What Kind of Problem is the Drug Problem?

A recent issue of The Economist leads with a cover piece abuot stopping the drug wars. They support legalization – and admit they have held this position for decades.  Their argument, in sum, is this:

Legalisation would not only drive away the gangsters; it would transform drugs from a law-and-order problem into a public-health problem, which is how they ought to be treated.

Is it time at last to consider this other method of dealing with the drug problem?  The article points out that the same nation (United States) where law enforcement puts the most money and time into fighting drugs has among the worst problems with drugs, too.

7 thoughts on “What Kind of Problem is the Drug Problem?

  1. Personally I think it is well past time for this action. The ‘quality’ could be controlled, taxes could be raised and it would remove one of the most lucrative income streams from narco-traffickers.

    In many respects it is a parallel to the issues of prohibition during the late 20s and the 30s. When alcohol was banned, criminal elements took over. Fortunes were made and violence was rampant. When prohibition was repealed, the majority of criminal enterprise had to look elsewhere for their business.

    What I have found interesting that we do not do is to talk about why some people have a need for self-medication of any type.

  2. I should have an opinion on this, I know. But I think both sides make good arguments. And I admit that I’m afraid that if now-illicit drugs are legalized, then problems we hadn’t anticipated will show up and bite us in the butt. As for why some people feel the need to do drugs, at the state hospital in particular I have seen people who have self-medicated for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia for years, but while these drugs make them feel better temporarily, they don’t treat the illness and they don’t improve functioning. But — sometimes the only way people get help for their mental illnesses is when they get in trouble with the legal system and lo and behold, they are found not competent to stand trial. So, legalizing drugs (and eliminating some of the legal problems) may set off a chain reaction that we need to anticipate and plan for.

  3. Legalization is great, as long as it doesn’t end with our pot being grown in the current agro-industrial scheme of things: heavy use of fuel, lots of manufactured fertilizer and maybe even round-up ready cannabis sativa! Brought to you by Archer Daniels Midland. That doesn’t do away with the criminal element, it just switches to a socially acceptable criminal element: our current corporate oligarchs.

    Besides, all the talk I’ve heard about taxes on the product (lets just talk about pot at the moment) are equal to about 50-100% of the street value anyhow, so that is all the more reason to keep getting it on the black market.

    Oh, and one word about self-medication: COFFEE! Which i love and lots of ‘law-abiding’ people love, but is nonetheless a drug, the production of which results in plenty of environmental and social problems across the globe.

    Fair-trade Maui-wowie, anyone?

  4. If we just cut off the hand of a first time offender of drugs, then I believe we would see demand rapidly decrease.
    The problem of drugs in the US is one of demand. It is not an economic issue nor a law inforcement issue, nor a public health issue, but a moral issue.

  5. Ryan, with that logic, we should not have any murderers in the US (or at least in Texas) because we kill people who kill people. Violence continues time and time again to fail to decrees the problems.

    I think if you legalize it then you might be able to nudge behavior to the users. For instance we have companies who will pay money to have their product at eye level at the store making it a “more accessible” selection to others. So if these drugs were legalized we could find ways of distribution which would be not impossible but more difficult. I am not sure if this works or not, I am not sure if the restrictions on guns have declined ownership or not, but I also am not the expert in public policy. Just adding to the conversation.

  6. Jason,
    I was actually being a bit sarcastic about the hand cutt off thing. My major point was that this is moral issue. It is akin to saying prostitution exists and so the women would be safer, and so would the johns if we regulated it and legalised it. From a purely pragmatic view, that might be a legitimate option. From a moral and Christian viewpoint it isn’t. We legislate morality. The question is to what extent and in what areas should we or should we not legislate morality. To legalise hard core drugs, is not a shift I believe we can make morally.
    Also, Jason, I don’t know you, but I find your header on your blog highly offensive and anti Christian. I always wished Ghandi would get the message of the cross, but given statements such as the ‘be the change,’ it appears he never did.

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