Legalized Drugs

Part of a conversation today at work involved the legalization of a variety of illegal drugs (ie marijauana(sp), cocaine, heroin, etc) I’m sure this has come up before here.

After pondering this for a few hours I was beginning to think to myself, maybe it would be a good thing to legalize these things. I don’t use them. If I wanted to I estimate it would take me less than an hour to find what I wanted. (I live in a less than “quality” area of town). So if people are going to do it anyway, why not regulate it and tax it like alcohol and smoking?

I also heard from one of my co-workers that there was a study that theorized income taxes could be abolished if drus were legalized and taxed like alcohol. Does anyone know if ther is really any merit to this type of idea?

Some drugs are certainly less dangerous than alcohol (such as pot), but there’re a lot that shouldn’t be legalized due to the hallucinatory effects that they have. Heroin, acid, etc. create unpredictable effects, and as such, I don’t think they should be legalized (note: I’m generalizing… I’m sure there are milder hallucinogens that don’t create such extreme results).

Other drugs, like cocaine and marijuana, are less dangerous, but are often “cut” badly, or laced. Legalized, they can be provided in diluted and controlled dosages, which is a good thing.

All in all, I think a lot of people still see drugs as a “Taboo Subject” and don’t want anything to do with it, no matter what… which I consider to be an antiquated mindset.

I can’t think of any drugs that mess your mind up as much as alcohol. I have hallucinated while drunk, started fights (and I am normally a very non-violent person), wrecked cars, comitted serious crimes. About the only drug I have done that effects your perceptions as much as alcohol has been LSD, and that’s been in a totally different way.

A lot of the problems associated with drugs would vanish if they were cheap and legal. Crack, in and of itself, is pretty damn harmless. People who smoke it tend to sit around and do nothing, and the high only lasts 10 or 15 minutes. The reason it’s destroyed the lives of so many people I have known is that the 10 minute high costs $10. Once people get started doing it, they want to keep on smoking it. If they have money, they will spend it to go buy more. If they don’t have money, they will get some money, either by selling their stuff or stealing from others. But crack is cheap to make. Cocaine is expensive because of the huge markup, because it has to be moved through several different levels of dealers. Even with cocaine being illegal, if I bought an ounce of cocaine (app. $500 if you buy that much at a time) and made crack out of it, I could get about 300 high-quality crack rocks that would sell for at least $10 each on the street today. I could sell them for $2 each and make what would be considered a high profit in most businesses - the thing is, the people making the crack can’t work that way. They cook up relatively small quantities at a time, and buy the cocaine they are making it from in much smaller (and more expensive per gram) units - the guy buying coke an ounce at a time isn’t selling crack, he’s selling 1/8 ounce bags to crack dealers for $100, who then have to mark it up again to make a profit that is worth the risk. If cocaine was legal, I’m sure you could make a profit selling rocks for 50 cents each. You would have addicts who smoked crack with all their free time (like now) and they would probably smoke more than they do now, but it would be hurting them less economically than smoking cigarettes.

Yeah, Badtz sums up the problem pretty well.

Addiction, in and of itself, does not necessarily constitute a significant social problem. Millions of people are Afrin addicts, yet that poses no real threat to society. Even nicotine addiction, which represents a serious health problem, is not a social problem in the way that we think of heroin or cocaine addiction as social problems. Through increased price and decreased purity, it is the drug laws which produce the actual social ills.

Case in Point. If there are drugs out there today that we do want legalized (or decriminalized at the very least) they are the opioids (heroin, codeine, opium, percoset, morphine, etc.). The numbers vary from year to year, but typical American black market heroin is usually about 5-10% heroin (10% being a truly generous estimate). The rest is usually some concoction of speed designed to disguise the acual amount of heroin in the product. Relatively speaking, opioids are difficult to overdose on (more on that in a minute) – the poison one buys on the street is not.

What we wind up with then is a very dangerous, very expensive, and very addictive drug. Unless one has limitless reserves of cash, the artificially high prices created by the black market (created by the drug laws) will lead the addict to poverty (will lead the addict to crime, etc.). By far the worst consequence of drug addiction in the U.S. is imprisonment (for obvious reasons, not the least of which is that prison does nothing to cure one’s addiction).

When opium is cheap and plentiful, it need not be mainlined in order to get the most out of the miniscule amounts of the drug that one can find/afford. Instead, it can be smoked or taken orally, both of which are infinitely safer (i.e. more difficult to OD on) than I-V injection.

We can conclude these things, in part, because there was a time when opioids were legal. Prior to the Harrison Narcotics Act (1914, IIRC), the typical opium addict was a housewife (as opposed to her husband, the typical alcoholic). These women were addicts, and this was not a good thing. They were also not put in danger of poverty, not shunned or imprisoned by society, and (most importantly) healthy. Unlike nicotene and alcohol (and even caffeine to a lesser extent), opioids do not damage one’s internal organs. There are certain physiological effects (mild constipation, shutting down of ovaries for those with large habits, etc.), but none that could be considered life-threatening. When heroin addicts are able to obtain cheap, pure heroin, taken in an informed manner, they are healthy people, undisposed towards criminal activity or general wretchedness.

If heroin has “unpredictable effects,” as SPOOFE asserts, it is because it has unpredictable contents. Opioids themselves do not induce violence or insanity. If truly stoned, one will get very happy and rather mellow. I wouldn’t want such a person on the road next to me, but the drug is also not conducive to getting up and doing stuff (as opposed to alcohol: “Shit, I can drive. Let’s go get pancakes!”).

Anyway, it’s late and I didn’t bring my copy of Licit and Illicit Drugs with me to school (if I had, this post would be 5 times as long and packed with statistics). I’ll deal with other drugs and other arguments as they come up . . . if I feel like it.

spooje’s opinion.

I’ve heard it said that if drugs were legalized a lot more people would be using them. I have serious doubts about this. IMHO, people will use or refrain from using, regardless of the laws prohibiting them. One thing is certain, the laws against drug use have not kept anyone who wants to use from doing so.

drachillix, if you lived in a better quality area, you could score in a lot less time.

The war on drugs in an exercise in futility. That said, if the authorities are powerless to stop it, what makes you think they can tax it? The people who risk prison for the profit of importing and selling are probably willing to risk prison for tax evasion and bootlegging.

Drug legalization has no purpose if not to abolish the black market in drugs . . . which it surely would, given a competent transition. Where is the black market for tobacco? Nonexistent. Black market alcohol (moonshine)? A mere novelty. Alcohol companies and tobacco companies pay taxes, yes? “Drug pushers” don’t, but given legalized drugs “pushers” wouldn’t exist; they simply would not be able to compete with the regulated, reputable, legal, cheap, safe drugs one could get from companies . . . that are being taxed.

I’m in favor of drug legalization, but every time I see this argument, I have to roll my eyes, for several reasons:

  1. I think it seriously overestimates both the current number of users and the potential number of users;
  2. I hope whoever says this isn’t basing their conjecture on the current purchase price for any of these drugs, since the price would drop if they were legal;
  3. Excessive taxation is a proven disincentive to purchase, even for mind-altering substances (many smokers quit when the per-pack tax reaches a certain point, “sin taxes” result in higher sales in surrounding counties and decreased sales in the taxed counties);
  4. Alcohol and tobacco are enormously popular in this country, and heavily taxed, and you don’t see income taxes going away, do you?
  5. Individual income taxes account for about a trillion dollars in revenue each year (corporate income taxes account for about 200 billion) according to the CBO. Taxes on alcohol are, what, a few percent? You really think you can make up those trillions by taxing pot, coke and heroin? Not bloody likely.

I just read Steal This Urine Test by Abbie Hoffman, and he mentions that alcohol and nicotine are the Most abused drugs and are legal.
How many folk hear of people smashing their cars cause they were On marijuana?

They would risk tax evasion. The problem (or good thing actually) is that no one would want to buy their product anymore. The general public would be buying their crack $10 hit of crack from Phillip Morris for a $2.50 (1.75 + tax). The trafficers would not be able to compete with this, and all the illegal importation of drugs would quickly cease. I believe drugs should be legalized, but I think we should keep the same restrictions on the importation of illegal (nontaxed) drugs. The same goes for buyers on the street. Make it illegal for them to buy, sell, or possess untaxed drugs.
What buyer would risk getting arrested to buy poor quality. possibly poisonous crack for ten dollars when she can legally get clean regulated crack at the Circle K for $2.50?

First of all, there is currently a black market for cigarettes. Here’s some info about that. Here
and here

There is a current structure in place for the sale and distribution of illegal drugs. We shouldn’t assume that the existing structure would collapse when/if the possession and sale of those drugs would be legalized. Do you really believe that all the folks currently making scads of $$ off of illegal drugs would shrug and apply for McJobs then? I’d think it was rather a stronger possability that they’d use their existing structure to continue their efforts, only instead of paying the guy in Columbia, they’d steal it locally. Certainly, they wouldn’t fold up shop (the Mob didn’t after Prohibition, right?) Would the price drop? probably. Would the black market for drugs disappear? I think it’s dangerous to presume that it would.

I also don’t think you can assume that the number of people using drugs wouldn’t go up. Certainly, there are folks currently, to whom the threat of imprisonment isn’t sufficient to keep them away from drugs. I believe, tho’ that there exists a group of people (and no one would be able to verify the number) of folks to whom imprisonment ** is ** currently a significant factor in persuading them against drugs. Not to mention the quality control factors.

Am I in favor of legalizing? I’m unconvinced that it’d be a good thing, and would be concerned for the effects of such a huge social experiment. However, I also am terribly afraid of the effects we’ve seen in the ‘war on drugs’ in the erosion of our civil liberites and the damage to the infrastructure of our society by the incarceration of such a tremendous percentage of our population. So, here I’m not taking a position as such.

wring, I disagree with your statement about people not stopping and getting McJobs… If drugs were legalized, the black market would have a seriously hard time competing. $100 for a 1/4oz of illegal pot versus $100 for a 1/4oz of legal pot…hmmm…hard choice, and that is at the same price. The second that the legal pot is processed and mechanized by companies, then the cost would surely come down. At that level, WHY would you buy it illegally if you can get it legally?

The only forseeable illegal market that I see is one that deals in quality. If the government produces weak nasty tasting pot, then those seeking quality would pay for it- but then it would be in the governments interest to create expensive good quality drugs (and charge more for them). Supply and demand arguments lend heavily to the eradication of the black market, or at least reduce it to a point where it makes little or no difference to you and me.

Those links for gray market cigarrette’s affect different people than the average buyer. Are your MArlboro’s cheaper at 7-11 because of them? No. If someone came up to you offering a carton of cigs for $2 less, would you buy them? Yeah, probably. But would you buy a pack of joints for $2 (or $10 or $20) less? Maybe…but not if it meant a serious jail term. AND there is a difference between the known Marlboro’s name that you think is $2 cheaper because this guy stole the carton, and a drug dealer saying “Psst- c’mere, it’s good, really, it is. Trust me.” I’d stick to known quality, safe, government pot.

Sorry, but ‘stealing it locally’ doesn’t really make sense to me either. You don’t see people breaking into coffee shops in Amsterdam so they can sell on the streets- it just doesn’t happen! And just because the Mob didn’t stop immediately 60 years ago does not mean that drug dealers would continue today beyond legalization. The fact that the Mob was organized a bit more than today’s dealers would ensure their failure. There is too much information out there and too many people that would support the legal drug trade willingly. Which might be the crux of the argument- I smoke pot occasionally- I would pay to smoke it legally. And most of the people I know would too.

The reason that people don’t get McJobs is because of the margin of profit that they experience with selling drugs. Take away that margin, and you take away the incentive to deal drugs. And if the new money created new markets, then getting a McPot Shop job might not be so bad.

Oh- gotta run-

You’ll probably find this interesting. The results were reproduced recently in Europe, but I haven’t found a link yet.

Tomcat, you stated my arguments to wring exactly.

In all of these discussions, (and is true here), “make it legal and tax the hell out of it”. So, what I’m suggesting is that, should the drugs become legalized, there’s still a market for the illegal distribution - as in, gee if I buy it at the 7-11, it’ll cost me $10, $8 of which is taxes, but Gonzo down the street’s got some for $5 ($0 of which goes to taxes, of course Gonzo still is able to dilute it etc, which would increase their profit more). Why do you think this wouldn’t happen?

Point of fact, the ‘illegal’ drug trade involves quite a bit of stuff that’s legally available through prescriptions as well. That would still happen w/o change.

So, I still maintain that the drug dealer will not be put out of business, they, like any other business, will adapt to the economic realities.

Cigarette smuggling is lucrative in that you’re able to charge nearly the same as retail price, but without paying those pesky taxes. Can indeed be big business.


The main contention to that argument is that even with hefty taxes, drugs wouldn’t reach the astronimical prices it does on the black market. See Batdz and the post immediately following it for the why. By your argument the mob should still be running speak easies, they’re not. They moved onto other things they *could * control.


Maybe and maybe not. The availibility of legal drugs may cut into the self medicating crowd. But honestly that’s susposition.


I dn’t follow your logic. If you can get a pure product cheaper legally, what is the impetus for going to an unregulated dubios street dealer?
Cigarette smuggling is lucrative in that you’re able to charge nearly the same as retail price, but without paying those pesky taxes. Can indeed be big business.


Haven’t read that link yet, I’ll get back to you.

wring - you find it unlikely there wil be ANY reduction in the black market? If so, there might be an added reduction in “seller vs seller” violence. Also, would not reduced prices (if legal drugs were taxed and priced as most here advocate) and purity control favorably affect crime by users?

I have long been a big fan of legalization. I don’t se it happening, however, for a couple of reasons. First, while I do not believe it necesary (or even likely) that the total number of users would increase significantly, I consider it likely that at least a small number of users would take advantage of legalization to overindulge. I find it very likely that legalization would result in an increase in dead bodies. I personally am not too concerned about the prospect, but the possibility of an increased mortality rate makes legislation a tough sell.

Second, I don’t see a large influential lobby advocating legalization. I have heard nothing to suggest the tobacco and drug companies are pushing to expand their markets in this way (even though they are posed to take advantage of any developments in this area). I don’t think much legislation gets passed unless it appeals to a large enough number of voters or contributors. Not too many one-issue voters on this. NORML? Be serious. How do you market political advantage out of a legalization platform? Conversely, do you really think legislators are stupid enough to believe their “Get Tough on Crime” laws are actually benefitting society?

Finally, look at the groups that benefit from the current situation. Sure the war on drugs is incredibly expensive (in addition to being futile). But all that $ spent is going somewhere, and bureaucracies don’t survive long by willingly turning their backs on major sources of funding.

Of course the income tax argument is nonsense. But public expenditures would be shifted from crime enforcement, interdiction efforts, and prisons, to treatment and education. Which the police, etc. would resist. So perhaps the best bet would be to appeal to the health care industry that drug legalization would be a growth opportunity, and let them throuw their $ behind the effort!

Keep in mind, too, that there would likely be an enormous cultural lag between legalization and widespread acceptance/increased use/mainstream production.

Think about it. Alcohol was illegal for, what, a decade? There simply wasn’t enough time for it to gain the popular conception of “bad” that drugs currently have. Marijuana, maybe, but heroin or cocaine? No way.

RJR Nabisco, Phillip Morris and Brown & Williamson are practically devils in the eyes of much of the public now. I can’t imagine they’re exactly champing at the bit to introduce their new brands of marijuana, hallucinogens, opiates and amphetamines to the market. Until the culture caught up, it would be a marketing nightmare.

Damn, I’d always assumed that PM and CO would introduce a MJ product as soon as they could field a crop :smiley:

No, the mob isn’t still running speak easies, but they’re still in business, and not at McJobs. Speakeasies still exist (they’re called blind pigs now) and there’s still a market for non-legal booze sales (minors).

My point is that there’s a current black market for things that are currently legal. Why do you continue to think that by legalizing illegal drugs, there would’nt be a black market for them as well?

And, it wouldn’t take the astronomical current prices for drugs in order to make the illegal sale attractive enough for folks to still do it. Like I said, the drug user would have a choice of $10 per hit at 7-11 or $5 per hit from Gonzo (who isn’t paying the $8 in government taxes). Good heavens, there’s a black market for everything from Brittney Spears CD’s to blue jeans. Why do you keep thinking that drugs will suddenly become immune to this?

I’ve read all of the arguements, and I’m not persuaded by them. We’re all predicting the future. Like I said, I’m not in favor of the WOD stuff that happens, I’m totally unconvinced that legalizing them, tho’ is the answer, and I have concerns over the ramifications of attempting to do so.

as for the “diminished black market/diminished violence due to less cost = less $$ less potential crime etc.” That’s a whole lotta suppositions. Maybe, maybe not. you’d also have to factor in the potential for more people using/then becoming possibly addicted to substances once they’re legalized. Our experiences with alcohol and tobacco suggest that legalization of addicted substances does not equal non existant social problems due to the addiction. Our experience in the great social experiment of Prohibition suggests that the best motives coupled with a total lack of the ability to accurately forecast how people will act and react when it comes to addictions suggests that we should tread lightly. It may seem ironic that I look at that as a reason to fear the legalization of other substances, but - it’s damned difficult to push the water back into the dam once you’ve knocked it down.

Price is the determining factor for black market sales. By reducing the price via legalization, you eliminate the profit motive for black market sales. I.e., the Source, the Mule, The distributor, the lower level distributor (this could go on for sometime), to the street dealer, all of who are adding price and removing purity. In your example above, of course people would by knock off jeans, if the real thing cost significantly more, the same for CDs. I’m unclear why you’re not getting this.

Interesting you should mention prohibition. Like the drug war did you know that the murder rate rose during prohibition? Try visitng this cite: Both crime and increased use are covered there. For some reason I can’t link them directly.

stuffinb I’m not sure how clearer I can say this.

Simply by legalizing the substances, the best you can hope for is that a company or the state would become the defacto supplier. So far, no one is suggesting that pot (or whatever) is legal in the same way that bread is, but more in the same context that alcohol or tobacco is legal (ie, only available in certain places, through certain channels, substantial, extra taxes in place, some level of restriction from minors etc.).

Currently, there’s a ‘black market’ (illegal sales) of : guns, alcohol, cigarettes, pot, heroin, pharmacuetical drugs, methadone, cocaine, knock off CD’s etc.

Note that many of the items on the list are already completely legal, some have restrictions. The market for the Britney Spears CD’s etc is for knock offs that are cheaper. The buyers on the black market for the guns, pharmaceuticals and alcohol are those who cannot purchase them legally. The buyers on the black market for the cigarettes are those looking to purchase them without paying the government taxes (hence getting them at a lower price). The buyers (currently) for the illegal drugs are those who are addicted/desire them etc.

So, now you wave your magic wand and make drugs legal to purchase, but have the restrictions about age/prescription (?) and taxes. I suggest that the black market will still exist for the following groups of people: 1. Those who desire to purchase the drugs at a lower price than the government (ie, w/o paying the taxes), 2. Those who will be unable to purchase them due to age or other restrictions and 3 those who, for whatever reason, do not wish it to be known that they’re consuming drugs (not a stretch IMHO).

Therefore, I would see little or no reason to expect that the illegal drug trade would go away because drugs were suddenly legalized. If you still don’t see that, shrug.

RE: your mentioning of the increase in crime etc. during prohibition - I assume that you’re suggesting that the dynamics are:

legal addictive stuff=less crime/murder;
criminialize addictive stuff=more crime/murder.

As far as social experiments go, Prohibition, to most folk was a disaster in many ways. I don’t necessarily believe that the only possible interpretation of events is the one described above, but could in fact also be adequately explained by:

  1. Intense social /economic upheaval= more crime/murder The criminalization of a substance long held to be legal would qualify for an intense social upheaval to me - but (and here’s where you may get all blue in the face) I am afraid that the sudden decriminalization of a group of substances long held to be illegal would also qualify as an intense social upheaval.

  2. lack of intentional social upheaval = less crime/murder