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Kevin Sabet gets nostalgic for prohibition

Prohibition’s real lessons for drug policy

America’s notoriously “failed social experiment” to rid the country of alcohol — took center stage this week as PBS broadcast Ken Burns’ highly acclaimed series on the subject. And already, it has been seized on by drug legalization advocates, who say it proves that drug prohibition should be abandoned.

But a closer look at what resulted from alcohol prohibition and its relevance to today’s anti-drug effort reveals a far more nuanced picture than the legalization lobby might like to admit.

It’s the standard pro-prohibition claptrap that downplays the enormous harms of prohibition while tossing out silver linings, and tries to claim that drug prohibition is significantly different from alcohol prohibition so it can work.

I got a laugh out of one of the commenters who appears eager to both support Sabet and stop us from reacting…

substancescholar at 4:27 AM October 5, 2011
This article is well informed and grounded in the facts. Once again Kevin Sabet presents a balanced and thought-out argument. Of course, the legalizers won’t like it, and they will organize another smear campaign against it.

On the other hand, I got a real kick out of the tweet from Transform drugs this morning about Sabet’s article:

Prohibition’s real lessons for drug policy, LAtimes: anti-reform piece so bad it makes the case for legalisation dlvr.it/pQ1Nf

Remember we were having a contest to see where Sabet would end up after leaving the Drug Czar’s office? Well, according to this article, he “currently is a consultant and a fellow at the Center for Substance Abuse Solutions at the University of Pennsylvania.”

I don’t think anyone guessed that, but we shouldn’t be too quick to settle the contest. I’m betting that he’s still in flux. The Center for Substance Abuse Solutions doesn’t really exist at the University of Pennsylvania in any of their directories or search engines except as a project in the bio of A. Thomas McLellan (former Deputy Director of the ONDCP), and Sabet is not yet listed in the U. of Penn faculty/staff directory. It’s possible that Tom McLellan lent him a title to use for publishing OpEds.

[Thanks, Tom]

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28 comments to Kevin Sabet gets nostalgic for prohibition

  • TINMA

    substancescholar at 4:27 AM October 5, 2011
    This article is well informed and grounded in the facts. Once again Kevin Sabet presents a balanced and thought-out argument…

    Yup..An argument well thought out in that nice little box they think they keep everyone in…

    …And no, theres no smear campaign. Just facts.Real people with real lives…

    Freedom. Its born in you. Not taught.

  • darkcycle

    It is more nuanced. Al Capone gave huge amounts of money to Chicago area orphanages and other charities, he gave to the Church and to political campaigns.
    The blood spilled in the streets? That’s incidental. Huge sums of untaxed money, and the viciousness of the gangsters? Just a small glitch in an otherwise sterling plan. Turning law abiding people into criminals with the stroke of a pen? Prisons full to overflowing? Just an inconvenience. C’mon guys! lets try to minimize the Holocaust now, this is fun.

    • Duncan20903

      .
      .
      Well they didn’t just slaughter Jews you know. They also whacked the faggots and the Catholics so they couldn’t have been all bad.

      Lets not forget that everything the Nazis did was 100% legal under German law when it happened. The Nazis certainly weren’t scofflaws like the rotten potheads. They also knew how to take orders and that was their most noble quality. When was the last time you saw a rotten pothead follow orders? It’s the law! Blah, blah, blah.

      (so order us to smoke pot. problem solved.)

    • Duncan20903

      (please, the nonsense above was intended as a sarcastic exercise in stupidity. disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer)

  • Cannabis

    The Penn Center for Substance Abuse Solutions really sounds like a name that solicits corporate drug testing dollars, doesn’t it? How about a contest for a tag line to go with such a revolving door name, like:

    Actualizing Real Time Solutions for Your Drug Abuse Needs

    It just wants to make you to gag.

  • Stephen Young

    Interesting piece in NYT recently about “Pathological Altruism.” The concept helps to explain the sadomoralist mindset of Sabet and Paul Chabot, as well as some other unfortunate psychological phenomena.

    The author of the NYT article quotes this from an essay about pathological altruism:

    “A relentless addiction to indignation may be one of the chief drivers of obstinate dogmatism … It may be the ultimate propellant behind the current ‘culture war.’”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/04/science/04angier.html?src=me&ref=general

    • Long time no see Stephen…

      “Pathological altruism” seems a great fit with sado-moralism.

    • That’s a good read, thanks Stephen.

      David Brin, a physicist and science fiction writer, argues in one chapter that sanctimony can be as physically addictive as any recreational drug, and as destabilizing. “A relentless addiction to indignation may be one of the chief drivers of obstinate dogmatism,” he writes. “It may be the ultimate propellant behind the current ‘culture war.’ ” Not to mention an epidemic of blogorrhea, newspaper-induced hypertension and the use of a hot, steeped beverage as one’s political mascot.

    • Emma

      Pathological Altruism may apply to some people. But I suspect that most drug warriors are just trying to get/keep a job and/or distract from their own problems by appearing as “morally upright citizens” to others — it’s important to not necessarily take them seriously or stress too much about what they “really believe”.

      Kevin reminds me of Hamilton Wright one of the architects of US and international drug prohibition — Wright was just hoping that demonizing opium would get him a cozy diplomat job in SE-Asia, but he was fired from the State Dept because he could not promise to stay sober during one of the first international opium conferences (see Musto, The American Disease).

      Possibly the best strategy for drug warriors is to make drug policy an unattractive field for them and to direct them into some other “cause” where they can feel more successful, like promoting polio vaccinations in Afganistan.

      • I suspect that most drug warriors are just trying to get/keep a job and/or distract from their own problems by appearing as “morally upright citizens” to others[…]

        But it is the pathological altruistic sadomoralists who are whipping the horses pulling the Prohibition wagon… Calvina Fay, Paul Chabot, Bill Bennett, etc. and “avg citizen” (those are finger quotes) types like Linda “it’s-a-scam-people!” Taylor, are the screaming mimis in the driver’s seat.

  • divadab

    Thanks, Pete, for continuing to expose self-serving frauds like Paul Sabet. Lying to get more government blood money. Providing cover for unjust dominion. Destroying respect for government – who respects an oppressive liar? Only an authoritarian arse-licker.

    • Duncan20903

      .
      .
      No, no, no, you’re asserting an oxymoron. There is no such thing as an authoritarian arse-licker. I’m wiling to bet that what you meant was “arse licking sycophant of authority.”

  • Francis

    Cool. I think I’ll give myself a made-up title to give my comments more gravitas. Any suggestions? How about “Senior Fellow, Professor Emeritus, and Chairman of the Willie Nelson Research Chair for Advanced Cannabinoid Studies at Mary Jane University”?

    • Full disclosure: I am Executive Director of the Prohibition Isn’t Free Foundation, in part to make it easier for such situations, because many media don’t recognize “blogger” as a title for someone with expertise.

      • Francis

        So you’re the Executive Director of an organization that actually exists and to which you devote an enormous amount of your time and efforts (as evidenced by the high quality of this blog and the frequency of your postings)? The name of your organization also doesn’t imply an exaggerated affiliation with (and thus attempt to trade off the reputation of) a University? I’d say you’re good, Pete. And maybe I’m quibbling here, but “Center for Substance Abuse Solutions”? Sorry, but doesn’t that sort of imply a place, you know, the kind that one could actually go to, and meet with more than one individual? Sabet’s “Center” is about as real as the “Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too.”

  • Servetus

    “If our experience with legal alcohol provides us with any lessons for drug policy, it is this: We have little reason to believe that the benefits of drug legalization would outweigh its costs.”—Kevin Sabat

    Kevin can’t distinguish his politics from his chemistry. Experience with legal marijuana in Holland and Portugal gives us many reasons to believe that the benefits of marijuana legalization outweigh its costs. Experience with medical marijuana in California gives us reasons to believe the benefits of medical marijuana legalization outweigh its costs. So what costs are Kevin Sabat talking about?

    Oh, yeah. That’s right. Legalization will cost Kevin his new job.

    • Duncan20903

      .
      .
      I thought everyone knew that the motto of the Know Nothing prohibitionist is “never let the facts get in the way of disseminating an effective piece of hysterical rhetoric.” Oh well, now you do.

  • DdC

    They’re like Zombies… Kill em and they keep coming back.

    Chicken Little Sabet.jpg

    Klintons Puppet Sabet.jpg

    Oh but it was really about saving the drunkards…
    Prohibition is always a Red Herring. It never does what it claims…

    Al Capone and Watergate were red herrings to divert the countries attention from the Fascist acts of eliminating competition. Booze/Ethanol or Ganja//Hemp.

  • dt

    So according to Sabat the “key difference” between current and former prohibition is that alcohol has been used by many people while other drugs have been used by fewer people… So oppressing a majority is bad but oppressing a minority is fine.

    • Francis

      Well it’s certainly easier to oppress a minority. Does that qualify as a principled distinction? But he does have a point. Humans have been consuming alcohol for thousands of years. But I’m pretty sure marijuana was only invented in the 1960’s.

      • Duncan20903

        .
        .
        That’s correct Francis. Merrywanna was invented in 1964 in New York City by an unholy collaboration between Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Then in 1981 Cheech & Chong hired a mad chemist and funded the research needed to increase the potency of merrywanna by an several orders of magnitude. We know that this is true because we have it on video:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4BD_5csNHg

        If you watch the clip cover your eyes, this video features horridly cruel animal abuse and torture.

        This is not your grandpa’s merrywanna! It’s no wonder Barack Hussein Obama was able to get elected!

        (Of all the things that leave me disappointed in Mr. Obama is that you’d think a man with the initials BHO would be much more cannabis friendly.)

  • Duncan20903

    .
    .
    Did he trot out the bald faced lie that per capita drinking declined during prohibition? Gotta love it, some asshole sits down in the mid 1970s and reviews the publications and media reports for that day and pulls the alleged per capita use of drinking alcohol out of his ass and the Know Nothings glom on to it as if it were gospel truth. In the meantime they forget to mention that contemporaneous statistics gathered by the US Census which show that deaths from acute or chronic drinking alcohol abuse skyrocketed by as much as 400% during prohibition, peaking in 1927 before pulling back to an increase of only 250% by the end. The Know Nothing prohibitionist says, well it looks to me like deaths from drinking alcohol decreased by 150%! Go back to 6th grade. A number can’t decline by more than 100% you innumerate asshole.

  • Cannabis

    Be sure to check out End drug prohibition [Most commented] over at the L.A.Times for a follow up on this piece.

  • A number can’t decline by more than 100% you innumerate asshole.

    Fudd’s theory of inverse proportionality allows that numbers passed thru a Prohibitionist’s aperturic orofice and accompanied by enough fecious matter, can be made to do anything…

  • Ron Combs

    Believe it or not.In Hardin Co.Ky.Yesterday(Oct.4 2011)We juat repeaeld alcohol prohibition laws that were written back in the 20s. But on the bright side we have a 50.0 internet connection. Irony Rules

    • Duncan20903

      .
      .
      Oh my god, this is going to devastate those 3 liquor stores in Flaherty. You know the ones I mean, all of them no more than 500 yards from the Hardin/Meade counties line over on 144?
      ———-

      Are they still blowing up all that ordinance at Fort Knox every afternoon?

      Did you hear about the “eradication” of 3400 plants found growing on or very near to the outer edges of Fort Knox just north of 313? Sheesh that could have been as far back as Spring 2010. Gosh that made me laugh. What a great idea, locate your mega grow on Army owned land, particularly when the Army uses said land to train their troops. It had to be a foreigner. Everybody in Radcliff and E-Town would have known about the training. It’s not like the Army tries to keep it quiet. North Hardin County/south Meade County is no place for a veteran who got started suffering PTSD in active military service. That’s the closest I’ve been to living in a war zone. (Did they predict rain today? Is that thunder? No, that’s just the Army boys playing with their toys again.)

      The day on which I finally left Hardin County for good may not have been the happiest day of my life but it most certainly is in the top 10. I admit that I have missed the people of Kentuckiana. But I’m at the firing range daily and my aim is improving.

      I wouldn’t say that the residents of Kentuckians are totally stupid, but who the heck came up with the bright idea to locate N Dixie Hwy directly south of S. Dixie Hwy? Were the construction people looking at their compass wrong side up? Did they even know what a compass is?

      I do apologize but beating up on Kentuckianian society is one of my favorite pastimes. But what the heck else is there to do when we’re talking about people that slow down when approaching a green light because “it might turn yellow?” and who don’t mind the firemen standing in the middle of 31W begging for spare change causing traffic to back up all the way to Lou-ville? It’s no wonder that living there drove me to use excessive amounts of drinking alcohol.

  • pfroehlich2004

    Hey can anybody point me to a graph showing cirrhosis death rates for the last 100 years or so? I want to link to it in my comment.

    I know I’ve seen it on the net somewhere and I remember that it shows the current prevalence of cirrhosis to be lower than under prohibition.