The drugs debate; The final revisitation.

The drugs issue, re-re-re-revisited.

Preface: This thread was inspired by a conversation I had today at work with three colleagues. I won’t go into the specifics of the conversation but the gist of it was that drugs, all drugs, are a scourge on society in general and must be purged if there is any hope for social regeneration. I disagreed. They give me funny looks in the corridor now. Anyway, it got me to thinking whether my views on drugs are way, way off or whether they were just being intolerant of my viewpoint. I thought I’d let the teeming millions decide.

I am for the eventual legalisation and legislation of all drugs. There are many reasons why I feel this and I am going to focus on different drugs and different sorts of drugs separately.

DISCLAIMER

In this argument I am going to be citing some drug laws and classifications. As I’m a limey, these are British Laws and classifications. As far as I know they do not differ radically from American Laws and classifications (if at all). However I would appreciate it if someone with more knowledge of American drug laws would step in and apply any corrections if needed. Thanks.

Firstly, just for the sake of easy reference illegal drugs can be divided up into the following categories:
Class A: cocaine, crack, ecstasy, heroin, methadone, LSD, ‘prepared’ magic mushrooms, and amphetamines prepared for injection. - Posession of the drugs in this category carries a substantial penalty of up to life imprisonment if you are found guilty of intending to supply the drugs to others.

Class B: amphetamines, cannabis and barbiturates. - Posession of these drugs carries sentences of up to 5 years in prison for simple posession and 14 years for intent to supply & distribute.

Class C: anabolic steroids and tranquillisers. - It is not illegal to posess steroids but if you’re found guilty of supply you can get up to 5 years in prison.

My views on soft drugs differ from hard drugs so I’ll explain them separately.
Class C drugs should be made legal. It is already legal to posess steroids as long as you don’t sell them on so giving them a designation and spending police time & resources punishing people who sell class C drugs seems like a waste of time to me. It’s like saying a football player in posession of the ball cannot be tackled but if he passes it to someone else he can be fouled. If posession is legal then penalising unauthorised distribution seems like a moot point to me.

Class B drugs should also be made legal. Take Cannabis for example. The reasons for legalising that are manifold
[ul]

[li]It is a very effective painkiller and is far cheaper than other painkillers. It could save hospitals a lot of money and in England where there is no health insurance and medical care is provided by a 3rd rate NHS service constantly fighting bankruptcy using it as a painkiller would free up funds for other areas. Check out this article → US: Study Finds Medical Benefits In Marijuana more information.
[li]As a recreational drug it is no more harmful than alcohol. you are far, far less likely to overdose on Cannabis than you are on alcohol, for example. As far as I know there has never been a single instance of reported death that was directly caused by cannabis. It is also a stronger relaxant than alcohol and as such people high on cannabis are far less inclined to get into fights and vandalise private and public property. A bit of anecdotal evidence which seems to support this is during the Euro2000 football tournament, the games were to be played in Holland and Belgium with each country taking about half the games. In Belgium there was extensive fighting between rival fans. People were arrested and hospitalised private property was destroyed. In Holland there was none, even though the vandals were just as prevalent in Holland as they were in Belgium. The difference? The Belgian riots were started by alcohol fuelled thugs. In Holland many of the thugs were smoking cannabis instead. They were far more placid.[/li]
[li]If cannabis were to be legalised it would be extensively taxed. This tax would generate more money for public services.[/li]
[li]If cannabis were legalised the thrill which young people get from smoking it while it is illegal would evaporate. As such younger teens would be subject to less peer pressure to try it and the average age of first time cannabis smokes would probably increase. Older smokers would know more facts about drugs than younger smokers.[/li]
[li]If cannabis were legalised then young people would be less likely to come into contact with street dealers who could get them hooked on harder drugs.[/li]Cannabis should be legalised and legislated so that people can take it without fear of prosecution and be free to buy it from licensed hash bars risk free. This would also have the added bonus of putting the vast majority of street dealers out of business.

[/ul]

Class A drugs, however are another matter. This site

has a lot of good information about heroin, cocaine, amphetamines etc… and how addictive it can be. I am also in favour of legalisation for these drugs but until they are legalised I am going to support punishment for people who deal in them. If the drugs are legalised and they can be provided to people safely then the risk would drop as street dealers went bust. Once people have the means to get drugs safely from licensed, government checked, proprietors then I cannot see what is wrong with providing drugs to those who want them for their own personal use. Those drugs, once legalised, will be a lot safer for the majority of users. I think we can all agree on that as the product would be control checked by legalised proprieters.
I also think it’s safe to say that legalisation of hard drugs will put drug street dealers out of business.

At the moment there are street dealers getting schoolchildren addicted to hard drugs before they reach their teens. The number of young children who[ul]

[li]Don’t know the facts about heroin and how addictive it is.[/li]
[li]Can be bullied into taking heroin by older dealers.[/li]
[li]Are under far more peer pressure than, say, a 30 year old first time user.[/li]
[li]Don’t know enough about diseases which can be transmitted through the blood and[/li]therefore think drugs like Heroin are safe.
[/ul]

You can find the entire publication here
http://www.ahsr.org/publications/connections/june98/connection.htm

Basically I feel that until hard drugs have been legalised the probability of them getting into the hands of those who are not knowledgeable enough to make an informed decision is too great to be ignored. The statistics I’ve cited bear this out and demonstrate that addiction amongst younger people is increasing inexorably.
Of course there are plenty of reasons for this, not every dealer who has sold to a kid has forced the kid to buy the drugs. However the bottom line is, whatever has persuaded the kid to try heroin/cocaine/meth etc… for the first time, he has had to approach a street dealer to get his hands on the product. What else can we do but prohibit against the sale of class A drugs? How else can we enforce this than by punishing street dealers?

That is why I support legalisation of Class A drugs as well as Class B & C. Current measures against them are just not working. Once they are legalised and a system set in place whereby people can easily reach informed literature on class A drugs and responsible citizens who still want to use the drugs can do so legitimately the street dealers will go out of business within a couple of years.
Since manufacturers of the drug would probably earn more money by going along with legalisation and going legit the street dealers would have their supply lines cut off so they couldn’t sell to children. We would have a situation where in control adults could choose whether or not they wanted to get high, children would have far less chance of coming into contact with class A drugs and people would be able to get their hands on factual drug literature (as opposed to loaded propaganda) far easier. Problem, well if not quite solved, then on the way there.

So, those are my ideas and proposals on the legalisation and legislation of drugs. Debate at your leisure.

I agree that all drugs should be legalized, starting with any drug which is, itself, found naturally in plant products. This would include magic mushrooms, pot, and peyote along with a few brewed drinks popular in South America.

I am allowed to grow a bush whose berries, if eaten, will cause my child to becom sick and possibly die. I am not allowed to grow a bush which will, if smoked, produce a pleasently relaxed state where stuff is funny. This can only be the result of great heaping gobs of stupidity. Medicinal value of Marijuana needs to be studied? Compared to what, automobiles? Neon lighting? Paved roads? Basketballs?

Many people I take to task on legalizing drugs almost invariably don’t want to legalize any hallucinogens, however. The one drug type which is not physically addicitve, or especially mentally addictive (no more than, say, sports) and with a built-in inreasing tolerance level to discourage repeated use over a short period of time, and they get uneasy about it?

In America we have Schedule I, II, and III drugs along similar veins. I think the distinction is ultimately not that important since both of us are arguing for complete legalization.

I’m just adding that the rather large [ quote] about the age of heroin users was taken from Connection a highly respected publication as far as I know. Unfortunately the link takes you to the front page of another organisation which in turn links to Connection which in turn links to the article from which I took the quote. I didn’t know this was going to happen as I just found the relevant page on google without having to go through all this BS and as such didn’t anticipate that the link would go somewhere else. I feel I’ve quoted the most relevant part of the article but you have my apologies anyway.

Oh, and well said erislover.

Well, I certainly agree with the OP, but I am put off somewhat by the tone of the arguments. He (or she) puts it the way so many people unfortunately do: “Drugs should be legalized because A, B, and C.”

By making an argument like this, you are implicitly buying into the presumption that the state ought to be able to make a substance illegal unless there is a good reason why it shouldn’t. I have a much different take. I believe the state should be prohibited from making the substances illegal, unless it has a darned good reason for doing so.

In other words, in a free society, citizens are not required to justify themselves or their actions to the state. Rather, the state must justify it’s actions to it’s citizens.

Weird Al, I like your way of thinking.

For anyone who is interested a great book on the subject is “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do : The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country” by Peter McWilliams.

Heck, my own body manufactures drugs all the time. I have testosterone coming out of my testes – which, by the way, is a Class II controlled substance under Federal law – and I have endorphins, oxytocin, neurotransmitters, adrenalin, and all manner of other mind-altering substances being pumped into my veins by my own endocrine glands every day, depending on my mood.

If you want to outlaw euphoriants, you’d better start by outlawing enodcrine glands.

I wrote:

My mistake. Testosterone is listed as a Schedule III substance (an anabolic steroid) under the Controlled Substances Act.

erislover wrote:

Um, an increasing tolerance level doesn’t discourage repeated use – it encourages taking higher doses.

Gomez wrote, in the OP:

True – but there have been hospitalizations that have resulted from cannabis use. From the DEA’s anti-marijuana webpage at http://www.dea.gov/concern/marijuana.htm:

“The number of marijuana-related emergency room episodes, which are tracked by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), has steadily increased from 15,706 in 1990, to 87,150 in 1999. Many of these visits can be attributed to the fact that the potency of marijuana has also increased during that same time period.”

We can argue about whether they should have been illegal or not but that doesn’t change the fact that certain drugs are already illegal. From the basis of that fact one can only argue to repeal the laws for reasons A, B, and C.

Marc

Oops, that first sentence should read “We can argue about wehther they should have been made legal or illegal in the first place, but that doesn’t change the fact that certain drugs are currently illegal.”

Marc

Mark: You’re not having much fun with your keyboard today, are you? (Now that I’ve said that, I’m guaranteed to stuff something up somewhere!!!). I have to agree with you point, though. It doesn’t really matter whether or not the current situation is correct, it’s still where we’re at, and we have to go from there.

Gomez: Add me to the list who agree with your sentiments on legalization. The main reason from my point of view is that I’m yet to see how prohibition benefits society.

Bullshit.
I’m not throwing that at you tracer, but directly at the DEA. I’m guessing that when someone drinks 3 cases of beers in 3 hours and happened to smoke a bowl somewhere in there, that it goes down as a marijuana-related emergency room episode.

In Erislover’s context, the increasing tolerance level certainly does discourage repeat use in a short period of time, since hallucinogens were the subject. I can personally attest to the fact that even if you do have absurd quantities of LSD sitting around, no matter how much you love the trip, you’re not going to bother dosing too often: It’s a waste of the drug.

If you have 1000 micrograms of LSD, and you take 100 mcg on Friday and have a great time, you could either take the remaining 900 micrograms in the next couple of days and get almost nothing out of it, or take 9 more 100 mcg doses over the course of a year and have 9 more powerful trips. So watcha gonna do?

I really couldn’t care less if someone decides to fry their brains for fun in the back yard… but I don’t like being run down on the side walk by someone who’s feeling too happy or dizzy to watch the road. I think it’s about as simple as that - if you can be reasonably sure that people buzzed on halucinogens will act safely and responsably, then legalize whatever you want. It’s of course obvious that people WILL go out in public and act irresponsably or foolish going by what people do with alcohol. It seems to me that laws prohibiting such things weren’t just pulled from thin air… they are designed to keep people from doing damage to themselves and EACH OTHER due to an artificially induced sense of poor judgment. My eyes tend to glaze over when I read the stereotypical reason for legalizing drugs: “it’s my body and you can’t tell me what to do with it”. True, if have have zero impact on anyone else… False if you live in the real world. I’d imagine that most people who get caught are out in public or doing something disruptive that’s quite easy to spot from a distance, so fine. If you do your thing in relative private and don’t bother anyone, you’re unlikely to get busted so what’s there to complain about?

This assumes that someone addicted to a drug (assuming the drug in question is addictive) will act reasonably and rationally.

**

That is simply one aspect of the arguement against drugs. If you’ve not heard others it is because you’re not listening.

**

People are also caught because the police aquire search warrants, they search vehicles they pull over, and they bust people when they try to buy or sell the products. Do you have any information that says most people arrested for drug use are arrested for doing something disruptive?

So I guess we should get rid of alcohol. Look at all the harm that does by people who are doing it in the relative privacy of bars and homes.

Marc

What Marc said. Plus, you have to add in the harm that prohibition causes when you’re weighing up the pros and cons. By making drugs illegal, you artificially inflate their price, create an entire industry that is very attractive to marginalised people with poor education, which in turn creates a very strong cycle of criminal behaviour. The prohibition of drugs causes much more harm than it has ever presented.

That’s a perfectly sensible POV, and the law regarding the use of alcohol would be a good model. Driving under the influence (any influence) is stupid and dangerous and it makes perfect sense to legislate against it. I think most people who take something with such a profound effect on perception as LSD are perfectly aware that they ought not to operate a vehicle. Unfortunately I’ve met a lot of pot-smokers that seem to think that it’s safe to smoke a joint and then drive. (This is as common a belief as it was amongst drinkers in the pre-MADD days… Education in key here.)

I’m with Larry Mudd on the “driving while stoned” issue. I believe alcohol more quickly affects reaction time and other driving skills than many street drugs - yet we rely on DUII laws, not prohibition, to keep the streets safe.

This does mean that an end to street drug prohibition would only mean a decrease in drug enforcement - not an end to it. You’d still have to have some equivalent to “open container laws”, i.e., no smoldering joints in moving vehicles, no tabs or needles in the driver’s seat, etc.

I don’t think it would be that big of a deal. People get baked and drive all the time now anyway, only it goes down as a drug crime rather than a moving violation. Drunks are a lot more dangerous.

Anyway, I do believe, as Gomez related, that “drugs, all drugs, are a scourge on society in general” but I don’t believe in making war on society in some attempt to stamp them out. If I did believe in heavy-handed attempts to purge society of victimless crime, alcoholic beverages, high-heeled shoes, and certain kinds of body-piercing would be much higher on my list of stuff to ban than magic mushrooms.