More on market alternatives

Some commenters have been less than thrilled with my admiration for Calderon’s use of the term “market alternatives” as a code for legalization. Sure, in an ideal world, nobody would speak in code, and everybody would understand the full meaning of the word “legalization” and not just its political coloring. And in an ideal world there would be no drug war.

Certainly, I’m no fan of Calderon, and he’s been no friend to drug policy reform. His escalation of the violent war on drugs in Mexico has resulted in thousands of deaths and ensured that the problems that exist will be much harder to solve in the future.

Lots of former heads of state have come out in favor of legalization or some form of decriminalization. Almost none have done it while in office. Yet three times in the last week, President Calderon has suggested that the drug consuming world, if it’s going to keep consuming, needs to look at market alternatives.

There’s no doubt that “market alternatives” in this sense means legalization. When you’re talking about finding an alternative to the black market while not eliminating demand, by definition that is legalization.

I’ve been getting quite a kick out of a number of the mainstream media folks trying to deal with Calderon’s statement without their heads exploding. Some have reported his statement, along with the fact that he failed to actually define “market alternatives,” and then indicating that some analysts have said Calderon may be referring to legalization. At that point in the article you can practically see the hamster running in circles in the reporter’s head as they try to come up with some other possible meaning for “market alternatives” to balance the statement… and realize that there is none.

At this point, I believe that the term “market alternatives” has the capability of forcing an epiphany among some people. I know there are a lot of people out there who have rather lazily just gotten in their head that the entire meaning of “legalization” is something akin to “allowing potheads to smoke dope.” They just haven’t spent as much time thinking about it as we have. These are the same people who don’t realize that regulated legality isn’t an oxymoron.

Calderon’s statement makes them actually come to grips with other, importantly relevant definitions.

The more that these discussions occur, the better. Here’s a nice understanding of the term from Jesse Kline at the National Post

Using the term “market alternatives” is a key choice of words. The reason organized crime has so successfully dominated the trade is the blanket prohibition on drugs, forcing the market underground. The same thing happened in the United States when alcohol was made illegal during Prohibition.

The solution to removing the criminal element from the drug trade is the same one that solved the problem with booze: legalize it. Allow drugs to be produced by private industry in a regulated environment. After all, gang violence has become more deadly than the substances they’re peddling. And we don’t see beer companies shooting each other for control of distribution networks.

Exactly. Market alternatives.

Personally, I’m fighting for legalization. However, I’m happy to talk with people about market alternatives to our current disastrous market policies.

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32 Responses to More on market alternatives

  1. Tony Aroma says:

    Apparently there’s some unwritten (or maybe written) rule that world leaders currently in office cannot publicly use the “L” word. The reason behind their belief is unimportant, that’s just the way it is. IMO, if calling it by another name makes it more palatable to those leaders, then so be it. For all I care, you can call it guacamole as long as it stops people from going to jail. Maybe such a term should be used when naming legalization initiatives to sound less threatening to the undecided voters or those that fear legalization. Maybe even our own president could use such a term, since he’s made it clear that “legalization” is not in his vocabulary. Whatever it takes.

  2. JDV says:

    We need some innocuous-sounding euphemism that can make it more palatable to the general public and politicians alike.

  3. N.T. Greene says:

    As a writer myself, I believe in the power of words. Over time, any given word or phrase can become charged with more energy than we can imagine. Some words, some -single- words, have the power to evoke thousands of years of lore and myriad emotions. Granted, “legalization” is a relatively new term when compared to others, but we cannot deny the fact that it too has become charged with energy.

    Unfortunately for us, that energy is negative in many respects. The legalization of marijuana has become synonymous with peddling dope to our youth and widespread chaos. We might be intelligent enough to know that that’s not what is meant — but that IS how it is spun by many.

    …but if you think back not even a hundred years, those were the same kind of ideas that drys shouted from bully pulpits. Prohibition is another word that evokes ideas, is it not? It smacks of failure and immaturity. It is an invasion of liberties and free will. Funny how you don’t hear the news refer to “(drug) prohibition”, but will expound at length about the so-called “war on drugs”.

    Although I’m ranting here, incoherently even, I feel like we’re talking about how the vocabulary we use must somehow transform alongside the social issues at hand. I have begun to feel as though the fight for “marijuana legalization” is totally uphill and mired in a drama that has persisted for over fifty years. However, the call for “market alternatives” is a potential ace in the hole, something that a politician can say without the fear of being stigmatized.

    The end result, however, would be ultimately the same. Again, as a writer, perhaps a failed one even, I believe that words can change everything, and that a turn of phrase can transform how the masses can see something.

    I say we wipe legalization off the board for a bit and see if we can get the “market alternatives” bit to fly. Like, don’t even mention it. Don’t mention prohibition, either.

    “I believe that the key to solving the drug problem in this country lies in the establishment of market alternatives and the utilization of harm reduction strategies.”

    I feel like that’s a pretty good message to broadcast, but who am I?

    • allan says:

      spot on there NT… once there was little to no public use of the term “War On Drugs.” WE brought the phrase to the forefront (along with the less used but no less popular WO(s)D nomenclature).

      The MAPster letter writers were fiendishly clever about their phrasing and popularizing drug policy term use. We quietly went about our work, using each others’ ideas and phraseology, distilling our arguments down to precise points, using only 100 – 200 words to poke holes in the government’s drug myths. All those letters over all those years to all those papers were read and mulled over all over the country and around the world and then repeated. I have no doubts that at least a few of LEAP’s speakers were prodded by some of those letters. I was moved by those letters enough to join the fray.

      I like the “market alternatives” approach. It cuts thru the glare that the hot-button word legalization generates like polarized lenses and frames the idea in a very (socially/culturally) acceptable – and neutral – manner.

      Right arm and farm out! Market alternatives. And yes Calderon is an asshat, but apparently he has a good grasp on the ways of his northern neighbor.

    • tensity1 says:

      Who are you? I’d say a damn good writer who’s needlessly self-effacing. Nice post.

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  5. “we should use other words, so let me quote a guy who writes: the same one that solved the problem with booze: legalize it.

    fucking priceless!

    and really, how is it different from “i ended the war on drugs”

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  7. stayan says:

    Market alternatives = legalisation with partial prohibitions (advertising bans, excise tax, minimum legal age limits etc).

    Appeases both sides.


  8. claygooding says:

    Well,,they used “marijuana” to hide their attack on hemp,,,we can use market alternatives to hide our attack on prohibition! Fair is fair.

  9. I think “market alternatives” is great. I am so glad you are following this story Pete. It is a major development in the War on Drugs.

  10. Francis says:

    What’s wrong with “tax and regulate” as the go-to alternative to “legalization”? The problem with “legalization” is that it sounds like an endorsement of drugs. “Legalization” focuses attention on the fact that drugs are in a sense being “elevated” from a less-favored (illegal) to a more-favored (legal) status. On the other hand, “taxing and regulating” drugs sounds punitive and calls attention to the ways in which the post-reform market will be subject to GREATER control (e.g. the old line that “drug dealers don’t ask for I.D.”) And since we all know that “drugs are bad,” anything that sounds punitive is obviously good. This is an advantage that the more neutral-sounding “market alternatives” doesn’t have. Plus, “tax and regulate” seems pretty honest and accurate. Heck, I’d make the case that it’s a MORE accurate description than “legalization” of the feasible post-reform legal environments. On the other hand, “market alternatives” seems almost deliberately obfuscatory. (There’s a reason that the media was slow to pick up on Calderon’s first use of the phrase.) Anyways, just my two cents.

    • allan says:

      I think what is most important here is not what words (synonymous with legalization) we use but that we use them. THE change is right there! Right in front of us… just gotta knock that wall down. Write those LTEs, comment on those articles and msg boards… and speak truth to power whether you use “legalization,” “market alternatives or “tax and regulate” – or any variation on the theme.

      • Francis says:

        Dude, what is going on with your picture? Also how do you set it to a specific image?

        • allan says:

          aah… I’m just havin’ fun. That’s my “I’m not gonna take it anymore” pic.

          Just go log in at Gravatar and add/change your pic:

          I’ll settle on one I like one of these days. One of the new millenium hazards of being a photographer I guess… or I might be jealous that Pete has hair on his head in his picture…

        • Francis says:

          Cool, thanks allan! Why wasn’t this covered in my orientation? 🙂

        • darkcycle says:

          Except Gravatar won’t take darkcycle’s e-mail address. The first times I used my darkcycle moniker it was under my old address, and now they won’t let me change it, it says already taken.

    • If you look at how people voted in California on Prop 19 lots of Tea Party and Republicans voted against it. It could be that “more taxes” – for whatever reason – doesn’t go well with those demographics? Regulation may not even sit well with them as they detest government interference for most of the time.

      So when they have to choose between a decidedly draconian drug war that at least caters to their conservative, moralistic views and something they don’t like things may come out against reform.

      Liberals are ideologically more in favor of taxation and regulation, so I’m afraid they lead the debate with their own preferences instead of catering to the emotional needs of the Republicans and their ilk.

      Whether liberals would take kindly to “market alternatives” is another matter…

  11. Pete says:

    To be clear, I’m not suggesting we dump the word “legalization.” I think it’s a perfectly fine word. But in some instances and in the right context, “market alternatives” is an excellent choice. So is “tax and regulate.” We can have more than one word.

    • i know pete, and i essentially agree that different arguments are required for different audiences. but it’s all still as transparent and frankly, hypocritical as the vapid phrase “i ended the war on drugs.” i don’t see any advantage to running away from direct confrontation, as these fools have led the parade for long enough. we have the power we need if we choose to seize and wield it.

      and it should be pretty obvious that the prohibs are going to seize on this and twist it in demented ways such as: “so the market alternative for heroin is what, buy one get one free, coupons in the sunday paper, etc” — and even worse phraseology that i can’t even imagine.

      we don’t need to be afraid of the word legalization. indeed we need to reclaim it and take away it’s powers — just as was done with the word “nigger.”

  12. Servetus says:

    As Nietzsche (PhD Philology) would say—if I could find the quote—a single word limits how we think. To think new thoughts requires new words.

    • Francis says:

      I think you make a perfectly cromulent point. If we expect to embiggen our minds, we need to embiggen our vocabularies. 🙂

      • allan says:

        “embiggen”… I like that. See how useful popular US culture is?

        And yeppers we do. Always… that’s why my dictionary is right there… (leaning against the left side of the ‘puter) and I didn’t figger cromulent was in there.

  13. Scott says:

    Just say no to euphemisms! 🙂

  14. claygooding says:

    If we want it where most prohibitionists can understand,(and me)we will need to hold it down to 3 syllables.

  15. N.T. Greene says:

    Personally, I think it is dangerous to become too attached to a specific term, be it “legalization” or any other. I personally believe that the opposition to the “legalization” of -any- given substance has some semantic issues, and compounded with the more ideological issues it is an easier term to rout. The language we use has to change to fit the purpose we wish to fulfill. Legalization is the ultimate goal, have no illusions about that — but calling it that up front is hardly a Trojan Horse approach.

    Which, in my mind at least, is exactly the kind of strategy we need to end this (although I may be a bit too forward thinking here). The problem is that our opponents, no matter what evidence we present to them, basically don’t even listen to what we say. We’re played off as radicals and crazy hippies or whatever else you like. By changing the language we use, we can remain honest about our goals while making them appear more amenable. We can see this at work throughout American society already. The PATRIOT Act. The War on Terror. The War on Drugs. Those things are affronts to everything we should stand for, and yet a careful presentation won untold millions over. I may be oversimplifying in insisting that the -phrasing- of these things made them possible, but it certainly drew less attention to them.

    Personally, I think this fight can be won, and that it truly is the good fight many of us wish to be a part of. But I also feel like this cannot be won with furor and noise alone. My generation is especially guilty of trying to push these ideals by forcing them upon others while allowing cultural stereotypes to persist.

    I may smoke the reefer, but I refuse to be blinded by it as I see many are. When we speak about changing policies, we cannot be blowing smoke in the same breath. We have to adjust our language and our demeanor when battling with this.

    I do wonder, though, if this can be achieved across enough of the movement to make a difference.


    • good rant — but bear in mind that “our opponents” are not the audience we need to reach. it is our fellow citizens (few of whom are actually paying the slightest bit of attention to any of this) who are the ones we need to be converting.

      the prohibs themselves are the equivalent of flat-earthers and conspiracy wing-nuts: loud and certainly obnoxious, but ultimately of no consequence whatsoever. when drug law reformers *finally* get around to realizing that, the opportunity to truly turn the tide will arrive.

      the hard core prohibs are a *tiny* piece of the population — and vastly outnumbered by the corps of reasonable citizens surrounding us.

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