The War on Drugs

Here’s Kevin Drum:

And on another related note, the damage from the Oxy epidemic is worst among the poor and working class. It’s easy to favor drug legalization when you’re middle-class and well educated. Your social group probably doesn’t include many people who abuse drugs much in the first place. Moderate users can afford their habit. And when their use turns into addiction, they usually have a strong support network to help out. It’s a problem, but not a huge one.

In poor communities, none of this is true.

Let’s try to look at this from a different perspective:

It’s easy to favor drug prohibition when you’re middle-class and well educated. Your social group probably doesn’t include many of the 450,000 people currently imprisoned for violating drug laws. Nor does it include the thousands who die every year in developing countries, as a result of the US-led war on drugs.  Moderate users can afford their habit, without having to sell drugs. And when their use turns into addiction, they usually have a strong support network to help out. It’s a problem, but not a huge one.

In poor communities, none of this is true.

Sorry, but I’m not willing to imprison 450,000 people, let thousands die, and let millions suffer with untreated pain, just because some people abuse Oxycontin.  And isn’t this horrible outbreak happening despite our draconian drug laws?  If we legalize pot or cocaine, does the Oxy epidemic get even worse?

I hope this is not the beginning of a shift of opinion of progressive pundits in favor of the war of drugs. (“Liberal” politicians already favor the war on drugs.)  I grew up middle class, and have known lots of people who used drugs.  I don’t recall a single one of my acquaintances ever serving a minute in prison.  Nor did our last three presidents.

The 450,000 figure is misleading, as many serve only short sentences (this includes those in jail awaiting trial.)  Millions of people go through our prison system for drug law violations.  Why don’t I know any of them?  Is it perhaps because the system mostly punishes poor and minority drug users and sellers?  Isn’t this the sort of “disparate impact” that liberals (rightly) complain about?

Some commenters were skeptical about my previous post, which claimed class bias in anti-rape policies.  But we see the same class bias in drug laws.  How many examples do we need to see?


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44 Responses to “The War on Drugs”

  1. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    16. January 2016 at 21:25

    “Is it perhaps because the system mostly punishes poor and minority drug users and sellers? Isn’t this the sort of “disparate impact” that liberals (rightly) complain about?”

    -Black drug use and sale is more widespread, more visible, and more frequent. Of course you’re gonna get disparate impact from that. The question is whether more arrests are preferable to somewhat more drug use (though it depends on the drug).

    “If we legalize pot or cocaine, does the Oxy epidemic get even worse?”

    -The narcotics epidemic in general certainly does.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. January 2016 at 21:33

    E. Harding, I don’t suppose you know anything about the penalties for crack and regular cocaine.

  3. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    16. January 2016 at 21:46

    Excellent blogging.

    I suppose all recreational drugs should be legalized. Keep in mind, there is a huge number of alcoholics in the U.S., and even a greater % of population in Russia. I wonder if alcoholism rates are lower in Islamic nations.

    Does the drug addict or booze-head have free will?

    What if, with the brilliance that free enterprise promotes, drug purveyors develop a much broader array of drugs that induce unrivaled euphoria, based upon your DNA.

    Some people are prone to alcoholism, others perhaps to new drugs yet invented. Scott Sumner tries a new X drink at a pub…and never looks back. Life was never so good, before. But with the X drink in hand, Sumner enjoys boundless euphoria. For the first time in his life, happy and free. Should the goal then be to keep X drinks so cheap that Sumner does not turn criminal?

    Worth pondering.

    Side note to Sumner, who is a movie guy. “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit” (1956) is worth a watch. On youtube, you will love the visuals (I guess).

    But as an economist, other parts. Peck is introduced a suburban New Yorker, middle-class struggling, three kids, non-working wife. Salary $7000, works out to (x9.15) $64,050 today. Gets raise to 10k, or $90k or so.

    They discuss buying and selling houses, in the $10k-$20k, are all for under $200k.

    Then (1956) Peck paid a FICA tax rate of 2.0%, no Medicare, or 4% total rate (employer contribution too). Today the FICA wedge is almost 15%.

    Sales taxes have about doubled in that time frame too.

    Health care much better today, more expensive too. Mostly benefits the elderly, not a family man like Peck. But if you insure a family today, you are aware of huge expense.

    In 1956, the film purports to show a “struggling” family, with three kids, but which has a large rambling house, occasional live-in maid, non-working wife, large automobile, spacious Kitchen, plenty of furniture, TV etc.

    Today, I imagine to live something like that, you would have working wife, sardine-can car, cramped town home, no maids. Looks like a $150k lifestyle, maybe more, in NYC area.

    Maybe living standards have risen since the 1950s. Maybe the Man in a Grey Flannel Suit is about the travails of the upper middle class, presented as the struggling middle class. As Sumner notes, class bias is everywhere.

    I sure wonder. My guess is that for most families with kids today, life is about the same as 60 years ago. A little more in material comforts, but a lot more hours worked. You will guess that too, if your only information is “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit.”

  4. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    16. January 2016 at 22:06

    “E. Harding, I don’t suppose you know anything about the penalties for crack and regular cocaine.”

    -It’s based on refuted science and status quo bias.

    And, yes, aids&alcohol is very uncommon in the Muslim world (excluding SE Asia). Including Somalia.

  5. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    16. January 2016 at 22:30

    Reading Sumner you’d never know that Drum is not anti-drug. Drum merely says (last sentence of his article): “Ending the war on drugs would indeed be a huge benefit, but the costs might be higher than you think.” – and that’s true. I favor legalization of all drugs, including heroin, but they must be consumed in approved places and by approved protocols.

  6. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    16. January 2016 at 22:42

    E.Harding:
    About 22% of new AIDS cases in 2010 were in MENA countries. And 5 of the 9 fastest growing AIDS populations in the world are in non-MENA Muslim countries. Sadly, AIDS is not very uncommon in the Muslim world anymore.

  7. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    16. January 2016 at 22:48

    Unfortunately, for a lot of drugs, ease of access is the key predictor of future addiction.

    That is especially true for opiates, where even legal prescription is a strong predictor of fatal addiction.

    The right approach is to be compassionate with small-time users and very small-time dealers. At the same time, big dealers should be pursued. De-criminalize, but do not legalize.

    People who “abuse Oxycontin” shouldn’t be belittled. Many started for seemingly legitimate reasons, but couldn’t stop because of pain or withdrawal. I agree we shouldn’t be trigger happy to lock up abusers, but there is a middle ground, a purgatory of sorts, where we neither accept, nor imprison, drug abusers.

  8. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    16. January 2016 at 23:02

    As far as class bias, upper/middle income get stiffed with unaffordable student loans for useless degrees, while lower/middle get off scott free. So who is the victim?

    College students tend to have alcohol fueled benders. I think anti-rape ‘education’ is a function of that, rather than anti-lower class bias. Lower classes are forced to grow up faster.

    I think anti-rape education is part of a larger suite of politically correct indoctrination that college students are subjected to. That’s not to say that ‘anti-rape’ is politically correct, but rather that lower/middle women know that getting wasted with unfamiliar men is risky, while upper/middle women are taught it is okay as long as the men are ‘trained’.

  9. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    16. January 2016 at 23:08

    Carl, sources? And AIDS has registered some growth in MENA, but from a tiny, tiny base.

    “And 5 of the 9 fastest growing AIDS populations in the world are in non-MENA Muslim countries.”

    -What are they? West African and SE Asian countries? Those have traditionally been quite prone to acceptance of sex with multiple partners.

  10. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    16. January 2016 at 23:10

    The point that Drum is making is that the mikd easing of drug laws and easy availability of oxy led to a substantial increase in overdose deaths. The question is if the current 450k people in jail for drugs are worth saving extra 20k deaths a year due to overdose. Actually, the question is if we get rid of all drug laws and enforcement, how big a multiple are gonna get? 100k a year?

    Would you pay with 100k lives to save 450k from incarceration?

  11. Gravatar of ChrisA ChrisA
    17. January 2016 at 00:38

    I believe that there is no issue around access to any kind of recreational drug in the US to anyone pre-disposed to wanting them, so legalising drugs won’t make much difference to abuse rates, so Drum’s entire premise is moot. Drum’s point about change to easy availability of oxy is a different one, Doctors and the FDA have implicit authority, so when people get a drug from a doctor they assume they are safe. Its a simple case of doctors prescribing an unsafe drug. Perhaps the benefits outweigh the risks, but it seems like the proper response to this discovery of the risks of oxy would be to evaluate the risks vs benefits and then for doctors to change their prescription approach if needed.

  12. Gravatar of Daniel Daniel
    17. January 2016 at 03:40

    I hope you’re aware that as long as the CIA makes billions off the drug trade (Iran-Contra, anyone ?), nothing will change regarding the War on Drugs.

  13. Gravatar of Anand Anand
    17. January 2016 at 04:01

    Again, I don’t think you are wrong about class bias, but just some thoughts to complicate/round out the picture:

    Firstly, It is well known that even among blacks, the prison population comes mostly from the lower classes. Among middle/upper class blacks, the incarceration rate has indeed decreased in recent decades. See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1966018

    Secondly, it is interesting that among some sectors of the far left (as opposed to liberals), the reasons for drug legalization comes more from the supply side. They point out the effects of the policies by the US govt. to curb drug production in Latin America, which have been pretty ineffective and have resulted in a lot of violence. It is no accident, as the vulgar Marxists say, that Evo Morales is a former coca farmer. This aspect could also be thought of as a component of class bias – poor foreigners are less important than US citizens)

    Thirdly, some of the push against drug criminalization comes from the public itself (even among blacks who are often the hardest hit), because of the associated violence. The paper I linked above goes into some details. This is a rather complicated problem, and needs a lot of education and other measures to address the side effects which might occur due to legalization. I think this is Drum’s point overall, in his piece.

  14. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    17. January 2016 at 04:16

    I imagine, regarding drugs as well as prostitution, the ‘progressive’ case against legalization (that is, the case that purports to have the interest of the erstwhile criminal at hear, as opposed to the ‘conservative’ ‘it’s illegal because it’s wrong’ case) is, or should be, based on a theoretical cost benefit analysis.

    The cost of illegality is of course the negative effects of incarceration and death for many people. The benefit would be the deterrence factor. That is, does the illegality of a drug prevent enough people from doing drugs for there to be a net positive effect?

    Regarding class bias, of course the war on drugs primarily afflicts the poor. But this isn’t necessarily because those who execute it or support it are anti-poor. Poor people may be more likely to do drugs due to worse education or worse parenting. Or the prevalence of drugs in poor communities may simply have an economic explanation: supply is greater in poor communities because more poor people are willing to sell drugs for the rational reason that there are fewer alternative means of employment with a comparable wage. In other words, the opportunity cost of selling drugs (or going to prison for selling drugs) is lower for poor people, leading to more dealers in poor communities, meaning easier access (even in the age of the internet drug markets are still very local I imagine), meaning more users.

    Personally, I tend to disagree with the tendency to automatically see class, gender, or racial disparities these days as the result of deliberate discrimination or bias or part of systematic oppression. More often than not, there isn’t some malevolent monocled man somewhere imposing these situations; they are usually quite accidental; or the result of differences in personal choices (*cough* gender ‘wage’ gap *cough*) or simply the intuitive fact that the failures of an institution most effects those most dependent on the institution (which is rarely the wealthiest as they are usually most independent of public institutions). Also, for moral reasons, I’m not a big fan of the argument that X phenomenon is even worse because it disproportionately affects Y group of people. I mean, if it were mainly middle class white people being imprisoned for drug crimes, I wouldn’t see that as an improvement over the status quo, myself being a middle class white person.

  15. Gravatar of Derivs Derivs
    17. January 2016 at 05:09

    “Scott Sumner tries a new X drink at a pub…and never looks back. Life was never so good, before. But with the X drink in hand, Sumner enjoys boundless euphoria.”

    Take away the word ‘drink’ and I think they already have something named exactly that, that does exactly that.

    “Black drug use and sale is more widespread, more visible, and more frequent.”

    C’mon, that’s ridiculous. If we play the word association game, and you say to me college… I respond drugs. At least that’s what I hazily remember. As a white middle age man I would pretty much have to throw a lit roach in a cops face before he would arrest me.

  16. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    17. January 2016 at 06:10

    Derivs: you missed my point.

    Scott Sumner may indeed enjoy a drink, some pot, or a hit of heroin – – but not enough to become an addict. Now in a libertarian futureworld, a private drug developer gets ahold of some of Sumner’s DNA and concocts drug X. This drug creates 100 times the euphoria for Sumner than heroin.

    Sumner, like an alcoholic, loses free will.

    But he is happier.

  17. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    17. January 2016 at 06:42

    OT-the Economist, 16 Jan – 22 Jan 2016, mentions Scott Sumner by analogy!: “Meanwhile Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, reshuffled his cabinet. Luis Salas, a left-wing sociologist who does not think that printing money causes inflation, will be in charge of economic policy.” Sumner now has another country to point to that’s adopted his policies, besides Japan!

    @Daniel – you are correct. Several prominent narcos, the biggest being the Medellin cartel co-founder and neo-Nazi, Carlos Lehder, have said just that (the CIA/US gov’t was indifferent to drugs as long as communists were hurt; the Netflick series Narcos, drawn from real life, also makes this point). And it’s proven by the Iran-Contra affair.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. January 2016 at 06:53

    Ben, Thanks for the movie tip.

    E. Harding, ‘Status quo bias”? You wouldn’t see that if middle class kids were the one’s going to jail.

    Steve, Interesting that people want to lock up drug sellers but not buyers. I’ve never seen a convincing argument for that. In the 1970s, lots of yuppies used cocaine, and then they simply chose to stop. They wanted a good career. People are far more addicted to money than cocaine. So why not lock up the cocaine users and let the cocaine dealers (who are addicted to money) go free? Could it be class, or race?

    Krzys, The 450,000 in prison is just a part of the cost of the war on drugs. There are many other costs.

    I do not accept the claim the the deaths from Oxy are a part of the cost of legalizing drugs, unless you want to claim that Oxy should be illegal. Is that your claim? Throughout history there have always been drug fads of one drug or another, which eventually burn out. I recall when there has hysteria about “crack babies.”

    Alcohol and cigarettes kill enormous number so people, and I don’t want to ban them.

    Mark, You said:

    “More often than not, there isn’t some malevolent monocled man somewhere imposing these situations;”

    You totally missed the point, the class bias is unconscious, as I said in the previous post. Rich people go to rehab and poor people go to prison. That’s what society thinks is “normal”. They don’t even give it a second thought.

  19. Gravatar of Britonomist Britonomist
    17. January 2016 at 07:26

    I think you can distinguish between trying to criminalize possession of drugs, and simply trying to stop the illegal distribution of some drugs from dealers/traffickers.

  20. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    17. January 2016 at 08:30

    A thought that came to me while reading this post: wouldn’t it be interesting if a politician who (a) admits to taking drugs when younger and (b) supports current sentencing for drug-users would (c) spend time under voluntary pseudo-house arrest equal to what they would be convicted for that offence today? If they’re really serious about it, they could even turn their house into a prison-like environment, perhaps in part by hiring a few hardened ex-cons to house-sit with them.

    Like you, Scott, I find something really distasteful about people who can sanguinely both admit to breaking a law and want to punish those unlucky enough not to have the means to get away with it.

  21. Gravatar of Dustin Dustin
    17. January 2016 at 08:31

    “Alcohol and cigarettes kill enormous number so people, and I don’t want to ban them.”

    Exactly this. Yet a highbrow intellectual might explain, with a wine or scotch in one hand and a favored Cohiba in the other, the merits of criminalizing drugs and executing the war on drugs.

    Reefer madness.

  22. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    17. January 2016 at 08:58

    “E. Harding, ‘Status quo bias”? You wouldn’t see that if middle class kids were the one’s going to jail.”

    -Doubt it. Quite a few middle class kids have been arrested for pot use. And I’m pretty sure the drugs that are illegal in Mississippi and Louisiana are still illegal in Montana and Vermont. And I repeat what I said previously:

    “So when the victims are White, pointing out their race is Wrong, while when they’re Black, pointing out their race is Necessary. Got it.”

    “C’mon, that’s ridiculous. If we play the word association game, and you say to me college… I respond drugs. At least that’s what I hazily remember. As a white middle age man I would pretty much have to throw a lit roach in a cops face before he would arrest me.”

    -Where’d you get your drugs?

  23. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    17. January 2016 at 09:37

    So Kevin Drum is highly in favor of assisted suicide for people who have chronic pain (according to his other recent column), but favors tough restrictions on their ability to get painkillers because that can be abused?

    Pretty easy to be against access to painkillers when you don’t have horrible pain, too.

  24. Gravatar of Derivs Derivs
    17. January 2016 at 10:50

    “-Where’d you get your drugs?”

    Same place Snoop gets his, from rich white kids that attended Choate.

  25. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    17. January 2016 at 11:24

    Scott,

    Alcohol kills 88k/year with total availability. The argument is that slightly easier availability of Oxy already kills 20k. The concern is that widespread availability of drugs will drive those numbers significantly up. On top of that alcohol (and cigarettes) kill after a lifetime of abuse, while drugs kill much faster. In other words, the losses of life expectancy are much larger.

    You might not accept the impact of oxy availability, but it’s an empirical issue.

    The question is at what level would we consider the tradeoff unacceptable.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. January 2016 at 13:51

    Britonomist, If we must criminalize only one of them, I’d prefer the users go to jail and the drug pushers get off scot free. It would reduce violence associated with the war on drugs. And it would be less hypocritical.

    W. Peden good point.

    Kryzs, You said:

    “The argument is that slightly easier availability of Oxy already kills 20k.”

    I very much doubt that. Not the number, but the causal claim.

    Don’t drunk drivers kill 15,000/year, are those victims older than the Oxy victims?

  27. Gravatar of Britonomist Britonomist
    17. January 2016 at 14:05

    “Britonomist, If we must criminalize only one of them, I’d prefer the users go to jail and the drug pushers get off scot free. It would reduce violence associated with the war on drugs. And it would be less hypocritical.”

    Can you explain the hypocrisy? You can legitimately make an argument that ‘drug pushers’ create ‘social harm’ (for want of a better phrase), while individual users are engaging in essentially a victimless crime – they’re distinguishable offenses.

  28. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. January 2016 at 14:18

    Britonomist, The “social harm” from drugs comes from their consumption, not their sale. And also from their criminalization.

    Look, I don’t want to punish users either, I agree it’s a victimless crime. But if we had to punish one or the other, it’s the users I’d prefer to punish.

  29. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    17. January 2016 at 14:31

    Scott,

    I nderstand you doubt the argument, but it’s an empirical issue. As to drink driving apology, I don’t think it’s helpful at all, unless you want to argue that we should repeal all drunk driving laws and enforcement on the argument that people die already so it doesn’t matter if many more will die.

  30. Gravatar of Dustin Dustin
    17. January 2016 at 15:16

    Krzys
    I do not agree that it is an empirical issue. Rather, the empirics (which are most probably not all in favor criminalization) are a excuse to prohibit certain behaviors that are not socially acceptable or ‘dangerous to society’ (gay marriage?). Besides, there is empirical basis for marijuana being more harmful than tobacco or alcohol.

    In an earlier comment, you said “The question is at what level would we consider the tradeoff unacceptable.” And my problem with the issue lies in this statement … why does it matter what you or I think about one’s personal behavior?

  31. Gravatar of Britonomist Britonomist
    17. January 2016 at 15:36

    “Britonomist, The “social harm” from drugs comes from their consumption, not their sale. And also from their criminalization.”

    No, the introduction of hard drugs to a community is a ‘harm’ in itself, if you think from a utilitarian perspective. That community would have been better off if the drug pusher did not start pushing and distributing drugs to the community – he engaged in an action, for personal profit, that made the community worse off. The users themselves are only to blame for their own individual harm, but the drug pusher takes responsibility for the ‘social harm’.

    Of course there is a grey area where users can also engage in ‘social harm’ by encouraging others to take drugs, and therefore increasing its distribution marginally themselves – but I feel their share in the blame here is tiny compared to the pushers.

  32. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    17. January 2016 at 16:04

    “You totally missed the point, the class bias is unconscious, as I said in the previous post. Rich people go to rehab and poor people go to prison. That’s what society thinks is “normal”. They don’t even give it a second thought.”
    Well by that logic, Ferrari’s executives suffer from an unconscious class bias because poor people can’t afford their cars and rich people can.

    To me, ‘class bias’ means: college less willing to admit poor applicants than rich applicants; not, expensive college more affordable to people who can afford it than can’t. The former is bias; the latter isn’t bias, it’s just some people having more money than others.

    And much of your concern, as I understood, was with the extent to which the war on drugs is focused on poor communities. Again, I think that’s due to most of the suppliers being in poor communities, which itself is due to their poverty. But poverty causing a problem, then the resulting misguided solution to that problem primarily impacting the poor is still just due to poverty, not necessarily unconscious bias against poor people.

  33. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    17. January 2016 at 16:52

    Dustin,

    Maybe for you it’s not an issue of empirics, but for an utilitarian, it sure should be.

    i personally have always been in favor of total legalization, but those numbers give me a pause.

  34. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    17. January 2016 at 20:29

    “Look, I don’t want to punish users either, I agree it’s a victimless crime. But if we had to punish one or the other, it’s the users I’d prefer to punish.”

    -Punishing the users may be preferable, but it’s way more costly than going after the dealers. Consumption is merely the other side of the coin of the sale.

  35. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. January 2016 at 11:13

    I love how Scott spins things around sometimes. In earlier posts Scott basically kept arguing that those 400,000 mostly aren’t real drug dealers but simply consumers that got imprisoned for possession or for occasionally selling drugs to a friend.

    Now he’s basically saying that it’s really unfair to imprison those 400,000 drug dealers, it would be more logical to get the consumers?

    You need to decide what you want, Scott. 😉

  36. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. January 2016 at 11:34

    The thing that baffles me the most about Scott’s drug posts is that I can’t find too much economic explanations in his arguments but a lot of heart-warming wishful thinking instead.

    What will happen when the availability and quality of hard drugs gets so much better? It’s really not hard to guess.

    What will happen to the criminal drug dealers when the prize of hard drugs hit rock bottom? What will happen when you release them from prison? Will they continue selling the now legal drugs or will they find new criminal enterprises with huge profits? Remember: They are addicted to money not to drugs.

    I mostly agree with Kevin Drum: Ending the war on drugs could be a huge benefit, but the costs might be way higher than you think.

  37. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    18. January 2016 at 12:47

    Kryzs, You said:

    “I understand you doubt the argument, but it’s an empirical issue. As to drink driving apology, I don’t think it’s helpful at all, unless you want to argue that we should repeal all drunk driving laws and enforcement on the argument that people die already so it doesn’t matter if many more will die.”

    You completely missed the point. It’s illegal to drive drunk or stoned. It’s legal to be drunk, but not stoned. I want it to be illegal to drive drunk or stoned, and legal to be drunk or stoned.

    Britonomist, Pushers don’t actually push drugs on people, at least in most cases. So I don’t agree. Any social harm from drug dealing comes from its violent nature, which is due to criminalization.

    Mark, I don’t follow your argument. Are you saying the rich should be able to buy their way out of prison, just the way they buy a Ferrari? Isn’t everyone supposed to be equal under the law?

    Christian, You said:

    “What will happen when the availability and quality of hard drugs gets so much better? It’s really not hard to guess.”

    We’ll end up a cesspool, like Switzerland, which decriminalized heroin.

    As far as the numbers, no I don’t want to send drug users to jail, and I argued that most so-called “dealers” who were imprisoned were actually users who sold a bit on the side. They were not the sort of “dealers” we see in Hollywood films. But I never denied that most people who went to jail for drug law violations sold at least a small amount of drugs.

  38. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. January 2016 at 14:01

    So it’s all about heroin prescription and heroin substitution for a few hundred hard-core problematic heroin addicts now? Because that’s what the Swiss program is. That’s very common in Europe. But none of the physicians involved would promote a program that legalizes heroin for the average Joe. Show me the physician of a heroin program who does.

    For obvious reasons: What will happen when the availability and quality of hard drugs gets so much better and everyone is allowed to buy it? You are such a smart economist I bet you can figure it out.

    “I want it to be legal to be drunk or stoned.”
    In the states I visited it was illegal to be intoxicated in public, drunk or stoned, it didn’t matter. The police can’t tell by looking at you anyway. Nobody cared what you did in private in your home, you could be drunk or stoned there.

    I also think that the legalization of cannabis has gone very far already. In most states you can’t really talk about full prohibition anymore:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_cannabis_by_U.S._jurisdiction

  39. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. January 2016 at 14:14

    “Any social harm from drug dealing comes from its violent nature, which is due to criminalization.”

    And maybe from the people involved?

    Illegal drug dealing is basically a black market and therefore a pretty free market. I hope not that the nature of a free market is violence. Not every black market is violent, right? In the case of drug dealing its violence might have to something with the nature of drugs and the nature of the people involved.

  40. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    19. January 2016 at 09:34

    The left has pushed up the tax on tobacco quite high and that is evidence that that they are for the war on drugs but want to fight it in less harsh and more reasonable way.

    I am sympathetic to young men who go into selling drugs because of the temptation to make money and in an exciting way but I think that the left’s attitude to the rich will keep them from having much sympathy for the sellers of drugs especially the most successful sellers.

  41. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    19. January 2016 at 09:54

    Once in a while you hear people in the left railing against alcohol ads in poor neighborhoods. They sometimes indicate that they want to ban certain foods like sugary drinks. they are control we are chaos.

  42. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    19. January 2016 at 14:35

    Christian, So pot was legalized in lots of states, and the horrors predicted by the drug warriors never materialized. Interesting.

    You said:

    “Nobody cared what you did in private in your home, you could be drunk or stoned there.”

    I’m willing to accept that compromise, it would be a huge improvement over current law. Legalize the sale of drugs but require the consumption to be in your own home. It’s a deal!

    You said:

    “In the case of drug dealing its violence might have to something with the nature of drugs and the nature of the people involved.”

    No, I predict the violence would vanish if it was legal and big tobacco was allowed to take over the market. (Assuming taxes were not too high.)

  43. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    19. January 2016 at 16:06

    “I’m willing to accept that compromise, it would be a huge improvement over current law.”

    -Well, I’m not. I prefer current law.

    “No, I predict the violence would vanish if it was legal and big tobacco was allowed to take over the market.”

    -You might be right. Probably most of the violence in Mexico is about illegal drugs.

  44. Gravatar of chris arrnade chris arrnade
    20. January 2016 at 19:21

    I have spent the last five years documenting addiction in the South Bronx, and in other poor neighborhoods across the US. Most recently Buffalo ( Article here http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/07/east-buffalo-drug-addiction-violence )

    I loathe the War on Drugs; it is perhaps the single most unjust and damaging government domestic policy of the last 30 years. It has done nothing but destroy communities, and increase the pain of poverty and decrease the chances of anyone escaping poverty.

    It is a policy that is equal to a war on the poor.

    Yet despite that, I don’t feel the answer is straight up legalization.

    Certainly we can and should decriminalize drugs, levying tickets or minor fines over jail.

    We can offer substance abuse programs to long term and repeat offenders of harder substances (heroin etc)

    But legalization brings with it cultural acceptance, and that is a very different thing. Especially in poor neighborhoods where drug use is higher, and recourse to help lower.

    PS: Curious fact; The Department of health has a fantastic yearly survey of drug use in the US, filled with tons of information and detailed analysis. They break down drug use in many ways, with the exception of by income/wealth. For some reasons, they look at smoking by income, and mental health by income, but not drug use.

    Chris Arnade

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