pageok
pageok
pageok
The ONDCP on Marijuana (Ads):

You know those ads produced by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and urging kids not to use marijuana? The feds have spent well over one billion dollars on the ads since 1998. Yet, as Slate reports, a government-funded study found that the ads actually increase the likelihood that teenagers will use marijuana. Worse, the ONDCP initially sat on the study for over a year, while continuing to fund the ads, and now claims the results are dated. Your tax dollars at work.

AppSocRes (mail):
The War on Drugs: I wish there were somebody to surrender to!
9.18.2006 1:50pm
Nobody Special:
Onion headline from Our Dumb Century: "Drugs Win Drug War."
9.18.2006 1:58pm
JRL:
Just like the D.A.R.E. program.
9.18.2006 2:11pm
rbj:
For all the hue and cry over loss of liberties in the War on Terror, the War on Drugs has been much more destructive.
9.18.2006 2:18pm
jvarisco (www):
The problem is not the war on drugs, but the way it is being prosecuted. Similar to many criticisms of Iraq, actually. You are telling me that for one billion dollars it is not possible to create ads that will make kids less likely to abuse drugs?
9.18.2006 2:32pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I suspect that if enough research is done we will find things are even worse. In particular by overplaying the harms of marijuanna the government makes it into a gateway drug.

Once college age kids try MJ and find out that the excesive claims of harm are misleading they naturally lose confidence in other claims of harm from drugs and thus are less likely to avoid things like heroin or cocaine.

I don't understand why people seem so resistant to realizing that overwarning or crying wolf can be just as harmful as not warning at all. People aren't idiots if your warnings don't track the real truth they are going to realize it.
9.18.2006 2:33pm
joe (mail):
"You are telling me that for one billion dollars it is not possible to create ads that will make kids less likely to abuse drugs?"

The conceit of the paternalists lives on. Yes, I'm telling you that for one billion dollars it's not possible. Nor for one trillion dollars. It's besides the point though. If people want to do drugs, they should be free to do so. So long as you don't inflict harm upon others, smoke em if you got em.
9.18.2006 3:06pm
strategichamlet (mail):
joe,

I think a cool trillion could do it. If there are ~20million teenagers then that would come to $50k per kid. If when I was 12 the gov't told me they'd give me $50k not to do drugs I'd have taken the cash.
9.18.2006 3:44pm
Zubon (www):
strategichamlet,

Think of how many drugs you could buy with that $50k!
9.18.2006 3:50pm
jvarisco (www):
joe) It worked for smoking quite well. Not to mention that we have a plethora of evidence showing that proganda works extremely well. Imagine when it's actually true.
9.18.2006 4:12pm
SeaLawyer:
If we want to win the drug we need to start handing down the same sentences to users that we give dealers. No demand, no supply, no drug war.
9.18.2006 4:25pm
Medis:
Maybe some time this century we will give up on this charade.

Incidentally, I think the failings of our "War on Drugs" provides a good indication of what a disaster a "War on Guns" would be in this country.
9.18.2006 4:31pm
whig (www):
Medis, I think that cannabis prohibition is a major reason you have the government so willing to lie about everything. They lie because the truth is that cannabis is safer than prescription drugs. It is medicine and it helps people who suffer from pain and disease. It is good for the mind, body and spirit of some people. You might not find it helpful and you might choose to avoid it if you think it might be unpleasant, but the truth is it isn't going to kill you if you did try it.

Unfortunately it might kill your career. You might get fired or lose your financial aid if you are a student. You might lose your housing, or get a criminal record that follows you for the rest of your life. Note that all of these negative consequences are caused by prohibition, not by cannabis.

Do you think we can continue to tolerate lies about cannabis and expect the truth about anything else? But you're more concerned about some hypothetical future gun ban?
9.18.2006 5:21pm
Medis:
whig,

Are you operating under the impression that I think the "War on Drugs" is a good idea?

The reason I drew the parallel with a "War on Guns" is that I think for some people, perhaps particularly people here, reflecting about a hypothetical "War on Guns" can help them see why our "War on Drugs" is failing.

In particular, the basic setup is the same: some people see the mere presence of drugs/guns as a danger to society, and so want to ban them. But other people think the potential harms to self and others that could be caused by drugs/guns is not sufficient to justify a ban, and indeed some think the benefits of drugs/guns can outweigh any potential harms.

And when a critical mass of people thinks that a ban on some thing (guns, drugs, alcohol, etc.) is unjustified, it basically becomes impossible to enforce such a ban.
9.18.2006 5:33pm
Medis:
Oh, and toss in prostitution and gambling on that list too.
9.18.2006 5:39pm
Randy R. (mail):
I suppose that SeaLawyer would benefit from a war on drugs by increasing penalities, since more middle-class people would have to hire an attorney to defend themselves.

I hope Sealawyer wouldn't mind the increase in local taxes to pay for the increased burden upon the courts, law enforcement and extra jails needed to comply with his wish. In fact, he can pay my share, since I'm against it.
9.18.2006 6:27pm
jvarisco (www):
China had a problem with people killing Pandas, which are endangered. Since they started executing people who killed Pandas, peaching has decreased quite a bit. The problem is not the war on drugs, it is that the penalties are not severe enough to act as a deterrent, while the media continues to glorify them.
9.18.2006 6:43pm
SeaLawyer:

I suppose that SeaLawyer would benefit from a war on drugs by increasing penalties, since more middle-class people would have to hire an attorney to defend themselves.


I am not a lawyer. So that would not benefit me.


I hope Sealawyer wouldn't mind the increase in local taxes to pay for the increased burden upon the courts, law enforcement and extra jails needed to comply with his wish. In fact, he can pay my share, since I'm against it.


The long term costs would be much less then what we are doing now. Although I guess unlike most people I think the users create the problem not the dealers.

Actually we should legalize selling it, and then really go after the users.
9.18.2006 6:44pm
strategichamlet (mail):
Medis, I agree 100%. When are you going to start your own blog?

SeaLawyer, do you really think that sentencing guidelines can eliminate demand for a product? While we're at it why don't we pass a law that if your boss says you don't work hard you'll go to jail, that should really increase productivity!!
9.18.2006 6:47pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I haven't gotten around to trying them yet, but those fruit-flavored Camels that I learned of from the "Truth - The Anti-Drug" campaign sound good. I wouldn't have learned about them otherwise, what with the ban on advertising cigarettes on TV.
9.18.2006 6:50pm
Fub:
Medis wrotr:
And when a critical mass of people thinks that a ban on some thing (guns, drugs, alcohol, etc.) is unjustified, it basically becomes impossible to enforce such a ban.
And when the agencies enforcing the ban have a statutory mandate to "take such actions as necessary" to perpetuate the ban, as 21 USC 1703(b)(12) provides, then the results that Jonathan Adler reported above are no surprise either.

As a non-gun owner who generally opposes "gun control" statutes, and favors "shall issue" CCW permittage, I do wonder how gun owners would react to a federal agency being statutorily mandated to "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a" gun.
9.18.2006 7:20pm
Medis:
strategichamlet,

I'll probably start my own blog the next time I get fired. Or if I become a law professor. Either way, when I'm no longer working.

Although more seriously, I wonder sometimes if the regular commentators here have more readers than most bloggers, simply because this is such a popular blog. And back to being less serious--if the Conspiracy wanted to anoint me "Medis Non-Volokh", I wouldn't object.

Anyway, on SeaLawyer's plan:

First, if the current penalties aren't deterring sellers, why think they would deter users? And often they are the same people anyway. Of course, perhaps people still buy the myth that drug sellers are rolling in cash, which outweighs the deterrence effect. In fact, economists studying the issue have found that most drug sellers are barely making minimum wage for their efforts. So, the failure of deterrence isn't caused by the massive rewards awaiting most drug sellers, and thus there is little reason to think it would work with drug users.

Second, the drug-using community would know we are bluffing if we threatened the same sentences for users. We can barely pay for the prisons we need to detain our War on Drugs POWs as it is. Expanding that system to users would be outrageously expensive.

In fact, I'm waiting for the moment when people finally realize that our Drug War POW system is in fact an incredibly large and incredibly expensive welfare system. Of course, many (but not all) of the people in this welfare system would rather not be there. But the bottomline is that we are paying very large amounts of public money to provide food and shelter for a very large number of people who are perfectly capable of holding down jobs instead.

In fact, we have clearly reached some sort of perverse equilibrium. We've pushed the penalties for drug sellers to already absurd levels (anyone who has worked in the legal system has seen drug sellers getting far longer sentences than the likes of child abusers). And everyone knows it isn't working, but no one wants to be the person who looks soft on crime. So, we keep the system creaking along, spending and spending with little to show for our efforts.

Now on the other hand, summary executions of drug users would probably change the equation significantly. But the American people wouldn't stand for that, and they shouldn't--not just because it would be even more absurdly disproportionate, but also because placing that sort of power in the hands of government is bound to lead to widespread abuse ("Got a problem with a co-worker? Try a call to the DEA!").
9.18.2006 8:50pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
It worked for smoking quite well.

You don't think that smoking causes cancer had anything to do with people smoking less now than they did fifty years ago? That medical fact is more powerful than any amount of propaganda.
9.18.2006 9:35pm
SeaLawyer:

We've pushed the penalties for drug sellers to already absurd levels (anyone who has worked in the legal system has seen drug sellers getting far longer sentences than the likes of child abusers). And everyone knows it isn't working, but no one wants to be the person who looks soft on crime.


That is why you go after the demand.
9.18.2006 10:05pm
SeaLawyer:
One thing I would like to know, is if these ads help deter kids from using harder drugs.
9.18.2006 10:10pm
Speaking the Obvious:
"The feds have spent well over one billion dollars on the ads since 1998. Yet, as Slate reports, a government-funded study found that the ads actually increase the likelihood that teenagers will use marijuana."

Well, one billion dollars is a lot of money, and I generally oppose government waste, but we should at least feel good that as a result of this spending a lot of teenagers enjoyed themselves...
9.18.2006 10:36pm
Medis:
SeaLawyer,

Again, I see no reason to believe drug users would be deterred any more effectively than drug sellers. And it would be a bluff anyway.
9.18.2006 11:17pm
whig (www):
Medis, my objection was to your saying, "Maybe sometime in this century" -- because that presumes that ending cannabis prohibition is just a matter of legalizing vice.

I'm saying it's medicine and it's urgently needed.
9.19.2006 1:20am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
whig -- "Medis, I think that cannabis prohibition is a major reason you have the government so willing to lie about everything. They lie because the truth is that cannabis is safer than prescription drugs. It is medicine and it helps people who suffer from pain and disease. It is good for the mind, body and spirit of some people. You might not find it helpful and you might choose to avoid it if you think it might be unpleasant, but the truth is it isn't going to kill you if you did try it.

Unfortunately it might kill your career. You might get fired or lose your financial aid if you are a student. You might lose your housing, or get a criminal record that follows you for the rest of your life. Note that all of these negative consequences are caused by prohibition, not by cannabis.

Do you think we can continue to tolerate lies about cannabis and expect the truth about anything else?"

You tell it like it is. One of the major hypocracies of our times, which we all live with. It really is an act of oppression of the disabled class, to profit monger for the pharmaceutical corporations and erect protectionism over their patents. Marijuana, the best medical of all for many disabled, is in the public domain.

Of course, the government is vulnerable, since both the Rehab Act and ADA require ongoing and continuing self-evaluations -- in the case of medical marijuana, it seems the State and Federal governments have not complied with their mandates, especially to obtain the input of the disabled in conducting those self-evaluations. The government also cannot subject individuals with disabilities to "lesser" medical care opportunities. It is amazing that express repeal by the ADA (42 U.S.C. Sec. 12201(b), and implied repeal by the Rehab Act, have never been brought to bear against the Controlled Substances Act for the failure to self-evaluate (and not a one-sided givernment version) of the medical benefits of marijuana.

I will never forget shortly after California legalized medical marijuana, taking the elevator up to the Clerk's office of the San Francisco federal court, when J. Tony Serra stepped onto the elevator and began showing other people his medical marijuana card. whether he used it is beside the point; it was a significant act challenging the California Bar for acceptance of the rights of the disabled to relieve their pain and other horrible effects of disabilities.

It is too bad Raich fought the battle on the wrong issues under the wrong law.
9.19.2006 4:56am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Hey, SeaLawyer, are you and sealaw one and the same?
9.19.2006 4:58am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
(link)strategichamlet, I second the motion. Medis should start his own blog.
9.19.2006 5:02am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
21 USC 1703(b)(12) ... is that another conflicting federal law repealed by 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12201(b)? Vertical and hotizontal preemption of conflicting State and "other federal laws," Shotz v. City of Plantation, Fla., 11th Cir 2003.
9.19.2006 5:05am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
SeaLawyer (a/k/a sealaw?), from what federal circuit do you hale?
9.19.2006 5:07am
Medis:
whig,

The full quote would be: "Maybe some time this century we will give up on this charade." I'm not sure how you get from there to "that presumes that ending cannabis prohibition is just a matter of legalizing vice."

Incidentally, I think it was somewhat obvious that I wasn't advocating that it SHOULD take decades to end this policy. But the sad fact is that the federal government has taken control of drug policy throughout the nation, and the Supreme Court has said that they can do so. So, this blanket ban won't end until there is a national party which advocates legalizing marijuana, or at least returning the matter to local control, and that national party has the political power to accomplish this goal.

Realistically speaking, this series of events is unlikely to happen very soon, even if you and I both agree it SHOULD happen immediately. So, in my own sarcastic way, that was actually a somewhat hopeful statement: although the current conditions are far from what they need to be to end this policy, maybe in the future that will change.
9.19.2006 8:20am
raj (mail):
It strikes me that the best way of getting teenagers to do something is to tell them they shouldn't. When I was a teenager in the mid-1960s, I bought and read a copy of Catcher In The Rye for the sole reason that where I was growing up (Cincinnati OH) there was talk about banning it from schools, and I was curious about what the brouhaha was. And the movie rating system clearly guides teenagers as to what movies they should go see--"R" rated ones, of course.
9.19.2006 10:33am
SeaLawyer:
Mary,
I am not the same person as sealaw and I do not hale from a federal court.

Sealawyer is a military (Navy/Marines) slang term for someone who gives bad legal advice and tries to use technicalities to get out of things. I am not a lawyer.
9.19.2006 11:46am
SeaLawyer:
Medis,
I do not think that hard core drug users would be deterred from stiffer penalties, but I do think the recreational users would be. Basically the risk would not be worth the benefit. If you cut down on the number of recreational users there will be fewer hard core users in the future.
9.19.2006 11:52am
SeaLawyer:
To clarify I am much less concerned about someone smoking pot, then people using harder drugs.
I have also thought that maybe we should just legalize it all, but end any public funding for rehab.
9.19.2006 11:59am
Medis:
SeaLawyer,

The basic problem is that even if you assume the drug users are purely rational actors (a big "if"), and even if you assume your model of factors relevant to their decision is complete (another big "if"), to get their perceived risk, they would have to multiply the penalty by their subjective probability of actually facing that penalty. And for something like recreational drug use, the perceived risk is always going to be quite low, because the subjective probability is going to be quite low.

Moreover, it would in fact be a bluff, and they would know it.
9.19.2006 12:13pm
SeaLawyer:
Medis,
I don't believe people are always rational actors, but I do think that in most cases most people think rationally (well I at least hope).
For it not to be a bluff, law enforcement would need to stop turning a blind eye to drug use. Right now hardly anyone is arrested or much less charged for possession. The current method is not working, so why not try something new.
I think the users are just as much responsible for the violence of the drug trade as the dealers, and the penalties should reflect that.
9.19.2006 12:59pm
Medis:
"The current method is not working, so why not try something new."

Because the costs of your plan would be outrageously high, and there is little chance it would work. It isn't just a matter of will: effectively enforcing penalties on drug users face nearly insurmountable practical problems. That is largely because of the nature of the crime: you can use drugs in private (even alone if necessary), and there is victim to complain to the police (or go missing).

The only realistic way to make it work, in fact, would be to completely change our criminal justice system. We'd have to eliminate things like the criminal procedure protections in the Bill of Rights. The government would have to try to turn everyone's friends and family members into informers. And so on. And the American people are just too smart to allow the government that much power, because they know that it would be abused.
9.19.2006 1:26pm
Medis:
That should read: ". . . there is NO victim to complain . . . ."
9.19.2006 1:28pm
Fub:
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano wrote:
21 USC 1703(b)(12) ... is that another conflicting federal law repealed by 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12201(b)?
I don't think so.

SeaLawyer wrote:
...For it [punishing users as harshly as dealers] not to be a bluff, law enforcement would need to stop turning a blind eye to drug use. Right now hardly anyone is arrested or much less charged for possession. The current method is not working, so why not try something new.
NORML cites FBI statistics that indicate otherwise:
Washington, DC: Police arrested an estimated 771,608 persons for marijuana violations in 2004, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. The total is the highest ever recorded by the FBI, and comprised 44.2 percent of all drug arrests in the United States. ...

Of those charged with marijuana violations, 89 percent - some 684,319 Americans - were charged with possession only. The remaining 87,289 individuals were charged with "sale/manufacture," a category that includes all cultivation offenses - even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use. In past years, approximately 30 percent of those arrested were age 19 or younger.
SeaLawyer wrote:

I think the users are just as much responsible for the violence of the drug trade as the dealers, and the penalties should reflect that.
Just like drinkers were equally responsible for the violence of the booze trade during prohibition?
9.19.2006 1:39pm
markm (mail):
Shoot the users, that will take care of the problem. Except, wasn't the goal in the first place to protect potential users?
9.19.2006 2:01pm
Medis:
By the way, I again note that part of the enforcement problem is that a lot of people just aren't going to agree with SeaLawyer that "users are just as much responsible for the violence of the drug trade as the dealers, and the penalties should reflect that." So, you would get both passive and active resistance to this policy not just by drug users, but also by all those who would think such measures were unjust.
9.19.2006 2:02pm
Medis:
markm,

Don't be silly. This is a War on Drugs, so obviously the drugs themselves are the Enemy, and drug users are Traitors who are providing aid and comfort to the Enemy.

And whig, no, I'm not being serious. My point is actually that markm is exactly right: we have gotten into a situation where the original goals of the "War on Drugs" have been overtaken by the need to win this War no matter what the costs.

Indeed, you can see this dynamic frequently in debates over "legalization". People opposing "legalization" will frequently argue to the effect that we should not condone law-breaking by legalizing drug use, even if we couldn't make a good case these days for criminalizing drug use if it wasn't already criminalized. So, they are basically admitting we have fallen into a public policy trap, where once we have taken the stand that drug use should be illegal, we can't back away from that stand no matter how destructive it becomes.
9.19.2006 2:08pm
SeaLawyer:
Fub,
Those stats do not show how many times that the police turned a blind eye to it. Also when looking at the numbers you have to remember that these are only arrests, it doesn't mean that the cases actually went to trial. The numbers also don't state what other if any charges were wrapped around the possession charge, ie resisting arrest, DUI.
If you don't think that LE doesn't turn a blind eye to this you haven't spent any time around LE.
9.19.2006 2:18pm
SeaLawyer:
Medis,

By the way, I again note that part of the enforcement problem is that a lot of people just aren't going to agree with SeaLawyer that "users are just as much responsible for the violence of the drug trade as the dealers, and the penalties should reflect that." So, you would get both passive and active resistance to this policy not just by drug users, but also by all those who would think such measures were unjust.


I won't disagree with that statement.

Maybe one of the problems is that most people never see the violence of the drug trade, or simply don't care.
9.19.2006 2:25pm
Medis:
SeaLawyer,

Or they think that the prohibition itself, and not the drug use, is primarily responsible for the violence.
9.19.2006 3:06pm
SeaLawyer:
Medis,
While you are for legalizing marijuana, are you for legalizing other drugs as well?
9.19.2006 3:15pm
Medis:
SeaLawyer,

I'd say we should treat all psychoactive drugs like we treat psychoactive drugs such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, which means regulating (and taxing) them in various ways without attempting a blanket ban.
9.19.2006 3:34pm
SeaLawyer:
Does that go for drugs like crack and meth as well?
I know I will would rather deal with a drunk any day of the week, then run into a crackhead on the street. I don't know how people here ever had to deal with someone high on crack or meth, but it is never a good thing.
9.19.2006 3:54pm
Medis:
SeaLawyer,

Strangely enough, every day many millions of unsuspecting Americans pass by other Americans on the streets who have used cocaine and methamphetamines, and yet the vast majority of these people miracuously escape unharmed.

Anyway, to answer your question, I do not support our blanket bans on cocaine and methamphetamine use.
9.19.2006 4:14pm
Fub:
SeaLawyer wrote:

Those stats do not show how many times that the police turned a blind eye to it. Also when looking at the numbers you have to remember that these are only arrests, it doesn't mean that the cases actually went to trial. The numbers also don't state what other if any charges were wrapped around the possession charge, ie resisting arrest, DUI.
Those stats don't show lots of things, including the phase of the moon. They address only the claim "Right now hardly anyone is arrested or much less charged for possession." Either 684,319 Americans arrested for possession in 2004 is "hardly anyone", or not.
9.19.2006 6:06pm
SeaLawyer:

Either 684,319 Americans arrested for possession in 2004 is "hardly anyone", or not.


The stats only say the number of arrests not the number of people arrested, so out of 1.8 million drug arrests, 37.7% were arrests for possession of marijuana. If you want to look at the stats go here.
9.19.2006 7:06pm
jvarisco (www):
"Either 684,319 Americans arrested for possession in 2004 is "hardly anyone", or not. "

If we use that, we have something like 300,000 people arrested for marijuana use. Last time I checked, marijuana use was somewhere around 10% of the population (I think it's actually more, but that will do fine) - so in the past year, somewhere around 30 million have used marijuana. That means that we arrest at most one out of every hundred users - and considering most people use it more than once, the real numbers are probably closer to one arrest for every thousand uses of the drug. Imagine if we only prosecuted one person for every THOUSAND murders that occurred. You call that enforcement?

The problem is that our system only goes after sellers. Users, in the rare case they are actually arrested, face hardly any jail time. If that were to change, we would see a real difference. It's not like this is hard to enforce - a simple urine test can tell if someone has used the drug. Hospitals, government offices, etc. could routinely sample urine with few problems.
9.19.2006 7:19pm
Medis:
jvarisco,

Again, though, those 30 million pot smokers know darn well that we couldn't afford to send them all to prison for a substantial amount of time. It would be an easy bluff to call.

By the way, hospitals routinely sampling urine tests for drug use? That's not only a violation of the Fourth Amendment, but also many canons of medical ethics. And it would undoubtedly cause mass public health issues as people refused to seek medical attention when needed.

You might as well go ahead with your summary executions if you are going to toss out American law to that degree.
9.19.2006 7:28pm
Fub:
SeaLawyer wrote:
The stats only say the number of arrests not the number of people arrested, ...
Maybe someone can provide actual data that from which good estimates of the the two categories can be inferred (number of arrests vs. number of people arrested). I'm all ears, but I don't think the FBI data does that.
...so out of 1.8 million drug arrests, 37.7% were arrests for possession of marijuana.
So, the question then appears to be whether the 37.7% of all arrests is "hardly anyone", or not.
9.19.2006 9:16pm
jvarisco (www):
Medis) My point was that we are not seriously prosecuting users, which Fub had been suggesting. In terms of actual policy, I think a few public cases would be all we had to do. It's unreasonable to prosecute everyone who runs red lights; but when officials publicize the fact that they are about to install security cameras at lights, people generally stop running them.

Using urine samples would only be a search if they were compelled for that purpose. Hospitals could take samples they had already collected and use those. Similar to reporting suspicious gunshot wounds, or planned parenthood reporting underage pregnancies. Or even in some other countries where doctors are required to report evidence of abortions etc. The fact is that a crime has been committed, and doctors are obligated to report such evidence of wrongdoing. Where are the ethics problems here?

Do you seriously think that many people would prioritize using illegal drugs over seeking medical attention? If necessary employers could simply require routine examinations. Whether you find breaking drug laws problematic is irrelevant; the fact is that we are a nation of laws, and no individual has the right to violate them. If you don't like drug laws, vote for people who want to repeal them. But you live in a society where most people support them, and so you are obligated to obey. Go to Amsterdam if you prefer.
9.19.2006 10:15pm
Medis:
jvarisco,

But you can't install security cameras in people's houses.

Or maybe you think we should.
9.19.2006 10:29pm
Medis:
jvarisco,

By the way, I don't know if you were serious, but medical professionals generally can't perform unauthorized tests. And the government generally can't require hospitals to release your medical records without a court order.
9.19.2006 10:48pm
Fub:
jvarisco wrote:
Medis) My point was that we are not seriously prosecuting users, which Fub had been suggesting.
All I'm suggesting is that

1. The number of people arrested for possession is a not unreasonable proxy for the number of users arrested, and that arrests for sales and other supply crimes is a reasonable proxy for the number of dealers prosecuted.

2. Once we agree on how many of each type of arrest there are, then we can at least speculate cogently on the question of whether those numbers represent a "serious" effort to prosecute users or not.
In terms of actual policy, I think a few public cases would be all we had to do.
I believe Maylasia executes people for possession of surprisingly small amounts of various drugs for many years. China as well. I think both places are still executing people. So, there is some empirical data on whether "a few public cases would be all we had to do" to end all drug use.
It's unreasonable to prosecute everyone who runs red lights; but when officials publicize the fact that they are about to install security cameras at lights, people generally stop running them.
Or people don't stop running them, and contest the tickets, and organize against the politicians who authorized the cameras, etc. The cameras may thoroughly deter red light runners or speeders in some places, but certainly not all.

I've heard it attributed that U.S.Grant said "The best way to repeal a bad law is to enforce it thoroughly". In that sense, enforcing drug laws thoroughly against users might bring about repeal of the laws. Perhaps that is why the drug warriors don't press the issue of prosecuting petty users so much. It might upset the gravy train.
9.19.2006 11:13pm
jvarisco (www):
I think a better analogy would be police talking to a suspect, buying him some coffee, and then testing his DNA from the cup. As the person freely gave their urine sample, it no longer belongs to them. Unless you can come up with a convincing argument as to why this is unconstitutional, there's no reason not to legislate it. It's totally non-intrusive, and would go a long way to enforcing federal law - disagreeing with a law is a reason to try to repeal it, not to prevent it being enforced. That's the same as standing on the school steps to stop integration - it's fundamentally undemocratic.

"Or people don't stop running them, and contest the tickets, and organize against the politicians who authorized the cameras, etc. The cameras may thoroughly deter red light runners or speeders in some places, but certainly not all."

Have any examples of this? I don't. The days of the Whiskey Rebellion are over. Unless you are suggesting that going through red lights is not a bad thing? That seems ludicrous on its face, to be honest. What exactly are you going to contest?

The relevant question for Malaysia revolves around two factors - their ability to actually catch people (if you have a 90% chance of not being caught execution might not seem so bad), and also the effect on the drug trade in the country. If executing a couple people a year reduces drug trafficking by 75%, I'd call that a success. Don't forget the lives it saves from people who aren't able to take drugs and kill themselves.

Would you support insurance refusing to pay for people who OD on drugs too? Or do people have the right to hurt themselves, but the government has to pay for the obvious consequences?
9.19.2006 11:55pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"Sealawyer is a military (Navy/Marines) slang term for someone who gives bad legal advice and tries to use technicalities to get out of things." SeaLawyer, you made my day. sealaw must be at the root of such slang.

"To clarify I am much less concerned about someone smoking pot, then people using harder drugs." Maybe you are not aware of this, but most disabled people who would want to use medical marijuana would not be likely to use harder drugs; they only desire the pain control the medical marijuana provides.

Fub, you who sound like a US Attorney, "Mary Katherine Day-Petrano wrote: 21 USC 1703(b)(12) ... is that another conflicting federal law repealed by 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12201(b)? I don't think so."

And, I am just supposed to take your disagreement at face value just because you say so without citing any legal authority for your conclusory disagreement whatsoever?

Medis, "The only realistic way to make it work, in fact, would be to completely change our criminal justice system. We'd have to eliminate things like the criminal procedure protections in the Bill of Rights. The government would have to try to turn everyone's friends and family members into informers. And so on. And the American people are just too smart to allow the government that much power, because they know that it would be abused."

Didn't this, in fact, already occur with the Bush Administration's War on Terror, which is now a War on Drugs due to the terrorists growing poppies in Afghanistan to finance their terrorism, coupled with all the warrantless spying, data mining, seizures of emails? And, you say the American people are just to smart too allow the government that much power? It does appear it is being abused in some cases.

SeaLawyer, "Maybe one of the problems is that most people never see the violence of the drug trade, or simply don't care." The violence, dealers, and even the ability of terrorists to sell marijuana to finance terror would all stop if the U.S. legalized medical marijuana, regulated gowing it in the U.S., and cut out the violance, dealers, and foreign dependence.

"While you are for legalizing marijuana, are you for legalizing other drugs as well?" Though you directed this question to Medis, I would point out that I am not in favor of legalizing other drugs, nor marijuana for other than medical/disabiliy use.

jvarisco, "Do you seriously think that many people would prioritize using illegal drugs over seeking medical attention? If necessary employers could simply require routine examinations." Employers already fire disabled employees when they conduct drug tests and discover disabled employees are taking legal medically prescribed pharmaceuticals -- in blatant violation of Title I &/or II of the ADA. One must balance your overzealousness with the anti-discrimination rights of the disabled.

Medis, "But you can't install security cameras in people's houses." The feds already are doing this under their USA Patriot Act warrantless sneak and peek program.
See how it feels when this is done and they watch you with your husband or wife exercising conubial relations.

jvarisco, "I think a better analogy would be police talking to a suspect, buying him some coffee, and then testing his DNA from the cup. As the person freely gave their urine sample, it no longer belongs to them. Unless you can come up with a convincing argument as to why this is unconstitutional, there's no reason not to legislate it." I hope the police remember, when having that coffee chat, to remember to comply with the US DOJ ADA Model Police Policy and provide the disabled medical marijuana user the required interpreter for the coffee conversation.
9.20.2006 2:55am
Fub:
jvarisco wrote:
I think a better analogy would be police talking to a suspect, buying him some coffee, and then testing his DNA from the cup. ...
Chain of custody record keeping might prove difficult if the methods you suggest were widely applied in massive numbers. Assuming current laws against possession, another legal issue would include whether the presence of metabolites in the body constitutes possession of the drug.
Have any examples of this? I don't. The days of the Whiskey Rebellion are over.
Here are three. Google will reveal many more.
If executing a couple people a year reduces drug trafficking by 75%, I'd call that a success. Don't forget the lives it saves from people who aren't able to take drugs and kill themselves.
The approximate numbers of USA people who die directly from illegal drug use annually is order of magnitude 1,000 or less, with about 80% of those deaths caused by factors directly attributable to prohibition, such as adulterated drugs. The number of people who die from alcohol is about 150,000, and tobacco accounts for about 400,000. Those approximate numbers are from a 1990 source, 18 Hofstra Law Rev., No. 3. Roughly similar estimates are fairly available on the web, and I don't think they vary too wildly from year to ear, but I'm not going to look them up.

Whether executing a person per year for possession to save a thousand is good policy is not a question I'll address, but it is the question that arises from looking at the numbers and the policy you've proposed, and assuming that the policy works perfectly.

If executing a couple people per year would prevent all the alcohol and tobacco caused deaths, then the policy would have 2 to 3 orders of magnitude better cost/benefit ratio in terms of corpse counts. I don't know whether it would sell well in that application though.
Would you support insurance refusing to pay for people who OD on drugs too? Or do people have the right to hurt themselves, but the government has to pay for the obvious consequences?
I haven't, and won't propose any policies. I'm only pointing out the fairly obvious empirical facts and their relation to the policies you've proposed. I have no idea what the numbers are of people who OD on drugs and collect insurance. I also have no idea what the typical insurance policy exclusions are. I expect that insurance companies write their policies based on what they can sell for a profit, so some may already cover drug OD, and some not.
9.20.2006 4:00am
Medis:
jvarisco,

Again, I can't tell if you are serious. But the reason the police can, say, fingerprint a suspect's discarded cup is that it is considered abandoned property.

In contrast, when you authorize a hospital to perform tests on your bodily fluids, you aren't abandoning those fluids. Rather, you are transferring possession to the hospital, and as I noted, the hospital is sharply limited by canons of medical ethics in what it can do with those bodily fluids. And the government generally cannot seize those bodily fluids from the hospital without a court order.

By the way, you keep saying things like: "disagreeing with a law is a reason to try to repeal it, not to prevent it being enforced."

Of course, I'm not in the position to prevent anything. But I think when making public policy, we have to look realistically at the costs of enforcement. And the costs of actually enforcing our drug laws--in economic, legal, and moral terms--are already outrageous, and your proposed plans would magnify all of those costs. So, this is indeed an argument for repealing these laws, but considering the costs of enforcement is not irrelevant to that argument.
9.20.2006 9:03am
Medis:
jvarisco (and fub),

By the way, the logic of "if executing X number of people would prevent Y number of people from killing themselves by overdosing, and Y is greater than X, then it is a good policy" is obviously based on a deeply flawed set of assumptions.

The most obvious problem is that drug users already face the fact that a certain number of people will kill themselves by doing drugs. So, obviously those who choose to use drugs have already taken this mortality risk into account. Accordingly, if Y is the total number of people each year who kill themselves doing drugs, we might call Y the equilbrium point between this mortality risk and society's net desire to do drugs.

So if you start executing X drug users each year such that the new number of people dying each year because they did drugs is X+Y, then maybe society's net desire to do drugs will lessen slightly, and Y will go down to some new number Z which is less than Y. So, the number of people dying each year as result of doing drugs will be X+Z.

But there is no reason to assume X+Z will be less than Y. Indeed, at least using this superficial logic, X+Z should be equal to Y, because that is the equilibrium point between mortality risk and society's net desire to do drugs. So, as a result of this policy you won't have changed the number of people dying because of drugs. Rather, you will have just substituted some executions for some drug-caused deaths.

Of course, markm already pointed out the absurdity of all this. If the rationale for our War on Drugs is paternalism--the desire to protect drug users from harming themselves in various ways--then we have already lost our War on Drugs if we are forced to harm drug users in order to effectively enforce our drug laws.

In short, killing people to save them from killing themselves is obviously a ridiculous policy.
9.20.2006 9:20am
Medis:
Sorry for the serial post, but one last point:

Incidentally, there is also a lot of research suggesting that hard core drug users simply substitute one drug for another if their preferred drug is unavailable.

What that means is that if you start executing users of Drug A, then even if the total number of people dying because of Drug A (your executions plus the deaths caused by Drug A) goes down, that doesn't mean the total number of people dying from drugs has gone down. Rather, people may be switching from Drug A to Drug B, and so the increase in people dying from Drug B has to be taken into account.

And the big problem for any drug policy in the United States is that there are some pretty dangerous Drug Bs available: alcohol and tobacco. Indeed, it is almost certainly the case that the number of people dying from alcohol and tobacco is higher than it would be in a world where all psychoactive drugs were legal.

Of course, in theory, if you can get people to switch from more dangerous to less dangerous drugs, maybe there will be a net reduction in deaths. In practice, part of the problem with this theory is just that alcohol and tobacco are really dangerous drugs, and some illegal drugs (like marijuana) are considerably less dangerous. And as Fub implied, another practical problem is that making psychoactive drugs illegal tends to make those illegal drugs more dangerous, because they cannot be effectively regulated for dosage, adulteration, and so on. So, those who do not switch are left taking a far more dangerous form of their preferred drug.

Consequently, it is entirely possible that our policy of partial drug illegality, with exceptions for alcohol and tobacco, actually increases the total number of drug deaths.
9.20.2006 9:38am
jvarisco (www):
Fub, none of those examples were widespread protests. From your own article: "The judge gave the city the victory on a larger question, saying that using a camera to gather evidence is not unconstitutional."

I think there are very good reasons to ban smoking. It's hard because of the tobacco lobby. But I think we're going in that direction. I also think insurers should have the right to refuse payment for people who abuse tobacco and alcohol - it's their own fault, no one elses.

Medis) I think that the government, by instituting policy, has the ability to alter that equilibrium. If the government is executing people, that might double or triple the chance of death from drug use, thus making it less likely.

I don't see how your medical ethics argument comes in; is it any different from planned parenthood being forced to turn over medical records for minors who have abortions? If you are using the ones here then "A physician shall respect the rights of patients...within the constraints of the law."

The rationale for the war on drugs, at least in my opinion, is pretty basic. People are stupid and short-sighted. No rational person who took their long term health into account, and prioritized it (as everyone should, but not everyone is able to) would use drugs. Therefore, the government should step in and help people. It's a similar rationale to social security.

I don't think executing users would be productive. It's not necessary. Instead, test urine samples. Legally require hospitals to add a drug test to all exams if you want to go even farther. Instead of sticking users in jail, fine them a couple hundred dollars. If they keep doing it, then stick them in jail. Sort of like points on a license. This would for the most part eliminate drug use without inconveniencing law-abiding citizens at all.
9.20.2006 12:34pm
Medis:
jvarisco,

I honestly have no idea what this means: "If the government is executing people, that might double or triple the chance of death from drug use, thus making it less likely." It seems internally inconsistent to me--how can you double or triple the chance of death from drug use and make it less likely at the same time?

As for abortion records: I'm not sure what case you have in mind, but any case involving minors is complicated by the fact they have different constitutional rights and parents also have constitutional rights with respect to their children. Also, note that I didn't say the government couldn't get medical records in any circumstance, but rather I said that they generally need a court order. Further, I direct your attention to Northwestern Memorial Hospital v. Ashcroft, 362 F.3d 963 (7th Cir. 2004) (Posner, J.), in which the DOJ tried to subpoena records on partial-birth abortions in order to help defend the Partial-Birth Abortion Act. The Seventh Circuit held that the subpoena was properly quashed on the basis that the hospital could assert the privacy rights of the women, and that even if identifying information was stripped from the records, the privacy interests of the women outweighed the benefits of discovery.

Finally, and most importantly, you should read Chandler v. Miller, 520 U.S. 305 (1997). In that case, the Supreme Court struck down a Georgia law requiring candidates for political office to get drug tests. In general, the Court noted:

"[G]overnment ordered collection and testing of urine intrudes upon expectations of privacy that society has long recognized as reasonable. Because these intrusions are searches under the Fourth Amendment, we focus on the question: Are the searches reasonable?

To be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, a search ordinarily must be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. But particularized exceptions to the main rule are sometimes warranted based on special needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement. When such 'special needs'--concerns other than crime detection--are alleged in justification of a Fourth Amendment intrusion, courts must undertake a context specific inquiry, examining closely the competing private and public interests advanced by the parties."

The Court went on to hold that Georgia's law did not fit into the special needs exception. But with respect to your proposal, we don't even need to get that far, because crime detection specifically cannot serve as the basis for a special needs search. In short, the government simply cannot order hospitals to conduct urine tests for the presence of drugs in the interest of law enforcement.

As for medical ethics, it is a canon of medical ethics that a patient must consent to any medical procedure or test. There are some cases in which consent is implied, such as necessary emergency medical treatment where the patient is unconscious. Also, treatment without consent can sometimes be provided pursuant to a court order. But medical professionals otherwise cannot perform tests on patients without their consent.

On a general note:

I really hope you are joking about all this. It is bad enough that people think it makes sense to use the criminal law to try to protect people from themselves. But the idea that everyone who wants to use a hospital would have to undergo a mandatory drug test is truly frightening, in addition to being unconstitutional and unethical. Indeed, the idea that essentially all citizens should have to sacrifice such a basic interest as medical privacy in order to fight the War on Drugs just shows how great the social costs become once you embark on the project of trying to make everyone do whatever you think is in their best interest.

In short, this is the totalitarian vision: a state that can use whatever means necessary to force all the citizens to comply with the state's vision of the good. No thanks.
9.20.2006 2:01pm
Fub:
Medis wrote:
jvarisco (and fub),

By the way, the logic of "if executing X number of people would prevent Y number of people from killing themselves by overdosing, and Y is greater than X, then it is a good policy" is obviously based on a deeply flawed set of assumptions.

[exposition of flawed assumptions]

In short, killing people to save them from killing themselves is obviously a ridiculous policy.
True. I was pointing out the obvious problems with such a policy even if we accept as true the flawed assumptions you noted.

Medis wrote:
Sorry for the serial post, but one last point:

Incidentally, there is also a lot of research suggesting that hard core drug users simply substitute one drug for another if their preferred drug is unavailable.

[exposition of subsitution effects]

Consequently, it is entirely possible that our policy of partial drug illegality, with exceptions for alcohol and tobacco, actually increases the total number of drug deaths.
Also true, and also more complicated than the simple issue I addressed: even assuming the policy worked perfectly, it would save orders of magnitude more lives if applied to currently legal drugs.

jvarisco wrote:
Fub, none of those examples were widespread protests.
You originally asked
Have any examples of this? I don't.
I provided three examples. Now you complain "none of those examples were widespread protests". That's a different issue entirely from the question you asked and I answered.
From your own article: "The judge gave the city the victory on a larger question, saying that using a camera to gather evidence is not unconstitutional."
I never said such cameras were unconstitutional.

Someone with greater expertise than I will have to address the new issues you've raised.
9.20.2006 2:30pm
Fub:
Medis wrote:
jvarisco,

I honestly have no idea what this means: "If the government is executing people, that might double or triple the chance of death from drug use, thus making it less likely." It seems internally inconsistent to me--how can you double or triple the chance of death from drug use and make it less likely at the same time?

...

I really hope you are joking about all this.
Funny thing about that, Medis, I keep expecting someone to say to both of us, "YHBT. YHL. HAND."
9.20.2006 2:52pm
Medis:
Fub,

I expect that all the time around here.
9.20.2006 3:12pm
jvarisco (www):
Medis, my point was that it increases the chance of death as a result of drug use, thus altering the equilibrium you brought up. I don't mean directly, I am counting executions for use also. You're no more or less dead if you OD or get executed. If you have a 5% chance of OD and a 10% chance of getting caught, that makes the actual chance of death closer to 15%.

Fub) You suggested people would prevent the law from being enforced on a scale that actually stopped its implementation. I don't see any evidence of that.

You are right in your characterization - I do think the government has much more potential to define people's best interest than a couple of idiots out on the street. A proper analogy would be raising children. You stop your kids from doing certain harmful things as they grow up, despite their protests, but once they are grown they thank you for preventing them from taking risks they were too young to understand. How many of the thousands of people in hospitals with lung cancer, assuming they are sane and rational, would choose to smoke? Or the OD patients would choose, absent physical addiction and/or extreme societal pressures, depression, etc. to use drugs? Assuming rationality, it is possible to objectively decide that some behaviors are harmful, and should not be permitted. Similar to how we do not allow suicidal people to kill themselves, but get them counseling - because, absent a mental problem, no one wants to end their life.
9.20.2006 5:31pm
Steve Sturgill (mail) (www):
No, raising children is not a proper analogy. We're all adults here.

Leave people the hell alone. The aim of protecting them from themselves is more harmful than not, creation of scofflaws being just one in the list of poor outcomes.

And please, it's not a "war on drugs". It's a war on SOME drugs. There's a big difference and people know it.
9.21.2006 10:38am