Kevin Sabet and Sean Dunagan debate

A very interesting debate in four parts between Sean Dunagan (former DEA analyst and LEAP member) and Kevin Sabet (former ONDCP staffer and prohibitionist).

Has Obama Challenged the ‘War On Drugs’ Assumptions’?

One of the nice things about this particular video debate is that they also have the transcripts available, in case you prefer to read than listen/watch (usually my preference).

In the four parts, they cover a fair amount of ground. Parts 1-3 are the most predictable. Sean Dunagan does a good job getting the important points out there. Kevin is his usual self – often agreeing with his opponent at points to seem reasonable and then countering with a list of fallacious arguments a mile long.

One fallacy he likes to use is the Perfect Solution Fallacy, where he denigrates a proposed solution because it won’t solve all the problems.

Here’s one of the most extreme and obvious examples, where the host asks him a question of balancing costs:

JAY: Let me ask a question. Let’s for the sake of argument say that if there was decriminalization or legalization of some form, use would go up. So what? And what I mean by so what: is it worth—even if it has negative consequences (and I would say it would), is the consequences of, for example, the destruction of so many inner cities through gang culture based on drug control, the destruction of Mexico, what’s happening in Central America—like, if you’re balancing a complex problem here, is the war on drugs worth it?

SABET: Yeah, so there are two issues with that. One is that you just made an assumption that all that will go away if drugs were legalized.

What??? No, he didn’t.

SABET:…They’re making money from multiple things. To think with that assumption that you just made that they’re going to go away if only drugs were legal, because it would be like alcohol and tobacco, is to totally not understand and see what the economic impact and how these organizations are in our society.

That’s a really obvious disconnect from the question in a pretty offensive way.

Later on, he does it again

But one of the things, even if you end up taxing it, as have been many of the proposals, the idea that this underground market is necessarily going to go away is ridiculous. The profits they’re making are so big, they’ll lower their price to match—it’s worth it for them to lower their price to match or even go slightly below the government

The argument is not that the underground market will go away entirely, but it certainly is going to be radically diminished, and that’s a huge, huge benefit. But Sabet throws in the Perfect Solution Fallacy to avoid getting in a balancing the costs discussion.

There’s more…

The idea that we’re going to be able to legalize drugs and solve Mexico’s problem right now—which is, I would say we both agree, a huge issue—the idea that that’s going to happen under legalization is totally, again, missing the point. It’s simplistic in that it doesn’t get to the core issues of corruption and the core issues of what’s happening in Mexico.

Or his answer to serious questions about heroin maintenance programs and inner city problems…

I think we can do better than giving heroin to people in controlled settings and assume that their misery’s going to go away in a place like Baltimore.

He uses that several times more.

Unfortunately, Kevin’s use of these fallacies in arguments serves him well, because it often keeps the debate from getting to the real issues. I think Sean Dunagan actually should have avoided getting into the long discussion about numbers of use because that’s a distraction (I’m not blaming Sean, it would have been extremely hard not to get sucked into it) — it’s a distraction from the real balancing-the-costs issue and it ignores the fact that use is a rather meaningless factor when discussing harm.

Part 4 of the debate got into some interesting territory by bringing in Megan Sherman, who grew up on the streets of Baltimore, discussing the larger problem of policing in the inner city. Megan sees the destructive policing issue to be the important one to be solved prior to discussing legalization, but I think she fails to understand the degree to which drug policy allows and encourages bad policing practice.

One minor point from earlier in the debate. I got a real chuckle out of Kevin’s attempt to paint RAND as a completely independent source with “nothing to do with government.”

First of all, the RAND Corporation, which is a nonprofit, independent organization that has nothing to do with government, did a major study on the impact of legalization and what would happen in California when they were going for legalization of marijuana, and found that there would be a significant increase in use because of prices would fall. So, I mean, economics 101, drug policy 101: drug prices under legalization fall and use goes up. Youth are especially sensitive to price. So that—you know, and they who do not have a stake in the political or policy game said that that would happen.

Right. And the Heritage Foundation is bipartisan.

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65 Responses to Kevin Sabet and Sean Dunagan debate

  1. Jeff Trigg says:

    Semi-related, I see the Latin American leaders want to talk about drug legalization and Barack Obama is sending them Joe “Lock up Chong and his bong” Biden to tell them to stop talking about it. Obama is beyond disgusting at this point.

    Remember folks, a vote for Obama is a vote to hold a gun to MY head and throw me in a cage because I’m sick. A vote for Obama is also a vote to lock up at least another 800,000 human beings per year for doing something that doesn’t hurt anyone. We’ll NEVER end the drug war if we keep voting for criminal drug warriors like Obama.

    • claygooding says:

      I am sick of voting for the guy that sucks the least.

    • Francis says:

      Yep, I’m done. I’ve voted for my last prohibitionist. I’m sure a lot of people would say that my “refusal to compromise” makes me “unrealistic,” an “extremist,” an “overly-ideological single-issue voter,” or something along those lines. You know what? I don’t care. It’s not a “litmus test.” It’s a sanity and basic human decency test. It’s pretty simple: if you want to lock me in a cage, you’re not getting my vote. (Let me know if I’m setting the bar too high.)

      This is one of the reasons I think the Ron Paul candidacy has been so important. I (and lots of other people) got to see what it felt like to actually support a candidate – instead of the normal decision between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich. I’m not going back.

      • Windy says:

        Mind if I post that as a quote on my facebook page? I totally agree with it and I think it would speak to a lot of my fb friends who are on the fence re: both legalization and Ron Paul.

        • Francis says:

          Not at all, thanks! And just for the record, anyone’s free to use or modify anything I post here however they see fit.

  2. Francis says:

    “I think Sean Dunagan actually should have avoided getting into the long discussion about numbers of use because that’s a distraction (I’m not blaming Sean, it would have been extremely hard not to get sucked into it) — it’s a distraction from the real balancing-the-costs issue and it ignores the fact that use is a rather meaningless factor when discussing harm.”

    This needs to be stressed more. I’m so tired of seeing reformers accept (or at least fail to challenge) the premise that increased use (as opposed to increased abuse) would be a “bad thing.” It wouldn’t. In fact, it would be a good thing. [shocked gasps! women fainting! the sound of a dropped glass shattering on the floor!] Again, the fact that a particular person chooses to use a particular drug is a pretty good indicator that he/she believes that its benefits outweigh its risks. And you know what? Most people, with most drugs, most of the time are right. Are they always right? No, of course not. But I trust the individualized choices of 300 million Americans making decisions with respect to their own lives a helluva lot more than I trust the one-size-fits-all decree of politicians and bureaucrats whose primary incentive is to expand their own power at the price of my liberty.

    If you want to take the utilitarian cost-benefit approach to the question, that’s fine, but be sure to include all the inputs. Here’s how I see that breaking down:

    drug use benefits – drug use harms

    drug use benefits – (drug use harms + prohibition harms)

    Assuming prohibition is even the tiniest bit successful at achieving its goal of reducing drug use, it will reduce what I’m calling “drug use benefits.” That’s axiomatic. It’s also axiomatic that prohibition increases “prohibition harms.” You all know what those harms are: the terror and suffering experienced by millions of non-violent drug “offenders” who’ve been dragged from their homes and locked in a cage, the (borrowed) trillions we’ve squandered, the loss of liberty, the gang violence, the corruption, etc., etc. But for a while, I at least believed (meaning, I assumed) that prohibition–at least of those scary “hard” drugs–probably did decrease somewhat what I’m calling “drug use harms” – just not nearly enough to justify the enormous harms that are inflicted by prohibition. The more I learn (for example, when I read about Portugal’s experience), the more convinced I become that prohibition actually increases those harms too. Prohibition is really a perfect storm of suck. Prohibitio delenda est.

    • darkcycle says:

      A “perfect storm of suck”, indeed. Well said.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      People look at the issue in a drug by drug vacuum. For the sake of argument let’s say drinking alcohol and cannabis result in identical levels of driving impairment and that impairment is the documented impairment caused by drinking alcohol. Now presume that we completely repeal all laws that prohibit cannabis and as a result the number of cannabis addled drivers will increase 4 fold. Is that good, bad, of no consequence, or insufficient data to determine? Well never mind, all of the prohibitionists started squealing like stuck pigs when I said “increase 4 fold.” But the correct answer is “insufficient data.”

      Where did the newly minted cannabis addled drivers come from? If today those impaired drivers are belly up to the drinking alcohol bar with driving while impaired on the agenda later today that 4 fold increase is at best a wash as far as highway safety is concerned.

      The really ridiculous thing about the hysterical rhetoric surrounding “drugged” driving is that for the prohibitionists presumption to be correct we must believe that allowing people to do something legally will cause them to decide to become scofflaws. Think about that…people who today refuse to enjoy cannabis because it’s against the law will promptly transmogrify into criminals. I think that’s farfetched but I could be wrong. But even if all 16 people in the United States who fit this description promptly become “drugged” drivers, the effect on highway safety would be so marginal as to not have any particular significance.

  3. Peter says:

    Well done Pete and the others who actually sat though Sabet’s lies, propaganda and weaseling….I can’t bring myself to do it at the moment

  4. darkcycle says:

    Comments are open and there are only a few so far…if you want yours read, get in there early!

  5. Duncan20903 says:


    Big win in Nevada yesterday. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the ruling will make Mr. Sabet and/or others like him suffer a fatal apoplexy. I know, I know, wishful thinking.

    Nevada’s pot distribution law called unconstitutional

    By Francis McCabe
    Posted: Mar. 2, 2012 | 3:53 p.m.

    A District Court judge declared the state’s law allowing medical marijuana distribution unconstitutional on Friday, calling it “ridiculous” and “absurd.”

    In a strongly worded order, Judge Donald Mosley dismissed a drug trafficking case against Nathan Hamilton and Leonard Schwingdorf, who said they had supplied the herb to patients unable to grow it themselves.

    “It is apparent to the Court that the statutory scheme set out for the lawful distribution of medical marijuana is either poorly contemplated or purposely constructed to frustrate the implementation of constitutionally mandated access to the substance,” Mosley wrote in his decision.

    Mosley, who retired from his judgeship Friday, added that he “is not a proponent of medical marijuana” but that he was sworn to uphold the state’s constitution.

    I feel like sending Judge Mosely a box of chocolates.

  6. I’m happy for RAND and their “assumptions” about what “would” happen if drugs were legalized. But studies that actually look at whether a casual connection exists between increased use and places that HAVE liberalized their drug laws (such as medical marijuana) show the opposite (Ahem Portugal Ahem):

    And even if drug use doubled under legalization, the benefits of eliminating prohibition would still far outweigh any increase in drug consumption. While corruption, disease, drug related pathologies, and the black market would not be completely eliminated, they’d be decimated. There’s leakage into black markets from both the alcohol and cigarette market, but I don’t hear anybody proposing we re-institute alcohol prohibition or ban cigarettes.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Just like the impaired drivers, you have to ask where these new problem users would originate. It isn’t the number of problem users caused by a particular substance, it’s the total number of problem users. If the newly minted heroin addict now spends his days sniffing hi-test gasoline, who cares?
      I like to ask prohibitionists if draconian penalties will stop people from choosing to enjoy cannabis, then why did the 1960s happen? In every State even petty possession was a felony that carried a stiff, multi-year prison term? In 1975 the SCOTUS was ready to rule that a 30-60 year sentence given to a dime bag dealer in Ohio wasn’t an 8th Amendment violation. The only reason it didn’t happen was because the Ohio Legislature changed that State’s cannabis laws while the lawyers were arguing the case.

      See: Edward L. Downey v E. P. Perini 518 F. 2d 1288 (July 3, 1975)
      United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

      It seems just another day at the Francis’ Law office. Despite the fact that such penalties clearly did not work the prohibitionists continue to claim that they will.

    • TrebleBass says:

      And actually, what that study said was that they didn’t really know what would happen. They said they thought an increase in use would occur but that it could turn out to be very small or very large. That’s what the study found, but the way RAND themselves talked to the media about it (and the way the media portrayed it) only focused on the possibility that increase would be large.

  7. darkcycle says:

    ugh. oops…posted too soon…

  8. primus says:

    Anyone who espouses keeping marijuana illegal because of the ‘harms’ is but a micro-step away from calling for prohibition of tobacco and alcohol. In fact, it is entirely reasonable to accuse them of exactly that when they make their foolish statments about supposed ‘harms’ of pot.

  9. Cold Blooded says:

    There is actually a black market for cigarettes in the US because of the huge tax differences between the states, but people still don’t shoot each other over underground tobacco deals. Also, it shows you that the tax on a drug can be enormous without creating the kind of dangerous underground market we see with coke, heroin, etc.

  10. Thinking Clearly says:

    All of you seem to be better informed than this guy Sabet. I don’t think there is a prohibitionist out there that knows exactly whats going on. I am convinced that their illogical points are being supported by self serving interests-every last one of them. All the way down the line to the drug testing issues. They all seem to support each other. Somebody wanted to make sure this all stayed stuck together real well. Like a multi later cake.

  11. Francis says:

    I gotta say, Kev appears to have been off his game. To qualify as sophistry the flawed reasoning has to sound at least superficially convincing. He’s not even managing that (which is pretty inexcusable when you consider the fact that sophistry is his entire friggin’ job):

    But one of the things, even if you end up taxing it, as have been many of the proposals, the idea that this underground market is necessarily going to go away is ridiculous. The profits they’re making are so big, they’ll lower their price to match—it’s worth it for them to lower their price to match or even go slightly below the government.

    Seriously? Here’s my usual snark when I encounter a claim that the cartels and gangs will just “compete” with a legal, regulated market:

    Yeah, the cartels are gonna make out like bandits when this stuff gets legalized. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I buy all of my alcohol and tobacco products (along with most of my organic produce) from the Mexican cartels. You can’t beat their prices, they’ve got a great selection, and their customer service is surprisingly not bad.

  12. strayan says:

    The profits they’re making are so big, they’ll lower their price to match—it’s worth it for them to lower their price to match or even go slightly below the government

    This is dead wrong. It fails to make a distinction between profit and revenue and take into account cartel expenses. Drug cartel expenses will always be higher than those of legitimate business because they have to buy arms and other equipment (submarines come to mind), pay thugs to guard stuff, assassins, bribes (on both sides of the border), and for more thugs who are assigned to inter-gang warfare. Drug cartel expenses WILL NOT FALL if drugs are legalised, but their market share will. This will absolutely cripple them. Cartels simply can’t afford to lower their price because their expenses are too high. They’ll be forced to adapt (and go legit) or die. The only way they could afford to reduce their prices is to reduce their expenses and by extension the bribes and violence etc.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      My all time favorite aphorism is “If things were different, they just wouldn’t be the same.” But the people you reference obviously believe that untrue.

    • strayan says:

      Also, lol at Sabet’s suggestion that lowering prices would be in the interest of the cartel. I’m sure they are just gagging to reduce their prices.

  13. Duncan20903 says:


    The black market for drinking alcohol in the United States leads to the scourge of stripper poles and the tragedy of illegal buffets.

    Gainesville men charged with illegally selling alcohol
    By Carolyn Crist
    January 3, 2011 10:53 p.m.

    Though the squads focus on drugs and gangs, they address a few bootlegging cases each year.

    “They pop up every now and then. People want to make a little extra money,” Ware said. “They’ll buy beers and then sell it for two or three times more.”

    In early November, three people were arrested and accused of selling alcohol illegally out of a home on Brown Street. The suspects allegedly were selling beer, wine, mixed drinks and shots of moonshine.

    There was also a buffet and a stripper pole set up at the house, Ware said.

    • strayan says:

      I just worry about the safety of the children in these situations. They could severly burn themselves on the buffet or run head-first into the pole and end up quadriplegic.

      • Duncan20903 says:

        Let’s not forget how it’s corrupting the morals of our Country’s trailer trash!

    • Duncan20903 says:


      In countries where the idiocy of the absolute prohibition of drinking alcohol is still in force, the bootleggers act in the exact same manner as black market drugs vendors do. The bootleggers may even be more ruthless than the Mexican cartels. For all the heinous acts of which I’ve heard the cartels accused, I’ve never heard of them raping the competition.

      ‘Bootleggers’ accused of raping and burying alive rival gang
      Awad Mustafa
      Feb 15, 2010

      DUBAI // A heavily armed gang of illegal alcohol “bootleggers” kidnapped two members of a rival gang, tortured them, homosexually assaulted them and buried them alive, a court heard today. The 13 gang members appeared at Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance this morning charged with two counts of kidnap, murder and hiding bodies. Five of the men are also charged with sexual assault, and 10 with consumption of alcohol.

  14. Cold Blooded says:

    We can see clearly that, given a choice, most people prefer to buy goods from legal venues. The idea that most people would be buying drugs from street dealers is kind of crazy. There’s a black market for stolen electronics, but are you planning on buying your next Ipad from the shady guy on the street corner? I don’t think so.

  15. Hey does anyone know the original source of that quote from
    DEA administrative law judge Francis Young about marijuana being one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man? (and where one might find it online)

  16. ezrydn says:

    Wait just a friggin’ minute! I thought the Drug Law Nixon/Biden introduced was “The Final Solution” Fallacy. Wasn’t it suppused to END a “problem,” rather than create an even bigger one?

    • claygooding says:

      There is no money in fixing the unfixable,,,just bigger budgets,,because no punishment or sanctions will ever stop people from seeking euphoria.

    • darkcycle says:

      Shhh. Ezzy, you’re not supposed to remember that.

  17. ezrydn says:

    Oops! Sorry. LOL

  18. Scott says:

    There are a couple of prohibition-ending facts that never generate anywhere near enough attention in our movement.

    One fact is the Commerce Clause (“To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”) has been irrationally applied to authorize Congress to, for example, ban the mere possession of a certain plant.

    Another fact is to abandon rationality is to abandon law.

    Our opponents (especially their credibility) in large part are all about the law.

    I find it unbelievable that taking this easy, compact, and fundamental ‘your law cannot possibly be law in the U.S.’ facts into the true highest court of the land — the court of public opinion — is not the cornerstone of our movement.

    Righteously taking the law away from the prohibitionists in the court of public opinion would be wonderfully disastrous against even the perceived credibility that manages to keep the public silently funding prohibition.

    “Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything–and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.” — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

    • AddyCat says:

      Scott, I think an even better constitutional law route would be substantive due process – found in the 5th amendment and incorporated to the states through the 14th amendment. The basic idea is that there are certain rights that are so fundamental that violation of those rights has to at least meet strict scrutiny. This is where the right to privacy, the right to contraception/abortion, the right to live with one’s family, the right to have gay relationships (although the reasoning was a bit more complicated on that one – failed rational basis test) etc have come from.

      For the life of me, I don’t see how one can possibly argue that the right to privacy does not entail the most basic bodily autonomy to put whatever you want into your body in the privacy of your home. The right to alter your consciousness. And geez, how about the right to self-medicate, or at least the right to a private doctor-patient relationship (this argument was huge in Roe v Wade)?

      To my knowledge, no one has ever challenged drug prohibition on substantive due process grounds. Does anyone know if there has ever been a case using this legal theory? If there hasn’t, I frankly wouldn’t mind serving as a test case to challenge drug laws, as long as I had ACLU or other kickass lawyers as counsel.

      • AddyCat says:

        Sweet – here’s an article making the case that the War on Drugs violates substantive due process:

        • This is a very interesting paper, thanks for posting it. Most constitutional arguments do center around the commerce clause and the 10th Amendment. NORML recently challenged federal intervention in California medical marijuana laws on 10th Amendment grounds and had the case dismissed. But I think there might be something to this substantive due process argument. It seems to present the most compelling way to challenge drug laws on constitutional grounds. I’m surprised the ACLU and other organizations haven’t tried. However, It wouldn’t surprise me if a challenge on substantive due process grounds was dismissed under the doctrine of political question. Absent that, I can’t see how our drug laws would satisfy strict scrutiny.

        • AddyCat says:

          Brad, my guess is that they haven’t pursued substantive due process because it’s a very controversial doctrine, and several conservative members of the Court don’t really even accept its existence as a doctrinal matter (especially Clarence Thomas). However, what’s really interesting is that the substantive due process is the animating framework for incorporation to begin with, and these same conservatives are happy to use it when they agree with the “right” being incorporated. In McDonald v. City of Chicago, for example, the Court used the substantive due process rationale to incorporate the Second Amendment. Now, if I have a fundamental right to bear arms, shouldn’t I also have a fundamental right to bodily autonomy in the most basic sense?
          Unfortunately, I can just imagine know-nothing talking heads saying “derrrr how can you have a fundamental right to take heroin? I don’t get it…” The SDP argument doesn’t make for good talking points in the media, and doesn’t resonate with people as much as the horror of government overreach through the commerce clause does.

          Also important to remember is that the conservatives on the Court don’t seem to believe in freedom, so much as they believe that dictatorial authoritarianism should take place at the state level rather than the federal level. I have no doubt that the conservative 5 on this Court would have supported slavery under a “states rights” theory. However, the liberals on the Court don’t seem to be any better – they believe that authoritarian government at the federal level is ok. At the present time, none of the justices seems to be anti-authoritarian – they are just fighting over whether the federal or state government should have the authority to invade your personal rights and autonomy. This is why substantive due process has been so rarely invoked – because the justices feel it is more important to be deferential to their preferred government authorities than to protect individual rights.

      • darkcycle says:

        Addy…never volunteer to be a test case!!! Ever Ever! IF you HAPPEN to be arrested…then, by all means if you wish, you could bring your case to the ACLU or NORML on substantial due process. You have to know the potential is there to lose that case and wind up being used as an operating example to discourage further such claims. Better to use your legal skills to bring that case than to lose your freedom and your ability to practice BEING that case.

        • AddyCat says:

          Yeah, I’d much rather be attorney arguing the case than the actual defendant – there are plenty of defendants out there who I’m sure wouldn’t mind being the test case. But if I’m already a lawyer (not a student, of course), then I wouldn’t have as much to lose as you might imagine. One minor drug arrest isn’t enough to get you disbarred or even suspended in most states, and it could send a powerful political message if framed correctly.

          However, there is pretty much zero chance that I would ever be ballsy enough to do that. And you are right that it is entirely unnecessary and could easily backfire if people are more of hardasses than I expect.

        • AddyCat says:

          Also, sometimes I just feel so nihilistic about my future, just because I know that if our government continues its slide into totalitarianism, at some point I (or others like me) will probably be a target of its wrath. As will probably most people on this site. The government is already prosecuting people for constitutionally protected speech, and they already use surveillance techniques on us all. If they wanted to go after us, to punish us for being political dissidents, something tells me that they will have their way with us. Call me paranoid, but it also makes me less afraid to speak out – because if we don’t speak out now, they’ll persecute us later.

        • darkcycle says:

          Addycat, you have a brilliant future simply by virtue of having a critical mind and the courage to use it. Keep that and hang on to your ideals (harder than you may think), and my money is on you doing great things.
          Heck, on the law review? Yeah, I have a hunch.

  19. TrebleBass says:

    If one was to consider Sabet an honest person who really believed in what he was saying, this would be what i would write about what he said:

    Sabet’s biggest selling point is that he agrees there are some things in the policy that need to change but that that doesn’t mean you just jump to legalization. (He portrays legalization, and Dunagan falls for it and doesn’t contest it, as a policy that has no possible variations (when, of course, there are a myriad different ways we could have legalization), and as an extreme policy.) Sabet says, for example, that people don’t really go to jail for simple possession, and that overall what we do have is a public-health oriented policy. He mentions things like drug courts and the HOPE program in hawaii. But he doesn’t propose any actual changes in law. He does his best to make it seem that we have what most people (not legalization advocates) want, which is a reasonable public-health approach that still incarcerates drug kingpins and any “dangerous” or “problematic” drug users (most non-legalization advocates don’t actually want anything specific; they’re very ambiguous, but if you were to put something specific to what the general public wants I think it would sound something like that). He even goes as far as to say that what Portugal is doing, in practice, is about the same as what the US is doing in practice. And, of course, he also says that what we’re doing is working. But i’m sure he wouldn’t be in favor of actually having in the US the laws they have in Portugal.

    What’s messed up is that a lot of people who are not that interested in drug policy (if they were to watch that) probably think he’s actually being honest and end up believing him thinking “of course, our drug laws make perfect sense and they’re totally reasonable.”

    First of all, what we do in practice is not what Portugal does in practice. Second, Portugal doesn’t have legalization. And third, even if what we did in practice was what Portugal is doing, I still would have to say this:

    In practice legalization and prohibition could conceivably turn out in a lot of ways to be similar, or almost the same. You could have extremely strict legalization, or you could have extremely lenient prohibition, and they could (again, *conceivably*) both turn out to be the same. But as a general paradigm, I would prefer legalization because the odds are that any legalization system would result in drastically better outcomes than any prohibition system.

    • TrebleBass says:

      “In practice, legalization and prohibition… …. could turn out to be the same.”

      I’ve thought about this before and it’s true in ways, but there are so many ways in which it isn’t that i have to backtrack to a large degree about having written that. You could think of many examples (which i don’t remember right now, but i know i’ve thought of them), in which prohibition is just like drugs being legal. An obvious one that i do remember right now is that drugs are available right now, so what difference would it make if they were legal? I just had to say that after having written that i’ve thought of so many ways in which it was wrong. But anyway, just forget it.

      • TrebleBass says:

        Also, for example, drugs could be legal but it could be extremely difficult to get a liscence to manufacture, extremely difficult to get a liscence to distribute, to buy, to consume, so on and so forth. When you think about it, the marijuana tax act of 1937 was technically legalization. Also, drugs could be illegal but maybe the most you get is a fine for selling a kilo of crack. Or only those over 65 can smoke pot, or whatever. There’s infinite possibilities for either legalization or prohibition, but starting out with a general paradigm of legalization is vastly better than starting out with a general paradigm of prohibition.

        • TrebleBass says:

          Or check out this idea: legalize cocaine but the age at which you’re allowed to use it is 40. You would lose your liscence to sell if you’re caught selling to someone younger than 40 but older than 21, and you would go to jail for selling to someone younger than 21. Personal possession for those over 21 but younger than 40 would be legal. This would significantly regulate the market in order to protect people (especially young people) from the harms of cocaine, but would legalize the manufacturing and distribution so that we could eliminate the violence associated with the illegal market. I’m not saying i’m in favor of this ultimately, but i just wanted to throw it out there cause i think it’s an interesting possibility.

        • darkcycle says:

          TB, not practicable. Drinking age is set at twenty-one, which used to be the age of majority in this country, I don’t think that setting yet another entirely arbitrary age for cocaine will fly. After the age of majority you assume all rights, and therefore responsibility for your actions. There’s simply no basis for that 40 year age restriction, when the responsibility is the individual’s already by societal decree.

        • TrebleBass says:

          Tradition is no reason not to do things differently. It wouldn’t be a reduction in the amount of responsibility, only an increase in the amount of freedom after a certain age. Plus, it’s not entirely arbitrary, it’s only a little bit arbitrary. If one starts at 40, i think, one is more likely to be careful with one’s use. And if the major fear of legalizing drugs is protecting kids, then i think if you set the age higher, you keep them farther away from danger.

  20. Duncan20903 says:


    Drug free school zones. Gun free school zones. Kiddie diddler free school zones. Unapproved foods free school zones? WTF??

    Lawmaker: Food Trucks Should be Farther From Schools Than Marijuana Dispensaries
    March 4, 2012

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTLA) — A California state lawmaker believes food trucks are contributing to childhood obesity, and wants to keep them farther than marijuana dispensaries from schools.

    Assemblyman William Monning (D-Carmel) chairs the Assembly Health Committee. Monning wants to ban all food trucks and pushcarts from within 1,500 feet of elementary, middle and high schools from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on school days. Pot stores must be located at least 600 feet from schools.

    …and here I’ve been thinking the “what’s next, criminalize fatty foods?” was presented to demonstrate how ridiculous the prohibitionist thinking is.

    • OxalateMe says:

      By persisting in spreading the obvious fiction that Twinkies are not as bad as comparatively innocuous foods such as Rhubarb leaves, Blowfish and Death Caps, those legalizers have painted themselves into a very tight corner!

    • darkcycle says:

      Ah. They will have burrito sniffing dogs going through the hallways, and place french fry detectors at all the entrances. Absolutely zero tolerance, students will be expelled for the slightest food violation…a gummy worm in the pocket is as good as a pocket full of crack, IMHO.

  21. Bruce says:

    Knew it was coming for 20 years. By Hook n Krook Traitor Harper has his perverse unCanadian Crime Bill. Debate limited to 6 hours. Evil resides in Ottawa. Watch for an interesting uptick in Political Sulphur gas emmissions and Public Hooliganism in Kanada. Duh Hhhhhhharper, 27 percent of Voters ain’t no majority. Too bad my Vimy Vet Grampa is gone. He’d be headed your way with his .303

  22. Christy says:

    Kevin Sabet: “First of all, the RAND Corporation, which is a nonprofit, independent organization that has nothing to do with government, ”

    Kevin Sabet is a blatant pathetic liar. Go to and you can see on RAND’s Form 990, Part VIII Statement of Revenue (1e), that they received $206 million in government grants out of the $262 million in total revenue they received in FY 2010.

  23. Servetus says:

    A new vaccine is only 55.8-percent effective? Kevin Sabet is needed immediately in Africa. Seems in late trials, a vaccine called RTS,S has prevented transmission of malaria in only 55.8-percent of subjects . The vaccine is imperfect. Maybe Sabet can prohibit use of RTS,S and stop lives from being saved before it’s too late.

  24. cy klebs says:

    Mr. Sabet made the sky is falling potency scare again. I thought that poisonous anecdote had been skewered. Is Mr.Sabet going to be on Mint Rawmoney’s consulting staff?

    • Duncan20903 says:

      Skewered indeed. But you thought that the prohibitionists would let the facts keep them from disseminating an effective piece of hysterical rhetoric? They can’t even abandon reefer madness.

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