Transform Drug Policy Foundation
November 2, 2004 11:53 AM   Subscribe

"After the War on Drugs - Options for Control is a major new report examining the key themes in the drug policy reform debate, detailing how legal regulation of drug markets will operate, and providing a roadmap and time line for reform." It's concise and reasonable, but is this report from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation (Google News lookup) really "the first practical road map for a benign drug policy that must follow the collapse of drug prohibition"? ... "No countries have yet legalised any drug covered under the U.N. convention" - will anything change anytime soon?
posted by mrgrimm (10 comments total)
First of all, all stoned eyes are on Alaska tonight. The last I heard, the cannabis legalization measure wasn't likely to pass (42% for, 50% against).

In any case, the Transform report projects a 2007-2012 window for eventual cannabis legalization. If it passes in Alaska and the next couple of years go over fine, then only that sounds plausible. The UN convention is the real roadblock. I remember reading the Economist's series of articles advocating drug policy reform, within which it was mentioned that Swiss officials wanted to legalize marijuana, but didn't since that would violate the UN psychotropic conventions that they were party to. The US, and probably Britain, are the only countries that can pave the way for real global change.

I do wonder how such a change will come about. A lot of the prohibitionist arguments are disingenious, yet memetically dominate because the issue of recreational drugs while presented as a health problem is actually supported on (outdated) moral and philosophical premises.
posted by Gyan at 2:08 PM on November 2, 2004

No, quite frankly the drug prohibition industry is very popular and very profitable. They've convinced a good enough majority that drugs are bad and should be illegal.
posted by geoff. at 2:26 PM on November 2, 2004

alaska is the big one, but there are also a number of reform proposals in 6 other states.

geoff., i heartily disagree with you. i think that there are a significant number of powerful people who depend on the prohibition industry (police, prison guards, dea, the alcohol and tobacco industries), but i'd bet the general consensus is against the law enforcement's stance.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:53 PM on November 2, 2004

I forget who said it first, but I remember a comedian once said that you could take an ounce of the finest marijuana on earth that might cost $300-$400 on the street and if the government grew it the stuff would wind up costing around $30 to grow. Then the gov't could still put a $150 tax on it and users would still be happy.

I have never heard of the drug prohibition industry, but I can imagine that there are a number of corrupt law enforcement agents that are making bank on bribes and kickbacks and such. Think about how drug dealers funnel cash back into the economy, and then think about the allegations from the '80's that the CIA was selling cocaine in
California to make money to support thier black operations.

I myself am not entirely convinced that hard drugs should be legal. There needs to be a change in how we deal with addicts, whether we throw them in jail or in a rehab treatment. I have been telling people that weed will be legal within the next 20 years, and I would never want to see crack or heroin available.
posted by daHIFI at 3:36 PM on November 2, 2004

mrgrimm, I really wish and hope you're right.

daHIFI, first I'm not talking about the industry from the black market, I'm talking about the fact the majority of the country is so conservative they'd never even think about doing drugs (or more likely, do them in youth but still think they are wrong and better off illegal). Think of the ramifications of what would happen if there was a relaxation of drug laws. No need for expensive hi-tech equipment for LEO, no money for ad campaigns, for various braintrusts, tobacco and alcohol would certainly go down (though, they'd most likely invest in marijuana/whatever and it'd way offset any hit to their core business).

On your second point, you can't really overtax something. If you do you'll get what we have now with cigarettes. People steal them, counterfeits go up. Right now it is still cheaper to buy a pack of cigarettes then to grow tobacco in your backyard. Marijuana has a culture built around it. People don't socially smoke cigarettes like they do marijuana. The guy next door with the grow? He might actually enjoy growing and will probably give it out to those friends of his for free, or at a greatly reduced price. Suddenly a new black market emerges from the way overtaxed government prices.

The best bet the government has is to make it legal but not legal to grow in mass production, or sell in retail stores. This would eventually lead way into full legality, but it'd be a great way to ease things in. Those who wanted marijuana would presumably be able to still get it without fear of getting caught while it still won't be next to the Redman Chew.
posted by geoff. at 4:34 PM on November 2, 2004

Note that this document is from the UK, and it UK-centric in its views. The timetable they refer to in it is therefore also predicated on UK and European trends - while acknowledging the US's strong lead in drug-related affairs.

daHIFI, I think that crack or heroin available legally to the masses could possibly be a problem - and I've seen close friends nearly destroyed by cocaine - but I really don't think the destructive-level use of these drugs would be much more prevalent if they were legal and available.

These drugs are widely available now, pretty much anywhere. When the little tiny town in the middle of nowhere - hundreds of miles from any "inner city" - where I went to high school is now having problems with heroin, codeine & oxycontin addiction, making the stuff illegal is having ZERO effect on availability. Therefore, anyone who really wants this stuff can get it now, anywhere.

What I'm trying to say is that the kinds of people who will naturally gravitate toward this sort of addiction will do so whether it's legal or illegal, and the people who are not interested or susceptible to them will remain so.

I don't think we have to worry about a huge number of new heroin addicts if it becomes a state-regulated legally-dispensed drug, any more than we had to worry about a huge number of new alcoholics when Prohibition was abolished in 1932.

The "drug prohibition industry" isn't so much any sort of private industry; it's Federal funding of State and local police efforts to fight drugs. Municipalities can get big fat checks from the US Gov't to "help" them fight drugs in the community, which buys lots of spiffy toys for the cops... and keeps property taxes down. There are a certain number of security companies and other firms who get paid a lot of money to do drug testing on employees and students, too; the money stream for those companies comes out of your consumer pocket in the form of higher prices, since such testing is a part of "cost of business" that can be passed on, and out of your tax dollars in the case of public employees and school children.

Anyway, my thought is that the actual addiction problem would not get any worse, or if it did would do so temporarily and settle back down, while the insane amount of money that we spend on enforcement, "interdiction" and attacking the producers in faraway countries would come back into our pockets - along with maybe 10 times that being added to our pockets thru taxation on the drugs, just like alcohol and tobacco. It's kind of a no-brainer, but people haven't seemed to learn from the Prohibition debacle.

We cannot stop people from producing, trafficking and consuming drugs as long as there is demand. Cutting off the supply is completely impossible under the circumstances of making the drugs illegal, which just makes them expensive and puts them under the control of violent criminal organizations - just like booze was during Prohibition, which directly created "modern" organized crime in America. Most of the crime and violence will evaporate if this pipeline is put under sane control... though of course not completely - people still rob liquor stores. But when was the last time you heard about somebody being shot over a bad deal on a 6-pack of Coors??
posted by zoogleplex at 4:36 PM on November 2, 2004

Excellent post, zoogleplex.
posted by keithl at 5:46 PM on November 2, 2004

I've been hearing "20 more years" for a good 25 years now...
posted by alumshubby at 6:25 PM on November 2, 2004

The results in Alaska Measure 2(43% Yes, 57% No) nearly parallel what I mentioned earlier. From the exit polls, it figures that 52% of those ages 18-44 support legalization. Among ages 60+, that drops to 36%. People currently aged 45+ comprise I suppose that in some ways this bodes well for cannabis policy reform. Alaska should have legalized cannabis by 2010.
posted by Gyan at 12:29 AM on November 3, 2004

Sorry for the malformed comment above. The full version should be "People currently aged 45+ comprise 49% of No versus 42% of Yes."
posted by Gyan at 12:33 AM on November 3, 2004

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