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February 2006
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Why are Drugs Still Illegal?

Jim’s post of the same name at Vice Squad is a fascinating read…

Let me suggest four reasons. The first is simply the tyranny of the status quo.

…and it’s a status quo with a hell of a lot of momentum.

Second, there is a dose of logic which is persuasive (on the surface, at least) and irrefutable, but not dispositive — though the fact that it is not dispositive apparently is subtle. That logic goes along the lines of “if there were no drugs, there would be no drug problems.” Because this logic is absolutely correct, any tragedy that occurs under the current prohibitory regime — instead of discrediting prohibition, which would seem to be the obvious response — can be met, without conspicuous senselessness, by a call for a more committed prohibition. The notion that the drug-free world that the logic calls for is itself either a chimera or not worth the cost seems to be less than immediately accessible. So prohibition becomes a self-justifying policy.

Deliciously worded, Jim! And so true. “Chimera” is the perfect word to describe the goals of the drug war.

Third, parents in the middle and upper classes in developed nations might believe — and they might be right to believe — that prohibition (relative to some undelineated alternative) makes it a bit less likely that their kids will become enmeshed in drugs.

Jim goes on to qualify this, but I do want to point out that, while I fully agree with the fact that “parents might believe,” I’m not so sure I agree that “they might be right to believe” — particularly when used with the word “enmeshed.”

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, people don’t have a good idea about what a legal alternative entails. […]
Perhaps the time has come for the legalization advocates to coalesce around some very specific policies that spell out, on a drug-by-drug basis, the precise regulatory regime that we have in mind.

I’ll start working on it right away (and I welcome submissions from my readers).

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