohibition, for one example. Witness the vast amounts of money we spend on the drug war today, to so little effect, for another.)

The majority of people, however, are not addicts or alcoholics, and are perfectly capable of having a glass or two of wine with dinner, enjoying the effects, and going to work the next morning. Why should those same people not be allowed to share a joint, enjoy the effects, and go back to work the next morning?

To sum up: Alcohol - can be OK, but sometimes not; marijuana - can be OK, but sometimes not; drug laws - costly, ineffective, damaging, not OK.
posted by ook at 10:21 AM on January 10, 2004


it would be ridiculous for a businessman with a tight schedule to smoke pot habitually or do other drugs.

And there are no executives who drink habitually, either, right?
posted by ook at 10:28 AM on January 10, 2004


if we have to declare "war" on nouns, why not something everyone get behind? like acne?
posted by mcsweetie at 10:48 AM on January 10, 2004


Drug War Victims
posted by homunculus at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2004


"Drugs" in the contemporary sense are designed for one thing: to impair one's ability to reason and function.

I see two problems with this line of reasoning. For one thing, this is no less true of alcohol than of the class of drugs you call "'Drugs' in the contemporary sense." Secondly, "drugs" are only lumped together in the class called "drugs" by virtue of the fact that their recreational use is illegal in the US. The chemical properties, structure and effects of THC are very different from those of LSD which are very different from MDMA, etc.

You can't logically make assumptions about the relative dangers of a given drug based on its legal status. I would be much much more concerned if a child of mine was getting high off of toluene (which you can find in any hardware store) than if he were using marijuana (which is a sooper-illegal Schedule I controlled substance).

It's doubly silly to decide policy on the same grounds. If you say that "drugs" as a class should be illegal, and define the class "drugs" based on whether or not they're illegal, then the argument boils down to "drugs should be illegal because they're illegal," which is obviously fallacious.

Also, it has always kind of surprised me that you could make a plant that grows naturally illegal. Did God screw up by making the plant in the first place?

It's one thing to make a plant itself legal, it's another to regulate its use. Cyanide is natural, too, but that doesn't make it OK to use it as a way to zest up your ranch dressing before the Super Bowl party.

No matter what you say, or how many of you say it, or for whatever reason you say it, it's my mind and you have no claim to it.

Nonsense. I have a big honking claim to your mind when you're driving a car while hopped up on goofballs, because your voluntary choice to mess with your own mind endangers my safety. Granted, that's an extreme example, but there are other, smaller, effects of drug use which affect not only the user but those around her.
posted by sexualchocolate at 11:16 AM on January 10, 2004


sexcualchocolate: No one said anything about driving.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:25 AM on January 10, 2004


Davidmsc, I'd rather be on a highway driving next to a person who smoked one incredibly illegal joint an hour and a half ago than next to a person who took three perfectly legal Xanaxes fifteen minutes ago.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:27 AM on January 10, 2004


Peach, of course. Three blues should be fine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:28 AM on January 10, 2004


The rest of the $19 billion includes stuff that even proponents of legalization would applaud--like $3.8 billion to HHS for education, rehabilitation, and other programs that have nothing to do with putting people in prison or harassing them. Even if you recoil at putting people in prison for private drug use (as I do), a lot of what we are spending money on in the "war on drugs" is unobjectionable, and even praiseworthy.

As a proponent of legalization, I do not applaud these expenditures. Though I too recoil at putting people in prison for private drug use, the expenditures you cite are objectionable and wasteful. I don't want to pay to imprison people who take drugs, and I do not wish to pay to rehabilitate them. To hold that we will not punish a drug user while opening our pocketbooks to treat him is to hold an inconsistent position. Furthermore, like the vast majority of social programs, these are rarely held up to cost/benefit scrutiny. DARE, anyone?
posted by trharlan at 11:52 AM on January 10, 2004


I really wouldn't give much of a damn if the US government wasn't so dead set on exporting its zeal to the rest of us.
posted by arha at 11:57 AM on January 10, 2004


sexcualchocolate: No one said anything about driving.

I respectfully beg to differ. The poster to whom I was responding was laying down an absolute principle: it's my mind, and I can do what I want to it.

I was pointing out the obvious flaw in that principle: if everyone has absolute unquestioned sovereignty over their own consciousnesses, their exercise of that sovereignty is limited by the extent to which it interferes with that of others, of which one simple example is getting really incredibly high and driving around.

That is, however, hardly the only example, only an extreme one.

If my upstairs neighbors smoke pot and as a result get it in their heads to listen to Rusted Root at top volume while beating djembes at 2:30 AM, my ability to do what I want with my mind is substantially impaired. If I go to the video store and the clerk just got back from getting stoned on his break and is disconcertingly giggling at me, my ability to do what I want with my mind is in a very teeny tiny insignificant way impaired.

My point is this: unless you're an incredibly disciplined shut-in or you live on a desert island, the notion that you can do things to yourself that have no effect on those around you is unsupportable. The proper question to ask drug warriors is not whether it's OK to create a class of so-called "victimless crimes," but whether the level of societal disruption caused by drugs justifies the expense of money and effort and blood we've put into the drug war.
posted by sexualchocolate at 12:09 PM on January 10, 2004


Let's put it another way, marijuana was around for a long time, and was quite popular among certain segments of the population, especially during prohibition. Now, in that time, was it the cause of crime, or societal decay?: Or was that the realm of activities related to the then illegal alcohol?

Meanwhile the TV networks compete with each other to be the ones to deliver their particular brand of mind-destroyer to the public.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:34 PM on January 10, 2004


Ask yourself - would you really care how many junkies there were out there, if only they didn't feel compelled to steal your VCR and mug your grandmother?

If you categorize the real negative effects of drugs as a whole, even hard drugs, you'll find most of the problem lies not in what they do to an individual's functioning while they're on them, but what they do when they're off them, are addicted to them, and can't afford them. Heroin doesn't make people break and enter old folk's houses - lack of heroin does. Would you really care how many people were fucking themselves up on heroin if there was a way to reduce 99% of the crime currently associated with it?

As for lighter drugs... well, anyone who's ever smoked pot knows it's a hell of a lot safer for the people around you than alcohol. No-one ever got stoned and started a fight. No-one. Anyone who hasn't taken drugs and claims to be able to speak on behalf of people who do, and claims to understand the effects they have, is a liar.

I believe part of the reason cannabis is considered a "gateway" drug is because of the public misconception about it in comparison to other, truly dangerous drugs. Kids hear about the "demon weed", how it will screw them up. But they try it, and discover it's not that bad at all. Then they start to wonder if everything else has been a lie as well. Maybe cocaine isn't as bad as teacher told them? Maybe crack isn't as bad? Until people are completely honest and open about the effects of drug, we will have no control over them.
posted by Jimbob at 1:20 PM on January 10, 2004


My point is this: unless you're an incredibly disciplined shut-in or you live on a desert island, the notion that you can do things to yourself that have no effect on those around you is unsupportable.

Can we ban religion then?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:51 PM on January 10, 2004


""Drugs" in the contemporary sense are designed for one thing: to impair one's ability to reason and function."

Call me naïve, but wouldn't 'drugs' be what you buy in a 'drugstore'?

But seriously, I would love to see a moral and logical argument of why cannabis should be illegal, and tobacco, alcohol and caffeine shouldn't.

Currently the strongest argument against legalization is this:
"If you use cannabis, you go to jail. Therefore, cannabis must continue to be illegal."
posted by spazzm at 2:09 PM on January 10, 2004


well, I ain't no math-o-magical genius, but I'm getting about $21,000 an arrest. how the hell is that worth it?

although I must admit I'm a bit nervous about legalizing everything. look how badly alcohol has panned out. 105,000 deaths a year in america alone. hmm...
posted by mcsweetie at 3:07 PM on January 10, 2004


Hell, during the 19th century that former drugs czar and gambling addict Bill Bennett holds up as an exemplar of social rectitude, people bought laudanum, cocaine, and "syrup of poppies" over the counter at their local drugstore.

And marijuana was prescribed as a treatment for asthma, among other ailments.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:13 PM on January 10, 2004


"look how badly alcohol has panned out."

And look how well outlawing alcohol panned out.
Prohibition doesn't work - a lesson we should have learnt by now.

"105,000 deaths a year in america alone"

And alcohol is, unlike cannabis, a deadly toxin that causes violent and reckless behavior.
posted by spazzm at 3:29 PM on January 10, 2004


Sexualchocolate spake: If my upstairs neighbors smoke pot and as a result get it in their heads to listen to Rusted Root at top volume while beating djembes at 2:30 AM, my ability to do what I want with my mind is substantially impaired.

If your upstairs neighbors are sober, and are simply rude assholes, then what? There are already laws against disorderly conduct that apply to everyone, whether under the influence of substances or not. Apply that law, leave the other [well-behaved] stoners alone, and end the cycle of "we must have yet another law."

If I go to the video store and the clerk just got back from getting stoned on his break and is disconcertingly giggling at me, my ability to do what I want with my mind is in a very teeny tiny insignificant way impaired.

So, that's bad and warrants the clerk's imprisonment, but if you go to the video store the next day and the newly-hired, cold-sober replacement clerk giggles because he thinks your hat looks silly that's fine with you, right?!?

I just fail to understand some people's need to meddle in the lives of others. If I don't like what you smoke/drink/eat/do I'll avoid you, but it would never occur to me to lock you in prison because I might be offended. If there's harm, or an increased potential for harm, to someone else (DUII, for example), that's a different story, but, as we know, there are already laws that address such real crimes.
posted by wdpeck at 5:11 PM on January 10, 2004


Jimbob: re your last paragraph, I think this is one of the most pernicious effects of the WOsD. There is important medical information that needs to be passed on to new generations, but mixing it in with obvious falsehoods makes this transmission much less reliable.
posted by hattifattener at 5:42 PM on January 10, 2004


I've attempted to talk about two seperate issues, and they've gotten jumbled together. Allow me to clarify.

1. Regarding drug laws, I refer y'all to my first post upthread. davidmsc drew a distinction between alcohol (legal under some circumstances) and "drugs" (legal under very controlled circumstances, or not at all), implied that "drugs" as a class are more dangerous than alcohol, and made the claim that illegal drugs are illegal because of this. However, some drugs (marijuana, for example) are more benign (in just about every way) than alcohol, and some legal substances (my example was toluene, a commonly abused inhalant) are more dangerous than many illegal drugs. I also said that one "drug" (or its effects) has very little to do with another, chemically or physiologically speaking.

"Drugs" are a category of mood-altering substances defined by the poster to whom I was responding as dangerous and illegal. Not all mood-altering substances are illegal. If "drugs" aren't illegal simply because they're dangerous, and not simply because they're mood altering, they must be illegal because they're illegal.

Was it unclear that I meant this as a criticism of present US drug policy when I said it before?

2. I have also been attempting to make a philosophical point in opposition to the notion that getting drunk, high, etc., is nobody's business but the user's. No one's actions take place in a vacuum. Not only can we not forsee all of the effects of our actions, it's also virtually impossible to guess the cumulative effects of millions of people doing actions which seem harmless when each action is evaluated individually and in and of itself.

(For example, one person littering once hurts no one in any tangible way. 300 million people each littering ten times every day for the next 10 years will have a significantly negative effect on everyone's lives.)

The fact that I personally believe that the societal costs of drug use are miniscule compared to the resoruces spent to wage a "war" against it does not compel me to believe that drug users (or anyone else) have an innate right to do whatever they want to themselves.
posted by sexualchocolate at 7:01 PM on January 10, 2004


it would be ridiculous for a businessman with a tight schedule to smoke pot habitually or do other drugs. (Laugh_track)

How do you think this metaphorical businessman copes with the stress? What do you think fueled the bombastic economic "me-ism" of the 1980s? How about the industrial revolution? Could it be cocaine? How many cultural, economic, and financial revolutions do you not realize were entirely fueled by "drugs"?

Not every insufferable pothead is a moron or a slacker. One of the hardest working sonofabitchs I've ever known was a total pothead. A big, fat, joint a day with his morning coffee for him at least, just before starting work. He says it helped him work longer and harder, with less distractions, all day long. Doesn't sound like a typical pothead, eh?

You don't really believe that grade school history book crap regarding European global exploration, conquest, and colonialism was actually about "spices", do you? Clove, cocoa, coffee, tea, nutmeg, and more are all drugs with known psychoactive properties. You think I'm shitting you? Nutmeg will fuck your shit up three ways to Decemberween and you'll probably end up in the hospital if you even try it. Even in small "threshold" doses, these are all known psychoactive chemicals.

You can try to wage war on all drugs, but the moment every single psychoactive substance known to man is under the myth of control we'll all be eating the most boring, unpalatable gruel ever conceived.

Hell. One of America's longest standing cultural institutions involves gorging oneself on an enormous bird just brimming with the psychoactive "drug" tryptophan and then passing out in a stupor front of an electronic gadget known to have inherent mind-altering properties above and beyond the content itself. (Television is subject to the same rules of photoneural synthesis that those blinky-goggle brainwave training devices are. Blinking lights of specific frequencies produce specific brainwave states. Not surprisingly, television can be hypnotic in the truest sense of the word. You ever wonder why TV advertising is so effective? Try a 30hz flicker out on the ol' bean.)

"Drugs" in the contemporary sense are designed for one thing: to impair one's ability to reason and function. (davidmsc)

*BzzzT!* Wrong, bucko. Designed? You're saying you're a creationist, then? Mushrooms were designed to impair your "ability to reason and function"? Do the words "ad hominem attack" and "straw man argument" mean anything to you? You've totally broken the rules to intelligent debate. Thank you, drive through! Play again?

Ayn Marx: Don't confuse the issue by trying equate "drugs" with coffee, cigarettes, and tea. You're not that stupid. (davidmsc)

But apparently you are.

(Note: I'm willfully breaking said rules in calling you out in a not so nice manner. I am entirely aware and cognizant of said disparity. Deal with it.)

Since being straight is a nearly total advantage in life, what's the big problem with not using? (Faze)

There are thousands of beneficial uses for certain types of psychotropic drugs. Exploration of consciousness and psychological therapy is just the tip of the iceberg.

As this horse gets beat to death, there are two things that people repeatedly bring up - in this thread and in any thread that even touches the subject.

Most people aren't aware enough to go meta enough and get straight to the point.

These two things are "reality" (IE, perception and consciousness) and "reason" (IE, analytical thinking, pattern recognition, intelligence).

This in itself is a telling mark of how integral this debate is to the very process and nature of consciousness itself.

These two things are - by no small coincidence - the two things in our (cough) "reality" that are - sadly - the least understood.

Reality - as we know it as a matter of perception - is subjective. Moreover, your very brain, the thing you trust so freely, the thing you so dearly want "to keep straight" is a twisted, bizarre witch's brew of chemicals and electrochemical reactions. Your brain also contains - naturally - a number of contraband chemicals. DMT and GHB are prime examples, as are various naturally occurring cannabinoids. (The list of "psychoactive" chemicals that occur naturally in the human brain - contraband or not - runs into the thousands of known chemicals.)

That's right. Human beings are contraband in the USA under current DEA and FDA regulations. If that's not the most insane, asinine pile of complete bullshit I don't know what is.

We do not understand ourselves. We do not understand - fully - how we got here. We do not understand why we think, though we are just beginning to understand how.

And this rudimentary understanding of how is in no small way directly correlated to the research of entactogens, empathogens, and ethnogens. (Read: "psychedelics" and "hallucinogens".)

"Intelligence" - as we know it to be a function of pattern recognition and matching - may not only be connected to hallucinogens as "the missing link" to the evolution of language, symbology, mysticism, and tool making - it is in itself a powerful tool for examining and exploring our own current "state of the art" of consciousness.

That's right, I said that. "Mushroom eating monkeys may be our true ancestors."

You can quote me on that, for what it's worth. But considering the past, current, and foreseeably ongoing political climate, I, as a past, current, and foreseeably ongoing "drug user" have a deprecated worth of opinion, apparently. Horseshit. I'm smarter than most by a long shot - and I have the scores and wherewithal to prove it - and none of that prior "drug" use should effect your ability to reason and rationalize my or any drug user's ideas (or actions!) at face value without the baggage of moral ideologies.

The smartest people I know - vastly smarter and more focused than I - use various psychoactive chemicals - most of them in the misnamed "hallucinogenic" category - applied with forethought, education, experience, and no small amount of research.

Do you have any idea how many world-class programmers, engineers and other researchers use these chemicals? How many millions and billions of lines of code were written "under the influence"? The code that controls your car. Airplanes. Medical equipment. Infrastructure. (The list goes on and on.)

Also, there is no small pile of evidence pointing to the current "information technology" revolution as having its primary roots in the "psychedelic" revolution. We probably wouldn't have personal computers and the network infrastructure we have today without psychedelics. Far out, revolutionary, truly world-changing ideas take people thinking far out things and exploring far out "psychogeographical" places.

How many inherently valuable ideas do we take for granted today were born in the phosphorescent realm of the psychedelic mind? How many ideas and how much advancement are we missing out on due to the restrictions of this war on some drugs?

The moral of the story:

A) It's my body, my brain, my mind, my consciousness. It is mine to alter as I please. It's not yours, it's mine and mine alone. If you don't like it, tough beans. If you limit my right to ingest whatever I want, you're limiting my pursuit of happiness, my pursuit of religion, my pursuit of introspection, my pursuit of self-healing and medication, my pursuit of exploration - self and otherwise, and even my pursuit of free speech. You are free to judge me by my actions insomuch as they effect you and your loved ones, but that freedom ends at least at arms length, if not my front door.

B) We're very likely shooting ourselves in the foot while said foot is in mouth, and totally ignoring our heritage and our future. Specifically speaking of hallucinogens and psychedelics, we're doing ourselves an enormous disservice in not researching them with the same fervor we do researching more fantastically contrived ways of blowing people up.



(For the record, I'm resolutely against driving - or otherwise operating heavy, dangerous stuff of any sort - intoxicated on anything. I don't care if it's moonshine, goofballs, mountain high green, or legally prescribed Xanax for the unbearable stress of your so-called life. (And, yes, there is a large difference between working with abstract ideas - IE, code - and operating heavy machinery intoxicated. One is in a "sandbox" and subject to scrutiny and testing. The other is a realtime operation of a deadly missile subject to the rules of reaction times, not abstract thought. If you can't differentiate between the two, there's the door. (And if you're not thoroughly testing your infrastructure critical code - regardless of whether or not your programmers are saucer-eyed papermunchers - you've got other problems to deal with, like wrongful death lawsuits. (And here we are at the end, three - no, four! - parantheses in. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe... Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate...)))
posted by loquacious at 4:03 AM on January 11, 2004


How many ideas and how much advancement are we missing out on due to the restrictions of this war on some drugs? -- loquacious
loquacious, You're obviously an intelligent guy. But you sound like an intelligent guy on drugs. There is no "big advancement out there." The big advancement is you getting straight. Be a man. Pull yourself together. Get off those things and start talking some sense.
posted by Faze at 7:13 AM on January 11, 2004


And alcohol is, unlike cannabis, a deadly toxin that causes violent and reckless behavior.

that's true, but my point was one of responsibility. although bolstered largely with anecdotal evidence, I don't believe the average person is responsible enough to have access to drugs and use them responsibly. but at the same time, how blatantly immoral is it for the government to say, "we don't y'all can handle this, so we're gonna ban it?" hmm...
posted by mcsweetie at 8:15 AM on January 11, 2004


Kudos to Jimbob and Loquacious.

Faze: Not to single you out, but "There is no big advancement out there"? Human history is a long list of big advancements that were not out there.

To add to all this fascinating discussion, I would like to point out that these "drugs" do not affect all persons the same way. Some of us do what is called self-medication in order to achieve a state which most resembles "normal". You may not see it or accept it, but that makes it no less true. Most obvious are adults with ADD.
posted by Goofyy at 10:28 AM on January 11, 2004


those of you who see no beneficial aspects in illicit drugs are committed to a rather narrow line of thinking. (have you ever been experienced?)

anyone who's tries LSD or MDMA (or even THC) will likely recognize that there are certain personality types that would be improved/enriched/strengthened by those or similar psychedelics.

loquacious, i'm with you on the mushroom monkeys. moses sees burning bush = peyote. jesus turns water into "wine" = psychedelic urine. (natural, repeatable "miracles" are more believable than childish stories of divine intervention).

the world would be a better place if our leaders dropped acid.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:26 PM on January 11, 2004


Oy.

I believe that many now-illegal drugs should be legaland it's a personal choice whether or not to do drugs, but as someone who has done his share, I say please don't hand me pretentious bullshit to explain why people do them.

Fratboy at a beer keg, raver on X, biker snorting meth, stockbroker on coke. It's still just chasing a fuckin' buzz.
posted by jonmc at 1:22 PM on January 11, 2004


There is no "big advancement out there." The big advancement is you getting straight. Be a man. Pull yourself together. Get off those things and start talking some sense. - Faze

Art. Science. Community. Culture. A culture of peace and understanding, not violence or fear.

Every facet of our lives can be improved directly or indirectly improved through intelligent research into this fascinating realm, most importantly, a deeper understanding of our very selves and how and why we do the insane things we do. Like war.

And I am talking sense. There are prestigious universities and researchers around the globe (more or less secretly) researching this very phenomenon. You're giving me more subjective ad hominem bullshit that is much ado about nothing. Who are you to tell me to "pull myself together"? Have we met? Do you know what it is that I do, besides write and be argumentative? What does "pull yourself together" mean, anyhow? Am I expected to rise to your definitions of "success" and "togetherness"? My vision of "together" is quite likely not synonymous with your vision.

My vision of "success" is one of living within a sustainable economic and environmental niche. Of applying resources with forethought and understanding. Of building genuine communities rather than power structures and hierarchies prone to abuse.

My vision involves some real rationality and reason, rather than more of the same horsehockey that continues to exist because we somehow apathetically convince ourselves "Oh, that's just the way it is..."

Success, to me, is defined in how many people are fed and healthy and comfortable. Not just myself. That's called empathy. The more common other is shortsighted greed and selfishness.

This has very little to do with ingesting chemicals at all, except for the very subjective fact from my perspective as someone who has used specific chemicals - ostensibly for exploration and recreation - with the unexpected side effect of being able to see my role in the world at both the macro and micro scales.

"Be a man"?! Are you intentionally trolling or are you just missing some chromosomes? What're you going to do next, tell me that crying is only for girls and babies? What a load of unevolved bungsquirtings.

loquacious, i'm with you on the mushroom monkeys. - mrgrimm

There is increasing yet still considerable archeological evidence supporting the idea that the birth of Judaism and Christianity is intrinsically linked to mushroom cults scattered throughout the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, the Ural mountains, and reaching all the way up into the Chechens and Western Europe, and more.

I say please don't hand me pretentious bullshit to explain why people do them. -jonmc

I agree with this partially. A buzz is a buzz, more or less, but it's really not. We're not talking about the numbness of alcohol, barbiturates or tranquilizers here in this particular sub-thread. But buzz-seeking for the sake of it certainly falls into that dangerous category of behaviors I call "seeking to fill the missing piece".

There's nothing pretentious about play and exploration, or even recreation. It's good for the soul, it's good for learning, and - well - exploration is exploration.

Play is likely the most fundamentally effective way to learn anything. The things I've been able to learn about myself through such exploration, be it ingestion of chemicals, meditation, or other reality hacking techniques are entirely invaluable to me. Priceless gifts. Manna? Beauty. Dazzling astonishment. True, mystifying and joyous bewilderment. Ecstaticness. Understanding. Empathy. Love.

Dream a little dream. Who knows how things could seem?
posted by loquacious at 2:30 PM on January 11, 2004


I believe that many now-illegal drugs should be legaland it's a personal choice whether or not to do drugs, but as someone who has done his share, I say please don't hand me pretentious bullshit to explain why people do them.

Are you saying that it's impossible for someone to be doing drugs for exactly the "pretentious bullshit" reasons loquacious and others have laid out? Personally, I've known many people who are "chasing a buzz" (and I am one myself, for the most part). However, I've also known quite a few people who were much more thoughtful in their drug experiences (and I am one myself, every once in a while).

For me, there is a distinction between getting stoned and watching a trippy movie, and getting stoned and brainstorming ideas for fiction. I may do the former more often than the latter, but I'd say that the latter is probably much closer to the reason why I continue to smoke marijuana. If it was about nothing but the occasional buzz, I'd have switched over to a legal drug like alcohol years ago... and I did, for nearly two years, only to return to marijuana when I realized that the "mental" aspect of pot was something important that alcohol lacked.

It may be "pretentious bullshit", but if I am capable of using a relatively weak substance like marijuana to a useful end, I don't doubt that the stronger varieties might be extraordinarily useful. In my mind, that usefulness redeems every one of the legions of buzz-seekers.
posted by vorfeed at 3:10 PM on January 11, 2004


Sexualchocolate - One of the nice things about drugs is you don't need a car to take a trip...
It's people like you that band together and form gangs (governments) and then hire thugs (police, military, etc.) to force others to live by your sense of right and wrong (your laws) that REALLY PISSES ME OFF!
posted by LowDog at 7:33 AM on January 12, 2004


I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
posted by sexualchocolate at 10:32 PM on January 12, 2004


Two questions (and my answers):

1) If you do drugs and don't bother anyone, is that a crime?
No, it's not. You can't legislate morality or any self-destructive behavior. You may as well legislate against eating fatty foods.

2) What if currently illegal narcotics were instead produced domestically and sold mail-order?
International drug trade would collapse, and with it the source of funds for Colombian guerillas, Afghan warlords, countless gangs and organized crime syndicates, and eliminate the need for such expensive and powerful weapons in the hands of law enforcement agents, plus most of the authority to use said weapons.

Yes, drug use would increase. But crime would definitely go way down, and responsible people would be on balance much better off (and have greater freedom).

Why oh why can't they legalize pot? It's working fine in Amsterdam. That gives me an idea for another question:

3) When will pot become legal in this country?
Within my lifetime, if I have anything to say about it.
posted by MarkO at 11:56 PM on January 12, 2004


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