Legalising drug use

I have never used drugs and I have never had any friends or anyone close to me use drugs. I seem to live in a separate world from eveything I hear all the time about how pervasive they are but anyway, the point is that I do not care much about the issue and have no predetermined thoughts on whether legalising them, as some people propose, would be good or bad.

I just read http://www.msnbc.com/news/747038.asp which pretty musch says that most of Europe has a pretty lenient attitude. I don’t know if this is is necessarily good but it seems to me Europe is not exactly on the verge of self-destruction due to drug use. So even if we assume it does not make things better, it seems legalising drugs does not make them worse. but it would free up a lot of resources for other things like chasing real criminals.
As I say, I really have no strong opinion one way or the other but I am just wondering about this. Is the US just too paranoid about drugs? Or is repression the only way?

I don’t know how to answer the question about why Europe tends to be more leniant, with fewer drug-related crimes, etc.
I think the multitude of differences between the cultures is amazing. But when it comes to this issue, IMHO, it is irrelevant.

I only say that because I see too many people with such PISS POOR judgement, it just seems like if we give an inch, they’ll take a mile. Drunks and wastoids flying our planes, driving our buses,counting our money at the bank :eek:

I’m all for a good time, but most people won’t know when to say when, when to call it quits. Fun for a day maybe, but…

It’s because our cultures are so different that we SHOULDN"T endorse. it. (Also, I don’t think our government should be endorsing it.)

I don’t think the government should tell me what I can do with my body. You can not legislate common sense, nor can you legislate morality, but it seems that’s exactly what our government tries to do.

Nevermind seems to think that we need the government to baby sit us lest we overindulge. And sure some will, but I’d bet it’s the same ones who are doing it already. If we were truly living in a society where I was free, I’d be able to sit here and light up a doobie right now (oh wait, I could if I really wanted. It’s not hard to find any given drug, at any given time in America.) We could, and I’m sure some others will be along shortly, debate the issues of this topic until both sides are blue in the face, and never get anywhere. Neither side wants to give, to try to find that middle ground. It’s all or nothing, and the nothings have won, for now. I think it’s truly sad that people would rather leave drugs in the hands of the gangs and cartels, instead of finding a safe legal way to let the people do what it is they are going to do anyway.

It is my personal belief that the government should allow the common people to do anything as long as it does not harm anything but themselves. The government shouldn’t have a place in matters of protecting people from themselves, in other words.

From my utilitarian side:
I don’t doubt that drugs ruin many people’s lives and many families too. I don’t doubt that if drugs were legal they would continue to do so. Either way, there will always be some people who get sucked into drug addiction and fry their brains. It sucks, but there it is. Looks like a wash to me. But, with the illegality of drugs come other problems. Because drug dealing is an illegal activity, when disputes arise between drug dealers they tend to settle them “out of court” i.e. in a bloody shoot-out in the street as opposed to getting a lawyer and going to court. Innocent people get killed, property values go down etc… Further, illegality is a major barrier to entry in the market, so drugs are not competitively priced. For example, can you imagine how cheap pot would be if ADM got involved? Drug values are over inflated by their prohibited status, and this drives drug addicts to petty crime in order to support their habit. Petty crime leads to lower property values, more prisons etc. etc. etc. So the end result is that prohibition does not meaningfully reduce the number of users, and causes additional problems that would not exist otherwise. In order to seek the max benefit for the max number of people, my utilitarian side says legalize it!

My libertarian side says that good or bad, drugs are none of the government’s business. It’s my body, and I should be able to do what I want with it to the extent that I don’t put others at risk. If I want to shoot my life away on heroin, that should be my right. If I get behind the wheel of a car when I’m out of my mind on acid, I should go to jail. Not for the drugs, but for * driving* and using drugs.

So both sides of my brain concur that there are no good reasons for drugs to be illegal.

Rhum Runner, who drinks, but does not use drugs. :wink:

Out of a European viewpoint (do I have a choice ;))…

As the OP sets the example a note on were one stands on this personally might be in place. Calling me sailor’s complete antithesis would be pretty fair. I suspect that we might have been going to quite different kinds of parties in high school. Nowadays I’m mostly a vodka and wine exclusively man (whatdayathink? I’m French/Scandinavian fercryinoutloud!) I also had to see a few friends go in the ground over the years due to ODs. Hence I agree that it’s a serious problem and nothing to be flippant about.

Even if I almost never smoke myself; on a pure ideological level I am pro legalization of marihuana. I might sometimes think that alcohol should be handled more carefully by society. But that’s another thread altogether.

As the article points out European legislation varies pretty much on this issue. It mentions my folks ‘old country’ (Sweden) as being on par with the US, but it’s actually harsher measures that are in effect; it is even illegal to be under the influence of illicit substances.

I think the general idea here is that criminalization of the stuff marginalizes addicts into a sub-society were they don’t get the help they need plus drives them into other forms of criminality. Reversely a more lax environment means lower stigma for the user, hence easier to spot and to help someone who is slipping into abuse. This seems to hold up pretty well as the examples in the article show. Sweden on the other hand is often taken as the example that harsh measures help. This is true as well, but why doesn’t that work in the US? Well, Sweden also has a very lenient penal system and it is a welfare state with relatively speaking huge amounts of state subsidized rehabilitation resources.

Living in the states I noted (might be the circles I frequent, but the stats support me here as well) that the level of abuse is pretty equal, while the ‘knock out’ rate on a social level is higher. I don’t think that a complete legalization of drugs is an option anywhere and especially not in the US. What I do believe needs to happen is a decriminalization of the use. Take Robert Downey Jr. as an example. He seems to be on the road to recovery at this moment, but he’s got great lawyers and lots of support. Hence he gets off pretty easy and once out he’s got the resources to put himself through rehab. I’ve seen less fortunate examples in the States were a life already ruined by drugs gets utterly destroyed as the addict goes to prison for possession only to spiral further down into the swamp, they get out and have nothing except their addiction to fall back on and it starts all over again.

Unfortunately there is no panacea and it’s all about a golden middle way. But I think that it’s time that we stop punishing those who have already got a punishing problem. Focus more resources to go after the drug cartels instead. And even if I said it was another thread; legalize marihuana, that will save a hell of a lot of resources that the DEA wastes going after what is proven to be a less harmful habit than alcohol.

Thus is my humble opinion,

Sparc

Sorry about the double post, hopefully a mod will be by shortly to delete it.

Nevermind wrote:

[emphasis mine]

So, you’d like to reinstate alcohol Prohibition, then?

Nothing to add yet, but wastoids? Are these anything like a goiters? :stuck_out_tongue:

I agree with Tabeitha, Mados, & Rhum Runner.

Drug prohibition takes up so very much of the manpower & resources of the criminal justice system. If we would just deciminalize the stuff, the jails would have room for, and the cops & court system would have time for, the real criminals: the ones who do actual harm to someone other then themselves.

Nevermind makes the pont that the cultures are very different and the same measures may get very different results and I can accept that as a general proposition. It seems what freedoms one is allowed change depending on which side of the Atlantic you are in and this may be normal but it also seems Americans make a bigger deal about their rights and freedoms than Europeans. So Americans can carry guns but laws regarding prostitution, drugs and other things are much tougher. You can trust an American with a gun but not with a joint? The whole thing is interesting and maybe, rather than accept the cukture as it is it would be worth trying to change it? Why is nudity on (American) TV unthinkable? It seems to me America could loosen up a bit but I don’t know how far with regardds to drugs. My guess is marijuana could be legalised without problems as it is less harmful than alcohol.

Tabeitha and Mandos say the government has no business telling us what we can do and I will accept that when we all accept it would be OK for the government to idly stand by while a drug addict agonizes on the street, just preventing him from committing any crimes. As I do not think this is realistic, then, if you expect help from society you should expect rules. I am definitely one for fewer rules and fewer safeguards but I know society would not accept standing by and doing nothing when addicts reach the end of the line.

The main point is that if we can dedicate less resources to fighting certain types of crimes (drugs, prostitution, etc) and nothing bad really happens, then those resources are being wasted and could be better spent on other things like rehab programs. The problem is how do you know if that is the case unless you try it?

I don’t think the US is going to have much choice in, perhaps, three years. The preliminary results from the UK clinical trials (the largest sample group studied in the world) are firmly pointing at the medicinal value of Marijuana- not just in terms of pain relief but surprisingly broad-based. Seems unlikely the powerful US Pharm industry lobby is going to sit back while the UK (and, presumably, other Europeans) seize the quite huge market.

IMHO, much of the recent change in UK Policy has been driven by the need to prepare the ground for the introduction of Marijuana based medicines (apparently with the ‘high’ extracted, by the way). There is also present the argument, mooted above, that there is no longer widespread public support for current legislation.

Perhaps it’s important to note the issue need not be seen as simply black and white – legal or illegal. The way forward here has been to begin the process of ‘de-criminalisation’ at local level. That is; to allow local police forces to determine whether possession of small quantities should be an arrestable offence or something that can, but may not necessarily, result in a summons and may, but not necessarily, result in a small fine – much greater local and discretionary enforcement of an offence downgraded.

The problem, of course, remains of how to tax something which can be readily grown at home.

When I mentioned drunks I wasn’t trying to condone prohibtion. I was attempting to create a visual. Exaggerated. Cheers!!!

I don’t think that we should leagalize something just because it is a difficult problem and requires resources to combat. Just throwing our hands up in the air and making it legal is not productive, and I have not yet seen a convincing argument supporting the idea that it would benefit our society as a whole. Sorry if the drug dealers are getting shot. Yes, I know innocents get caught in the crossfire. I don’t believe drug use, legal or illegal only victimizes the user. People running around doped up have just as easily cause innocent people to get hurt due to the lack of judgement that ensues when one is high. I’m not saying the gov’t should “babysit”. But I don’t consider laws that protect the general public babysitting. ‘let the people do what they want they’re going to do it anyway’ philosophy seems a little foolish.

Dedicating more resources to rehab is a good idea, but we are forgetting that one has to WANT rehab in order for it to WORK. Where is the incentive for rehab when dealing and functioning (or not) under the influence of drugs is okay legally and socially? (Would Robert Downey be in rehab if he wasn’t in trouble? Doubtful.) I agree that if one is arrested that there needs to be adequate rehab in prison so that they don’t automaticaly go back out and repeat the same cycle once released. But again, so much of this is up to the INDIVIDUAL to control!

As for the discussion regarding the stigmatization of the drug abuser because it is illegal and they are less likely to seek help—
Cry me a river!! It is a personal choice to get involved with drugs. If you don’t want to be stigmitized, don’t do it. To say the gov’t has to step in and make your habit legal so you can FEEL BETTER about yourself is to lay blame on someone else, or the system, for a problem that is a result of your own behaviour in the first place.

By the way, if drugs where suddenly legal, where would we get them from? Blow and heroin don’t grow well here. Oh goodie, our government in bed w/ Columbian drug cartels! They set the rate. Do you think that these guys are going to sell at a cheaper rate because now our gov’t wants to buy in bulk?
If it were legal, dealers aren’t going to suddenly love one another and stop shooting. There is still money to be made or lost. There are still going to be battles over turf, etc. Except now, you won’t be able to arrest them.

The top story at Libertarium.org has some insight. It talks about how Portugal has recently decriminalized all drug use, heroin, cocaine, you name it. Spain and Italy have also recently decriminalized most drugs. It will be a couple of years before the studies are back it points out, but I certainly haven’t heard of any waves of of drug related crime, accidents, or overdoses, as much as control freaks like Nevermind would like you to believe those are the inevitable results of having the freedom to do with your body as you see fit.

Nevermind I thing you have misinterpreted the whole thing. It is consumption that has been decriminalised, not trafficking. And the point is that, regardless of how we may feel, if decriminalising drug use is proven to have no bad consequences and frees resources, why not do it? If it is proven to be a bad thing then, obviously, you don’t do it, but if we would find out it has been done and it didn’t make things worse, then it seems sensible to try it.

I think the point is that the ‘drug related’ crime involves people other than the drug dealers. You say drugs should be against the law to protect the general public from drugs; yet when those laws create more problems for the general public than the original drugs themselves, you continue to support them.

So on the one hand we need a system of drug laws to protect us from our own decisions, presumably because we are incapable of making our own good choices, but on the other hand druggies have no one to blame but themselves? Don’t you think you are trying to have it both ways here?

First, why do you think the Governmnet would be buying any drugs?? :confused: The cartels would not set the rate, because they would no longer be the only potential provider of the product. Even if coca doesn’t grow well here, it could be grown in greenhouses, and I bet it would grow in California or Florida. Plus if the drugs were legal in Columbia, you would see legitimate farmers move into the market.

I think the idea is that if drugs were legal conventional companies would enter into distribution. The gang banger on the corner would be priced out of the market and disappear. Drugs would just become another product, like milk or bread. You don’t see bread dealers shooting it out in the streets, why do you think if drugs were legal that there would continue to be crime associated with their sale? There would not be any turf to fight over any more so then you see McDonald’s workers attacking Burger King. Free markets are cool like that.

I don’t think greenhouses lend well to coca growing because of the sheer volume of plants necessary to produce cocaine. I read this comment somewhere on these boards, complete with citation, but I’m having difficulty locating it.

You may be right, I have no idea how one gorws coca plants. my point was really more that if drugs were legalized other options than dealing with the cartels of Columbia would likely emerge. The greenhouse idea was just an example of a potential way to produce drugs. Pioneer might develop some type of hardy coca plant that you could grow in Alabama for all we know. Sorry for the confusion.

Found it. Interesting thread:
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=106144
Unforuntately one of the possibly interesting cites were removed, but here’s something from the CIA

Wow! But, they mentioned that different coca plants can be grown just about anywhere (the plant must fit the area, but apparently there is no shortage of variety) just so long as the area never reaches freezing temperatures.

http://www.cia.gov/saynotodrugs/cocaine.html

Anyway, on with the show.

I think it’s important to recognise the debate of the past 40 years has been conducted on terms set by prohibitionists, and it suited their arguments to lump all illegal drugs together. It’s therefore surprisingly easy to fall into that old indoctrinated mind-set and, IMHO, in a progressive debate it’s of no value to think of marijuana and cocaine as being linked – utterly different issues.

In relation to marijuana, conducting a volt-face is easier for politicians if the drug is now seen to have medicinal value and the law is not well supported by public opinion. Nonetheless it could cost votes if not approached gingerly. Hence the key differentiations between:

  • Possession/Supply offences
  • Decriminalisation/Legalisation, and
  • Marijuana/Cocaine and other drugs

That approach makes it easier to sell to the sceptics. As decriminalisation of marijuana is obviously, now and throughout Europe, seen by shrewd politico’s as not being a vote loser, it appears to have worked.