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July 2006
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Demonizing drugs

Paul Campos has a fascinating OpEd out that is getting some visibility…

The standard story is that Prohibition was a bad idea because it couldn’t “work.” It’s said the attempt to make America dry was doomed to failure because our legal system lacked the resources to stamp out alcohol use, at least at an acceptable price.
The problem with this story is it assumes that, if it were possible to eliminate alcohol use in America at an “acceptable” cost, then this would be a desirable thing. And that is a seriously wrongheaded belief.

We’ve talked a lot about the degree to which prohibition doesn’t work. But sometimes we are hesitant to talk about the actual positive side of alcohol and drugs.

… to make America a completely sober nation, even if it were possible, would be a terrible thing. And this point applies to many other mind-altering substances as well, to greater and lesser extents. In particular, the socially harmful effects of marijuana are almost wholly a product of the fact that its use is prosecuted as a crime, while the drug’s beneficial effects may well be comparable to those of its far more dangerous legal cousin, alcohol.
It’s not even clear that it would be desirable to completely eliminate heroin and cocaine use, assuming such a thing could be done, which of course it can’t (one of the dirty little secrets of the drug war is that many people use these drugs recreationally for years on end with little or no adverse effect).
All drugs have both good and bad effects. …

This will be a tough one for some middle-of-the-road reformers to swallow. But it’s an important point.

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