Looking for the third side of a coin

“Merry” and “tragical”? “Tedious” and “brief”?
That is hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?

– A Midsummer Night’s Dream

That scene came unbidden to my mind as I doubled over in laughter after reading the subhead of Rethinking the War on Drugs by Mark A.R. Kleiman, Jonathan P. Caulkins, and Angela Hawken in the Wall Street Journal:

Prohibition and legalization aren’t our only choices when it comes to drugs.

Really? What’s the third choice?

Seriously. What’s the third choice? If it’s not prohibited, it’s legal. If it’s not legal, it’s prohibited, by definition.

Now, I realize that the authors may not actually write the subhead (and probably are furious with the Wall Street Journal headline writer), and yet, in one simple stroke, that headline writer has encapsulated the essence of Kleiman/Caulkins/Hawken. They refuse to legitimately discuss legalization and yet don’t want to be tarred with the fact that everyone hates prohibition (for good reason).

Of course, the truth is that prohibition and legalization are our only choices. It’s a binary proposition.

And the authors don’t have a third option. What they have is prohibition with a twist.

While they don’t specifically try to deny the definitions of prohibition and legalization so blatantly in the text of their written piece, they still show rampant intellectual dishonesty by tossing out ridiculous phrases — like referring to one side as being “proposals for wholesale drug legalization.”

Wholesale drug legalization? What does that mean? Is that as opposed to retail drug legalization? How about regulated drug legalization? Ah, they don’t want to talk about that.

They go on to use their tired mantra of every drug being exactly like alcohol, and somehow being required to be marketed exactly like alcohol, and also apparently there being no substitution effect. And so, with each drug that’s legalized (regardless of the methods or regulations employed) we descend further and inescapably into a world of zombies, because everyone in the world except the three of them is a pathetic, weak child who will hopelessly succumb to any drug that’s put in front of them (if the word legal is in any way attached to it), and it’s up to the three of them to save the world by imposing their will upon everyone else.

They then ruin their own argument by noting that drugs being illegal doesn’t stop people from getting drugs (“but the risk of arrest is too low to be much of a deterrent”)

Then they go on to destroy their own argument further by talking about ways to reduce the problems of alcohol and, lo and behold, it doesn’t involve making alcohol illegal! No, they propose regulations and taxes, and consequences for those who abuse alcohol. Then they supposedly take that same notion over to other drugs, but, lo and behold, it requires keeping the drugs illegal!

These guys talk a good game, and they’ve got the occasional program or proposal that can be useful in certain situations, but in terms of providing any kind of look at drug policy as a whole, they are hopelessly mired in their own prejudices and are incapable of dispassionately viewing or analyzing the facts.

It’s a shame that we have to look to the U.K., Australia, and elsewhere for legitimate drug policy academics.

Update: To clarify, there are a whole range of options within prohibition. If you are choosing one of those options within prohibition, then say so. Don’t claim to reject prohibition and then call for exactly that.

There are also a whole range of options within legalization. Acknowledge that, and don’t dismiss all the wealth of options as “wholesale legalization” or some such nonsense.

The two sides of the coin analogy in this post means that we cannot get rid of the evils of prohibition without going to some form of legalization. You can’t invent a mythical third path.

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49 Responses to Looking for the third side of a coin

  1. Steve Rolles says:

    Not sure i agree with you *or* kleiman. There is a spectrum of options that run from Uber-prohibtiion to completely unregulated markets. Somewhere near the middle are the are options for prohitbiion lite (ie less punitive, decrim of users, more treatment and harm reduction etc), and the options for regulated markets – where some activities remain prohibted (like alcohol, tobacco, medical drugs etc – see Transform ‘Blueprint for regulation’). Yes ther is a line in the sand wher the absolute prohibtions are ended, but to say its then an either or isnt a useful conceptualisation – Kleiman is right that there are bad and less bad forms of prohibtiion, but there are also a huge range of post legalisation scenarios – so a coin analogy isnt really a good one either.

    • Pete says:

      I understand that there is a whole range of options. That’s one of the things that I’ve been pushing for knowledge of – that legalization isn’t a single thing – it’s an amazing wealth of options. It’s the prohibitionists that like to claim that legalization is only a fringe extreme.

      The point I’m trying to make in this piece is that Kleiman, et al are wanting to invent something other than legalization (with its whole range of options) or prohibition, when in fact any policy has to be within one or the other. You can’t have it both ways and reject prohibition while saying that legalization is not an option.

      Kleiman should be saying “I reject legalization and support prohibition, modified in this way.” That is, in fact, his stance. But he wants to reject both legalization and prohibition. Can’t be done.

    • Pete says:

      I’ve added an update that should hopefully address your concern.

      • i think that the “opposite” of prohibition would be mandatory drug taking — further reinforcing the idea that “legalization” is indeed the sought after middle ground.

    • darkcycle says:

      That Animal you see either IS a dog or it ISN’T a dog. Within the class of animals that are dogs, there are many variations (Shitzu’s, Great Danes, shaggy dogs, hairless dogs, but all animals in that class of animals are dogs). Similarly, in the class of animals that are NOT dogs there is wide variation (elephants, hummingbirds, flatworms like Kleiman). To say there are a third class of Animals besides “dogs” and “Not dogs” makes no sense. It’s a logical impossibility (and a disingenuous argument).

      • OhutumValik says:

        Forgive me for quoting “Never Whistle While You’re Pissing” by Hagbard Celine (or “Leviathan” by R.A. Wilson & R. Shea, depends on what you choose to believe…):

        I once overheard two botanists arguing over a Damned Thing that had blasphemously sprouted in a college yard. One claimed that the Damned Thing was a tree and the other claimed that it was a shrub. They each had good scholarly arguments, and they were still debating when I left them.

        The world is forever spawning Damned Things— things that are neither tree nor shrub, fish nor fowl, black nor white— and the categorical thinker can only regard the spiky and buzzing world of sensory fact as a profound insult to his card-index system of classifications. Worst of all are the facts which violate “common sense,” that dreary bog of sullen prejudice and muddy inertia. The whole history of science is the odyssey of a pixilated card-indexer perpetually sailing between such Damned Things and desperately juggling his classifications to fit them in, just as the history of politics is the futile epic of a long series of attempts to line up the Damned Things and cajole them to march in regiment.

        Also, any evolutionary biologist will tell you that the classification of lifeforms into “species” in essentially an excercise in arbitraryness (albeit a useful one, to be sure). The line between a dog and a wolf is at best a fuzzy one; and if you line up your ancestors beginning with the first living organism, individual organisms will look similar to their immediate progeny and immediate ancestry. Or, to put it another way:

        [I]t is not some vague thought experiment confined to the imagination. On the evolutionary view, there really is a series of intermediate animals connecting a rabbit to a leopard, every one of whom lived and breathed, every one of whom would have been placed in exactly the same species as its immediate neighbours on either side in the long, sliding continuum. Indeed, every one of the series was the child of its neighbour on one side and the parent of its neighbour on the other. Yet the whole series constitutes a continuous bridge from rabbit to leopard /…/

        (“The Greatest Show on Earth”, R. Dawkins)

        This is not to say the argument is wrong; just to point out that the YES/NO-dichotomy of species distinction does not serve to illustrate your point. I think.

  2. Dante says:

    Anything Kleiman seems to write always comes back to doing the same (failed) things as before, but with more vigor this time. Again and again, doing the exact same thing and ending up with costly failures.

    In other words, the very definition of insanity.

    Sooner or later, a vast majority of Americans will realize that those insane nimrods who promote the same failed policies over and over again (while profiting from them) are the problem, not the solution. Then there will be a backlash, and the nimrods will attempt to show how they were actually promoting anti-prohibition all along but We the People were just too stupid to understand that.

    When that happens, don’t let them get away with it.

  3. allan says:

    Wholesale drug legalization? What does that mean? Is that as opposed to retail drug legalization? How about regulated drug legalization? Ah, they don’t want to talk about that.

    Wholesale drugs as opposed to retail drugs? But w/o a retail outlet why buy wholesale?

    Mark and friends are waaay down their own rabbit hole. Take that as you will…

    Mark and friends really needs to sit down w/ Howard, Joe McNamara, Pete Christ and some of the other LEAPsters.

    Which of course in my mind begs the question – has Mark ever spoken to anyone from LEAP? My god, the range of knowledge, experience and intellect w/in that group is tremendous. Some like Jack Cole worked years in undercover narcotix. Many are former police chiefs.

    Of course when one has never experienced a whip, that others suffer under it may not seem such a negative thing. We must have order, of course.

    • this is from talk.politics.drugs early 00’s timeframe:

      “if your ideas are really good, people won’t steal them — you’ll have to cram them down their throats”

  4. Matthew Meyer says:

    I wonder if we can come up with a list of all the adjectives that get attached to “legalization” in order to evoke heroin in your kid’s Slurpee.

    “Wholesale,” “blanket,” “outright”…now that “legalization” itself is not such a dirty word, those who oppose it must work to make it sound extreme.

    • Francis says:

      Yeah, I do get the sense that “legalization” is losing some of its “dirty word” status. Meanwhile, the terms “war on drugs” and “prohibition” are becoming increasingly toxic. It’s almost like we’re winning.

  5. During the sixties I was a member of an anti-war group, founded by Timothy Leary


    I was hunted down by the FDA, arrested after a hours long footrace in Quito, Ecuador and flown back to the USA courtesy of Uncle Sam and your tax dollars after three months of fighting extradition. I never wanted to come back to this war mongering insane country again. A week after I was brought back I found myself in a temporary holding cell with another member of the Brotherhood, and asked him why they would do this. Hunt me down in South America accused of selling two ounces of Nepalese Temple ball hashish to an undercover cop.

    He replied that we had gotten information of a meeting of top government officials in the Nixon administration that were leading the charge to set up prison factories in private for profit prisons that were being set up by rich Republican investors. Laws against cannabis users could fill these prisons and make some people very rich and powerful. There were quite a few judges on board with the plan.

    I made a plea deal and during my time behind bars I wrote a futuristic novel, the first chapter detailing my experience and the rest a fantasy years in the future about how this private prison system would eventually sell women prisoners as sex slaves.

    Titled: The future of slavery. However towards the end of writing my novel, taking place in the year 2020, I had a vision, a revelation of how the people would rise up and take down this military/oil/prison/industrial complex and replace it with freedom, free renewable abundant energy, full automation and a truly space age planet reaching for the stars.

    I renamed by book, “Birth of an Angel”, in honor of our Liberation

    No mater how much the spray us, poison us with fluoride or brainwash us with their corporate propaganda, we outnumber them.
    Just remember, if the government shuts down your internet, shut down your government.

  6. Hey, if anyone would like to help get another legalization initiative on the ballot this year, Oregon’s IP-24 campaign needs volunteers to help transcribe signed petition sheets into Excel spreadsheets (in order to check against the statewide voter database to determine whether signatures are valid or not).

    The campaign has already gathered 90,000 raw signatures and has until July 6 to submit 116,000 valid signatures. If interested in helping out, send an email to csle.volunteers@gmail.com.

  7. Benjamin says:

    You’re right, Pete, and there’s a simple explanation. There are two options:

    1) Addicts have a safe, legal means of purchasing the drugs they desire(“legalized”), or

    2) Addicts have no legal means to purchase the drugs they desire. (“prohibited”)

    There is indeed a wide array of policy options for governing either of these two options, but this is how we should classify options.

    And by the way, I would NOT classify our current system of “regulating” prescription drugs as “legalization”, because many addicts are forced onto the black market.

    • Matthew Meyer says:

      I think “addicts” represent far too small a proportion of drug consumers to get the attention they do. (Even Kleiman et al. note that “Most users of addictive drugs are not addicts…”)

      Medicalizing and policy-fying the issue gives way too little weight to the fact that *most* drug users are non-addicts who would probably prefer that the state butt out. Kleiman and Co., not to mention the Sabeteers of the world, never give this angle anything close to the consideration it deserves in a free society.

      (Anyone who hasn’t read Grinspoon and Bakalar’s _Drug Control in a Free Society_, inspired in JS Mill’s “On Liberty,” should do so immediately.)

  8. TrebleBass says:

    I think that when “wholesale legalization” comes for marijuana, many people will see that it’s not so scary, and that it shouldn’t necessarily be so for other drugs either.

    • TrebleBass says:

      And also, afterwards, i think the possibilities of different kinds of legalization will be more apparent. When people are afraid of legalization, they only see the one.

    • Matthew Meyer says:

      I agree. But, I note that in the case of medical marijuana, a propaganda battle is raging to convince us that things are actually worse now that we have dispensaries than they were before, when everyone bought their cannabis on the black market.

      For a model of a moral issue in which “legalization” has been followed by decades of struggle over the scope of government regulation, including efforts to once more prohibit, look no further than abortion law and the accompanying debate.

  9. Eridani says:

    When I first saw the term “wholesale drug legalization”, the first thing that came to mind was being able to buy drugs in bulk from Costco (that would be awesome, by the way.) As for a third option… certain drugs could be mandated to be taken (think of the movie “Equilibrium”). Not saying this is helpful or ever will come true, but you never know. Hell, the FDA may already be putting all sorts of nonessential chemicals in our food.

  10. Francis says:

    In the U.S., alcohol kills more people than all of the illicit drugs combined (85,000 deaths versus 17,000 in 2000, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association). Alcohol also has far more addicted users.

    [If] “hard” drugs were sold on more or less the same terms as alcohol, there is every reason to think that free enterprise would work its magic of expanding the customer base, and specifically the number of problem users, producing an alcohol-like toll in disease, accident and crime.

    Er… “every reason” except for the available evidence. But it’s always interesting to see how drug warriors deal with the glaring hypocrisy represented by alcohol’s legal status. The official line (which you sometimes still see) used to be that alcohol and “drugs” are somehow different. Thus, you’d encounter statements like the following: “You can drink alcohol without getting ‘drunk,’ but everyone who uses ‘drugs’ does so to get ‘high.'”; “Lots of people drink for the ‘taste.'”; “Alcohol is a deeply-embedded part of our cultural history blah blah blah.” That position has apparently become untenable (with good reason). So while the old argument was that “legal booze isn’t an excuse for legalizing ‘drugs’ because alcohol isn’t that bad,” the new argument is that “we can’t legalize other drugs because alcohol is so terrible!” The old argument was based on an inaccurate assessment of the facts, but it was at least logically coherent. The new argument is just an all-around pile of stupid.

    • allan says:

      an all-around pile of stupid.”

      Such a polite young man…

      It boggles my mind that these knuckleheads can’t smell the stink for their love of shit. What else can it be? An open air market in drugs already exists! There are no regulations concerning dosage, purity, customer age… no taxes collected, no income taxes paid by the industry’s workers… competitors settle disputes with firearms rather than in mediation or court… political and justice system corruption is rampant…

      In fact I’ll counter Kleiman’s futuristic paranoid delusion of ridiculosity that drug use would explode exponentially… I’ll make the claim that within a month of cannabis legalization – 1 MILLION NEW JOBS WOULD BE CREATED.

      Besides, there are two bits of fact that will continue to prove monumental, for us.

      1) There is no possibility (nor any historical account) of overdosing on cannabis (save of course for the kiloton ganja bale falling on a person). I mean c’mon Mark, let’s compare LD50s shall we?

      2) Lies of vile nature (such as Prohibition produces) disguised as policy cannot be maintained by any government for long. The human will/spirit is, really… I swear, indomitable. When wrong is wrong but painted right, keen eyes will see thru that painted facade and obviate the wrong’s offensiveness. Others are then able to express the sentiment that yes indeed, the emperor wears no clothes. And once a whole population is laughing?

      Oh… and Mark? Why IS hemp illegal?

  11. Mark Kleiman says:

    Yes, Pete, we know: you will fight to the death any attempt to present a complex situation in terms that don’t fit your simple mind or cater to your hatreds.

    Actually, on this point you and I agree: there are many varieties of “legalization,” and many different ways to legislate and enforce “prohibition.” Therefore, the argument about whether “legalization” or “prohibition” is the better way to handle any particular drug is meaningless until someone specifies a specific prohibition regime and a specific legalization regime for that drug.

    That’s the sense in which the choice is not between prohibition and legalization. What we actually wrote is that the choice isn’t between wholesale legalization and the drug war: prohibition plus massive, undifferentiated drug law enforcement.

    Of course, you can’t be bothered to consider the actual proposals we made, and whether – as we argue, with evidence – they have the capacity to reduce total drug-related harm. HOPE keeps people out of prison. That’s a fact. But you don’t want to deal with facts. You’d rather rant against “prohibition.” Since when did darkness-cursing claim the moral high ground over candle-lighting?

    [Anyone who wants to know what I actually think about the legal status of cannabis should get Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know when it comes out next month. Hint: It doesn’t fit Pete’s fantasy of me as a deranged “drug warrior.”]

    • strayan says:

      There is no such thing as a ‘hard’ drug (prove me wrong). You make the claim, the onus is on you to back it up.

      Heroin is dangerous because most of the people making and selling it for the black market are unlikely to have come within 100 miles of a book on product safety. They are interested in one thing and one thing only – tax free $$$.

      Heroin, when administered in standard doses and supplied by people with tertiary qualifiications in chemistry and pharmacy, is safe enough to give to 3 YEAR OLDS: http://www.bmj.com/content/322/7281/261.abstract

      Not a single person receiving pharmaceutical grade heroin (for heroin dependence) has ever died from taking it. Why is it that you think giving it to people who already use the street drug equivalent refuse to die?

      Methamphetamine, when dispensed and manfuctured under the same conditions is approved (by the FDA) for use BY 6 YEAR OLDS: http://www.lundbeck.com/us/products/cns-products/desoxyn

      So much for your claim that heroin and methamphetamine are ‘hard’ drugs that “really are very dangerous”.

    • Francis says:

      Actually, on this point you and I agree: there are many varieties of “legalization,” and many different ways to legislate and enforce “prohibition.”

      That’s great, Mark! I’m encouraged to learn that’s what you actually believe. I just wish some version of that had found its way into WHAT YOU ACTUALLY WROTE (which, as a reminder, is the subject of Pete’s criticism). Let me guess, you probably wanted to make that point but got steamrolled by Jonathan and Angela. They’re the ones who insisted on “punching up” the argument with that “proposals for wholesale legalization” straw man. It was two against one! (And I love ’em like family, but those two crazy kids can be relentless.) And like Pete said, I’m sure you’re furious with the headline writer. I mean, what a dunce, right?

      Anyways, I reread the article. I also reread Pete’s post. And I gotta tell you, Pete’s criticism holds up pretty well on a second reading. Your article on the other hand, well, that didn’t hold up very well on a first reading. But hey, man, it’s good to see you around the couch! Seriously, don’t be a stranger.

      • Mark Kleiman says:

        No, on this point my co-authors and I are at one. Try reading our book, Drugs and Drug Policy.

        • Francis says:

          Two posts. Two different book plugs. Impressive. (Hey Pete, it looks like you might need to check the settings on your spam filter.)

    • Matthew Meyer says:

      Mark, if most users of addictive drugs are not addicts, why does your policy focus on maintaining criminal sanctions against the vast majority of illicit drug consumers?

      I’d like to see some of your substantial intellectual energy put into imagining the possibilities with every option on the table. The column you guys wrote discarded out of hand the possibility of respecting the liberty of the 80% (or more) who use drugs without substantial harms to themselves or others.

      (You are running out of credit for your UDV work with me, good sir!)

    • kaptinemo says:

      Drug prohibitionists must be secret admirers of the late Rube Goldberg; they seem to love making the relatively simple overly complex. But their sophistries are transparent; reality tends to run roughshod over their sensibilities.

      The fact of the matter is that so long as you leave a single bolt-hole (prohibition) for the cartels to exploit (as the Mafia did with the other drugs after alcohol Prohibition ended) you will have the attendant crime. And no amount of personal indignation caused by the cartel’s refusal to accede to a prohibitionists’ demand to adhere to their pet ideology will alter that. As anyone from LEAP will be happy to explain at length.

      In a perverse example of social evolution, the cartels actually need the prohibs; they are, in reality, symbionts. But the cartels (and subsidiary interests such as law enforcement, prohibition bureaucrats and international bankers) are the only people on this planet who actually need what the prohibs are selling.

      In the marketplace of ideas, the prohibs are hawking what amounts to the rotten, toxic fruit of the poison tree. It’s covered in dark blotches, it’s split open in places, and the stench is nauseating…and they scratch their heads and wonder why it’s only other rotten fruit salesmen who want to buy it?

      As to the issue of trying to tailor a special prohibition for each drug? More Rube Goldberg.

      So…if the root of the poison tree is so virulently toxic, and the fruit is only slightly less so no matter how you try to wash and slice it, juice it, strain it, sweeten it with ivory tower rhetoric, whatever, how can one justify trying to hawk these poisonous wares? Have they no sense of shame?

      Reformers don’t need to unravel a prohibitionist’s Gordian Knot, no more so than our grandparents did when they demanded the passage of the 21st Amendment. Like Alexander’s sword cutting through that Knot, the supposition back then was that adults don’t need hand-holding from what HL Mencken sneeringly, righteously condemned as the ‘uplifters’…whether it be individuals or The State. But the ‘uplifters’ never seem to understand that.

      • Matthew Meyer says:

        “Like every preacher needs a sinner
        And the gangster likes the submachine
        Experts get paid by the beginner
        And the bombshell needs her magazine!”

        Also, there is much to be learned about the drug war mentality in Foucault’s “Incitement to Discourse,” which is basically about how Victorians needed to examine, in minute and prurient detail (but under scientific mantel, to be sure) all the things which one must not do in the bedroom.

        Contemporarily, Thomas Szasz is most well known for writing, if somewhat vaguely, about the drug user as moral scapegoat. But Caroline Jean Acker’s _Creating the American Junkie_ gives some more content to these ideas.

        Of course we on Pete’s couch have noticed how self-fulfilling prohibitionist prophecy can be, with a new and randomly chosen example being the so-called ‘synthetic marijuana,’ which apparently is not that good for you. Kids seek it out to avoid drug tests and because it’s legal. And then, incredibly, for some people the infamy redounds on cannabis itself.

        Ay ay ay.

    • Dan Riffle says:

      No one thinks that you’re a “deranged Drug Warrior” professor – you clearly have more sane, nuanced views than that – we just think you present your views dishonestly. As you concede, there’s lot of varieties of views, but all fall under either the prohibition umbrella or the legal umbrella. You fall under the prohibition umbrella. You advocate for a softer, kinder prohibition and call it something else that’s neither prohibition or legalization. That’s dishonest.

      Instead of saying “I support something between ‘wholesale’ legalization on one extreme and a ‘war on drugs’ at the other, I support something in between,” you should say “I support prohibition, but I think we should enforce it less punitively with more emphasis on treatment.” Why can’t you do that?

      • Mark Kleiman says:

        Because I support prohibition only in some cases. Of the currently licit drugs, I’d prohibit cigarettes (not other tobacco or nicotine products and with maintenance supplies for current addicts) but not alcohol. Of the currently illicit drugs, I’d like to see cannabis, the hallucinogens, MDMA, and coca leaf for chewing or coca tea legally available to adults. All of this is in my published writings; “Kleiman the prohibitionist” exists only in the minds of the Manichean leglizers.

        • Francis says:

          Because I support prohibition only in some cases. Of the currently licit drugs, I’d prohibit cigarettes.

          “Kleiman the prohibitionist” exists only in the minds of the Manichean leglizers(sic).

          Geez, Mark, I don’t know any prohibitionist who wants to prohibit EVERYTHING. But what you all share is a willingness to use state violence in a (largely-futile) attempt to impose your personal views on everyone else. Your personal views are (in my opinion) more reasonable than those of most prohibitionists, but my problem is with your fundamental premise. You believe that it’s appropriate for the government to tell adult citizens what they can or cannot put into their own bodies. I disagree.

          Of the currently illicit drugs, I’d like to see cannabis, the hallucinogens, MDMA, and coca leaf for chewing or coca tea legally available to adults.

          Aw, gee that’s swell! And if I finish all my chores, can I have a glass of rich chocolate Ovaltine later? (Or will that be on your list of prohibited substances because of its sugar content?) Look, I think it’s great that you want to legalize those drugs. Again, my problem is with your premise. Adults aren’t children, and we don’t need you to “allow” us certain indulgences.

          All of this is in my published writings.

          Wait, you’re a published author?! Why didn’t you say so earlier? (Always the modest one, you.) I don’t suppose you could suggest any books where we might be able to learn more about your views on drug policy? 😉 (I kid because I love.)

        • darkcycle says:

          Me too…what Francis said.

        • Freeman says:

          I’d like to see cannabis, the hallucinogens, MDMA, and coca leaf for chewing or coca tea legally available to adults.

          Just as long as it’s not legally available wholesale, right? Can’t have none of that wholesale legalization!

        • Dan Riffle says:

          That’s entirely reasonable, and I hope that you can find a way to include that in your op-eds, blog posts, and other more widely read materials. It’s great that it’s in your book, but casual observers of drug policy debates don’t have time to read more than one or two books on the subject, if that.

          It’s understandable that someone could confuse you for a prohibitionist after reading this WSJ editorial in which “drugs” are dealt with uniformly, and no reference is made to classifying some substances (including currently prohibited substances) under a “legal and regulated” framework.

          Thanks for the response.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      Speak of the devil and in he walks.

    • darkcycle says:

      Okay, Mark, I came in late but I’ve been wanting to talk to one of you proponents of the “kinder, gentler prohibition”.
      So, you and Gil and Kevin now support treatment over incarceration, correct? The theory is that given the choice between jail and a criminal record people will choose treatment and all will be right and prohibition works, huh? I’m going to call you on that bullshit right now.
      Lets take what we know to be true and try a little forethought (I know, I know, forethought is HARD and it means leaving that nice comfortable place where you support policies already in place and justify them retroactively with rationalizations). You propose to leverage these people into treatment with arrest and the threat of harsh penalties, right? You ARE aware, of course, that of people who enter rehab, 70% will relapse within 90 days. If you’re not, that is a pathetic oversight, but no matter, what do you propose to do with the 70% of mandated treatment participants who wash out? They WILL wash out. A second chance (at great expense to the taxpayer?)? A third? A fourth? When does that threat of prison kick in? When does the client return to court and recieve his sentencing? No matter how you slice it, the MAJORITY of those you try to force into treatment are going to wind up back in front of a judge for sentencing for that very infraction.
      If, as in the case of Cannabis, the addiction level is vanishingly low (on the order of 3% or less of the people who use it, as opposed to 7 to 12% of alcohol drinkers), the majority of people you are going to be forcing into MEDICAL treatment will not NEED that treatment, since they will NOT BE addicts. From this fact arises some salient questions: First, how do you justify requiring people who are not ill and not in need of it to undergo expensive and time intensive medical treatment? How do you justify saddling these people with the lifelong stigma of being labeled an addict? How do you justify requiring a medical procedure that FAILS in 70% of all cases? Simply stated you will only add a massive treatment buerocracy to and already bloated and massive prison complex.
      You folks also like to pretend that the only negative consequence of a drug arrest is a conviction. In reality the arrest and subsequent court involvement may very well cost a person his job or his enrollment in school, or even his or her children. It will be devastatingly expensive and completely disrupt every stable aspect of their lives. That’s a wonderful way to treat someone whose well being you claim as your primary interest. Sir, your “kinder, gentler” prohibition is neither. I call Bullshit.

    • Freeman says:

      Jeez, Mark. Pete sure is a lot more polite as a guest on your blog than you are on his. You know it looks pretty arrogant for a professor with a phd to come in and sit on someone else’s couch and say something to him like “you will fight to the death any attempt to present a complex situation in terms that don’t fit your simple mind or cater to your hatreds”. Inferring someone you disagree with is stupid and hateful doesn’t seem to me like behavior that lives up to your credentials. Do you know Pete well enough personally that you would feel comfortable saying that to his face in his house?

      Your hyperbolic depiction of someone else’s motives sounds a lot like Brett Bellmore over on your blog, and I’ve noticed you often get quite irritated when he directs his snark at you personally. I don’t think it’s any more attractive when you do it.

      Are you baiting impolite responses so that Keith can point to it and whine some more about how so many legalizers are ill-mannered and dishonest?

      • allan says:

        I’ll add my ditto to Freeman’s post.

        See Mark… it’s like this, Pete isn’t a pothead. He’s a polite young man w/ a great career and by all appearances he does his job well, inspiring students. He provides couch space for whomever feels comfortable sitting down with an obvious eclectic mix of folks. And when you come in here and pee on Pete’s couch, you pee on our couch. Mind your manners.

        It’s kinda like monkeys… there are smart monkeys and dumb monkeys. But when monkeys fling poop it doesn’t matter if they are smart or dumb – because at that point, they are just poop-flinging monkeys.

        I’m curious too Mark… do you ever add the egregious harms of Prohibition to your equations? Do you even come close to grasping why we here are so passionately opposed to it? Drug harms pale in comparison to the social and civil damages Prohibition creates.

        So go find and interview Donald Scott’s widow, or Jennifer Odom’s family, maybe trip down to TX and talk to Zeke’s familia… or better yet go to Columbia, MO and talk to that 7 year old that had his vicious, 10″ tall Welsh Corgie shot by SWAT because his dad smokes ganja.

        • Mark Kleiman says:

          You may regard it as “polite” to accuse someone, repeatedly, of intellectual dishonesty. I don’t.

      • Mark Kleiman says:

        Anytime Pete wants to stop insulting me, I’ll be happy to stop responding. Maybe he and his friends regard intellectual dishonesty as a minor sin; that would explain a lot of what they write and say. But I’ve been saying precisely what I think for thirty years, no matter who it offends, and have earned the hatred of the fanatics on both sides as a result.

        So if you challenge my integrity, expect to find me coming back at you, hard.

        • Freeman says:

          Anytime Pete wants to stop insulting me, I’ll be happy to stop responding.

          1) Pete’s insults were directed more toward your proposal than toward you personally. You responded with a totally ad-hominem attack on his character and intelligence.

          2) Pete did not come on your blog and fling feces at you like you came on his and did to him. Even if he had, you have willfully chosen to fling poo back at him, reducing yourself to a poo-flinging monkey as Allan pointed out. Your behavior here was inconsistent with that which the RBC desires from guests on your own blog.

          3) I would have assumed that you were smart and mature enough to respond to criticism of your policy proposals, however “hard”, without resorting to the kind of personal attacks you claim to dislike in others. I would have thought that beneath you, but you are the better judge of your own intelligence and character so I will take your word for it.

    • Swooper420 says:

      You know your ad hominum attacks on Pete don’t do any good for you or your cause. It merely makes you seem small & petty.

  12. A Critic says:

    @Pete – “Legalization” is the third way of dealing with drugs. Prohibition is the second way. Liberty is the first. Technically “legalization” and prohibition are two ways of the same way, state “control”, so I suppose you are right, there’s only two ways to go about it.

    And liberty doesn’t have a range of options…for state controls.

    • Dan Riffle says:

      I think you’re confusing “legalization” with “regulation.” Still, I beg to differ. Regulation is on the “legalization” side of the spectrum, the same side as liberty. I will never understand how people can lump toether a policy in which people can possess and use drugs without fear of arrest, but only in certain ways, with a policy that involves arresting hundreds of thousands of people and keeping them in cages.

      I disagree that “liberty” is smart policy. Some drugs are dangerous, and their production/distribution/consumption should be regulated. But regardless, even if you’re right, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. That’s like the “No on 502” crowd in Washington opposing a legalization initiative because it includes a 5 nanogram/milliliter THC limit for driving. Talk about missing the forest for the trees…

      • Matthew Meyer says:

        A Critic has a point: from the perspective of natural law, drugs were not “legalized” any more than tomatoes are now. Only with prohibition does legalization become possible to think. And I don’t see A Critic taking the kind of paranoid stance you’re talking about, thankfully none of those folks are blowing their fetid breath toward the Couch.

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