Convince me it's possible to prohibit drugs.

[right]“If potheads elude you, what will junkies do?” — Not Estus Pirkle, [via][/right]

This thread is for a completely pragmatic discussion of mechanisms, not the morality of any proposed mechanisms. If you want to discuss morality I believe there are enough threads and blogs and movies and songs and albums and college dorm rooms and national legislatures and state legislatures and local barrooms and acrimonious shouting matches in suburban living rooms to occupy your time on the subject.

(That bolded statement above will be ignored entirely.)

I’ve become a bit curious about something I haven’t heard from the pro-prohibition side of the debate: How do you plan to accomplish it? How do you ban a substance people want to take?

My example of how current methods are factually ineffective is, as alluded to, weed. We’ve had … call it seven decades now, seven decades of fairly concerted effort on the part of Federal and state authorities to stop people from smoking parts of a specific plant. And it hasn’t worked.

Point One: If there was a sizable deterrent to marijuana use, pot wouldn’t be attractive enough to maintain a population of users.

I’ve never heard anyone claim cannabis is better than sex. Hell, I’ve never heard anyone claim anything for weed that make it sound better than masturbation. Compared to heroin or meth, pot sounds like finishing a crossword puzzle as opposed to getting the Nobel Prize in Fucking Supermodels While Being A Living Deity.

On a purely factual basis, it isn’t easy to get physically addicted to weed. It isn’t like alcohol, where there’s a sizable population of terminal wet-brains who’d die if they went off the sauce without medical intervention. You can get habituated to weed, but you can get habituated to Mentos. Habituation is a possibility for any substance, and coffee is more physically addictive than marijuana. There’s just not that element of compulsion to weed, at least for the majority of users.

Point Two: We are trying. We’ve been trying. Hard.

So we put users in prison. We put dealers in prison. We put growers, mules, and all of their associates in prison. We put a hell of a lot of people in prison, in point of fact. And we still have enough weed that when Montana allows medical marijuana you can walk around Missoula and find stores with neon pot leaves in their windows like that. Montana is only cosmopolitan compared to the real hoppin’ places like Wyoming and Alaska.

We also blanket schools and TV and other media with one-sided information meant to scare the kids away from weed for good. Other drugs get mentioned, too, but weed is always in there, always being called dangerous and harmful and illegal and everything else. Whether this information is accurate doesn’t really matter, because it doesn’t work.

So we haven’t been able to ban pot, which should be the easiest drug it’s possible to ban. It isn’t very strongly addictive. It isn’t nearly as pleasant to use as the other drugs we’ve outlawed. It is against Federal law, which is the supreme law of the land. If we could ban anything, pot would be it.

So what mechanism am I missing? What technique should the government be using that would make it possible to ban the consumption of a drug (not necessarily weed) people actually want to use?

It’s not. And the same goes for things like anabolic steroids, various prescription drugs, etc. And probably for hand guns as well. And yet you seem mostly to be concerned with pot/marijuana/cannabis.

Legalize it all. Pot, marijuana, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, anabolic steroids, painkillers, tranquilizers, fun pills, Viagra, whatever.

No, I used that as an example, because it’s the drug that should be the easiest to ban.

Shouldn’t pot be one of the hardest drugs to ban? It’s relatively easy to grow, and has the least harmful side effects. So,more people would naturally be using it than say, angel dust.

It’s patently possible to prohibit recreational drugs, since they are in fact prohibited. I guess you mean: can they do it effectively? IOW does this ban do more good than harm?

If so my take on it would be No, but I don’t pretend to be completely across this issue. I’d love to hear more from LEOs, the judiciary, those running harm minimisation programs, medical professionals, and in particular users - what effect did illegality have on your using, would you have become so involved if they were legal-but-regulated (say, on prescription), and so on.

This. Making, say, meth requires a fair knowledge of chemistry and some expensive/hard-to-get items, and that’s one of the more widespread, “easy-to-make” ones. Making weed requires some skill at gardening, under a hundred bucks worth of supplies, and some seeds (which may or may not be available legally, I’m not sure). It’s also considerably cheaper to pick up, and requires a lot less time and energy commitment than, say, LSD does – you could smoke up pretty much whenever. At the same time, with harder drugs like meth, heroin, and cocaine, we can all very clearly see the effects, so informational deterrents like the DARE campaign work better – they don’t have to lie to us, and believe it or not, that makes a difference.

Marijuana is not easy to ban. It’s probably the hardest to stamp out.

Harder drugs are more harmful – although some drugs classified as hard are probably also rather harmless except in extreme doses (Ecstasy) and other prohibited or restricted substances not harmful at all (Viagra, I think) – but the discussion was not about the harmful side effects of drugs but of the possibility to ban them.

Pot requires large storage space, whereas the harder the drug the smaller the space required. You need a truck to transport a decent shipment of cannabis, you just need a small briefcase if you are transporting, say heroin. So harder drugs are easier to smuggle.

Also if you legalise cannabis this will not drive away the market for harder drugs. However if you legalise for instance cocaine, this may crowd out worse drugs like amphetamine (poor man’s cocaine), meth, etc.

I think it’s clear you can’t prohibit it effectively. Anyone who says otherwise is probably either running for office, or has had their life negatively impacted by drugs and have decided to crusade.

There is no one single drug problem. There are a bunch of drug problems. Only a very small part of the set of drug problems is a legal/criminal issue. Only those should be addressed legally or through law enforcement.

The majority of drug issues are social, educational, medicinal/psychological, and poverty related. Each issue should be dealt with using the tools of its own sphere. Only then will there be effective mitigation.

You make some good points. (You, too, Budget Player Cadet.)

My counterpoints are ones I’ve already mentioned, including the risk/reward ratio, the points Rune mentioned about how much space it takes to grow and transport, and the fact you can’t really steal it from any legitimate source, like you can with oxycodone, for example.

Budget Player Cadet: Your point about observed harm in particular is interesting.

But I don’t want this to focus on pot. My topic is “What could we reasonably do to effectively ban a substance people wish to consume?”

If by “effectively ban” you mean “make sure no one ever uses,” then of course we can’t. But, we can’t do that with anything, including murder.

A legal “ban,” to be worthwhile, doesn’t have to ensure that nobody ever uses a substance. It just has to make it so that a lot fewer people use it than otherwise would, in a way that accomplishes more good than harm. Whether that’s possible, I think, depends on various factors, including how much harm the substance in question does.

OK, fair enough. I suppose we’d have to look at places like Portugal to get a handle on what legalization might look like here, and therefore how much drug use our laws are preventing. Not perfect but this is the social sciences, after all.

How about this: If people can refer to the use of a specific drug as an ‘epidemic’ or ‘crisis’ without being laughed at, the prohibition of that substance isn’t working. Is that reasonable to everyone?

As others said, I think pot is probably one of the most difficult drugs to really stamp out. It’s one of the cheapest and easiest to make or get, it has a large user base, and it has relatively low negative side effects.

Without directly addressing whether it is moral or not, morality is a big part of the debate in whether it’s possible to effectively ban something. If society sees something as evil morally, not only will fewer people be interested in it and we’ll be more interested in expending the resources to stamp it out. A big part of the issue with something like pot is that, by and large, a lot of society just doesn’t think it’s that bad or even doesn’t think it’s wrong at all. Combine that with the other issues with it, and I just don’t think it’s reasonably possible to do much about it.

I do think we’d have more success with some of the harder drugs for the same sorts of reasons, that there’s fewer people interested in them, they’re more difficult to get, they’re more dangerous and society tends to look on them as morally worse. If anything, I think we’d have the best chance of successfully banning a substance by legalizing some of the more socially acceptable drugs. That will have the benefit of both giving legal alternatives and allowing the focusing of the resources on those harder drugs.

But, ultimately, I just don’t see any reasonable amount of success against anything except the most hardcore drugs.

For pot, it would only require releasing genetically engineered cannabis-eating locusts to devour the outdoor crops, and I some locust-like nanobots to get to the indoor ones. We already have the technology; the sticking point so far seems to be the estimated $70 quadrillion it would require for development, testing, and manufacture.

I probably could, if you were drunk.

Banning is besides the point and a huge distraction. The real issue is mitigation of harmful outcome.

Except there are still enough prohibitionists in this country to ensure the prohibition laws we have remain in place. I would like to hear from some of them to get their ideas about how to effectively prohibit a drug.

(Maybe they’ll just say that what we do now is working. I don’t know.)

Excecute all drug users and traffickers. Easy peasy.

Yes, but the marijuana plants will still exist somewhere in America. Obviously the only solution is cleansing nuclear fire.

Random drug testing is an effective method of redcuing drug use. I know plenty of recreational users including myself who have stopped using entirely because of randon drug testing in the workplace.
This is an entirely different topic but counseling can be effective even though I have not seen too many effective counselors.
After not having smioked pot for over 20 years I took a few hits last week just for fun. It took my brain almost a full week to get back to normal. I have to disagree that pot is a harmless drug. In many ways the opiate family has the least severe side effects yet can be dangerous on so many other levels.

OK, so (more) effective prohibition can be accomplished via an increase in random drug testing, then? That’s a statement more in line with what I started the thread to get.