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Smoked Medicine

Remember how all the drug warriors always harp on the fact that marijuana can’t be medicine because it’s smoked? It’s been their way of glossing over the fact that there are so many studies that definitely demonstrate that marijuana has accepted medical value (and that would, by definition, remove marijuana from Schedule 1). So they […]

Drinking Licenses

This is slightly off-topic, but I wanted to address this bizarre suggestion by Mark Kleiman in his mostly sensible article

If someone is convicted of drunken driving, or drunken assault, or drunken vandalism, or repeatedly of drunk and disorderly conductÖif, that is, someone demonstrates that he is either a menace or a major public nuisance when drunkÖthen why not revoke his (or, much more rarely, her) drinking license?
Of course, the ‹personal prohibitionŠ imagined here, like the current age restriction, would have to be enforced by sellers of alcoholic beverages, who would have to verify that each buyer has not been banned from drinking, just as they now have to verify that each buyer is of legal age to drink. Obviously, such a ban could not be perfectly enforced. But reducing the frequency and flagrancy of drinking behavior by problem drunks somewhat is far better than not reducing it at all. A ban on drinking by bad drinkers (unlike the current ban on drinking by those under 21) would have an obvious moral basis. Evading it, for example by buying liquor for someone on the ‹Do Not DrinkŠ list, would be clearly wrong and worth punishing. Moreover, offenders would not easily be able to drink in bars, restaurants or other public places, which means they would be less likely to drink and then drive or cause public disturbances.

Out of all the good stuff in Mark’s article, it was this bit of nonsense that attracted Matthew Iglesias, who, in an otherwise sensible post calls Kleiman’s license proposal “clearly on point.”
Just take a moment to think through the logistics. Mark admits that it could not be “perfectly enforced,” but the question is rather how it could be enforced at all.
With a driving license, since the licensing agency checks for age when issuing it, the license become a reasonably good proof of age for most purposes. And when people check it to see if you’re old enough to do something, they don’t know (or care) whether that driving license has been revoked. If it has been revoked, that doesn’t change what your age is, so it doesn’t matter. On the other hand, if you get pulled over by a cop on the highway, he’s not going to just look at your license — he’ll enter it into a computer to see if, among other things, your license has been revoked.
So picture a drinking license regime. Everybody who wants to drink or buy alcohol has to have a drinking license. And not only does every grocery store and liquor store checkout line, plus every bar and restaurant have to check to see if someone has a drinking license with them, but they also need to verify that it hasn’t been revoked (or the whole point of the system is worthless). This means that they have to compare it against a national database, most likely involving an expensive network of terminals placed in all those locations (including, of course, the beer vendors at football games and street fairs and the flight attendants on airlines, and….) Or, alternately, they have to use some kind of system of recording all purchases (like the registry in pharmacies) with your name and address to be later verified so you can be arrested later if you purchased alcohol on a revoked drinking license.
Does anybody really think that a system like this makes sense for alcohol?

Human Events Online again

For the third time in a week, Human Events Online has a drug war piece. I’m wondering if the new one is an attempt to repair their image after the John Hawkins disaster. This one is Big, Big Government by John Stossel, and what a breath of fresh air it is after what we’ve been […]

Mark Kleiman gets it right, mostly.

Mark Kleiman has a really outstanding piece at The American Interest Online: Dopey, Boozy, Smoky — and Stupid (although the title, which he didn’t pick, sucks).
This is Kleiman’s best piece to date, and finally does justice to his analyses of the failures of prohibition. For the most part, he avoids his usual unsupported attack on legalizers, with only the slightest obligatory mention…

…the standard political line between punitive drug policy ‹hawksŠ and service-oriented drug policy ‹doves.Š Neither side is consistently right; some potential improvements in drug policy are hawkish, some are dovish, and some are neither.

Some of his suggestions for policy reform are a little bizarre and unworkable (his drinking license, which he’s been promoting for over a decade if I recall right, is laughable).
But his discussions about the nature of drug use and prohibition are really quite good. Here are a few snippets:

Most drug use is harmless, and much of it is beneficialÖat least if harmless pleasure and relaxation count as benefits. […]
Not all drugs are equally risky or abusable. But since different drugs are abused in different ways and have different harm profiles, there is no single measure of ‹harmfulnessŠ or ‹addictivenessŠ by which drugs can be ranked. Moreover, the overall damage caused by a drug does not depend on its neurochemistry alone; the composition of the user base and the social context and customs around its use also matter. […]
Some pairs of drugs are substitutes for one another, so that making one more available will reduce consumption of the other. […]
Taxes, regulations and prohibitions can reduce drug consumption and abuse, but always at the cost of making the remaining consumption more damaging than it would otherwise be. […]
But once a drug has an established mass market, more enforcement cannot greatly shrink the problem; existing customers will seek out new suppliers, and imprisoned dealers, seized drugs and even dismantled organizations are replaced. Moreover, the effectiveness of enforcement tends to fall over time as the illicit industries learn to adapt. We have 15 times as many drug dealers in prison today as we had in 1980, yet the prices of cocaine and heroin have fallen by more than 80 percent. […]

And some of his suggestions include legalizing personal growth of marijuana, eliminating the drinking age, not relying on D.A.R.E., expanding opiate maintenance programs, and getting drug enforcement out of the way of pain relief.
I haven’t had time to analyze the full piece, but as a policy recommendation short of a full legalization regime, it’s one of the best ones out there.

Drug War… Victories?

Over at Human Events Online, which recently embarrassed itself by printing John Hawkins fetid In Defense of the Drug War, there is a new piece: Drug War Victories by Robert J. Caldwell. Caldwell touts the recent extradition of Mexican drug lords with a kind of “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead” enthusiasm — you can […]

Kenneth Starr doesn’t like 9th Circuit libertarians

While working on my new Bong Hits 4 Jesus Supreme Court page I’ve found some interesting quotes in some of the briefs. For example, check out these from Ken Starr’s brief representing Principal Morse:

… the court of appeals substituted its unforgiving libertarian worldview for the considered judgment of school officials (and school boards) in […]

Drug War Victim: 80-year-old Isaac Singletary

Another old person with a gun, living in a dangerous neighborhood. 80-year-old Isaac Singletary used to bring out his gun to scare off drug dealers, so when a saw a couple of low-lifes were on his lawn, he came out with it again and told them to get off his property. Except they were […]

Drug War Funding Shortage a Good Thing

James Gierach rocks in this OpEd in the Daily Southtown (Chicago): County cuts could mean less drug-war money — and that’s not such a bad thing

… These examples tell the folly of “staying the course” and hoping to win the drug war. It’s a bad policy that endlessly costs and gets us nowhere. […]

Magical Mushrooms

Mark Kleiman has an excellent post on last year’s study that demonstrated the enormous power for psilocybin mushrooms to generate meaningful mystical experiences in churchgoers who had no previous experience with hallucinogens.

The results have potentially large importance for both law and policy. Though psilocybe mushrooms grow wild in much of the country and are […]

More responses to the John Hawkins piece

One thing I’ll say about about John Hawkins piece In Defense of the Drug War at Right Wing News — it’s drawn a tremendous amount of fire from the libertarian and conservative (read: not authoritarian) circles (it’s less likely that many of the liberal sites have noticed it). Read this exceptional and insightful analysis by […]