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Will Obama End the War on Drugs' Undermining of the War on Terror?

Over the last two years, I have repeatedly blogged about how the War on Drugs is undermining the War on Terror in Afghanistan (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here). Recently, the Boston Globe had a good editorial summarizing the issue, and holding out a small ray of hope that the Obama Administration might change things:

The Obama administration is committing 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Yet as the United States works to stabilize that country, the most important decisions don't just involve troop and funding levels. Also vital is ending the prohibition on growing opium poppies - for the policy is a key factor in Afghanistan's economic and security crisis.

Since the US invasion in 2001, the American and Afghan governments have made the poppy-growing areas of Afghanistan, which produce 90 percent of the world's opium, a major front in the war on drugs. Yet despite eight years of efforts to eliminate the crop, farmers keep growing poppies, and the crop still reaches the black market....

Eradication is not just an ineffective strategy, but also hurts the security interests of Afghanistan and Western governments. While the United States invests $1 billion in eradication efforts each year, the Taliban profits by purchasing poppy from farmers who have no one else to sell to, and selling it to the black market. Also, the eradication policy fuels anti-Western hatred when farmers become sympathetic to insurgent groups after the US and Afghan governments burn or spray their only source of income.

The eradication policy remains in place even though it is widely recognized as a failure. Richard Holbrooke, Obama's new envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, last year called the eradication program "the single most ineffective program in the history of American foreign policy."

Holbrooke is the Admnistration's point man on Afghanistan and Pakistan. I'm not holding my breath on this. But maybe, just maybe, he can persuade the President to finally end "the single most ineffective program in the history of American foreign policy" and get on with winning the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The administration has often emphasized that winning the War on Terror in Afghanistan will be its highest foreign policy priority. If it really is, Obama should be willing to prioritize it ahead of poppy eradication. As the Globe points out, a strategy of partial legalization has successfully deprived terrorists of income from illegal drugs in Turkey, a policy enacted with US and NATO support.

Perhaps Obama can get the War on Drugs out of the way of the War on Terror in Afghanistan as well. That would be a good example of real change we can believe in.

tmittz:
I reread the Applebaum piece from your 2007 post. I found the last part of it pretty interesting

"It isn't so hard to imagine, two or three years down the line, yet another emergency presidential speech, calling for a "surge" of troops to southern Afghanistan -- where impoverished villagers, having turned against the West, are joining the Taliban in droves."
Too bad no one listened to her then.
2.22.2009 6:32pm
pmorem (mail):
One of the requirements for a successful "insurgency" is a base of supply that is safe from attack.

Europe, by way of opium trade, provides such a base.

One way or another, the Taliban must be denied that base if we are to be successful.
2.22.2009 6:46pm
Cardozo'd (www):
wow, I have never agreed with you before.
2.22.2009 6:47pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Didn't the Taliban eliminate poppy growing? If so then the war on terror conflicts with the war on drugs. Wouldn't the best solution be to let the Taliban come back into power, and then keep Muslims out of the US and Europe? If Europe won't cooperate then we keep Europeans out the US too. Why go for a complex, uncertain and expensive solution when a simple one will do? No one has yet explained to me why we can't keep Muslims out of the US and why we can deport the ones who cause trouble?
2.22.2009 7:04pm
Jim Ison (mail):
"No one has yet explained to me why we can't keep Muslims out of the US"

Well! I can see why this commentary string stopped at 4!
2.22.2009 7:14pm
Jonathan Rubinstein (mail) (www):
It may be a stretch for Obama to sacrifice capital by taking on the Drug Zombie. This dead and dreadful war on drugs has recently been attacked by several Latin American countries which have suffered from its consequences for decades. California should challenge the federal government tomorrow by legalizing pot which will solve, temporarily, its budget fiasco. Pot is the largest agricultural product in America, ahead of corn and wheat, according to recent reports. In other words a significant fraction of our agriculture is off the books. Let's start here, not Afghanistan. Our Mexican border is on the verge of being destabilized. Border towns from San Diego to El Paso are threatened with real violence. Will we accept responsibility for this threatening explosion and reform our own house instead of wasting resources in Afghanistan?
2.22.2009 7:20pm
Oren:

Didn't the Taliban eliminate poppy growing?

Actually they double-crossed us. Clinton gave them billions in aid for making poppy cultivation illegal, which boosted the price of the drug until they dumped the huge caches that they seized on the market for extra profit.


No one has yet explained to me why we can't keep Muslims out of the US and why we can deport the ones who cause trouble?

We can (but chose not to) and we can (but there aren't really any).
2.22.2009 7:25pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Oren:

"We can (but chose not to) ."

Well ok, so why don't we? Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to control our borders then to fight an expensive war on foreign soil?

" ... and we can (but there aren't really any)"


The are no Muslims in the US that cause trouble? Was Ramzi Yousef a Morman?
2.22.2009 7:43pm
Ilya Somin:
Didn't the Taliban eliminate poppy growing? If so then the war on terror conflicts with the war on drugs.

As I pointed out in previous posts on this subject, the Taliban was against poppy growing when they were in power before 2001. But they are very supportive of it now - because our poppy eradication campaign gives them an opportunity to make money and win popular support.
2.22.2009 7:54pm
Frater Plotter:
Well ok, so why don't we?
Because back in the colonial days there were a bunch of social problems stemming from governments (such as that of Massachusetts) persecuting people on account of religion, and some leading citizens got together and decided (among other things) that religious freedom should be one of the core rules of our government.
2.22.2009 7:54pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
" ... that religious freedom should be one of the core rules of our government."

But that has nothing to do with an immigration policy. It pertains to religious freedom for people who are already citizens. It would be useful for you to read Thomas Jefferson on Islam. I fail to see how it would violate the US Constitution to stop Muslim immigration.
2.22.2009 7:59pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"But they are very supportive of it now - because our poppy eradication campaign gives them an opportunity to make money and win popular support."

Suppose the Taliban were back in power, would they still be against poppy eradication?
2.22.2009 8:01pm
Cornellian (mail):
We're living through Prohibition 2.0.
2.22.2009 8:08pm
Cornellian (mail):
And thus far the War on Drugs is looking every bit as successful as our earlier War on Alcohol.
2.22.2009 8:10pm
first history:
The International Council on Security and Development has proposed that Afghanistan legalize the opium market by purchasing opium from farmers (rather than destroying it) and sell it to international pharmaceutical companies to use in the production of morphine, of which there is a current worldwide shortage.

This "poppy for medicines" program would do several things. First, it would deny funding and political support to the Taliban. Second, it removes a source of opium for illegal heroin. Third, it would create a village-based (capitalist) economy that would provide funding for economic diversification. Fourth, it would give incentives for the village to defend the arrangement against the Taliban. Fifth, it would
free coalition troops from protecting eradication efforts to actually fighting the Taliban. And sixth, it would improve the "hearts and minds" relationship between the Afghan people, the Afghan government, and the
coalition forces so the farmers would not view the coalition troops (and the Afghan government) as their enemy, destroying their only source of income.

It is time that NATO adopt a more innovative strategy to fighting the Taliban, as victory is not possible
without proving to the Afghan people that they have a secure economic future.
2.22.2009 8:24pm
Mac (mail):
first history,

I like your idea. There may be problems with it that we don't know about, but the biggest problem with it is that it makes too much sense.
2.22.2009 8:49pm
Mac (mail):
I don't think legalizing drugs has worked out so well in Amsterdam. I believe I read an article that they are downsizing it considerably as it is causing so many problems.
2.22.2009 8:50pm
first history:
Mac:

Thanks. I also should have mentioned that it will reduce government corruption, which is one reason it might never get implemented. This is the same program Ilya references; not only has it been implemented in Turkey but also India.
2.22.2009 8:57pm
first history:
It's not legalizing drugs. Heroin and morphine are both derived from opium. In fact, once in the body, heroin converts to morphine. It is taking the base product, opium, and diverting it from an illegal market into a legal market.
2.22.2009 9:00pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
It has been suggested - along with legalization of pot and other drugs domestically, that we - not the Afghan government, which isn't exactly rolling in dough, subsidize the poppy growers. Surely that would be cheaper than sending troops, not to mention more humane, etc. as to what to do with all the opium thus purchased, well, for lack of a better idea, we could burn it to heat the Capital and White House. Or we could - pace the problems the Netherlands is discovering - legalize drugs, collect tax revenue from their sale to fund drug education. I suspect that the casualty rate from legal drug use would be less than the current combined casualty rate from drug abuse, the "drug war" (all aspects of it, including the bad example south of the border) and our war in Afghanistan, all of which we seem to be able to get along with, despite some grumbling from various parties.

As for militant Islam, maybe if the Afghan farmers had some income, they would be less likely to support the Taliban, which I gather few Afghans really want back in power, so the Afghan government might be able to handle the problem if we were to sell them weapons and ammo - but no troops.
2.22.2009 9:20pm
Fidelity (mail) (www):
I think everyone is missing the point: according to our governors, the war on drugs is clearly more important than the war on terror, at least as far as the government's version of national interests is concerned.

It's kinda disgusting really.

I've read reports on how the war on drugs is helping the war on terror, and how they're almost symbiotic, for instance increase the presence along the boarder with UAV's, both to stop terrorist, and drug dealers. If we removed the drug war, it would be much harder to fiscally justify the UAV projects, and it would allow more immigration, something the proponents of the drug war are very concerned about.
2.22.2009 9:25pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Not Mexico, Venezuela. We got a tinpot dictator down there using government to push drugs. We invaded Afghanistan for that.

We need a bigger army.
2.22.2009 9:25pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
oren:

Clinton gave them billions in aid for making poppy cultivation illegal


Bush also "funded the Taliban," according to the same rationale.
2.22.2009 9:27pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
All roads lead to border control: drugs and terrorism. For a fraction of the cost of fighting a war we can't ever really win, we could drastically reduce the inflow of both terrorists and drugs into the US. Yet we don't-- follow the money; it's not just Wall Street that's corrupt.
2.22.2009 9:32pm
Mac (mail):
Maybe we should legalize drugs. It would help us forget about the mess we are in economically. Then again, maybe that is why Obama would want to legalize them.

I like the idea mentioned above about heating the Capitol and White House with the drugs. We can't get worse government than we have now and maybe it would help.
2.22.2009 9:34pm
Mac (mail):
i should have said maybe it would help to have them all stoned.


2.22.2009 9:36pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
We can't get worse government than we have now and maybe it would help.
We had a worse government than we have now. A little over a month ago.

Who do you think got us into this mess? Or right, President Obama. In the last thirty days.
2.22.2009 9:40pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
All roads lead to border control: drugs and terrorism. For a fraction of the cost of fighting a war we can't ever really win, we could drastically reduce the inflow of both terrorists and drugs into the US. Yet we don't-- follow the money; it's not just Wall Street that's corrupt.
Good thinking. Obviously, the U.S. isn't trying to keep drugs from crossing our borders. All we have to do is try to do that! Why didn't anybody ever think of that before you?
2.22.2009 9:45pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Good thinking. Obviously, the U.S. isn't trying to keep drugs from crossing our borders. All we have to do is try to do that! Why didn't anybody ever think of that before you?"

1. Obviously we have to try harder-- much harder. You know very well that we make compromises in the interests of commerce with regard to the southern border. Many trucks are let through without any inspection whatsoever.

2. If hundreds of thousands of Mexicans can sneak across the border, then tons of drugs can. Need I spell it out? A fence. If necessary a deep trench. If necessary land mines. We are not really serious enough about stopping the smuggling of drugs and people. If people can get through then so can terrorists.

Let me tell you how bad things are. One way to detect nuclear weapons being smuggled in rail cars is by using active interrogation. You shine a beam of neutrons and then detect the fission products. Only the US government is worried that the smugglers might get dosed with radiation, so very strict limits are put on the beam intensity. Your government is more worried about the safety of foreign criminals than US citizens.
2.22.2009 10:37pm
Alligator:

Your government is more worried about the safety of foreign criminals than US citizens.


Outrageous! Criminals should have no rights whatsoever, just like suspected criminals. This sort of nonsense cannot be tolerated -- I'll be sending a telegram to the right people, explaining my position.
2.22.2009 11:32pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
From the FBI violent gangs page: “About 20,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs with approximately 1 million members are criminally active in the U.S. today. Many are sophisticated and well organized; all use violence to control neighborhoods and boost their illegal money-making activities, which include drug trafficking, robbery, theft, fraud, extortion, prostitution rings, and gun trafficking.”

Why not start here?
All roads lead to border control: drugs and terrorism. For a fraction of the cost of fighting a war we can't ever really win, we could drastically reduce the inflow of both terrorists and drugs into the US.
No government in the history of the world has ever been able to shut down a black market by use of force, including border blockades. See: Smuggling.
If hundreds of thousands of Mexicans can sneak across the border, then tons of drugs can. Need I spell it out? A fence. If necessary a deep trench. If necessary land mines.
Then drugs will come in via Canada. If we put up a second fence the smugglers will come by sea, or under it, or fly. (Most countries in the world can’t afford submarines.) The more costly you make it to smuggle drugs in the higher the profit will be and the more people will try to earn that profit.
2.22.2009 11:51pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Alligator:

I can see how you would deal with a home invader. Yes he broke down my front door and has a knife in his hand, but he's only a suspect, and I can't do anything.
2.22.2009 11:54pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
You don't even have to support decriminalization to suggest a different approach. As I pointed out in 2007:


A more realistic, short-term proposal would be to buy the opium from the farmers. If we pay the farmers as much as the Taliban are paying for opium, it is not available for the Taliban to resell at a profit. We aren't going to get all of it, of course, but if we could even knock down the Taliban's share of the market to 30%, that would be a substantial reduction in Taliban revenue, as well as ending a source of hostility from Afghan opium farmers towards the Afghani government and NATO. The Taliban would also likely have to raise the price that they pay for opium, reducing their profit margin on resale.

How much will this cost? According to this December 2, 2006 Washington Post article, the 2006 opium crop was 5,644 metric tons. I'm not sure what the market price of that is today. This September 24, 2001 BBC report indicates that the pre-9/11 price that farmers received was $700 per kilo, which fell to $200 to $300 per kilo with the prospect of the Taliban being forced out of power, and the Afghani government abandoning its campaign to eradicate opium production. That's $700,000 per metric ton at the high end, or $200,000 per metric ton at the low end; we could buy the entire 2006 crop for somewhere between $1.1 billion and $4 billion--and that assumes that we could buy the entire crop, which we probably can't.

There is a legitimate use for opium; you can refine morphine from it, and that's still a legal, although controlled drug. I suspect that buying up the entire Afghan opium crop would give us far more morphine than we are going to use for many, many years (because current legal production apparently comes from about 1000 tons of opium, and unfortunately, morphine does not last forever). Maybe it would be more expensive than the current, legal channels, but what's the cost of defeating the Taliban in lives lost and equipment destroyed? We also don't have to run this opium farm price support program forever--just a few years, until we can decisively defeat the Taliban, and then slowly phase it out.
2.22.2009 11:56pm
Volokh Groupie:
So uh, Jim Bunning is kind of an ahole. Jim Bunning article
2.23.2009 12:03am
vinnie (mail):
Mac (mail):
i should have said maybe it would help to have them all stoned.


A little old testament for me but you are on the right track.
2.23.2009 12:06am
Fidelity (mail) (www):
Let me tell you how bad things are.

If you wanted to get a nuclear weapon in this country, no means of fences or inspections is going to stop it. The best thing we could do is pray that our enemies are stupid. The goal in the WOD is not to stop drugs from entering the country, it's only to prolong the war, same with GWOT.

Mind you, A. Zarkov, the vast majority of terrorism throughout the entire history of mankind has generated from it's own population. Why would a terrorist try and sneak across the boarder when they could just get a student visa? The idea of terrorists smuggling themselves into this country is only supported by those who want tougher immigration policies and people who watch too much television. Illegally crossing the boarder is just not the intelligent way to come into the country if you weigh the risks.

That is very much the point of GWOT and WOD, impose an imaginary threat so asinine legislation can be fear-mongered through the federal government. Look at the abundance of ridiculous laws that have been passed that would have no other leg to stand on if it were not for the GWOT and WOD.
2.23.2009 12:06am
Mac (mail):

Who do you think got us into this mess?



Barney Franks, Chuck Schummr, Chris Dodd, Maxine Waters for starters.

Bill Clinton claims he tried to get Congress to regulate Fannie and Freddie but Franks stopped him just as he stopped Bush. Republicans are to blame, too. However, Bush gave 17 speaches since 2002 warning about F &F. Congress refused to act. McCain tried to get a bill through in 05-06 to regulate same. No luck.

There is a lot of blame to go around and most of it lies in the Halls of Congress on both sides but the Republicans didn't get sweetheart mortgage deals from Countrywide like the Democrats did including the first 3 mentioned above. Angelo's Friends, I believe they were called. Angelo referring to the CEO of countrywide. Why can't Dodd find those mortgage papers, anyway? He's had about 6 months. As on Wall Street, a lot of the very people who got us into this mess are now working to get us out of it. Doesn't that inspire confidence?
2.23.2009 12:10am
Alligator:

I can see how you would deal with a home invader. Yes he broke down my front door and has a knife in his hand, but he's only a suspect, and I can't do anything.


Totally. I'd offer him a cup of tea because his nerves would probably be pretty raw after thinking he'd been locked out of his house, broken in, then discovered it wasn't his house in the first place! Besides, there's no such thing as home invaders, only lifelong friends you haven't met yet.
2.23.2009 12:13am
Redlands (mail):

We had a worse government than we have now. A little over a month ago.

Who do you think got us into this mess? Or right, President Obama. In the last thirty days.



Now you know why we don't legalize drugs.
2.23.2009 12:13am
Tom Tildrum:
Mr. Cramer, wouldn't large-scale buying of opium draw more growers into the market?

Prof. Somin, your post addresses one side of the equation, but have you given any thought to the likely costs that would be associated with the legalization of heroin and morphine? If heroin and morphine are made cheaper and easier to obtain, presumably more Americans will use them. What level of increased opiate addiction in this country is worth the trade-off for a more stable government in Afghanistan?

(I don't intend that to be snarky; I'm taking your post seriously, and I mean it as a serious question.)
2.23.2009 12:15am
Mac (mail):
Mac wrote:

i should have said maybe it would help to have them all stoned.


Vinnie wrote:

A little old testament for me but you are on the right track.


Vinnie,

I hadn't realized the double entendre when I wrote that. Now that you mentioned it, you may have the solution. Thanks. I really needed a good laugh
2.23.2009 12:18am
Mac (mail):
Mac wrote:

i should have said maybe it would help to have them all stoned.


Vinnie wrote:

A little old testament for me but you are on the right track.


Vinnie,

I hadn't realized the double entendre when I wrote that. Now that you mentioned it, you may have the solution. Thanks. I really needed a good laugh
2.23.2009 12:18am
Mac (mail):
Oops! Sorry. I have no idea how I double posted and no, I am stone cold sober, so that's not it.
2.23.2009 12:20am
ArthurKirkland:
The War On Drugs* has persisted longer than the War On Alcohol did, despite being more counterproductive.

What explains this? Are Americans today less interested in liberty than their predecessors? Dumber? More tolerant of injustice? Is there another reason?

*other than drugs abused by the well-connected, of course
2.23.2009 12:25am
Mac (mail):


Prof. Somin, your post addresses one side of the equation, but have you given any thought to the likely costs that would be associated with the legalization of heroin and morphine




Tom Tildrum:

That is a very good question. We know greater use will increase domestic violence including violence against children and neglect because so much of it now is related to drug use. More impaired drivers on the roads causing more deaths. More hospital costs for the drug users. Probably more on the job drug use which can be very costly and dangerous depending on what you do. I am sure there is much more that I haven't thought of.

I don't know the domestic costs of greater drug use vs the cost of not legalizing drugs. It would be an interesting and vital study for someone to do before we made any changes.
2.23.2009 12:26am
RPT (mail):
"Mac:

"Who do you think got us into this mess?

Barney Franks, Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd, Maxine Waters for starters.

Bill Clinton claims he tried to get Congress to regulate Fannie and Freddie but Franks stopped him just as he stopped Bush. Republicans are to blame, too. However, Bush gave 17 speaches since 2002 warning about F &F. Congress refused to act. McCain tried to get a bill through in 05-06 to regulate same. No luck.

There is a lot of blame to go around and most of it lies in the Halls of Congress on both sides but the Republicans didn't get sweetheart mortgage deals from Countrywide like the Democrats did including the first 3 mentioned above. Angelo's Friends, I believe they were called. Angelo referring to the CEO of countrywide. Why can't Dodd find those mortgage papers, anyway? He's had about 6 months. As on Wall Street, a lot of the very people who got us into this mess are now working to get us out of it. Doesn't that inspire confidence?"

Talk about black helicopters.......Barnie Franks more powerful than the pre-indictment Tom Delay!
2.23.2009 12:28am
Sagar:
first history,

good idea. but the war on drugs won't go away, since it gives the pols power over people.

Tom,

if more people grow it, the price will become lower.
2.23.2009 12:32am
Mac (mail):
Or, I guess we could just change it and see what happens.

Wonder what all those gang members would do if there were no illicit drugs to sell? Somehow, getting a job is probably not it.

At least, if the Government sold the drugs that might be one way to pay for TARP I (Bush), TARP II (OBAMA), and however many more TARPS (OBAMA) and the billions of dollars in the Spendulous Bill (Pelosi/Reid).
2.23.2009 12:32am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Mr. Cramer, wouldn't large-scale buying of opium draw more growers into the market?
Very likely. But I rather doubt that there are a lot of farmers growing wheat in Afghanistan who have the option of growing opium.

Long term this would be an expensive boongdoogle. But if we did it for ten years to starve out the Taliban, it would be cheaper than continuing the current policy for ten years.
2.23.2009 12:38am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Fidelity:

"Why would a terrorist try and sneak across the boarder when they could just get a student visa?"


He doesn't get a student visa in the first place.

"The idea of terrorists smuggling themselves into this country is only supported by those who want tougher immigration policies and people who watch too much television."


How do you know the number of terrorists being smuggled in is zero? The whole idea is to come in without leaving a visible trail. Not only that, strong border control sends a clear signal that we are serious.

Don't you think that bombing people in Afghanistan looks like aggression? Protecting your border is quite a different matter. I don't understand why so many people have trouble with the idea of border control. Isn't that a lot better than war?

"Look at the abundance of ridiculous laws that have been passed that would have no other leg to stand on if it were not for the GWOT and WOD."

If you want to take the position that WOD and GWOT are not serious problems that's a different matter. We can debate that separately. But if you think one or both merits attention, then why resort to war? War is expensive in many ways. Border control, deporting people and tracking aliens is a lot cheaper. Do the easy things first.
2.23.2009 12:42am
Mac (mail):
RPT,

I said there is a lot of blame to go around. You are aware that Democrats controlled Congress since 06 aren't you? Also, remember Obama was there as a Senator. He didn't do anything but take a lot of contributions from F &F exec's. He was number one or two, no? Republicans did, too, just not as much as Obama and, I think it was Dodd, who were top money winners.

Hey, when I suggested they be stoned one way and Vinnie suggested stoned another way, you didn't hear either one of us say only the Democrats, did you?

Did you see the nice bash they had at the White House tonight? The Governors and Obama and Joe. On the taxpayers dime, of course. Talk about the CEO's using tax money on lavish things. This was our tax money, too, RPT. So glad they can whoop it up on our dime. Warms the cockles of my heart. Are our Congressmen and women back from their taxpayer financed trips to Italy and Greece and so on, yet? Yup, those evil CEO's.
2.23.2009 12:42am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):


good idea. but the war on drugs won't go away, since it gives the pols power over people.
You can always tell a college student because they make these silly comments that show absolutely no real world experience yet.

The war on drugs won't go away because it enjoys overwhelming support from the population--and for a very good reason. Drug abuse, like alcohol abuse, has enormous social costs. Are those costs higher than the costs of keeping these drugs illegal? Heck if I know. But the costs are very real, either way. Pretending that this is all some Machiavellian scheme for the government to hold onto power over people's lives shows that someone needs to grow up, and spend a little time in the real world--where a lot of people abuse alcohol, marijuana, meth, cocaine, heroin, PCP, tolulene, and everything else under the sun--and leave a path of wrecked lives behind them, not just their own.
2.23.2009 12:43am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Talk about black helicopters.......Barnie Franks more powerful than the pre-indictment Tom Delay!
If the full extent to which the subprime mortgage disaster was going to sink us had been apparent, Frank would not have been able to keep putting this off. One of the problems was that the Bush Administration (and many conservatives, too) were partial to the idea of an ownership society, where people at the bottom had a chance to become home owners. As a result, even though they were trying to do something about this problem, it wasn't high on their list of really important issues.
2.23.2009 12:45am
Fidelity (mail) (www):
Heck if I know

Mr. Cramer, I respect very much your ideas, but since the GWOT isn't preventing terrorism and the WOD isn't stopping drug abuse, then what's the point of either?

I don't mean to debate you on the success or failure of the GWOT, but if it was the population/government/society's real goal to stop terrorism and stop drug abuse, is the GWOT and the WOD achieving, or going to achieve, those goals?

Like I proposed in my earlier comment, the point of both wars is only justifying things through fear mongering.

A. Zarkov, I think our conversation is going beyond the scope of post, but I'll prepare some formal thoughts on the matter and send them your way.
2.23.2009 12:53am
Mac (mail):

As a result, even though they were trying to do something about this problem, it wasn't high on their list of really important issues.


And, it would not have been a politically popular thing to do.


You are correct, I imagine. Sigh!

Can we go back to stoning Congress, one way or the other? I think that's the best answer.

Clayton, you are right about the drugs, too. I mentioned a few of the issues. There isn't an easy answer. If we legalized drugs, we could save a lot of money. On the other hand, it would cost a lot of money to deal with all of the problems. What would those gang members do?
2.23.2009 12:58am
David M. Nieporent (www):
1. Obviously we have to try harder-- much harder. You know very well that we make compromises in the interests of commerce with regard to the southern border. Many trucks are let through without any inspection whatsoever.
Oh, I see. When you wanted to seal the border, it wasn't just against drugs; you wanted to shut down all commerce with Latin America.
2. If hundreds of thousands of Mexicans can sneak across the border, then tons of drugs can. Need I spell it out? A fence. If necessary a deep trench. If necessary land mines. We are not really serious enough about stopping the smuggling of drugs and people. If people can get through then so can terrorists.
Again, good thinking. Fences. Why did nobody think of that? Or a moat. With alligators.

You know where else we ought to keep drugs out of? Jails. We ought to put walls around our prisons. And search people coming in. That will keep these places drug-free.
2.23.2009 1:03am
John Moore (www):
Fidelity,

As Clayton Cramer says, the WOD enjoys wide popular support. Since we live in a democracy, that counts for a whole lot.

And I agree with him that it isn't clear which is worse - the WOD or its alternative.

It has been clear for decades that the WOD conflicts with other national security issues, including secure borders and stable countries in drug trafficking areas. Right now, the greatest WOD threat to the US may be the potential collapse of Mexico, not the Taliban. Here in Phoenix, the Mexican drug war is being waged in our streets (along with a violent war over human trafficking). We are now #2 in the world in kidnappings, and the west (immigrant) side of town is a free fire zone.

Furthermore, even if we made all drugs legal here (in violation of some international agreements, maybe treaties), there would still be immense demand from the rest of the world.
2.23.2009 1:11am
David M. Nieporent (www):
The war on drugs won't go away because it enjoys overwhelming support from the population--and for a very good reason.
Yes; people aren't very bright, and the government spends millions of dollars on propaganda.

You'd think someone who had written about the racist impulse behind gun control would know that it was the same mindset behind the war on drugs. (And Prohibition, for that matter.) The war on drugs has always been about fear of what happens when minorities (with prohibition, those minorities were Catholic immigrants) use drugs.
Drug abuse, like alcohol abuse, has enormous social costs. Are those costs higher than the costs of keeping these drugs illegal? Heck if I know.
Well, then, it seems pretty silly to say that there's a "very good reason" why people support the war on drugs, don't you think? If the costs of illegality are much higher than the costs of drug abuse, then the reasons would be very bad, not "very good."
But the costs are very real, either way. Pretending that this is all some Machiavellian scheme for the government to hold onto power over people's lives shows that someone needs to grow up, and spend a little time in the real world--where a lot of people abuse alcohol, marijuana, meth, cocaine, heroin, PCP, tolulene, and everything else under the sun--and leave a path of wrecked lives behind them, not just their own.
Yeah, we all saw the afterschool specials. Setting aside the fact that nobody's life has ever been wrecked by marijuana, "a lot" of people do not abuse these substances (except alcohol), but few are dumb enough to propose banning alcohol anymore.
2.23.2009 1:14am
John Moore (www):
Yes; people aren't very bright, and the government spends millions of dollars on propaganda.


What a charming, democratic sentiment.

Setting aside the fact that nobody's life has ever been wrecked by marijuana


Nonsense. Marijuana has gotten people killed in car accidents, and has driven people insane - just like any mood altering substance will do.
2.23.2009 1:16am
A. Zarkov (mail):
David M. Nieporent:

It looks like you can't make a serious comment so we might as well quit. But I can tell you from my personal experience with INS (now ICE) officials that they are frustrated. They told be point blank the politicians won't let them do their job, and I could get quite specific. But I see that would be useless for someone who just wants to cough up various strawmen.
2.23.2009 1:17am
Fidelity (mail) (www):
Mr. Moore, to respectfully disagree. I believe we're told that the WOD is a good thing, and that it ought to be supported, but if people heard the stories of Join Marc, or read the CATO reports about police state mentalities taking hold in this country, public view might dramatically shift. Prohibition, for example, was very favorable for a long period of time, but it came to a crashing stop, eventually the WOD might too. I'm not saying I'm in favor of people doing drugs on the streets, I'm a sensible person with family to be concerned about.

Now, on the other hand, you need to try marijuana, and not just one joint passed around the room back in your college days. It's an off point, and I mean no offense, but you have no idea what you're talking about, and placed in perspective, more people die from common prescription drugs each day than have ever died from marijuana.
2.23.2009 1:25am
Fidelity (mail) (www):
2.23.2009 1:28am
James Gibson (mail):
As several people have noted, there is a lot of miss-understanding regarding the war on drugs and on what's going on in Afghanistan.

First, as Clayton Cramer noted there is a great deal of support for prohibition. Its along the same grounds as those who call for prohibition of alcohol, guns, fur coats, hunting, references to god in Presidential speeches and the soon to be prohibited fireplaces here in California. All have a rational reason for it- saving the world- and bringing a better society. As recently noted in Today's news reports, some states still have Blue laws prohibiting the purchase of alcohol on Sundays. Thus, you will always find people supporting some form of ban or another based on their believe that its for the best.

As for whether ending the war on drugs will solve anything, please take note. The Taliban was against the cultivation of Opium until it became profitable for them. To take that from them we would have to either buy the entire crop or find away of destroying the whole crop. Either costs money, but which is the least expensive.

We know that the war on Opium has had an effect. Prices are up and the amount being shipped to Europe and America is down. But because the amount of Opium drugs is down, cocaine use has increased. This has increased the wealth of the Mexican cartels that deal in Marajuana and Cocaine and funded the violence we are seeing south of the border. Thus, anything we do to reduce Opium, whether by buying the crop ourselves or destroying what we can, simply allows for an increased market for other drugs.

In short, ban Japanese Saki and people will just start buying more Tequila. Have all grape vines destroyed, people will start drinking fermented Potatoes.
2.23.2009 2:38am
Visitor Again:
Totally. I'd offer him a cup of tea because his nerves would probably be pretty raw after thinking he'd been locked out of his house, broken in, then discovered it wasn't his house in the first place!

Something like this actually happened to one of my friends circa 1990. He had a long-standing drinking problem and one night he came "home" terribly sloshed and plopped into bed next to his sleeping "wife." A few hours later, in the morning, his female bed partner woke up to find a perfect stranger snoring next to her in bed. No cup of tea for him, however. The police rousted him. If memory serves, the system was merciful. I believe he copped a plea to a misdemeanor and got a fairly short jail sentence plus a write-up in the Los Angeles Times. He was just a drunk and had no criminal intent.
2.23.2009 3:37am
Dr. Evil:
"Fences. Why did nobody think of that? Or a moat. With alligators. "

Alligators with laser beams attached to their heads!
2.23.2009 6:22am
Bizarro Cramer:
The war on gun ownership won't go away because it enjoys overwhelming support from the population--and for a very good reason. The easy availability of guns has enormous social costs. Are those costs higher than the costs of keeping these guns legal? Heck if I know. But the costs are very real, either way. Pretending that this is all some Machiavellian scheme for the government to hold onto power over people's lives shows that someone needs to grow up, and spend a little time in the real world--where a lot of people abuse guns -- and leave a path of wrecked lives behind them, not just their own.
2.23.2009 6:27am
Federal Dog:
"Drug abuse, like alcohol abuse, has enormous social costs."


Do you therefore support reinstituting alcohol prohibition? If not, why do you support only selective prohibition, expecially when some of the substances involved (e.g., marijuana) are not, unlike alcohol, potentially lethal?

What about tobacco prohibition? What about prohibiting use of any substance that results in enormous social costs? Any number of things fall into that category once you calculate into the equation medical concerns and the social costs of supporting families once their income-earners are incapacitated or die.

The reason for selective prohibition is plain: Entire state and federal bureacracies rely on it for their very existence. Entire swaths of those bureaucracies would lose their salaries, profits from asset forfeitures, and other profits regularly from black market corruption (e.g., bribes, etc.). They are not about to consent to loss of that personal profit.

Further, at this point, selective prohibition has been in place so long that people cannot remember what society was like before it. They are therefore easily terrified by fictions peddled by those determined to maintain their share of black market profits that controlled substances are guaranteed to generate.
2.23.2009 7:47am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mac:

Bush gave 17 speaches since 2002 warning about F &F.


Really? I wonder if you could offer citations to substantiate that factoid.

I wonder if this is one of the speeches you're thinking of (text, video):

More and more people own their own homes in America today. Two thirds of all Americans own their homes, but we have a problem because fewer than half of the Hispanics and fewer than half of the African Americans own their home. That’s a home ownership gap, a gap we have to work together to close. By the end of this decade we will increase the number of minority homeowners by at least 5 and ½ million families. And of course one of the larger obstacles to minority home ownership is financing. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have committed to provide more money for lenders, they have committed to help meet the shortage of capital for minority homebuyers. Freddie Mac recently began 25 initiatives around the country to dismantle barriers and create greater opportunities for home ownership. One of the programs is designed to help deserving families with bad credit histories to qualify for home ownership loans. You don’t have to have a lousy home for first time homebuyers. You put your mind to it, the low income homebuyer can have just as nice a house as anybody else.


Or maybe you're thinking of what Bush said in 2006:

Nearly 70 percent of Americans enjoy the satisfaction of owning their own home, and my Administration continues to promote an ownership society where the promise of America reaches all our citizens. The American Dream Downpayment Act of 2003 is helping thousands of low to moderate income and minority families with downpayment and closing costs, which represent the greatest barrier to homeownership. Since 2002, when I announced our goal to help 5.5 million minorities become homeowners by the end of this decade, the rate of minority homeownership has climbed above 50 percent, and more than 2.5 million minority families have become new homeowners. My Administration will continue to provide counseling and assistance for new homebuyers and expand homeownership opportunities for all Americans.


Or maybe you're thinking of this proclamation that Bush issued on 5/29/08:

National Homeownership Month, 2008

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

For many Americans, owning a home represents freedom, independence, and the American dream. During National Homeownership Month, we highlight the benefits of owning a home … My Administration is committed to helping Americans achieve their dreams of homeownership. …

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2008 as National Homeownership Month. I call upon the people of the United States to join me in recognizing the importance of homeownership…


That proclamation was made not long after Sen Chris Bond (R) said this:

Homeownership appears to be a bigger priority in the administration than affordability and foreclosure… I think the emphasis on homeownership helped to drive the foreclosure crisis we're now in. . . . All these wonderful ideas . . . didn't do them any good when we put them in housing they couldn't afford.


So I hope you can help us find those "17 speaches … warning about F &F."

cramer:

One of the problems was that the Bush Administration (and many conservatives, too) were partial to the idea of an ownership society, where people at the bottom had a chance to become home owners. As a result, even though they were trying to do something about this problem, it wasn't high on their list of really important issues.


You're drastically understating the situation. As I have shown, Bush went out of his way to promote the idea that "the low income homebuyer can have just as nice a house as anybody else."
2.23.2009 8:48am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
leave a path of wrecked lives behind them


Information about some famous pot-smokers like Richard Branson, Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg, Steven King and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Those sure are some "wrecked lives."

Just think how much more successful those people would be if they hadn't been held back by pot.

More famous pot-smokers listed here.
2.23.2009 9:00am
Sk (mail):
Similarly, everytime you consume gasoline (collected in the middle east), you indirectly fund terrorists. So we should eradicate the use of gasoline.
And every time you eat food, you eat food that was partially fertilized by - you guessed it - oil byproducts, which ultimately came from oil wells scattered around the Mid East, which indirectly funds terrorists. So you should stop eating anything grown.

Really, if you want to legalize drugs, argue to legalize drugs. But fighting drug use and abuse is not contrary to the War on Terror. This juxtaposition is idiotic. You've been trying for years, and it hasn't stuck. There's a reason it hasn't stuck.

Sk
2.23.2009 9:25am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
everytime you consume gasoline (collected in the middle east), you indirectly fund terrorists


This is true. And given the Saudi role (in particular) in supporting terrorism, it's not very "indirectly."

So we should eradicate the use of gasoline.


We should indeed "eradicate the use of gasoline" as much as possible, and the connection to terrorism is one of several important reasons.

So you're not making much sense.
2.23.2009 9:31am
Ben P:

More famous pot-smokers listed here.



Wasn't the thread about heroin though?

I realize the larger point about the costs of the war on drugs, but If one considers heroin abuse (at least if you diffentiate it from legally used morphine, if one can make the difference) has a far smaller percentage of people that "occasionally use heroin and are otherwise successful."

Although, even as I write this I can think of a couple people I know who developed painkiller addictions of one kind or another and managed to lead successful lives. The chemical effects aren't that different there.
2.23.2009 9:43am
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
As recently noted in Today's news reports, some states still have Blue laws prohibiting the purchase of alcohol on Sundays.

Yes, but not for the reasons you think.

Suppose you're a sole-proprietor liquor store owner. If your store is allowed to be open all the time, you must keep it open all the time so that you don't lose sales to your competitors. If you close on Sunday, the store down the street will sell the case of beer that suddenly became necessary at someone's Sunday barbecue.

That sucks, because it's nice to have a day off. Your competition probably agrees: Sundays off are nifty. But there's no way to agree to close all the liquor stores in town - someone's going to cheat. What to do? Lobby your government to pass a law banning alcohol sales on Sunday.
2.23.2009 9:46am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ben:

heroin abuse


Fair enough. I realize it's not the same thing. But to a great extent, the WOD is a war against pot.

=============
video:

it's nice to have a day off


Why would your analysis not apply to any other product that's sold in a retail store? Why not outlaw gasoline sales on Sunday? Don't gas-station attendants deserve "to have a day off?" What about clothing stores? Hardware?

I realize you're not necessarily saying you agree with Blue laws. But I don't follow what you are saying.
2.23.2009 10:00am
Ken Arromdee:
more people die from common prescription drugs each day than have ever died from marijuana.

More people die from prescription drugs than die from falling into volcanoes too. This doesn't make falling into volcanoes a low risk activity.

Comparing absolute numbers of people without considering how many people do the activity in the first place is a well known way to distort statistics. (Moreover, prescription drugs are used to treat conditions that are more likely to kill than the prescriptio n drugs, so it's a tradeoff.)
2.23.2009 10:19am
SeaDrive:
For the whole duration of the War On Terror, Bush refused to ask the public to sacrifice, and lots of people got to post signs saying "I support our troops" without doing a thing.

Don't you suppose that, just once, he could have listed some useful things, of which the first would be

DON'T DO DRUGS!

I know the effect would have been minimal, but, geeesh, couldn't have at least said it out loud.
2.23.2009 10:44am
George Smith:
This same old argument is becoming tres wearisome. Just decriminalize the whole shabang. But........if you crash and burn, you do it on your own. No tax money for you. Your employer has no responsibility for you. Its a "victimless crime", so no one else foots the bill for you. The strong will not crash out; the weak will. Its the law of the Yukon. Its Darwinian.
2.23.2009 10:59am
Kirk:
ArthurKirkland,
Are Americans today less interested in liberty than their predecessors?
That's a rhetorical question, right?

mac,
I don't know the domestic costs of greater drug use vs the cost of not legalizing drugs. It would be an interesting and vital study for someone to do before we made any changes.
That's easy to say, but so much harder to do in any meaningful sense that it's probably not worth doing. It's not like such a "study" could resemble any kind of scientific, controlled experiment.
2.23.2009 11:11am
Allan Walstad (mail):
If there is a drug that directly induces violent, aggressive behavior in all or a substantial subset of users, then we can consider its use, at least by those proven to be so affected, as a reckless endangerment. That's one thing.

It's quite another thing casually to presume to impose upon other individuals regarding what they can do with their own bodies, on the basis of collectivistic notions like "social costs." That is one of the paths down toward tyranny, and it is one that we have been trodding for some time. Stop. The flip side of the coin is that individuals don't get to impose coercively on others to take care of them or make allowances for their behavior if they harm themselves or seek to harm their neighbors.

It's not clear to me how much of the correlation between drug use and (objectively) criminal, irresponsible, or anti-social behavior is due to the drugs themselves or just that irresponsible people are likely to be irresponsible in many ways. By analogy, it should be clear to all by now that studies showing a correlation between gun possession and violent crime are just picking out that violent criminals are most likely to have guns; we learn nothing thereby regarding purported dangers to ordinary, law-abiding folks who keep guns for self-defense.

But surely it IS clear that if we stopped clogging the courts and filling the jails with pot smokers and growers and others drug users and producers, we could focus on catching, prosecuting, and locking up people who actually engage in violence and larceny, directly for those objectively criminal deeds.

It boggles my imagination to hear otherwise seemingly sane, sober pro-gun-rights conservatives supporting the drug war. By providing the incentives for criminal gangs to fight over turf, the drug war induces so much of the violent crime that the benighted left points to in their campaign against those very rights. By putting vast financial resources in the pockets of organized crime, it empowers criminals in so many ways, not the least of which is in corrupting public officials.

Prosecution of the drug war is directly at odds with the right of people to defend their homes against violent intrusion. We had a case of this in the Pittsburgh area a couple of months back, where FBI agents used a battering ram to break into a home in a pre-dawn raid, to deliver an arrest warrant for an alleged drug dealer. A mother of two children fired a shot down from upstairs where she was with her children, killing one of the agents. What in God's name are heavily armed cops doing, busting through people's front doors in the dark, when they know children are present? Trying to keep drugs from being flushed, maybe? Meanwhile, they had the house surrounded and the object of their warrant was arrested as he tried to duck out the back. Am I the only person who sees the insanity in this episode?

It seems to me that we live in a fairly consistent universe. Aggression is wrong, or at least, highly suspect morally--and, aggression generally has bad outcomes. The drug war is aggression on a massive scale. And the outcome has been generally pretty bad--bad for peace and security at home and abroad, bad for the Bill of Rights and the integrity of the judicial system. The answer is not some socialistic program. The answer is to stop aggressing and start focusing on prosecuting aggression while affirming the right of individuals and families to defend themselves.
2.23.2009 11:43am
Strict:

No one has yet explained to me why we can't keep Muslims out of the US and why we can deport the ones who cause trouble?


How about "citizenship"? Is that enough of an explanation for you?

Zarkov wants to kick US citizens who are Muslims out of the country.

Lovely libertarian values there, guy.

I heard that one of those kids from Slumdog Millionaire is Muslim. I can't BELIEVE they let him come here to take an Oscar. An AMERICAN Oscar!
2.23.2009 11:52am
Lawhound (mail):
Drugs should be decriminalized. Addictive drugs are nasty, but criminalization hasn't eliminated the scourage of addiction. Instead, it has spawned a terribly and potent criminal trade in drugs that spans the globe. It has also given rise to that peculiarly American enterprise known as the prison-industrial complex. All in all, we have wasted and continue to waste vast resources on crimes that are, at best, "malum prohibitum."

It is time for the folks who have access to microphones to press for decriminalization. Resources will be better spent on education, treatment of addiction, funding of forms of economic activity that can attract the talents of young people in our poorest communities who go into the drug trade and end up doing hard time in jail.
2.23.2009 12:29pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
jukeboxgrad:

Why would your analysis not apply to any other product that's sold in a retail store? Why not outlaw gasoline sales on Sunday? Don't gas-station attendants deserve "to have a day off?" What about clothing stores? Hardware?

The same prisoner's dilemma appears in every retail sector, but we don't see universal blue laws for at least two reasonss:

(1) To the extent that support of the general public is required, it's easier to convince people to restrict Sunday alcohol sales than Sunday clothing sales. I concede that a sentiment of "you shouldn't be buying demon rum on Sunday" does help to get blue laws passed. I don't know if it would happen, though, in the absence of a request from the retailers.

The best example that I can think of this is Pennsylvania. You can't buy beer, wine, or spirits on Sunday, but you can go to a bar and drink. If puritanical concerns were what really drove Sunday liquor store closures, bars would be closed, too. But they're open, because there's too much money to be made when the Iggles or Stillers are playing.

(2) It's comparatively easy to get the government to ban Sunday alcohol sales. Alcohol sales are already heavily regulated. All you have to do to get the government to close liquor stores on Sunday is to convince the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (or whatever) to issue a new regulation or directive. It doesn't take nearly the effort that banning gasoline, clothing, or food sales does.

Google "blue laws" "prisoner's dilemma" for more.
2.23.2009 12:35pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I don't mean to debate you on the success or failure of the GWOT, but if it was the population/government/society's real goal to stop terrorism and stop drug abuse, is the GWOT and the WOD achieving, or going to achieve, those goals?
We're clearly not doing a very good job with the WOD. It isn't how I would do things. But the government doesn't listen to me, does it?


Just think how much more successful those people would be if they hadn't been held back by pot.
Most people that smoke marijuana don't destroy their lives. (Just like most people that drink alcohol don't become alcoholics.) But there is a 40% increase in psychosis in later life among those who smoke pot. That still means the vast majority of pot smokers won't end up insane. But the social costs of those who end up with schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder is substantial.

I realize that for a lot of pot smokers, it is a religion. It makes them feel good, and they get very cranky when you point out that for some, it is a very destructive drug. That doesn't make it untrue, however.
2.23.2009 12:37pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

But........if you crash and burn, you do it on your own. No tax money for you. Your employer has no responsibility for you. Its a "victimless crime", so no one else foots the bill for you.
This would work really well in a libertarian society, one where the idiots didn't have family and friends watching this disaster.

Get back to us when you have a libertarian society. Republicans won't support this level of heartlessness, and Democrats certainly won't.
2.23.2009 12:39pm
first history:
Tom sez:


Prof. Somin, your post addresses one side of the equation, but have you given any thought to the likely costs that would be associated with the legalization of heroin and morphine? If heroin and morphine are made cheaper and easier to obtain, presumably more Americans will use them. What level of increased opiate addiction in this country is worth the trade-off for a more stable government in Afghanistan?


Under the ICOS proposal (see my post above at 2.22.2009 8:24pm), opium would be refined into morphine for medical purposes, sold to pharma companies, international agencies, or governments. This isn't drug legalization, so there is no question of trade-offs. It is taking a commonly farmed product and diverting from an illegal market into a legal market. Americans wouldn't have access to the morphine as addicts, presumably the morphine would be comsumed in the local medical network. See also my post above at 2.22.2009 8:57pm for links to reports on how the program has worked in Turkey and India.
2.23.2009 12:49pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
good idea. but the war on drugs won't go away, since it gives the pols power over people.


You can always tell a college student because they make these silly comments that show absolutely no real world experience yet.

The war on drugs won't go away because it enjoys overwhelming support from the population--and for a very good reason. Drug abuse, like alcohol abuse, has enormous social costs. Are those costs higher than the costs of keeping these drugs illegal? Heck if I know. But the costs are very real, either way. Pretending that this is all some Machiavellian scheme for the government to hold onto power over people's lives shows that someone needs to grow up, and spend a little time in the real world--where a lot of people abuse alcohol, marijuana, meth, cocaine, heroin, PCP, tolulene, and everything else under the sun--and leave a path of wrecked lives behind them, not just their own.


Well put, I’m still nominally pro-relegalization (although it’s still pretty far down the list of policy changes that are important enough to warrant support) but quite a bit less so than when I was in college and the tradeoffs meant less to me than they do now. I still think that the costs of criminalization (somewhat) outweigh those of a regulated relegalization scheme but in terms of priorities, it’s not nearly as important as health care reform, dealing with the entitlement mess, eliminating farm subsidies, school choice, reducing the taxation, regulation and litigation burden on small businesses, etc.
2.23.2009 12:57pm
ArthurKirkland:
Where along the "oh my goodness" continuum would or should a parent place each of these items, if discovered in the pocket of jeans placed in the laundry hamper by a 20-year-old child, home for spring break:

(1) a nearly empty Oxycontin container

(2) a $10,000 check payable to "Church of Scientology"

(3) an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting schedule

(4) an enlistment agreement specifying infantry

(5) a letter describing the child's plan to leave school the following week and reside in an Opus Dei facility

(6) a doctor's note ascribing the child's diabetes to a three-times-a-day McDonald's habit

(7) a marriage license application bearing the child's name . . . and an unfamiliar name

(8) the remnants of a marijuana cigarette

(9) an ACLU membership card

(10) an expulsion letter from the dean

Demon weed indeed!!
2.23.2009 1:00pm
Ben P:

(2) a $10,000 check payable to "Church of Scientology"


Is the check drawn on his account or my account?
2.23.2009 1:04pm
ArthurKirkland:
A relatively recent change in Pennsylvania law authorizes limited Sunday hours for beer distributors. A similar change enables a few state-operated wine and spirits stores to open on Sunday. Protesters marked the change by demonstrating disapproval outside state stores and beer distributors. None, so far as I am aware, was a beer distributor. I am confident none owned a liquor store.

A nearly faded custom among Pennsylvania beer distributors has been to close for one day (in addition to Sunday, when Sunday was off-limits). In most observant parts of the state, the additional day was Monday. In some, it was Wednesday. In at least one, it was Tuesday. Few (if any)distributors would have chosen Sunday -- a shopping rather than working day for most customers -- as a day off.
2.23.2009 1:12pm
ArthurKirkland:
For most parents, I believe, the source of funds would be a secondary consideration.
2.23.2009 1:13pm
George Smith:
Clayton, my point, with tongue only partly in cheek, is that those who clamor for legalization talk constantly about "individual choice" and "victimless crime." Well, if they are to get what they want, they have to take the other side, namely, that you and I are not the victims of their choice; that we do not pay the price for their voluntary condition. That's for family and private charity to do. One cannot say "I want to be free to do drugs, and I want you to take care of me if I over do it." This isn't heartless, nor is it a modest proposal. You are most correct about the desructive potential of drugs; that's why most smart people stay away from it. But some people surely won't, and the question is whether you have to pay for it.

(One side benefit of legalization might be that the people of Colombia would appreciate it very much if it reduced the wealth and power of the drug cartels and the guerillas that protect them.)
2.23.2009 1:40pm
ronnie dobbs (mail):

Nonsense. Marijuana has gotten people killed in car accidents, and has driven people insane - just like any mood altering substance will do.


One of my college roommates went insane after smoking marijuana...insane for Cheetos!

/rimshot
2.23.2009 1:42pm
Mac (mail):
jbg,
Here.



It is actually all over the place if you care to look. It is juvenile to blame one party only in this mess and even infantile, with all of the facts out there, to blame only Republicans. You do not seek truth, you cherry pick data to support your ideology.

Now, we are off topic and I am not commenting on this subject any further on this thread.
2.23.2009 1:45pm
Mac (mail):
Ack! It didn't take.

Here.
gatewaypundit.

blogspot.com/2008/09/bush-called-for-reform-of-fannie-mae
2.23.2009 1:47pm
Mac (mail):

Kirk,


That's easy to say, but so much harder to do in any meaningful sense that it's probably not worth doing. It's not like such a "study" could resemble any kind of scientific, controlled experiment.



You are probably quite right. Also, the study would probably be done by a sociologist which would mean that he would get whatever result his pre-study prejudice wanted.
2.23.2009 1:52pm
Mac (mail):
Actually, now that I think about it, at one time we were quite Libertarian about drug use. People found that Coke helped them with what ailed them quite well. I recall a story about the miners in Az. who had their kids bring them lunch along with a bucket of beer every day.

So, in a sense, I guess we tried it and decided it was not such a good idea.
2.23.2009 2:18pm
JoeSixpack (mail):
Marijuana should be freely available in all prisons. What exactly is bad about having a bunch of otherwise violent and dangerous felons sitting around their cells smoking, watching TV, and eating potato chips? We would quickly be able to get rid of half of the prison guards. The inmates could even be taught to tend their own indoor and outdoor grow operations.
2.23.2009 2:26pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Clayton, my point, with tongue only partly in cheek, is that those who clamor for legalization talk constantly about "individual choice" and "victimless crime." Well, if they are to get what they want, they have to take the other side, namely, that you and I are not the victims of their choice; that we do not pay the price for their voluntary condition. That's for family and private charity to do. One cannot say "I want to be free to do drugs, and I want you to take care of me if I over do it." This isn't heartless, nor is it a modest proposal.


Agreed – no ADA protection, no limitation of civil or criminal culpability for torts or crimes committed while under the influence, and no welfare benefits including federal financial aid.
2.23.2009 2:27pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
I, for one, think that the WoD has caused many more problems than it has solved. But then, I also believe in self determination, and that if you want to be a drug addict, then fine, be one.

Some of the problems that we see because of the WoD:
- high levels of violence in Mexico and Columbia as drug lords fight it out.
- Some of that overlapping into this country.
- a huge prison problem, with many states paying ever increasing amounts to jail those directly or indirectly involved. (I am presupposing that a lot of the gang related violence has some drug connection).
- Esp. the Black community has a large percentage of their young males in prison or having served time there.
- Even harder to control our borders, given the amount of money involved in smuggling drugs into this country.

I still don't see why alcohol is legal, but not marijuana. I know almost first hand some of the problems with long term pot usage - but short term or limited usage seems more benign. Going to college while Nixon was in office, I know very few in my generation who did not smoke pot, at least at some time in their lives. Yet, almost all have turned out just fine. It is only those who have continued their usage for decades that seem to have really suffered.
2.23.2009 2:35pm
JoeSixpack (mail):
I agree with George Smith's position on individual responsibility but only if it applies to all activities that are undertaken voluntarily with possible adverse consequences. Get trapped in a blizzard while hiking in the mountains? Sorry, you're on your own. Heart disease from eating unhealthy foods? Don't ask me to pay for your care. Three kids you can't afford to raise? I don't want to be the victim of your choice. Choose to marry a wife beater? Good luck with that. And don't even get me started about AIDS. Causal sex has lots of destructive potential; that's why most smart people stay away from it. But since we have "legalized" it, some people surely won't, and the question is whether I have to pay for it.
2.23.2009 2:36pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
alligator sez: 'Outrageous! Criminals should have no rights whatsoever, just like suspected criminals. This sort of nonsense cannot be tolerated -- I'll be sending a telegram to the right people, explaining my position.'

I am so old, I remember that there were objections to spraying Paraquat on illegal marijuana plants because they might be harvested anyway and then the people who illegally smoked the marijuana would damage their lungs.

You would suppose, I think, that for the sake of consistency all the gun nuts, concealed carry folks etc. around here would have been on the side of Paraquat.

But, you know what, I bet not.
2.23.2009 3:58pm
Fub:
Clayton E. Cramer wrote at 2.23.2009 12:37pm:
Most people that smoke marijuana don't destroy their lives. (Just like most people that drink alcohol don't become alcoholics.) But there is a 40% increase in psychosis in later life among those who smoke pot. That still means the vast majority of pot smokers won't end up insane. But the social costs of those who end up with schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder is substantial.
Source(s)?
2.23.2009 4:21pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=3625

LANCET STUDY indicates marijuana may increase chance of psychosis

Using marijuana seems to increase the chance of becoming psychotic, researchers report in an analysis of past research that reignites the issue of whether pot is dangerous.

The new review suggests that even infrequent use could raise the small but real risk of this serious mental illness by 40 percent.

Doctors have long suspected a connection and say the latest findings underline the need to highlight marijuana’s long-term risks. The research, paid for by the British Health Department, is being published Friday in medical journal The Lancet.

“The available evidence now suggests that cannabis is not as harmless as many people think,” said Dr. Stanley Zammit, one of the study’s authors and a lecturer in the department of psychological medicine at Cardiff University.

The researchers said they couldn’t prove that marijuana use itself increases the risk of psychosis, a category of several disorders with schizophrenia being the most commonly known.

There could be something else about marijuana users, “like their tendency to use other drugs or certain personality traits, that could be causing the psychoses,” Zammit said.
2.23.2009 7:19pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I can't seem to find a free link directly to the Lancet study, but it caused them to reverse a long standing editorial position in support of decriminalization.
2.23.2009 7:22pm
George Smith:
Apart from those going over the jerkweed line, the question is a bit analogous to people who continue to rebuild their homes on shorelines prone to hurricanes, and demand that they have federally subsidized casualty insurance, rather than paying what an insurance company might charge for it. Their argument is that since no insurance company in its right mind would offer insurance at a low rate, the government (us) has to step in and pick up the burden. Mayabe the same for flood plains.
2.23.2009 7:33pm
mariner:
Well, we all know the Lancet has the highest standards for integrity and scholarly rigor.
2.23.2009 8:06pm
Fub:
Clayton E. Cramer wrote at 2.23.2009 7:22pm:
I can't seem to find a free link directly to the Lancet study, but it caused them to reverse a long standing editorial position in support of decriminalization.
Oh, that one. It's quoted and critiqued rather throughly at the Ministry of Truth blog. MoT excoriates the news media reportage, but gives the study itself reasonable marks. MoT specializes in critiquing science and science reportage. This one's science is not so bad as meta-analyses go, but its result is far from as conclusive as you stated it.

The study itself makes clear how tentative and limited the study was. From the study itself, as quoted by MoT:
The evidence is consistent with the view that cannabis increases risk of psychotic outcomes independently of confounding and transient intoxication effects, although evidence for affective outcomes is less strong. The uncertainty about whether cannabis causes psychosis is unlikely to be resolved by further longitudinal studies such as those reviewed here. However, we conclude that there is now sufficient evidence to warn young people that using cannabis could increase their risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life.[emphasis mine]
What the study showed was that currently available data does not contradict the hypothesis that cannabis increases risk of psychotic outcomes. That's a far cry from "cannabis causes psychotic outcomes", as the study authors admit in their own roundabout way.

MoT's conclusion on media reportage:
Moral panics might be good for selling newspapers, but they’re a lousy way of going about public health education.
Naturally, sensationally oriented reporters and the usual prohibitionists, chose to conclude far more than the study actually showed. If Lancet changed their editorial policy because of such a limited finding, they're as idiotic as the popular press.
2.23.2009 8:55pm
Chem_geek:
Clayton E. Cramer:

where a lot of people abuse alcohol, marijuana, meth, cocaine, heroin, PCP, tolulene, and everything else under the sun--and leave a path of wrecked lives behind them, not just their own.


Tolulene? Yuck. One would have to be on drugs already to want to abuse that stuff...
2.23.2009 8:56pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
video:

a sentiment of "you shouldn't be buying demon rum on Sunday" does help to get blue laws passed


OK, I thought maybe you meant something like this, but I wasn't sure. Thanks for explaining.

==============
cramer:

there is a 40% increase in psychosis in later life among those who smoke pot


A very helpful review of the science regarding that statement is here. But not as detailed as what Fub cited.

I can't seem to find a free link directly to the Lancet study


A detailed summary of the study is here.

for some, it is a very destructive drug


Just about everything in life can be "very destructive … for some." Especially when there is a lack of moderation. This includes not just things like alcohol and nicotine, but even caffeine, chocolate, hamburgers, motor vehicles and skiing. Lives and families can be destroyed when people become addicted to activities that are nominally healthy, like work. The word 'workaholic' is not a joke.

So it's rational to ask why we regulate certain allegedly self-destructive behaviors and not others.

==============
mac:

gatewaypundit


What you said earlier is this:

Bush gave 17 speaches since 2002 warning about F &F.


The source you are now citing (a chronically unreliable righty blogger) says this:

Bush Called For Reform of Fannie Mae &Freddie Mac 17 Times in 2008


Does he document those "17 Times?" No. And anyway, the crisis was well-underway in 2008. You implied Bush had done so (issued "warning[s] about F &F") much earlier. But mostly what he did earlier was to promote the idea that "the low income homebuyer can have just as nice a house as anybody else."

In the post you cite, which was based on a defensive memo issued by Bush, the first example of Bush himself making a statement "warning about F &F" was in 8/07 ("President Bush emphatically calls on Congress to pass a reform package for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac"). Before that time, most of the references are vague statements buried in White House budget documents.

By the way, it was mostly the GOP that tried to block such a "reform package" in 5/07.

It is juvenile to blame one party only in this mess and even infantile, with all of the facts out there, to blame only Republicans.


I have not done what you have accused me of doing. Nice job with the straw man, though. Here's what it looks like you're doing, however: inventing your own facts. Like you did here.
2.24.2009 9:39am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
And speaking of the WOD, let's notice how it leads to some excellent results like this:

Tearful Atlanta Cops Express Remorse for Shooting 92-Year-Old Kathryn Johnston, Leaving Her To Bleed to Death in Her Own Home While They Planted Drugs in Her Basement, Then Threatening an Informant So He Would Lie To Cover It All Up


And an astute comment about that:

… the real tragedy here is that had the cops found a stash of marijuana in her basement that actually did belong to her–say for pain treatment or nausea–her death would have faded quickly from the national news, these tactics would have been deemed by most to be wholly legitimate, and we probably wouldn’t still be talking about her today.

These cops were evil. But they worked within an evil system that’s not only immoral on its face, but is rife with bad incentives and plays to the worst instincts in human nature.
2.24.2009 5:29pm
Fub:
jukeboxgrad wrote at 2.24.2009 5:29pm:
And an astute comment about that:


... These cops were evil. But they worked within an evil system that’s not only immoral on its face, but is rife with bad incentives and plays to the worst instincts in human nature.
Unfortunately, for many that is a feature, not a bug.
2.24.2009 7:31pm
markm (mail):
Besides confusing correlation with causation (many, many heavy users of MJ, alcohol, and other drugs are self-medicating an existing mental illness), reporting such as that cited in Lancet never compares marijuana to alcohol. What's the psychosis rate among old alcoholics? I don't know, but anyplace you find homeless people, you find brain-fried drunks. Not sure how much of that is "psychosis", and how much is just dead brain cells, if there is a difference.

What I do know:

1. Alcohol is a poison. Every year, inexperienced frat boys die from drinking way too much way too fast. (It's the same thing as a heroin OD.) In contrast, there is no lethal dose of MJ. The smoke might kill you in the long run, but for the most part it's smoke, not a particular source, that is toxic (carbon monoxide, for example) and carcinogenic (smoke particles). The same research methods that convicted tobacco show little or nor increased cancer or death from smoking MJ, but the dosage of smoke matters and no one smokes joints by the pack. I don't know how one could manage to keep lighting up joints one after the other... OTOH, there are several ways of ingesting MJ and tobacco besides smoking.

2. Alcohol kills brain cells. Not sure about MJ.

3. A significant percentage of drinkers turn belligerent under the influence, causing quite a lot of domestic violence, assault and battery cases, and some homicides. If you've ever seen pot-heads, you know that MJ usually has a mellowing effect instead. (Not always, but due to the WOSD, purity of the pot isn't guaranteed - it might have been sprayed with pesticides, or stretched with other leaves plus something like PCP...)

4. Many drinkers also drive under the influence, as fast as or even faster than they do when not impaired. You all know the sad statistics that result from that. Under MJ, you're impaired, but you probably don't get illusions of competence, and you really won't want to do something difficult such as reckless driving.

5. OTOH, I knew a successful small-town banker who never drank during business hours and was never sober after 6 PM. It's hard to imagine a pothead finding the motivation to get up in the morning and go do his job. (On the gripping hand, I think this guy's children might have been better off if he'd abandoned them entirely and went begging for quarters on a street corner. Money for fancy prep schools and therapists doesn't really make up for being totally fscked psychologically.)
2.24.2009 9:28pm
Mark F. (mail):
I favor ending the war on drugs, but surely the relatively small sums terrorists require (9/11 did not cost all that much) could be raised other ways. A better idea is to stop the U.S. foreign policy interventions that provoke people.
2.26.2009 6:15pm

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