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November 2009
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Open Thread

I’m really enjoying reading the posts by Jesper, Dan, and Tamara. Makes me feel a little bit like I’m there, enjoying the conference. Instead, I’m cruising at 31,000 feet mid-flight on my way to Baltimore for a conference for work (WiFi on Delta is pretty good). I’ll be there tonight and tomorrow night.

bullet image The American Medical Association Reconsiders Marijuana. Will The Justice Department Follow? (No.) by Jessica Bennett

bullet image The Economist: Drugs. Virtually Legal

bullet image The excellent Transform Report: After the War on Drugs. Blueprint for Regulation is picking up some good press.

There’s Legalise drugs and save Scotland £2bn a year, says think-tank by Lachlan Mackinnon in the Daily Record (UK).

Then there’s Sue Blackmore in the Guardian with The jaw-jaw after the war on drugs. Very nice piece.

Blueprint comes up with a discussion model for psychedelics based on membership of psychedelic groups or clubs, and licensed vendors with specific responsibilities as well as licensed users. Does this make sense? Would it work? I don’t know. But then no one knows.

I can only say that I would welcome such a step. If LSD were legally available I personally would like to take it quite rarely – perhaps once a year or so – for the extraordinary insights it can give and the lessons it teaches. I am not alone: an online survey by Erowid of thousands of experienced LSD users showed that most would want to take it about once a year if it were legal.

The BBC weighs in with Sell drugs in shops – think tank. The Home Office response was amusing:

But the Home Office said it had “no intention of either decriminalising or legalising currently controlled drugs”.

She added: “Drugs are controlled for good reason — they are harmful to health. Their control protects individuals and the public from the harms caused by their misuse.”

Ah, not interested in regulating drugs, because they are “controlled.” By whom?

Jacob Sullum reviews the publication over at Reason. He does a good job, but I feel for him in this. In many ways, this piece is anathema to libertarians — it’s about regulation, Nanny state, health codes, and so forth. And yet prohibition it the absolute worst thing for libertarians. Most libertarians understand that it’ll be impossible to get the numbers on the side of legalization without the believe that there are practical and workable regulatory systems that could be put in place.

I understand that ending the war on drugs will require an alliance between people whose main concern is individual freedom and people whose main concern is promoting “public health.” Although both groups of antiprohibitionists recognize the terrible toll wrought by the vain crusade for a drug-free society, the public-health types are bound to have more say about the details of the system that replaces prohibition, which is likely to have many features that offend libertarians. That prospect should not deter us from thinking about what the world will look like after the war on drugs, and this report is good way to start that debate.

Exactly.

Earlier, I mentioned a section of the report that really rang true with me, and I want to share it here.

Supporters of prohibition present any steps towards legal regulation of drug markets as ‘radical’, and therefore innately confrontational and dangerous. However, the historical evidence demonstrates that, in fact, it is prohibition that is the radical policy. Legal regulation of drug production, supply and use is far more in line with currently accepted ways of managing health and social risks in almost all other spheres of life.

By contrast, the presentation of drugs as an existential ‘threat’ has generated a policy response within which unevidenced and radical measures are justified. Drug policy has evolved within a context of ‘securitization’, characterised by increasing powers and resources for enforcement and state security apparatus. The outcomes of this strategy, framed as a drug ‘war’, include the legitimisation of propaganda, and the suspension of many of the working principles that define more conventional social policy, health or legal interventions. Given that the War on Drugs is predicated on ‘eradication’ of the ‘evil’ drug threat as a way of achieving a ‘drug free world’, it has effectively established a permanent state of war. This has led to a high level policy environment that ignores critical scientific thinking, and health and social policy norms. Fighting the threat becomes an end in itself and as such, it creates a largely self-referential and self-justifying rhetoric that makes meaningful evaluation, review and debate difficult, if not impossible.

Prohibition has become so entrenched and institutionalised that many in the drugs field, even those from the more critical progressive end of the spectrum, view it as immutable, an assumed reality of the legal and policy landscape to be worked within or around, rather than a policy choice. It is in this context that we seek to highlight how the basics of normative health and social policy can be applied to developing effective responses to drugs. Put bluntly, it is prohibition, not legal regulation that is the radical policy.

bullet image DrugSense Weekly – a weekly review of the most interesting or relevant articles in the press and on the web related to drug policy reform.

bullet imageDrug War Chronicle – weekly update of drug war news and analysis from Stop the Drug War.org.

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13 comments to Open Thread

  • I find Sue Blackmore’s comments on LSD very interesting. Over 20 million Americans have taken and enjoyed LSD, and as many as 600,000 new enthusiasts join our ranks each year.

    When I first met Albert Hofmann, he told me that LSD would be very beneficial if prescribed and taken at three different points during one’s lifetime: early 20s; midlife; and again in our golden years. Doing so, the good doctor firmly believed, would not only benefit the user but society as a whole.

    When I gently pointed out that we’d both greatly exceeded that number, Albert, with a wry smile and a twinkle in his eye, responded that three LSD experiences was more a minimum recommendation than a maximum one.

  • Chris

    Moving to a discussion of what do do after drug prohibition… nice.

  • Chris

    Wow, those scots sure are misinformed about drug prohibition:

    tm wrote:
    I see the junkies sympathisers are out in force.
    Tell us just how many alkies break into houses or stab you in the street to get your money for their next bottle??
    Now, tell me again why drink is worse than drugs.


    JI wrote:
    So UK thinking, and should I ask who will pay for this project. It would be the law abiding person, while the lay abouts and drug scum take there drugs, my son starves mm good deal.


    EXECUTE dealers and users, that way we`ll save even more!!!!!
    Personally I`m getting more and more sick of these spongers, its now classed as a disease FFS.
    ITS A LIFESTYLE CHOICE NOT A DISEASE!!!!!!

  • ezrydn

    I don’t see where the AMA’s turnabout would have any bearing on the Justice Department. After all, since the AMA’s position was the foundation for the Schedule 1 ranking within federal legislation, it makes one wonder if CONGRESS will take notice. After all, it’s THEIR law that Justice follows.

    So, where does Congress turn to now to shore up their current position? There is none now and they know it. Their language has even changed over the last week. Now, they’re arguing “testing for potency,labeling and packaging not available” while a company is being set up in No. California to do just that.

    Stay tuned to see which arguement goes “Up In Smoke” tomorrow, boys and girls.

  • BruceM

    Who says a system has to replace prohibition? Is freedom a “system”? I suggest the same “system” we currently use to regulate the sale and possession of chocolate (which, incidentally, poses a risk to one’s health, flavenoids aside).

    Replacing prohibition with anything other than NOTHING is no advancement at all.

  • ezrydn

    Anyone got any idea who the drug war whore “She said” is in the “Home Office?” At least, with a name we could see what her credentials for saying what she obviously knows nothing about.

  • Steve

    The current issue of Scientific American has an article, New Culprits in Chronic Pain (preview here). The contents page intro says, “Glia are nervous system caretakers whose nurturing can go too far. Taming them holds promise for alleviating pain that current medications cannot ease.”

    The preview I linked doesn’t get this far, but on page 56 of the magazine we find:

    Another existing drug, indeed an ancient pain-relieving substance that can work when many others fail, is marijuana, which has been legalized for medicinal use in some states. Substances in the marijuana plant mimic natural compounds in the brain called cannabinoids, which activate certain receptors on the neurons and regulate neural signal transmission.

    It goes on to say that there are two types of cannabinoid receptors on the glia with different functions (pain relief and getting high), and that as chronic pain develops the number of the pain-type cannabinoid receptors on the glia increases, “a sign that the cells are valiantly trying to capture more cannabinoids in their vicinity to provide analgesic relief”, and that drug companies are pursuing drugs that control pain but, of course, don’t get you high.

    I like Scientific American. They are the ones who, twenty or thirty (more?) years ago came out in opposition to the idea of drug testing on the basis that the evidence used by the testing companies to bolster their case for testing didn’t really do so, and in fact showed that pot-smoking workers tended to be the better ones.

  • R.O.E.

    (and that drug companies are pursuing drugs that control pain but, of course, don’t get you high.)

    So, If I’m taking a drug to conrtol pain,why cant it make me feel good too? Are we in hell? Are we not allowed to feel good?

    They can make their ‘non-high ,synth-cannabis’ crap. I’ll stick with what makes me feel good. AWWWW, bye bye big profits for drug companies.I’ll grow my own when its legal.

    Makes me sick to think that we cant do ANYTHING in this country without someone making HUGE profit. Oh and by the way,huge profits and you cant enjoy your self in the process.

  • Pestilence is a widely-spread infectious disease; a very harmful thing or a lie.

  • Pharmie companies make me so sick too.

    Likely accidentally on purpose, heh?

  • ezrydn

    The “highest,” groggyist and most out of personal control I’ve ever been has come from legal drugs, given by qualified medical people.

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