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Drugs Policy

December 15, 2010

I’ve long opposed the view we can legalize or decriminalize hard drugs. How would the state distribute or license distribution of crack cocaine ? I know ecstasy is impossible to eliminate but how would you legalize the stuff ? Distribution through pharmacies ?

In government we set up drug courts to boost rehabilitation of offenders and to steer them away from gaol, decriminalized personal use of marijuana and set-up Australia’s only medically-supervised injecting room.

But I resisted the rather glib calls for decriminalization of hard drugs which left hanging the tough questions I pose above.

Yet now I’m thinking about how viable is continued prohibition especially in the American context. US drug use is hauling Mexico down into the inferno turning a nation of 111 million into a state run by drug cartels. The murders are now numbered in the tens of thousands with police commanders being beheaded and journalists executed.

All because of Americans and their insatiable hunger for mind-altering experiences. The collapse of order in Mexico is too big a price to pay to sustain the hypocritical prohibition on the very drugs that the last three American presidents have admitted to using in their youth.

But how you would distribute or allow distribution of the stuff is the difficult unanswered policy question.

3 Comments
  1. Byron permalink
    December 15, 2010 9:08 pm

    Without the data, I can only imagine the spectrum of reasons are broad for drug taking as is the severity / frequency of the problem for an individual; but IMHO it is worth asking, “why do people take drugs?” In that spectrum, I can imagine there are some people that take drugs to dull the pain. Analogous to a Mandelbrot set, zooming into this region, [ignoring for a moment the rest] I wonder …

    Is the region large or small?
    What is the pain, cause, source, is there a broader problem?
    Is the problem getting worse for this domain or is it the same as it has been since time began?
    Is there a [social] solution; is there a role for Government?

    I am sure there is a domain of suffering that would be eased by solving the “distribution” problem, but “insatiable hunger” has for some a different inference; as I don’t think the problem is simply one of indulgence.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    December 15, 2010 9:19 pm

    Mexico contains 110-odd million souls but barely qualifies as a functional nation-state, and its commendable efforts to fight corruption and operate democratically conflict in tragicomedic ways, as the NYT reports today:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/world/americas/15mexico.html

    The most important and praiseworthy drug production in Australia today is in fact opium.

    Tasmania produces about half the world’s most important palliative medicine for those most in need of suffering-reducing, pain-relieving medicine.

    Governments can and should regulate and control (as much as possible) the manufacture and distribution of “hard drugs,” but they can and should also commercialize the beneficial effects of their often identical ingredients — responsibly grown, manufactured, quality-checked, UN-treaty-compliant, prescribed, administered, and appreciated.

    Who knew that parts of Tasmania’s topography and climate are like parts of Afghanistan’s?

    Entrepreneurial, law-abiding poppy-growers.

    File under: Montaigne, Essays, Book II, Chapter 23, “Of Evil Means Employed to a Good End.”

  3. John Quinn permalink
    December 17, 2010 8:57 am

    Prohibition is failed policy. It has proven it’s lack of worth on many occasions – prostitution, gambling, alcohol, and now drugs.

    Leaving production and distribution in the hands of organised crime merely strengthens the hand of the criminal. Look at the rise and rise of the mafia on the back of initially prostitution, gambling and alcohol. The decline in alcohol as a product was swiftly replaced by drugs.

    Prohibition turns the user into a criminal. Their desire to USE a substance doesn’t automatically create a crime that impacts other members of society. Forcing them to consort with criminals to obtain their desired substances creates far more problems than it solves.

    The lack of state sponsored control of the product means people are harmed through poor quality supplied by avaricious suppliers. Ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, or even heroin supplied at a known quality, through appropriately licensed suppliers would become preferable to the user driving the criminal out of the business.

    There are more than a few examples of wealthy users who successfully manage many decades of substance abuse. Presumably they are buying better quality.

    Forbidden fruit is the sweetest. Anyone can buy high alcohol spirits, many people choose beer or wine (or soft drinks). Make the drugs available and differentiate between them. Some will choose heroin, others cocaine, some will choose ecstasy, many will prefer beer and wine!

    Two articles on this from the UK

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2001/nov/07/thinktanks.drugsandalcohol

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/16/legalise-drugs-former-defence-minister

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