Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
Philip K. Dick
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.
Most passport pictures are good likenesses, and it is time we faced it.
You must understand how serious I am in my beliefs about drug legalization. I am a laissez faire capitalist and a strong proponent of “small” government, very small government. However, in my next and final posting on this subject, I will propose new taxes (very large taxes in dollar amounts) and having the government take over a large sector of our economy (albeit a currently illegal and heavily submerged sector). If that doesn’t show my sincerity, I can’t imagine what will.
Also, a dear friend and reader (and a person that can argue with you until all that is left of your position is a puddle on the floor) wishes to be certain that the other deleterious effects of drugs, not just death, are highlighted in my ramblings. This criticism is quite salient, but statistics on death are well documented, while the mental anguish of young drug users and their parents are far more difficult to assess. Indeed, the mental anguish of the young typically precedes their drug use (abuse, would be more honest). They are simply medicating themselves to ward off the demons in their minds. Nonetheless, such factors and many others bear on this argument. I cannot cover them all. I also cannot say that someone of a different mind than mine could not mount significant arguments to dispute my position.
My guru, Ayn Rand, always begins her arguments with the statement that “A is A.” What she means, at least in my humble opinion, is that “reality is real.” I chose the quotes on “reality” above because I believe “reality” and “logic” to be the most cogent arguments in favor of drug legalization. Alcohol is legal. Alcohol and cannabis have the same effects on mentation. Therefore, cannabis should be legal. Or, one could make these statements. Alcohol is legal. Cannabis has fewer deleterious effects on the human body than does alcohol. Therefore, cannabis should be legal. These are not perfect syllogisms. Frankly, I don’t care. I gave up on the rigid rules of logic a long time ago. These statements are, nonetheless, eminently logical.
There are some facts worth noting at this point. [From: Safety First: Facts About Drugs: Alcohol.] Alcohol is the oldest and most widely used drug in the world. Despite laws restricting underage drinking, alcohol remains easily accessible to young people. Teens report that they most commonly obtain alcohol from, and are most likely to drink in, their own homes and the homes of their peers (New York Times 2002). In 2001, 47 percent of eighth graders reported that they had used alcohol at least once. Among high school seniors, 78 percent reported that they had tried alcohol and 62 percent report having been drunk at least once (Johnston 2003). Does that mean that 78% of teenagers are alcoholics? If the answer to that question is “no,” then does this data mean that 78% of teenagers will ultimately become alcoholics? Again, the answer to this question is an unambiguous “no!” If there is a significant difference between cannabis and alcohol then my arguments will mean little to you.
The statistics for marijuana use are less dramatic, but clearly make the point about availability. [From: Safety First: Facts About Drugs: Marijuana.] Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug. By the time they graduate from high school, almost half of America’s teenagers admit to experimenting with marijuana (therefore, the true number is larger). In 2002, 19 percent of 8th graders, 39 percent of tenth graders, and 48 percent of twelfth graders reported trying marijuana once or more (Johnston 2003). Use peaks between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five (Goode 1999; Earleywine 2002). Although, parents may punish both the use of alcohol or cannabis, young people learn different lessons when using these drugs. With cannabis they learn disrespect for the law. They learn that laws are sometimes illogical and curtail human enjoyment. Of the many bad lessons drug use teaches, this is one of the worst for the youth of our Nation.
There are other excellent quotes about “reality.” “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination (John Lennon).” “Humankind cannot bear very much reality (T.S. Eliot).” These unassailable qualities of human thinking also cannot be denied and clearly affect how one perceives the “drug war.” In this discussion, logic and relevant facts do not always win the day. There is another unassailable quality of humans, particularly those humans that are government functionaries. As the evidence mounts that their particular program is both illogical and destructive, they simply cannot say, “oops, sorry about that.” They just become bigger hypocrites.
Drug purity and dose uniformity:
As a physician, I can tell you that a doctor’s job would be complete chaos if he/she had no idea exactly how much of a drug was in a given pill. Dose uniformity is mandatory for rational prescription of medications. Legitimate drug manufacturers spend a significant percentage of their quality control dollars to insure uniformity of dosage. Next on their list of quality control items is to ensure that the drug and the method of conveyance are not contaminated with other materials, especially dangerous “other” materials. Illegal drug manufacturers and their “sales force” are not quite the same as Eli Lilly or Merck and Co. The dosage received in an illegal drug can vary considerably. Below is some data from the United Kingdom showing the “purity” of cocaine when seized by customs versus “purity” when seized on the street. This, as they say, is a very dangerous “crapsshoot” for a drug user.
When you go to a bar or open a bottle of wine at home you have a reasonably good idea whether you will begin to feel inebriated after one glass, two glasses, etc. Why? Because our government insists that alcohol content is printed on the label and it is tested for uniformity.
Table Wine % Alcohol
Dry White 12.2%
Usage of illicit drugs that are of unexpected purity, taken in large quantities, or taken after a period of abstinence can induce overdose. The “unexpected purity” is the major contributor. Cocaine users that inject intravenously are especially at risk because the margin between an optimal “thrill dose” and an overdose is small. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that drug overdoses killed more than 33,000 people in 2005. That makes drug overdose the second leading cause of accidental death, behind only motor vehicle accidents (43,667) but ahead of firearms deaths (30,694). This death toll from drug overdose is equivalent to a hundred 757s crashing and killing everybody on board every year.
[From: Mark Thornton, Senior Resident Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama] The scourge of crystal meth is another example of the “potency effect” or what has been called the “iron law of prohibition.” When government enacts a prohibition, increases enforcement, or increases penalties on a good such as alcohol or drugs, it inevitably results in substitution to more adulterated, more potent, and more dangerous drugs.
Increased enforcement of drug laws, backed by increased penalties, led to higher prices and decreased availability of preferred recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. High prices and periodic shortages led drug dealers and consumers to find substitutes — ersatz goods that would produce similar results but at a lower cost. Methamphetamine seemed to fill the bill. Drug enforcement caught on quickly as to how this substitute drug was being produced. Common cold medicines could be converted to methamphetamine. This led many states to require that buyers be tracked electronically to prevent purchasing from multiple pharmacies. In response, meth producers have recruited large numbers of intermediaries, including their friends, relatives, college students, and even children and the homeless. These recruits buy the cold medicine and can sell it to the labs for a 500 percent profit. An investigative report by the Associated Press shows that thousands of people are being lured into this drug trade. “Law enforcement was surprised,” St. Louis County Sgt. Tom Murley said. “People that normally wouldn’t cross the line are willing to do so because they think it’s such a sweet deal, and because of the economy.” The law of unintended consequences strikes again!
A profound and unintended consequence for black Americans:
In an interesting article by John Stossel, Fox News, he elaborates on the work of John McWhorter, a Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow in Public Policy. Importantly, McWhorter is black. McWhorter indicts the “war on drugs” as a pivotal cause in the dissolution of black American family life.
[From, End the Drug War, Save Black America, by John Stossel]. “The ‘main obstacle(s) to getting black America past the illusion that racism is still a defining factor in America’ are, [McWhorter] says, ‘the strained relationship between young black men and police forces’ and the ‘massive number of black men in prison.'”
“And what accounts for this? Prohibition.”
“Therefore, if the War on Drugs were terminated, the main factor keeping race-based resentment a core element in the American social fabric would no longer exist. America would be a better place for all.”
“McWhorter sees prohibition as the saboteur of black families. ‘It has become a norm for black children to grow up in single-parent homes, their fathers away in prison for long spells and barely knowing them. In poor and working-class black America, a man and a woman raising their children together is, of all things, an unusual sight. The War on Drugs plays a large part in this.'”
“He also blames the black market created by prohibition for diverting young black men from the normal workforce. ‘Because the illegality of drugs keeps the prices high,’ he says, ‘there are high salaries to be made in selling them. This makes selling drugs a standing tempting alternative to seeking lower-paying legal employment.'”
“This has devastating consequences. The attractive illegal livelihood relieves men of the need to develop skills that would provide stable legal incomes.”
“One poisonous byproduct of prohibition and the black market, McWhorter says, is that going to prison is a now a ‘badge of honor.’ ‘To black men involved in the drug trade, enduring prison time, regarded as an unjust punishment for merely selling people something they want (with some justification), is seen as a badge of strength: The ex-con is a hero rather than someone who went the wrong way.’ This attitude did not exist before drug prohibition.”
Again, my friends, America needs to consider the lesser of two evils. When confronted with such a choice arguments abound. I have come to the conclusion that the “cure is worse than the disease.”