Cato Unbound – Conclusion

Well, the Cato Unbound series on Responsible Drug Use has concluded. To recap, here are some of my earlier posts on the series.

The last ones added to The Conversation since then were:

  1. » Be Realistic About how Much Information Alone Changes Behavior by Jonathan Caulkins.
  2. » Pot Smokers for Prohibition by Jacob Sullum.
  3. » 25 Million Wrongs Don’t Make a Right by Jonathan Caulkins.
  4. » Against the Ban on Cannabis Smoking; for the Ban on Cannabis Commerce by Mark Kleiman.
  5. » Drug Information Isn’t Just for “Druggies” by Earth and Fire Erowid
  6. » Public Health Promotion is OK by Jonathan Caulkins.
  7. » Politicians with Pot Problems by Jacob Sullum.

I’m not going to try to dissect them all today — in general, these start devolving into clarifications and side discussions — but I’ll hit a few highlights.
Caulkins continues to astound — first it was his ignorance, but now it’s his shilling for ignorance. In [10], he dances around for quite a while downplaying the importance of “accurate information about drugs.” When called on it by the Erowids in [14] (be sure to check out their delightful description of caffeine), Caulkins comes back in [15] by stating:

I generally prefer for such campaigns to achieve their ends simply by providing accurate information, but acknowledge that sometimes appealing to emotions or providing only selective information is more effective at changing behavior.

Selective information is one of those delightful euphemisms for lying. Because that’s what he really means — intentionally deceiving through selective information.

I understand that many Cato readers who are committed to libertarian principles could dislike any taxpayer-funded, government-managed campaign designed to promote healthy behavior.

Perhaps, but I think the readers would be even more outraged at using taxpayer-funded, government-managed campaigns that lie to the people.
Watch the great slight of hand that Jonathan uses here when talking about drugs:

To avoid any misunderstanding, when I used the word ‹drugŠ in the previous paragraph I meant the big four illegal drugs (marijuana, cocaine/crack, heroin, and meth). The statement also happens to be true of tobacco. I have no idea whether it applies to caffeine, and I do not much care. That is not, as the Erowids imply, because I do not think caffeine can reasonably be considered to be a psychoactive drug. It is simply because I do not think caffeine poses problems that merit public policy discussion or intervention. There are many serious problems associated with drug use and/or attempts to control use, including overdose, family dysfunction, crime, violence, corruption, etc. Caffeine barely registers on any of those metrics.

And why does marijuana register on those metrics? Because of prohibition.
Jonathan goes off the deep end a few other places, including a lack of comprehension in [12], but by now it’s hardly worth discussing, since he’s dug himself so deep a hole.
Mark Kleiman delivers a stirring call for decriminalization of marijuana use in [13]. It’s true that he has consistently felt that marijuana laws against consumption should be changed, although when talking with mainstream media, he tends to avoid mentioning that fact. He proposes the idea of allowing people to grow their own and distribute without selling, but is adamant about keeping all commerce illegal. This goes to his obsession with the harmful effects of Philip Morris marketing drugs — he is unable to imagine a practical legalization option that doesn’t involve massive marketing.

So I conclude that the ban on cannabis smoking Ö as opposed to cannabis commerce Ö cannot be justified, and that the majority in this instance acts wrongfully in restricting the liberty of the minority for no particular public purpose. That does not shake my conviction that allowing commercial marketing of cannabis along the lines currently permitted for alcohol would risk a very substantial increase in the level of abuse, as the legalization of the old ‹numbers gameŠ led to the substantial prevalence of problem lottery gambling we now observe.

Of course, Kleiman’s proposal leaves the black market intact, and potentially many of the abuses of the drug war, but it’s certainly better than what we have now.
All in all, an interesting discussion (even though somewhat limited, and lacking the voice of the public, except through blogs watching the debate). By the end of it, each of the players had relatively clearly established their position.
I’d like to see the Erowids get involved in more discussions — I think they have a lot to offer, even though it’s truly impossible to have a full reasoned discussion of drugs without drug policy rearing its ugly head. I think Jonathan Caulkins should find an occupation where intellectual activities are not required. I believe Mark Kleiman has the smarts to have something important to say, if he could just get past his fears and really look at the whole story with reason. And I believe that we need to do a better job of reminding people that prohibition isn’t free.
Cato Unbound concludes with a round-up of those blogs that provided “thought-provoking” contributions to the conversation.

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