Opposing prohibition is not designed to be a simple solution to the drug problem

It is, however, a simple solution to the drug prohibition problem.

Mark Kleiman has an interesting post: On caffeine-alcohol mixes. Not surprisingly, he’s in favor of a federal ban on such drinks. Also, not surprisingly, I don’t support such a ban. I’m in favor of considering studies, regulating, providing warnings, and providing appropriate limitations to use, but, while I don’t particularly care much about alcohol-caffeine mixes, bans don’t provide an increased societal “good” over regulation, and public policy generated as the result of public hysteria is the worst kind of public policy.

Mark used this particular ban to make a broader point about prohibition in general.

He made some good and appropriate points about the nature of drug use and prohibition…

4. Fighting drug abuse by reducing availability always has costs: loss of liberty, loss of the benefits of non-abusive drug-taking, and sometimes illicit markets and the need for enforcement. Good policy balances those control costs against the costs of abuse, looking for a system that minimizes total harm.

… but then concluded erroneously:

Consequently, anyone offering a simple “solution” to the drug abuse problem, in the form of maximum controls to produce a “drug-free society” or eliminating prohibitions in favor of “taxation and reguation” or “prevention and treatment” is peddling snake-oil. The costs of drug abuse, and the costs of drug abuse control measures, are both real and inevitable, and the grown-up approach requires facing the tradeoffs squarely rather than pretending they don’t exist.

Ah, yes, the both-sides-are-wrong meme shows up again. In Mark’s mind, people who are in favor of “eliminating prohibitions in favor of ‘taxation and regulation’ or ‘prevention and treatment'” are claiming to give a simple solution to the drug abuse problem, and therefore have not considered facing the tradeoffs. Mark is ignoring the entire basis of the legalization argument in order to pull this sleight of hand.

I like to turn to the quote from LEAP’s Peter Christ

Drug legalization is not to be construed as an approach to our drug problem. Drug legalization is about our crime and violence problem. Once we legalize drugs, we gotta then buckle down and start dealing with our drug problem.

Of course I’d add a list of about 20 more things after “crime and violence,” including corruption, over-incarceration, lost rights, destruction of families, bad foreign policy, etc., etc.

In comments over at The Reality-Based Community, Daksya does a good job of pointing out the problem with Kleiman’s argument, but it appears to go completely over the heads of the folks there, as nobody addresses it:

Consequently, anyone offering a simple “solution” to the drug abuse problem, … or eliminating prohibitions in favor of “taxation and reguation” … the grown-up approach requires facing the tradeoffs squarely rather than pretending they don’t exist.

At the base of drug policy, there is a binary choice to be made, either prohibition or accommodation. The prohibition can be tempered with some judicious leeway and accommodation can be constrained by some prudent barriers, but essentially, there are only two modes and one must be adopted. One of the fundamental deficits of prohibition is that, being an absolutist policy, it allows no room for engaging and developing a considered attitude towards its object, thus locking the policy ‘in’. Any attenuation of its instruments have to be defended in roundabout ways, and can’t be set appropriately given the rhetorical and/or ideological surface commitments.

Nice job, Daksya. Let me try to put it another way…

The “grown-up” approach of “facing tradeoffs squarely” doesn’t in any way require keeping prohibition, particularly if prohibition doesn’t limit the total overall harm to society any more than appropriate regulation does. And by any reasonable measurement, it doesn’t.

In a post-prohibition model, it is actually quite possible to face the tradeoffs and provide the best harm reduction model for each drug (recognizing the differences between drugs). Mandatory reading in this area: Transform’s After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation

In fact, it takes some major unsupported assumptions to believe that you can be a grown-up and face tradeoffs squarely while keeping prohibition as basis for your drug policy model.

Let’s take a look at total harm.

Under prohibition, you have:

  • Prohibition Harm (including crime, violence, corruption, incarceration, destruction of families, infringement on rights, harm to people who use drugs responsibly, interference with medical needs, foreign policy disasters, great expense, etc.)
  • — PLUS —

  • Drug Abuse Harm (including overdose, health costs, harm to others by abusers, etc. – obviously this is part of the harms under prohibition since drug abuse exists under prohibition)
  • –EQUALS —

  • Total harms under prohibition

Now, let’s take a look at total harms under regulation

  • Existing Drug Abuse Harm (this, for ease of simplifying equations, is the same as the line item under prohibition)
  • –MINUS–

  • Harm Reduction Value to Drug Abusers from Regulation (this is a real identifiable value from such things as regulated dosages reducing overdoses and drug poisonings, education reducing abuse (as with tobacco), reducing the stigma involved in getting help, etc.)
  • –PLUS–

  • (The harms resulting from a completely uncertain change in the rate of drug abuse as a result of legalization) – as mitigated by the Harm Reduction Value above. This refers to the notion that drug abuse (and not just use) will increase significantly with legalization, regardless of the regulation approach. It is a notion that is fervently believed by people like Mark Kleiman, but not supported by existing models (ie, Portugal. Those models are necessarily flawed, since no real legalization laboratory has been allowed, but on the other hand, the belief in significantly increased abuse appears to be mostly a matter of faith. There are also those who believe that there will be no significant increase in drug abuse under regulation.
  • –EQUALS–

  • Total harms under regulation

When you simplify the equations, it’s pretty clear:

For prohibition to be even an option in a policy that in a grown-up way compares trade-offs in harms to society and individuals, the unknown and unsupported “increase” in drug abuse harm, minus the harm reduction values of regulation to all drug abuse, must be greater than the very well known and established harms of prohibition.

With each drug out there, it is quite possible to craft a public policy of regulation that reduces the overall harm to society below what exists under prohibition. Therefore, there is no reason for us to consider prohibition as a viable tool in the crafting of drug policy.

Note, this shows that prohibition is not viable in a simple harm cost comparison. This doesn’t even include such additional factors as the basic immorality of prohibition as policy.

The argument might be made that prohibition can somehow be changed in such a way that it can exist without having great harm, but no such prohibition scheme has been demonstrated. The fact is that the most harmful aspects of prohibition have to do with its very basic nature (the creation of a black market) and are unlikely to be mitigated significantly by tinkering with sentencing reform.

It is not the legalizers who are peddling snake-oil. The prohibitionists are selling the quack medicine. In fact, what they are selling is poison — a concoction that fails to address the disease while killing the patient in other ways.

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54 Responses to Opposing prohibition is not designed to be a simple solution to the drug problem

  1. Mark Kleiman says:

    There are only two severely addictive drugs on which any country in the world has tried a policy other than prohibition: alcohol and nicotine. By some strange coincidence, each of them kills more people than all the prohibited drugs combined.

    Alcohol is also responsible for more violence and more arrests (for violations of various regulations) than all the prohibited drugs combined.

    So the faith that the post-prohibition world would have no more drug abuse than the existing world is just that: faith, the evidence of things unseen. Portugal’s decriminalization of use with continued prohibition of commerce provides exactly zero evidence about the effects of legalization of commerce, which is what “an end to prohibition” means in English.

    Show me a country where the taxation and regulation of alcohol, plus alcohol abuse prevention and treatment, have been successful enough to reduce alcohol abuse to some supportable level – say, to the point where alcohol kills fewer people than cocaine – and then we can talk about whether that same system might succeed with some other drug.

    Footnote I would have thought that the minimum one might expect of a post-prohibition regime would be a ban on dangerous combinations. But apparently not, in your mind. Even after it’s been shown that people who drink alcohol-and-caffeine combinations are several times more likely to drive away drunk than those who don’t, you reject a regulation forbidding the mixture. You seem to support only regulations that don’t actually regulate anything.

  2. Pete says:

    Mark, a ban is a prohibition, not a regulation. How can you have a post-prohibition regime with bans? That doesn’t even make sense. Of course, I support regulations on dangerous combinations, but a ban is not regulation — a ban is the absence of regulation or control. It simply puts it in the hands of the black market.

    Your arguments about alcohol and tobacco don’t work, because you can’t show a situation where prohibition reduced the overall harm to society with either of those drugs, or where legalization produced an increase in overall harm to society. The fact is, we managed to significantly reduce the harm of tobacco to society, and we did it without prohibition. I daresay that prohibition would have prevented those efforts.

    And you break your own rules. You say “1. All habit-forming intoxicants are alike, and each of them is different from the others.” And yet you continue to insist that alcohol consumption is the model for all other drugs, when it is obvious that such a notion is ridiculous.

    To believe that cocaine, for example, would reach the level of popularity of use/abuse of alcohol, assumes that there would be no greater social stigma for its use than there is for alcohol — patently untrue, and that a regulatory scheme that could be crafted for cocaine would be the same as for beer — simply ludicrous.

    In fact, you have to cheat somewhat in your “insights.” You say “To making a habit-forming drug widely and cheaply available, with heavy marketing, means that a substantial number of people are going to wind up miserable.” and so you assume that the only regulatory scheme possible for any possible drug is widely and cheaply available with heavy marketing. Can you think of no other? Again, I point you to Transform’s “Blueprint.”

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  4. Duncan20903 says:

    Goddammit Pete, haven’t I told you that you need to stop making sense? Ah well, maybe I’m wrong about MK coming over from the dark side. Never try to teach a pig to whistle. You only annoy the pig and make yourself sad whenever you eat a ham sandwich.

    Didn’t you people know that the reason Four Loko has to go is because it’s been cutting into Coca Cola sales and Warren Buffet is none to happy? How will he ever overtake Mr. Gates as the richest sumbitch on the planet if Coca Cola sales are off?

  5. Duncan20903 says:

    Hey Mark, WTF are you talking about? Heroin, cocaine, and cannabis were all legal in the US until the early part of the 20th century. Sigmund Freud was totally queer for cocaine and promoted its use heavily, as well as used it heavily. Did you know good old Siggy was the Cocaine doctor before he projected his particular mental illness onto the rest of humanity and invented the “science” of phyisiakeyatree? Heroin was a product of Bayer and was sold over the counter as a cold remedy. You could get it from the Sears Catalog with a pre loaded syringe. Now if you’re going to argue that these were medicines and no-one bought them to get high, you’re shooting your own argument in the foot. But goddammit Mr. You Can’t Choose Your Own Facts, where are all the people complaining about rampant drug addiction in the middle to late 1800s?

    Oh Mark, do you call the Swiss heroin law prohibition? The one the reaffirmed in 2008 with a vote of more than 2-1? The one which provides pharmaceutical grade heroin to their “incurable” heroin addicts for free? Please remember one of the favorite straw men of the Know Nothings is “Needle Park” in Zurich. Zurich is in Switzerland. Yes, they closed it down, admitted that plan had failed. Wow, what a novel idea, recognizing failure and trying to figure out what works instead of knee jerking to prohibition.

    We had Opium Dens in the late 1800s which caused a lot of complaints. Complaints that they attracted Chinamen. Chinamen being slightly more detestable than the Mexicans who enjoyed cannabis. The Opium Dens had to be shut down to get rid of the Chinamen, Cocaine to keep Negroes from raping white women, and cannabis had to go; on the left coast to get rid of the wetback and on the right coast there were the Negroes, seducing all the white women with their grossly oversized members, satanic jazz, and some reefer. Negroes were very much a problem back then because they kept a lot of white men from ever getting laid. Harry Anslinger couldn’t even hire a hooker because of the Negroes! Harry did get laid once. She said “Harry, give me 12 inches and make it hurt!” So Harry fucked her 4 times and punched her in the face.

    There were hashish dens in the 1800s, very popular, very ubiquitous, no problems noticed except the occasional shortage of chocolate. If you’re interested in factual reality, read “Confessions of a Hasheesh Eater” by Fitz Hugh Ludlow, first published in 1857. It’s available for purchase on an Internet connection near you!

    Christ I am so bummed out by you Mr. Kleiman. I really did believe you had a truth fetish and would come around because you couldn’t help yourself, but now I see I was wrong. Just another Know Nothing clown with no regard whatever for the truth. What happened Mark, did the truth kick in your doors and shoot your dogs? Did it make a Negro seduce your wife? C’mon, enquiring minds want to know how you can so hate the poor little truth and run a website with that name. Did you buy it from someone else and agree to keep the name? Good lord I really can’t believe you used the “it’s never been legal anywhere canard”. Shame on you man, shame!

    Cocaine was a significant problem in 1914?

    NEGRO COCAINE “FIENDS” ARE A NEW SOUTHERN MENACE; Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower Class Blacks Because They Have Taken to “Sniffing” Since Deprived of Whisky by Prohibition.


    I do hope you know that some states enacted drinking alcohol prohibition before the Feds passed the Volstead Act in 1920.

    Maybe Mark’s problem is that his dog can’t get it up. There’s nothing more distracting that a dog with a limp dick. His dog likely has CED and could benefit from using Bonerol:

    How To Treat CED (Canine Erectile Dysfunction) :


    Warning: graphic sex acts throughout including dog on human leg bestiality.

  6. Steve Clay says:

    With each drug out there, it is quite possible to craft a public policy of regulation that reduces the overall harm to society below what exists under prohibition.

    Sorry, you’ve not proved this assertion (if it can be at all). I know you’ve read Drug War Heresies, where they present much more involved versions of your harm equations. The unknowns of increased usage/removed stigma are particularly great when you head into the area of commercialized markets. W/R/T cannabis I’d certainly suspect it to be true, but we’re all just guessing based on the best available evidence.

    I have to agree with Mark that the new ban seems like a regulation, whether or not I agree with it. Would you suggest we could never ban the combination of cannabis and tobacco, even though such a combination would surely suck many one-time/occasional pot smokers into a more harmful nicotine addiction? Alcohol and cocaine?

  7. daksya says:

    Mark Kleiman: There are only two severely addictive drugs on which any country in the world has tried a policy other than prohibition: alcohol and nicotine. By some strange coincidence, each of them kills more people than all the prohibited drugs combined.

    In the case of tobacco, there are atleast the following factors at work:

    1)Nicotine’s psychoactivity is mostly transparent i.e. subtle, allowing it to be used while engaged with daily life.
    2)The toxicity of tobacco use, mostly imparted by nicotine’s fellow passengers in the smoke stream, occur after sustained regular use spanning decades. Humans severely discount such a danger. They have to be goaded/shamed into doing otherwise.
    3)Factor 1 combined with the short duration of nicotine’s effect leads to a situation where a typical consumer usually ends up imbibing an amount sufficient for tobacco toxicity to manifest. It would be different if there were some negative feedback resulting from acute use or over the short term, but there isn’t.

    Alcohol is an established part of Western culture, due to historical circumstances, and now established around the world thanks to the hegemony of the capitalistic West. But Prohibition was tried, and rejected. One core problem of alcohol use is that it is very weakly potent in terms of its psychoactivity, but being a simple molecule interacts with most organ systems at different, often stronger potencies. A drink with GBH or like substance in the same pharmacological class could be something to look at.

    None of these points apply to the common illegal drugs i.e. cannabis, cocaine, opiates, stimulant amphetamines, MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, other psychedelics…etc. They all have some undesirable feedback either in acute course of use or in the short term even if those effects aren’t severe. More importantly, there’s no established mainstream culture surrounding these drugs, with the exception of cannabis, among the least problematic of the illegal drugs.

    Legalization will not be adopted in front of an amnesiac veil that hides our experiences of drug prohibition or tobacco control. This isn’t Groundhog Day.


    I think one of the core reasons that alcohol abuse can’t be addressed effectively is the existence of drug prohibition. The implicit (and occasionally explicit) attitude conveyed is that if something is a drug, then it’s somehow inherently evil, that its use near-inevitably leads to bad outcomes. Now, since all these drugs are banned, but alcohol isn’t, then that means alcohol can’t be a drug. And public messages end up maintaining that distinction; Even prohibitionist policy attitudes spill over in matters such as drinking while pregnant. Switching alcohol over to the drug paradigm while drug prohibition is in effect requires maintaining a cognitive dissonance, IMHO, beyond the ken of the public.

  8. Windy says:

    Excellent advice from the past on prohibition:

    “Prohibition was introduced as a fraud; it has been nursed as a fraud. It is wrapped in the livery of Heaven, but it comes to serve the devil. It comes to regulate by law our appetites and our daily lives. It comes to tear down liberty and build up fanaticism, hypocrisy, and intolerance. It comes to confiscate by legislative decree the property of many of our fellow citizens. It comes to send spies, detectives, and informers into our homes; to have us arrested and carried before courts and condemned to fines and imprisonments. It comes to dissipate the sunlight of happiness, peace, and prosperity in which we are now living and to fill our land with alienations, estrangements, and bitterness. It comes to bring us evil– only evil– and that continually. Let us rise in our might as one and overwhelm it with such indignation that we shall never hear of it again as long as grass grows and water runs.” -Roger Q. Mills, 1887

  9. malcolm kyle says:

    Mark Kleiman, you appear to be living in some strange parallel universe, one where prohibition actually works. Prohibition of alcohol increased the consumption of alcohol. Properly regulating it again in 1933 brought a decrease in consumption. The consumption of marijuana in the Netherlands, where it’s sale is de-facto legal, is far lower than in the US. And here’s what the Swiss have achieved with their regulation of heroin: http://tinyurl.com/5s5g9t

    Here is part of the testimony of Judge Alfred J Talley, given before the Senate Hearings of 1926. Kindly try to notice the similarities to what we’re experiencing today concerning the ‘at present’ prohibited substances:

    “For the first time in our history, full faith and confidence in and respect for the hitherto sacred Constitution of the United States has been weakened and impaired because this terrifying invasion of natural rights has been engrafted upon the fundamental law of our land, and experience has shown that it is being wantonly and derisively violated in every State, city, and hamlet in the country.”

    “It has made potential drunkards of the youth of the land, not because intoxicating liquor appeals to their taste or disposition, but because it is a forbidden thing, and because it is forbidden makes an irresistible appeal to the unformed and immature. It has brought into our midst the intemperate woman, the most fearsome and menacing thing for the future of our national life.”

    “It has brought the sickening slime of corruption, dishonor, and disgrace into every group of employees and officials in city, State, and Federal departments that have been charged with the enforcement of this odious law.”


    And the following paragraphs are from WALTER E. EDGE’s testimony, a Senator from New Jersey:

    “Any law that brings in its wake such wide corruption in the public service, increased alcoholic insanity, and deaths, increased arrests for drunkenness, home barrooms, and development among young boys and young women of the use of the flask never heard of before prohibition can not be successfully defended.”

    “I unhesitatingly contend that those who recognize existing evils and sincerely endeavor to correct them are contributing more toward temperance than those who stubbornly refuse to admit the facts.”

    “The opposition always proceeds on the theory that give them time and they will stop the habit of indulging in intoxicating beverages. This can not be accomplished. We should recognize our problem is not to persist in the impossible, but to recognize a situation and bring about common-sense temperance through reason.”

    “This is not a campaign to bring back intoxicating liquor, as is so often claimed by the fanatical dry. Intoxicating liquor is with us to-day and practically as accessible as it ever was. The difference mainly because of its illegality, is its greater destructive power, as evidenced on every hand. The sincere advocates of prohibition welcome efforts for real temperance rather than a continuation of the present bluff.”


    And here is Julien Codman’s testimony, who was a member of the Massachusetts bar.

    “we will produce additional evidence on this point, that it is not appropriate legislation to enforce the eighteenth amendment; that it has done incredible harm instead of good; that as a temperance measure it has been a pitiable failure; that it as failed to prevent drinking; that it has failed to decrease crime; that, as a matter of fact, it has increased both; that it has promoted bootlegging and smuggling to an extent never known before”

    “We believe that the time has come for definite action, but it is impossible to lay before Congress any one bill which, while clearly within the provisions of the Constitution, will be a panacea for the evils that the Volstead Act has caused. We must not be vain enough to believe, as the prohibitionists do, that the age-old question of the regulation of alcohol can be settled forever by the passage of a single law. With the experience of the Volstead law as a warning, it behooves us to proceed with caution, one step at a time, to climb out of the legislative well into which we have been pushed.”

    “If you gentlemen are satisfied, after hearing the evidence supplemented by the broad general knowledge which each of you already possesses, that the remedy that will tend most quickly to correct the wretched social conditions that now exist, to promote temperance, find to allay the discontent and unrest that the Volstead Act has caused, is to be found in the passage of one of the proposed bills legalizing the production of beer of an alcoholic content of 4 per cent or less. We do not claim that it will do away with all the evils produced by attempted prohibition, but it would be a step in the right direction.”


  10. strayan says:

    “There are only two severely addictive drugs on which any country in the world has tried a policy other than prohibition: alcohol and nicotine. By some strange coincidence, each of them kills more people than all the prohibited drugs combined.”

    By some “strange coincidence”!?

    My good sir, both alcohol and tobacco have been heavily marketed for most of last century. Tobacco used to be promoted by doctors. Alcohol is often still is. Where I come from you are bombarded with liquor adverts at sporting events, the grocery store, the theatre, everywhere.

    No, my good sir, it is no “strange coincidence” that tobacco and alcohol use sky rocketed when you take this into account.

    Meanwhile in California, smoking tobacco has declined by 40% since Proposition 99 (tax and regulate cigarettes) was passed in 1988. What’s that? A 40% reduction in use without the need for tobacco prohibition? How can that be?

    “The adult smoking prevalence declined by more than 40% from 22.7% to 13.3% [in 2008] since the passage of Proposition 99 in 1988.” http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/tobacco/Documents/CTCPAdultSmoking_10.pdf

    How anyone can oppose the taxation and regulation of prohibited drugs in the face of this evidence is beyond me.

  11. malcolm kyle says:

    Just couldn’t resist another head-shot:

    Mark Kleiman, I’m sure that all of us here are aware of what meth and cocaine do, and also what alcohol and tobacco do. The point we’re making is that Prohibition causes far worse problems, like massive crime and suffering, government/police corruption, causes America to have the highest prison population of any country in the history of this planet, causes Americans to lose all their rights and all their true values, causes the waste of trillions in taxpayer dollars, causes wars, causes violence and death in other countries, funds criminals, funds terrorists, weakens our defense and ignores every single conservative principle.

    * Ten thousand Mexicans died in the last twelve months alone and many more are fleeing a civil war imposed on them by our failed policy of drug prohibition. – – Accusations of a “corrupt” Mexican government protecting certain cartels have been around for decades. Investigative reporters say they have solid evidence showing that authorities are going after other cartels, but not targeting the largest one which is the Sinaloa cartel.

    * The U.S. comprises 5 percent of the world’s population yet uses 60 percent of the world’s drugs. The prohibition on these drugs has been waged for 70 years and has cost $1.5 trillion. — Have you ever watched the drug war clock as it ticks away all our hard earned tax dollars? http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock

    * The drug war actually encompasses everyone of us. The prohibited Drugs kill far less people than drug prohibition.

    * The prison system under prohibition worsens both the drug epidemic and the AIDS epidemic.

    * A potential tax payer is turned into a tax burden every time prison is used to enforce prohibition.

    * 87 percent of drug users are white yet 74 percent of people sentenced for drug possession are black. Whites do most of the ‘crime’ but blacks do most of the time. — 8.2% of whites and 10.1% of blacks using illicit drugs. Now look at the incarceration statistics:

    (2007 – incarceration rate by race) “The custody incarceration rate for black males was 4,618 per 100,000.
    while the incarceration rate of white males was 773 per 100,000.

    This means that there are at least 5 times more blacks incarcerated for drug offenses than should be expected. This is clearly a gross injustice!

    * Teachers with a college degree start at around $32,000 annually and a university professor with a Ph.D. starts at around $47,000 annually, but prison guards with a GED or high school diploma earn $50,000 + overtime pay. Is it no wonder that their Union constantly lobbies against reform? http://tinyurl.com/34mvgna

    * Without the legalized regulation of opium products Afghanistan will continue to be a bottomless pit in which to throw countless billions of tax dollars and wasted American lives.

    So you see, Mark, the damage done by prohibition is costing us far more, and is far worse, than all the damage caused by all of the ‘at present’ prohibited drugs combined. And it’s happening NOW! –BTW, please refrain now from claiming that legalized regulation will mean more users, because all the evidence points to the opposite effect.

    By its very nature, prohibition cannot fail but create a vast increase in criminal activity, and rather than preventing society from descending into anarchy, it actually fosters an anarchic business model – the international Drug Trade. Any decisions concerning quality, quantity, distribution and availability are then left in the hands of unregulated, anonymous and ruthless drug dealers, who are interested only in the huge profits involved. Thus the allure of this reliable and lucrative industry with it’s enormous income potential that consistently outweighs the risks associated with the illegal operations that such a trade entails, will remain with us until we are collectively forced to admit the obvious.

    Neurotics build castles in the sky, psychotics live in them; the concept of a “Drug-Free Society” is a neurotic fantasy and Prohibition’s ills are a product of this psychotic delusion.

  12. Jake says:

    I personally don’t think that high-caffeine and high alcohol content drinks are a good idea.. but banning them is just the simpletons approach. Any method of drug taking that allows you to take in a large amount of one or more drugs isn’t really a sensible idea… however, I can go buy Vodka and Red Bull.. or even caffeine tablets if I so choose and take them all at once.. there is nothing to stop me from doing that. Instead of a ban, what about promoting sensible use, through both education and pricing. Here in the UK we are struggling to get minimum alcohol unit pricing approved as there are lots of vested interests (health policy cannot be made by people who have interests in products profits). Would a better solution to that 4Loco drink not be to raise the tax on such products amd set max alcohol/caffeine limits per 100ml – if it cost twice and wasn’t as strong do you think it would cause as much problems?! Banning advertising and sponsorship from alcoholic drinks companies would also do far more to reduce harms, use and abuse than anything suggested.

    Also, @Mark Kleinman.. what is so bad about taking drugs? Our species has been doing this longer than written history records.. yes some people have problems with drugs but instead of punishing the majority why not help the minority – and drug ABUSE, which is very different to USE, usually stems from other causes such as poverty, abuse etc. not the drugs themselves. Even if use went up in a regulated environment (which is not guaranteed by any means), said use would be far safer as you would get a cleaner, measured product. Why is it that our ‘leaders’ can stand up at G8 summits charging glasses of champagne, a mind-altering substance, but if they chose another their career would be over… we seem to accept masses of deaths, disease and violence from alcohol/tobacco, but any kind of crime committed even relating to other drugs is just unacceptable.. surely you must see some of the hypocrisy here???

  13. claygooding says:

    It is a shame that someone with MK’s education and practical experience with addiction issues stands up for prohibition,even when all evidence supports that the harms to society caused by prohibition are much more damaging than the drugs themselves.
    How much money do you make Mark with your court supported
    addiction treatment services?

  14. ezrydn says:


    I won’t question the virility of your dog. Instead, I’ll simply ask you to go to the library or wherever it may be located and peruse a copy of the 1904 edition of Sear, Robuck & Company catalogue.

    In the drug section, note what’s being sold, and at what price. After that shock wears off, research the drug abuse percentage for that same period.

    Somehow, you’ve bought into the “there ain’t no way” mentality. You’ve just decided it can’t happen. Probably due to laws on the books. Those laws on the books need to be changed. You know it and well as the rest of us.

    Instead of telling us what WON’T work, try telling us what would.

  15. Pete says:

    I want to thank Mark Kleiman for coming here and responding. And I ask all commenters to please treat him with respect for doing so. Disagree, yes, but with civility.

  16. primus says:

    If we are to ban alcohol and caffeine drinks, is it not logical that we then ban a rum and coke? (Coke contains caffeine) In that case, the only soda that could be used as a mix would be Seven Up, because it is the only one without caffeine. Even some bottled waters contain this drug, so a rye and water could then be illegal. What malarky.

  17. Pete says:

    Pete: With each drug out there, it is quite possible to craft a public policy of regulation that reduces the overall harm to society below what exists under prohibition.

    Steve: Sorry, you’ve not proved this assertion (if it can be at all). I know you’ve read Drug War Heresies, where they present much more involved versions of your harm equations. The unknowns of increased usage/removed stigma are particularly great when you head into the area of commercialized markets. W/R/T cannabis I’d certainly suspect it to be true, but we’re all just guessing based on the best available evidence.

    You’re absolutely right that I cannot prove that assertion (as I said, no exactly equivalent laboratory has been allowed to exist) but there’s much less ability to prove the notion that there will magically be such an incredible amount of increased abuse from any form of regulated legalization that the harm from the extra abusers (after being mitigated by the harm reduction of regulation) would be more than the harms from prohibition.

    And why do you specify “commercialized markets?” There’s no requirement that a legalized market for heroin be commercialized. (Again, please read “Blueprint.”) You could have some version of the Swiss model adapted for more than just hard-core addicts.

    I’m saying that there is at least one regulatory scheme for each drug (probably not involving half-naked girls at football games) where any increased harm from additional abuse is more than offset by the reduction of harm in use of that drug under regulation combined with the reduction of prohibition harms.

    It’s not necessary to prove that all models of legalization are superior to prohibition (although that may be true as well). Only that one of them is.

    And yes, I have read MacCoun and Reuter’s work, and while I find it useful, the overall emphasis on user harms over prohibition harms does not seem to strike a proper balance.

  18. allan420 says:

    In a recent incident up north in WA… several college students were taken to the hospital. Initial LE and news report echoes said “it was probably GHB” but it wasn’t… it was this alcohol/caffeine shit. In acts of severe common sense, store owners and chains are pulling the item from their shelves and won’t be selling it in the future.

    And yes, tobacco consumption was reduced around 50% in the last 30 years or so. Surely the drug nazis were knocking down doors and shooting corgis on a daily basis… what? What’s that? Education??? WTF! People were handed the truth, shown graphic examples of health risks and consequences and voluntarily quit? Well great googliemooglie!

    So gosh… we can lie for another hunnert years or start educating now… a funny think about the truth, people will accept a hard truth better than they will accept being manipulated and lied to.

    Prohibition is a lie, it breeds violence and corruption and fuels the disaster inherent in unregulated quality controls for consumables.

    Please Mark, go talk to Joe McNamara, Howard W and Willie.

    Then get back to us.

  19. darkcycle says:

    Prior to 1937, Marijuana was legal, and in the 1800’s so was cocaine and Heroin. Freely sold and distributed, marijuana had tempted about 5% of the population. Today, under marijuana prohibition the percentage of the population that has tried Marijuana is over 40%. Alcohol Prohibition occasioned a huge jump in alcohol consumption (along with that famous prohibition murder rate), particularly among the youth. Today, we have multiple studies that indicate that marijuana is more readily accessible to high school age kids than beer.
    Any assessments of the trade offs involved with legalization needs to include an HONEST recognition of the costs of criminalization to our society. But all of that has been more than adequately addressed by my ‘colleagues’ here at he rant in earlier posts. For my part I’d like to point out that absent from your argument is any real acknowledgement of the impacts of prohibition on the individual. Is it reasonable to deprive people of their freedom, continued education, and ability to provide for their families based on the ingestion of a substance demonstrably less toxic than SALT? Proportionality is a core principal of our legal system, the concept that the punishment should fit the crime. We don’t condemn shoplifters to death, we don’t hang people for car theft, and we generally don’t imprison people for getting a single parking ticket. The prohibition scheme turns this principal on it’s ear. The fact is that people don’t follow laws for which they feel disdain, no matter what the punishment. And as Pete has pointed out, if I’m allowed to paraphrase: The people involved in the drug trade realize that one of the inherent risks is being shot in the head and stuffed in a trunk. When someone has accepted a calculation like that what is it about a short prison term that will deter them?
    In the old Soviet system a black market transaction would get you sent to Gulag, or executed. At times it was impossible to get shoes anywhere but the black market…..did people go without shoes? Black Markets are more of a threat to society that the drugs that occasion them. They undermine our productivity by the siphoning of HUGE volumes our national wealth, sending that actual value into the shadows. It occasions more crimes, to combat the black market we have laws against money laundering, etc…. New criminality added to enforce the old, unenforceable prohibitions…. Mr. Kleiman, your reality based assessment needs more reality.

  20. BluOx says:

    I find the comments full of usefull info. I hope that kleiman does too. I also enjoy a little incivility now and then. There is nothing civil, or sensible, about prohibition.

  21. darkcycle says:

    P.S. Mr. Kleiman, as has been pointed out before, but may bear repeating: Your use of the modifier “heavily marketed” is disingenuous. I doubt if there will be any marketing or advertising allowed as pertains to Cannabis. Marketing of tobacco is already restricted by law, and the marketing of Liquor is limited voluntarily by the beverage industry.

  22. Mark Kleiman says:

    Every regulation is a prohibition of something. A regulation limiting the alcohol content of distilled drinks to 151 proof is a ban on anything stronger. A regulation forbidding harmful tobacco additives would be a ban on almost all currently sold brands of cigarettes. An age limit is a ban on sales to those younger than that. The notion that calling your rules “regulations” rather than “prohibitions” means that they do no harm, infringe on no liberty, generate no violations, and require no enforcement is magical thinking. Once you’ve figured that out, the whole debate over “prohibition” dissolves into mist. With that demystification accomplished, we can start to argue about precisely what we want to prohibit (regulate against) and what we want to permit, and at what price. (Higher prices via higher taxes, not “education,” have been the main driver in reducing tobacco prevalence in the U.S. since 1990.)

    The Dutch toleration of retail cannabis sales is nothing like like full-on legalization. Growing is still illegal, and growers can’t advertise their brands. Prices are virtually identical to illicit-market prices elsewhere in Europe and in the U.S.: about $10/gm for sinsemilla. As a legal product, sensemilla would sell for about a tenth of that (before tax), according to the RAND analysis.

    And no, providing heroin to a select group of hard-core addicts under very tight conditions (restricted on consumption on premises, with no take-homes allowed) is not the same as “legalizing heroin.” If it is, I’m for drug legalization, because I have no objection in principle to heroin maintenance as opposed to maintenance using methadone or buprenorphine or LAAM. The choice of medicines should depend on the circumstances. (I’d also be fine with selling cocaine leaf and dilute oral cocaine products such as mate de coca and the original Coke.) In the minds of mindless drug-war fanatics, that makes me a supporter of “drug legalization.” But I’m against their free commercial sale. In the minds of mindless anti-prohibition fanatics, that makes me a supporter of “prohibition.”

    In fact, I’m a supporter of the use of reason and evidence in the difficult task of crafting harm-minimizing policies toward the problem of drug abuse. If that turns out to mean, as Pete insists without any evidence, that no drug should be substitute to a complete ban, I’d be surprised but not upset. But vague hand-waving doesn’t do the job. Show me the policies, and the means of enforcing them. Then let’s talk.

  23. darkcycle says:

    So then Mr. Kleiman, what we actually have is a scheme of “enhanced regulation’ of Cannabis? Garbage. Sir. Cloaking inadequate arguments by redefining terms. I had expected more.

  24. malcolm kyle says:

    Mark Kleiman, apart from being full of strawmen, your post appears to be nothing but an obfuscation of the present situation.

    Prohibition is not true regulation, not even in the slightest.

    Who, now, controls the purity? : The cartels and the street punks
    Who sets the age limits? : The cartels and the street punks
    Who decides the opening hours? : The cartels and the street punks
    Who settles the trade disputes? : The cartels and the street punks
    And who gets to keep all of the profits? : The cartels and the street punks

    You can do all the wishful thinking you like, but there’s one fact that’s chiseled in the concrete where some of the victims of this moronathon are hidden. -Prohibition is not regulation; it’s a hideous nightmare for all of us and our families, except of course for the lowest lifeforms among us.

    What we now do with alcohol and tobacco is known as legalized regulation. There is no other term for it.
    What the Swiss now do with heroin is also legalized regulation. Abeit with far tighter controls than for alcohol or tobacco.

    Legalization is only a so called ‘free-for-all’ in the mind of prohibitionists.

    And if it’s education you want (just like us) maybe we should start with demanding that The National Institute on Drug Abuse.stop their policy of lying to us about the dangers of drugs (particularly marijuana).

    And to repeat myself; you’re falsely assuming that usage would rise with legalized regulation, but all the evidence before us points to the opposite; The WHO survey of 17 countries finds that the United States has the highest usage rates for nearly all illegal substances.

    In the U.S. 42.4 percent admitted having used marijuana. The only other nation that came close was New Zealand, another bastion of get-tough policies, at 41.9 percent. The results for cocaine use were similar, with the U.S. again leading the world by a large margin.

    Here is a very recent article by a psychiatrist from Amsterdam, exposing Drug Czar misinformation http://tinyurl.com/247a8mp

    The Portuguese government decriminalized the personal possession of all drugs in 2001. Five years later, the number of deaths from overdoses dropped from 400 to 290 annually, and the number of new HIV cases plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to about 400

  25. darkcycle says:

    I admire Mr. kleiman, He has the courage to put his views before the public, and he does a good job of defending his positions for the most part. And he deserves it for his willingness to enter this den of lions. For my own part, I wouldn’t want to take on any of this crowd. Thank you for your participation, Mr. K.

  26. obviously mark isn’t interested in debate as he just did one of his usual fly-bys here (no doubt after a “who’s mentioning my name” news alert). but on the off chance that he does (and with the hope that people will start catching on to the fact that pictures are more effective than words), please, anyone, explain why you think law has anything to do with the popularity and use of any given substance given the decades of evidence suggesting quite the opposite:


    as usual, click the pictures to drill into the data.

    and gee, how could anyone ever find out about such things? searching google for drug popularity returns 9.8 million hits

  27. rita says:

    Why do efforts to legalize freedom always have to come with a caveat about preventing drug use or curing addiction? Addiction, recreation or medical, drug use is an intensely personal choice that every adult citizen of a free country should be free to make. And should we adults desire advice or assisance, well, that’s what doctors are for.

  28. darkcycle says:

    Rita, Addiction is not a choice. It is a disease, one of the symptoms, incidentally, is that it robs the individual of the ability to make rational choices.

  29. Duncan20903 says:

    Would you suggest we could never ban the combination of cannabis and tobacco, even though such a combination would surely suck many one-time/occasional pot smokers into a more harmful nicotine addiction?

    Ban it all you like, but how the heck do you think that’s going to stop people from inventing, oh I don’t know, let’s go with something stunningly farfetched like hollowing out cigars and loading them with cannabis? Can you look at me with a straight face and bluntly say that it could never happen if we pass a law? Don’t you people have any requirement that your methods actually produce the results which you claim is your goal before you insist on their implementation?

    Why is it that you only need specualtion without any significant evidentiary basis that your suggested prohibition would result in your claimed benefit, and that the subsequent unintended consequences of your insisting on forcing your baseless speculation down the throats of free people, going into their homes and micromanaging their lives to save them from their own choices will actually produce the desired benefit without a significant corresponding denigration of society caused by the inevitable black market? They destroyed villages to save them in the Vietnam non-war.

    http://tinyurl.com/grateful-to-the-gubmint-jpg <—graphic, disturbing images. parental discretion advised.

    Why is it that you people are so in love with organized criminals that you keep suggesting laws which will enrich and empower them? Don't you think banning the sniffing of model airplane glue to get high is more important than premixed caffeine and alcohol concerns?

    I wonder if you know that there's still a thriving market for VCR head cleaning fluid? The most popular brand name is "Rush". The market for VCRs is a long time dead but people still buy the perfectly legal "head cleaner". No false advertising there, that shit will certainly clean all of the brain cells out of your head with significant habituation of use. Perfectly legal with which to get high. But you people are worried about premixed rum & coca cola. Goddammit you make my brain hurt! Stop it!


    You people act as if the only thing that matters is your good intentions. I'll stipulate that you are indeed full of good intentions. You've got good intentions coming out of your ears and all your other orfices. Your entire being is one of good intentions and simply based on love and concern for your fellow man. Well my friend, I've heard that Mr. Lucifer got some of the yOmama stimulus money and is using it to build a new Highway to Hell. So you can take your good intentions and sell them to the Lucifer Road Construction Company, Inc. for paving material, because that's really the only use for them. But the good news is that you can make some money and at the same time help the US out of the financial calamity resulting from the pillaging of the US Treasury by the Dork President and his faithful ward, Dickhead Cheney.

    I must admit I'm not sure if there is a ready market for straw men, I see you have quite a supply of those in stock. I can check into that for you but I'll need a percentage or a flat fee to do so. The good news is that I'm a cheap date.


    Good news people, Louisiana has passed a law that requires voluntary testing of the mental health of their lawmakers! Now let's see if they're stupid enough to volunteer. Straight jacket sales are about to skyrocket in Louisiana!

    It was attached as an amendment requiring the voluntary drug testing of the same lawmakers, which was a rider on a bill to implement a mandatory minimum of a $250 fine and 48 hours of jail time for 2nd offense petty possession of cannabis. Fuck the epic environmental disaster and the budget crisis that never seems to stop. Put them potheads in the graybar hotel!


    So why did it take Willie Nelson getting persecuted for me to notice this? This was May of 2010, not ancient history. I went to find out how the heck he got away with a misdemeanor for possession of a pound and a half in Louisiana, and this popped up. I thought it likely that it was his successful use of the "I'm friggin' Wllie Nelson" defense but was surprised to learn that the quantity is unimportant on first offense possession in Louisiana. It's all a misdemeanor. I wonder if someone unknown wouldn't get charged with "intent to distribute" though.

  30. darkcycle says:

    Duncan, for ordinary people posession of folding money is enough to land an “intent” charge. Or an extra baggie. Or a scale. Or even being on the wrong block.

  31. Julian says:

    The most disheartening part of all this is that everything Mark Kleiman has said so far is addressed in Transform’s “Blueprint” which can only lead an educated person to infer that either Kleiman lacks the mental capcity to understand “Blueprint” or he has not read it. Since he doesn’t seem like an uneducated man I would have to lean towards the latter. So I would encourage you, Mark Kleiman, to please read the report. I understanding it is long and one may find it easier to just not read it and assume they already know what it is going to say and that it is wrong. So please read the report. It addresses policie schemes. It addresses enforcement. It addresses abuse. It addresses illegal markets. It addresses addiction and treatment. It addresses just about everything a government could need to know to take the appropriate steps towards harm reduction policies. It does all that because that is what it was designed to do. To be used as a Blueprint by a government for harm reduction policies.

    To make judgements with out facts is to perpetuate ignorance. This report offeres facts, gather them and then make your judgements. So again I urge you. Please Read The Report.

  32. darkcycle says:

    I just got it. “Reality-BASED”. Now it’s clear. Just like fertilizer companies: “Organic-based” plant nutrients are NOT organic….just organic BASED.

  33. Steve Clay says:


    I doubt if there will be any marketing or advertising allowed as pertains to Cannabis.

    Uh, yeah. Guess you’ve not been to Oakland, or opened up a High Times, etc. The alcohol industry “regulating itself” is a joke, too. Transform UK is the only drug policy group advocating banning advertising, but notice no such bans are ever included initiatives like Prop 19. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    @Pete: OK, by “regulatory scheme” I wasn’t sure if you meant legal availability for any seeking adult or more like expanded heroin maintenance, etc. I’ve read most of Blueprint and I agree some/all of those regulations should be tried.

    But I think Mark has a good point. Meaningful regulation is a prohibition of some kind. “Legal cannabis for adults” means there will still be a prohibition for the big majority of active cannabis smokers (who are under 21). How would we “end the prohibition” of popular prescription painkillers, which are already legal and regulated? It becomes a matter of degrees.

  34. Duncan20903 says:

    Yo DC, what do you believe is the etiology of degenerate addiction*? I believe it’s something we DAs are born with, and that there’s no way that someone who isn’t already born into it can “develop” the pathology. Sure, anyone can go in the hospital and come out physically addicted to opiates or whatever. But most people kick the habit without too much problem, only some “mild discomfort”. The remainder end up buying heroin on the street corner and taking up a life of crime to finance it. Wanna engage in some educated speculation?

    *(Yes, that’s my name for it. I use that because IMO every one that has it is a degenerate and is also degenerating. This does include myself back in the day. I realize no one else uses it but I think it more accurately describes the actual pathology than the single word “addiction”. Oh, it also includes those who prefer drinking alcohol as their drug of choice.)

  35. darkcycle says:

    Uh, Clay….I hate to point out that marijuana is still illegal, no regulatory system has been set up. Proposed, yes, implemented, no. Oakland is the wild west right now, it’s an unregulated experiment precisely because pot is still illegal. I’m a contributor to High Times, so yes I’ve been aware for some time that the dispensaries are advertising. And I’d like to point out that this advertising, with a few exceptions, has been tastefully done and is clearly aimed at medical consumers. I disagree with the advertisement of doctor’s notes and clinics that specialize in recommendations, that crosses the line into recruiting. But there is no regulating body, is there? A trade association has just been suggested, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that they have ready recommendations at this early stage.
    The liquor industry’s self regulation works just fine, thank you. You won’t find liquor ads in magazines aimed at children, they don’t use cute cartoon characters to make their products attractive to children, both reason the ad ban on tobacco is a good thing. The tobacco manufacturers were unwilling to limit themselves in any way. Give a chance, everybody else got one…
    Regulation is not a ban. Regulation of alcohol to 151 proof is in no way a ban. If you ban a substance, it is unavailable legally. If you need 190 proof ethanol it is legally available you just go to the chemical manufacturers, or the Internet. There are regulations for the purity of alcohol for consumption as well as for laboratory purposes. Prohibition is the ban on a substance. It defaults the regulation of that substance, renders it redundant. Jeez. Just look up the definitions.

  36. BigJohn says:

    We can fix most of the problem simply by legalizing marijuana. It is the most common illegal drug, used by 80% of illegal drug users. The vast majority of illegal drug dealers sell marijuana. The vast majority of all illegal drug transactions are marijuana transactions. And the numbers are all over the place on this one, but it is quite likely that more than half the money in the illegal drug trade is marijuana money.

    Where I live Mexican marijuana dominates the market. I realize that is not the case in many parts of the country. But here in my part of the South very few people buy the super pricey indoor grown marijuana because people don’t make that much money here on average and Mexican goes for $60 to $80 an ounce. Mexican organized crime makes all the money, and they are also the ones bringing in all the meth and cocaine, as well as the heroin that tends to only go to big cities in my area. Often retail dealers of pot will get some of the other stuff from up the supply chain and sell that too. Most people who sell the other stuff were already selling pot, so they are perfect recruits to sell other drugs. Take marijuana from them and it will take a huge portion of their revenue, eliminate the recruiting pool of pot dealers and screw up their whole infrastructure for getting their other drugs to end consumers.

    I’m not for legalizing all drugs, at least not to the extent where we’ll sell them from stores like liquor stores to any adult who wants to buy them. Prohibition is not very effective. If there is high demand, if a drug is popular, it’s going to be easy to get, like pot. If the drug is not so popular though, then banning sales of it does actually cut down on availibility somewhat. That’s the case with heroin in my town. You’d really be hard pressed to find it here. I’ve looked before, many years ago. Now I’m a lawyer in court all the time. I see so many drug cases coming through our courts. We’ll almost never see a heroin possession case though. I’ve handled thousands of pounds worth of drug cases and the only heroin case I’ve ever had is one where people passing through on the highway were stopped with a load being transported somewhere out east. Heroin is just not a popular drug here and consequently you probably wouldn’t be able to find it in my town if you looked for it. If we legalized it and sold it from shops in town most people would be smart enough to stay away from it, but some would try it and before long we’d have several heroin addicts, a small group maybe relative to our total population, but a group that causes a lot of problems in our community. We could do without that.

    I saw an article today from Canada. According to a recent survey there 50% of the people want marijuana legalized, 44% are opposed, and the remaining 6% are undecided. Only 10% were for legalizing the other stuff though. I’d venture to guess that only about that percentage of U.S. voters want drug like meth and heroin and cocaine legalized too, if that many. It’s an idea that will never fly. It’s taken us forever to get as much support for marijuana legalization as we have now, and we still have a ways to go before we have enough support to actually get it done. There will never be enough support to legalize a drug like meth and regulate it like alcohol. It’s just not going to happen.

    Is marijuana legalization just a first step in legalizing all drugs? Is that what we all really want? I don’t think so. If 10% of the population thinks we ought to legalize all drugs, the percentage of people who want marijuana legalized who also want all other drugs legalized is going to be below 20%. The vast majority of us do not support the legalization of all drugs.

    If it were up to me no simple possession of drugs charge would ever be a felony. That’s just crazy. And we wouldn’t have such harsh laws against people selling tiny amounts of drugs. In my state you can get life in prison for selling any amount of any Schedule I or II drug. We punish the guy caught selling a half a gram of cocaine way worse than we punish thieves, and that makes no sense. Most drug delivery cases involving “powder drugs” involve a gram or less of powder. Usually it’s a CI buy, a “confidential informant” usually someone who has gotten busted and wants to stay out of prison, will go out and set a few drug buys and he’ll get those on tape. He’s not going after serious hardcore dealers either, certainly not the scary ones. He’s going after idiot drug users, people stupid enough to sell him drugs who in a lot of cases probably aren’t really drug dealers at all. They’re just fellow drug users who will help out a “friend” in hopes that they get to do a little dope too. The dealer does some with them or they pinch some from the bag or bum a bump from the purchaser or whatever. Then they busted and then they come to me and the prosecutor wnats them to do pen time and there’s not a lot we can do if the prosecutor won’t be nice because the whole thing is on tape and our jury of old gray haired Baptists is going to put the guy away for a long time if the thing goes to trial because they think they’re helping win the war on drugs that way.

    Meanwhile thieves are getting suspened sentences or much shorter sentences and they’re the ones we ought to be locking up a long time because no one is going to commit their thefts for them when they are locked up. Keeping a bona fide thief behind bars a few years potentially saves hundreds of people from being victimized. Locking a small time drug dealer up for many years doesn’t stop a single drug transaction because anyone who would have bought from him will just buy from someone else. Our priorities are all screwed up. Drug addiction does cause crime. It’s the thefts and other crimes we want to stop. Let’s go after the thieves and violent criminals then and try to keep small time drug dealers out of prison, get them into drug court type probation programs, get them treatment that is much cheaper than prison, monitor them and reduce the problems these drug addicts cause, maybe even get some of them off of drugs.

    Drug problems, including the retail trade which is conducted mostly by addicts, should be treated more as a public nuisance and a health problem than a major criminal activity like we treat it today. Drug crime enforcement quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns and really causes more harm than good. We should legalize marijuana and regulate it similar to alcohol. We should reform our policies with respect to other drugs as well, but give up on legalizing them all because 1) it’s never going to happen, and 2) it’s really not such a great idea to begin with. We could reduce a whole lot of the harms caused by prohibition and protect against a disasterous rise in use and addiction to hard drugs at the same time. I don’t think everyone would use the hard stuff if legalized, but man if drugs like cocaine and meth and heroin could be had cheap from a nice clean store down the street, cheap and pure, more people would use them, and we would have a lot more addicts, still a small number relative to the total population, but these addicts would be more of a burden than the small cadre of hardcore drug addicts we have today. We need to try to avoid that. These drugs aren’t going to be legalized anyway, so those who push for legalizing all drugs need to come to grips with that and start pushing for more realistic reforms that could also alleviate a lot of the problems prohibition causes today.

  37. darkcycle says:

    Duncan, the commonly held medical wisdom is that all addiction is ultimately degenerate. The disease is progressive and generally regarded as fatal, but can be arrested at any given point along this progression. Lucky ones have a “high bottom”, other folks are more stubborn and hardheaded and need a heaping-helping of misery to amend their ways ( do you recognize anyone?). Some never get there….

  38. BigJohn says:

    Mark Kleiman is right in saying that every regulation is a prohibition of some kind. Prohibitions always cause problems, but ideally they do more good than harm. There is always a trade off, a compromise. We have to have laws. We can’t have anarchy.

    Dr. Kleiman says he is for minimizing the harms of drug abuse. I’m all for that. God bless him. The problem is that he just loves the idea of regulating the crap out of things, but doesn’t take into consideration enough the problems all this excessive regulation (prohibition) causes. Dr. Kleiman is a smart man. I pray that he is someone who constantly re-evaluates his positions. He’s very good at defending his positions, but I think if he took a harder look at the problems these prohibitions cause he would realize that some of his positions are really indefensible, or at least do not pass muster with careful objective and learned scrutiny.

    I loved that “can I say bullshit” line on a documentary I saw where they interviewed him recently, by the way. He’s not so bad. He just pays a lot more attention to the harms drugs (including alcohol) cause then he does to the harms excessive regulation (prohibitions) cause.

    Outright prohibitions are more than just regulation. What we end up with is an illicit market that is really unregulated. In the case of marijuana we have a massive unregulated market that really serves as the backbone for the entire illegal drugs market. Marijuana is easily available everywhere in this country despite the prohibition. It would be hard to make it more available without handing it out in schools. The prohibition against marijuana is completely ineffective. Most everyone who wants to smoke marijuana already smokes it. It’s already cheaper than alcohol on a “buzz for buzz” basis in most cases. Even the expensive stuff is pretty cheap because you hardly have to smoke any to get high.

    Dr. Kleiman, marijuana will be legalized. It’s only a matter of time. Support for legalization keeps growing and that’s not going to stop. The old folks who oppose it most are steadily dying off, leaving public office, getting too old to get out and vote. Over half of all American adults under 65 have already smoked pot, and the aging Americans steadily replacing those who grew up before marijuana became popular are far less opposed to legalizing it. Unless something drastic happens to change trends in public opinion, it will be legal in 10 or 15 years, if not sooner.

    And you know what, you’re going to be one of the guys people look to when deciding how we’re going to regulate it. How are we going to do it, Dr. Kleiman? If it’s happening, we’re legalizing it, and they want it regulated somewhat like we regulate alcohol and government officials ask for your advice, how would you propose that we do it? If you answer this, please don’t say you’d just oppose it. Imagine a scenario where it is happening over your opposition and you are charged with coming up with an effective plan for regulation.

  39. Servetus says:

    Virtually anything can be harmful, but such harm only manifests itself in a prohibition when the thing prohibited has some kind of a priori social stigma attached to it, a stigma which may have nothing whatever to do with the public’s health and welfare. Prohibitions based on religious stereotypes are typical examples.

    Motorcycles and single-engine planes have no drug-like stigmas attached to them despite a continuous record of such machines crashing and producing injuries and fatalities. Cannabis, by contrast, which has harmed no one throughout the many millennia of its use by humans, is stigmatized, and it’s scapegoated for problems it does not cause. Other illicit drugs have had a similar fate.

    We can understand prohibition by examining its consequences and how the state reacts to those consequences. The published intent of prohibitions can be largely ignored because the results of prohibition manifest themselves as a public delusion that enables the exercise of oppressive power by authoritarians and dictators who typically don’t acknowledge their own real intentions. Cannabis prohibition itself is the ultimate example of how prohibitions are used by leaders for purposes other than those claimed. Racism, bigotry, and the targeting of people as part of a culture-war is what every prohibition in history has devolved into.

    Prohibition is an ideology that anticipates the perceived perfectibility of the human condition. As with fascism and Marxism, the political ideologist believes in the absolute social malleability of the human mind and human desires. Not only have fascists and Marxists repeatedly been proven wrong and incompetent in their futile attempts to create their own versions of perfect citizens, the human malleability as described is currently at odds with every advance being made in the modern study of human psychology (see Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, (2002)).

    In terms of feasibility, prohibition is a relic, an archaic judicial method that’s failed to produce justice in the same way torture and the ordeal failed to produce justice for medieval jurists and citizens. Regardless of the problem it targets, prohibition rarely if ever succeeds, unless one measures success as something championing the forbidden-fruit-effect to create insurmountable social damage.

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  41. TrebleBass says:

    One important difference between alcohol/tobacco and heroin/meth/cocaine, is that the harms of the former tend to be more chronic while the harms of the latter tend to be more acute. That creates more opportunity for a larger amount of the population to get into alcohol and tobacco because there is no intense scary moment close to the beginning of the use (like a heroin overdose or extreme paranoia after just a few days of binging on meth or cocaine). Because of this, the latter are scarier drugs, increasing social disapproval, reducing popularity, and leading to an outcry for stricter regulations. Marijuana has too much possibility of paranoia for some people and makes a lot of those people too introverted, shy, or self conscious. That keeps a lot of the population away. The real reason alcohol and tobacco have generally been more widely used in human history than other drugs is not the legal status, but something inherent in the nature of the drugs and the nature of people. For whatever reason, humans seem more prone to using alcohol/tobacco in large percentages and other drugs not so much (although tobacco has recently decreased). Throughout history in all parts of the world there have been sprinkled prohibitions here and there, both of alcohol/tobacco, and of other drugs, but for most of human history most drugs have both existed and been legal. Despite that, it is still alcohol that has been the most prominent intoxicant of all by far (and I don’t think that’s only a western thing, although the west has probably drank a lot more). That was not because alcohol was not harmful, but it was certainly also not because it was legal. Whatever the reason, it hasn’t been the law.

  42. TrebleBass says:

    Mark Kleiman says:

    “(Higher prices via higher taxes, not “education,” have been the main driver in reducing tobacco prevalence in the U.S. since 1990.)”

    I doubt that. I think it has a lot more to do with the banning of advertising and of smoking in most public places.

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  44. Matthew Meyer says:

    Mark Kleiman strengthened his argument (sort of) by presenting the RAND cannabis study as fact: “As a legal product, sensemilla would sell for about a tenth of that (before tax), according to the RAND analysis.”

    “Would sell” goes far beyond what’s warranted by the study. “Might sell” or “could possibly sell” are, in my estimation, much more honest and accurate representations of the report’s contents.

    This is the kind of thing that makes me feel, despite my respect for his intellect, that Mark is more concerned with scoring debate points than clarifying the realities of psychoactive substances in the modern world, or whatever this is we live in.

  45. Duncan20903 says:

    BigJohn, take a look at the way that the Swiss deal with their heroin addicts. No, it would be just as idiotic to support the extreme opposite of the current extreme the Know Nothings enjoy. No one here is suggesting unfettered legalization. That nonsense comes from the Know Nothings, not from the potheads.

    SteveClay, Oakland and the rest of Cali ended up with Prop 215 because the politards preferred to keep their heads in the sand. If they had been reasonable they would have written some reasonable regulations. Abdication of responsibility is the direct proximate cause of all the “problems” that Cali is experiencing. Something must have drastically changed since I was in Oakland in 2007. Back then advertising was pretty subdued. I can recall a few ads in the back of the East Bay Express but frankly nothing specific to Oakland. Oakland’s medical cannabis regulations should be being used to model and future regs. Frankly I think that your just tossing out bullshit and are clueless about what’s going on in Oakland. I’m calling shenanigans.

    Perhaps you meant L.A. All them Callyfornee cities look alike, right? LA idiocy is laid squarely at the feet of the idiot politards that kept their heads stuck in the sand for 3 years because they didn’t want to deal with it. Every single LA dispensary was opened in compliance with the rules created by the LA City Council.

    One ironic thing is that California is stuck with Prop 215, and it will be the law of the land long after science has moved cannabinoid medicine to the pharmacy shelves. Unintended consequences are a bitch. It didn’t have to be this way, but there are real people, who are really sick, who are really suffering, who need quality medical grade cannabis and a vendor other than those that lurk in the shadows, in whatever dark corner where the black market vendors lurk.

    I think High Times has 67 mail subscribers and sell a few hundred issues every month. Still, I recall their advertising was usually promoting the paraphernalia needed rather than advertising dispensaries or actual cannabis. Why would you conflate an ad for a $500 grow light with an ad for cannabis itself?

  46. TrebleBass says:

    In the worst of cases, legalization of the sales of all drugs could only probably be about as bad as prohibition. Same net amount of harm, but different, and more evenly distributed, harms. And even that would be preferable in my opinion. First of all, it would become a more simple (even if just as big) problem: in the public psyche it could be viewed simply as “our drug abuse problem”, large as it may be, and it could be more adequately addressed in its simplified form. Secondly, but maybe more importantly (depending on who you ask): liberty. Thirdly: equality (and thus togetherness); of many sorts. Prohibition is a wedge between the rich and the poor, white and black, women and men (because men are arrested and incarcerated disproportionally (i don’t have the evidence for that one but i think it’s true)), america and mexico, the first world and the third world, drug users and non-drug users, people with psychological conditions (who are invariably more prone to drug abuse) and people without them. All these groups would live in a more equal world, were they would have real liberty, and a huge, suffering-causing-all-over-the-place, but simplified, drug problem to have to deal with. I find that much preferable.

  47. Duncan20903 says:

    There is just a silly thing of conflating re-legalization with removing ‘social stigma’. The Know Nothing need have no fear of losing their ability to pass judgments on others.

    Does anyone here other than me pick their nose in public? Heck, even I don’t eat the buggers after I do, anyone that does that here? OK, well that’s a silly question. Of course none of you bugger eaters is going to admit it. There’s too much of a social stigma, duh.

    How about urinating in a public swimming pool when swimming? That’s much easier that getting out and trekking to the locker room. Anyone care to admit doing that?

    How about public flatulence that makes people think you have a trumpet instead of a rectum? Are there really people who don’t prefer the one cheek sneak?

    I once read of a fellow who was acquitted of indecent exposure. All he was wearing at the time of his arrest was a washcloth. Fortunately the fellow positioned the cloth correctly, an he was also inadequate enough that it covered his entire package. Would you expect to feel the heavy breath of social stigmatization on your back were you to choose to go out in public dressed like that?

    Speak of clothing, would many people wear a T-shirt that said “Fuck Democracy”? How about “join and support NAMBLA, kiddie diddling is a way of life” or one that said “Wouldn’t you like to send our coloured cousins home again, my friend?”

    Are cigarettes socially approved and welcomed everywhere? How about drinking booze at 7 in the morning?

    How about sniffing model airplane glue? Wouldn’t you expect there to be a social stigma if the proverbial school bus driver or fork lift operator were doing that? Think your boss would appreciate that at work? No dirty looks if you stood on a busy street corner getting your glue on?

    Would you mention to a coworker that you’re headed to the restroom to masturbate even though everyone knows that’s what you do in there?

    Stop me when I mention something that’s suffers no or even minimal social stigmatization while not also being legal. (excepting the absurd bus driver/fork lift operator examples.)

    It’s one of the most dishonest arguments in the Know Nothing’s bag of tricks, because they know good and goddam well that they’re not going to quit stigmatizing cannabis users even if we passed a law against such stigmatization. They’d simply form their own black market distribution chain and their pathological bullying would continue. Laws against hate (thought) crimes just don’t work.

  48. Duncan20903 says:

    Hey DC, why in the world is a ban against 190 proof alcohol anything but a waste of time? Remember that I’m the one that’s been to hundreds of AA meetings.

    I’ve met drunks that preferred beer.

    I’ve met drunks that preferred 80 or 100 proof liquor, though quite often in mixed drinks.

    I’ve met drunks that preferred wine, with the majority of winos preferring fortified wine.

    I’ve even met drunks that preferred Listerine.

    I have never in all my interactions with drunks met a drunk that preferred 190 proof grain alcohol. Perhaps they all die before getting a chance to get to AA?

    Unless of course you count the fortified winos but their wine still only come in at about 40 proof. The majority of drunks were beer drinkers, making up 55-60% of the population at AA.

    People prefer low potency drinking alcohol. Grain alcohol is simply nasty shit that makes people remember that they have a gag reflex, and then makes you think you have an ulcer. Nobody really missed it in the places they took it off the shelf. What’s the point of prohibiting that which nobody particularly cares for? Shall we also criminalize coprophagy?

    Here’s a link to a picture of a protest in the early 1930s in which the people were demanding repeal of the 18th: http://tinyurl.com/the-people-want-beer

    There’s an interesting web site under that picture.

  49. Duncan20903 says:

    “(Higher prices via higher taxes, not “education,” have been the main driver in reducing tobacco prevalence in the U.S. since 1990.)”

    Horse crap. The US reached peak tobacco use in 1963. The Surgeon Generals report was published in 1964, and per capita use has steadily declined since.


    It’s well proven that the elasticity of demand for addictive drugs among addicts is extremely tight. That is drug addicts really don’t care how much they pay, they’re going to go out and find their baby every day.

    Here’s a great story, albeit only marginally related to the instant subject:

    Cop Brian Decker Beats Grocery Clerk for Carding Him Over Tobacco Purchase

    “A female clerk at a Wawa grocery store says she’d had problems with Decker in the past when he came in to buy chewing tobacco. When she once asked the 33-year-old cop for his ID, he threw his money at her, grabbed the tobacco, and told her to call police.

    But this time when she asked, Decker wasn’t so kind. He repeatedly punched the assistant manager in the face, sending her to the hospital. He also threatened to get her fired and told her to “watch her back.”


    (I find it interesting that I wanted to add in the above that ‘you would think the stupid bitch would have recognized the asshole the second time and recalled that he’s old enough to chew’ but can’t bring myself to do so for fear of being socially stigmatized by anyone who actually reads this. It sure isn’t illegal to call an asshole an asshole.)

    Well it sure as heck wasn’t prohibition to minors that made it happen. Hey, why haven’t we heard about cigarette prohibition? Why did the 14 states referred to in the quote below repeal their tobacco prohibition?

    Increased sales and consumption of cigarettes created a social and regulatory backlash. Since smoking was perceived as a dirty habit, by the end of the 19th century cigarette sales to minors were banned in all States. Fourteen States banned all sales of cigarettes, even to adults.

    Unless you are talking about overall youth use, which didn’t start declining much until 1987. Guess what started happening in earnest in 1987? Go ask Officer Decker from the story linked above. (I think I have the year wrong. That’s from memory and I can’t validate it because the issue of youth smoking is incendiary (npi) in the extreme and researching the issue requires wading through too much hysterical rhetoric to find factual information. I did find this little tidbit that supports my proffer:

    Accessibility of Cigarettes to Youths Aged 12-17 Years — United States, 1989

    The greatest decrease in tobacco sales to underaged buyers has been documented in communities that have active surveillance of retailers and substantial penalties for noncompliance (7,8). In locations where tobacco sales to underaged persons have been curtailed, the prevalence of smoking by teenagers has decreased, particularly among the youngest age groups (8). Active and vigorous enforcement of minors’ access laws in these communities has augmented health education and awareness programs aimed at students and parents (8).



    Hey, let’s ask the Asians, I see that Asian youth in the US smoke tobacco at a rate less that 2/3 of the other bean counters “racial” categories. Racial in quotes because they break out Hispanics and Hispanics are for the most part Caucasian and the rest of them black.


    I really find the definition of “lifetime” use to be absurd. In this case it includes anyone who has taken one puff from a cigarette, and those that turned green, possibly vomited, and swore off cigarettes forever. That last part happens by a factor that is not statistically insignificant. These people are by no means rightfully classified as users.

    The “lifetime use” canard is the one that the Know Nothings like to pull out of their bag of tricks to make Holland’s coffee shops look bad. Use tripled after the coffee shops were opened!! OMG it’s a failure!!! No, it included the curious that went down to see what all the fuss was about, went once or twice and were no longer interested. It actually supports the conclusion that rates of use won’t ‘skyrocket’ with the introduction of a cannabis retail distribution chain because it is the only statistic that showed any significant increase after Holland adopted their policy of tolerance.

    It’s a statistic designed to cause listeners to infer a completely baseless conclusion. I’m a friggin’ lifetime user of beer, though I hate the taste and never drink it, even back when I was using drinking alcohol. 1/2 a beer that disgusted me to the point of nearly vomiting makes me a beer drinker? That’s pushing the extreme limits of absurdity to me.

    We wouldn’t even be able to get lifetime cannabis use in the US to triple, considering that almost half the US is in this bogus category.

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