It’s Time to End the “War on Drugs”

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It’s been almost 40 years. Is that long enough for a war?

Whenever one begins a war one needs to consider the exit strategies. This was a fatal flaw in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe it is also a fatal flaw in the one war being fought on American soil: The War on Drugs.

It is hard to consider what was thought of as the end game of this war when it began. Was the end of the war going to be some utopian time where no one used drugs? Was it when all the drug users were in prison? How would winning this war look?

We can ponder those questions because we know with certainty what losing this war looks like.

I asked a public defender who works in felonies what percentage of their cases are small time drug charges (not drug king pin charges). Her response? 90%. 90%! Nine out of ten people being processed by our criminal justice system for serious crimes were busted for drugs.

Felony drug charges can be filed for tiny amounts of drugs (like enough for a couple “highs”).

The prisons are bursting with drug criminals. It costs $40,000 a year to incarcerate someone for 1 year. 1 year! It costs untold amounts of money and energy to arrest, prosecute and defend these drug criminals. It is very easy for police to arrest drug users. They go to the neighborhood and “sell” drugs to addicts. Their partner arrests the users a moment later. They can arrest 100 people in a day like that. They go through the criminal justice system and weigh down the system.

The selective prosecution of immigrants and under-privileged drug users is horrifying. At frat parties across the country drugs are used with no consequence. The hobo who gets high goes to prison for a few months, years, decades even life. Three drug arrests and convictions can lead to life in prison (or more accurately death in prison). If someone who is undocumented gets picked up for a drug charge, even if the drug charge is dropped or fabricated they can be deported. Losing fathers, brothers, mothers and sisters to the drug war only increases the social problems in lower class neighborhoods.

In the last few weeks there has been an encouraging development, more and more news articles have appeared in the media calling for an end to the drug war.

First, The Guardian reported that world leaders were calling for an end to the international drug war. The names associated with the Global Commission on Drug Policy’s push come from all over the world. The problem exists internationally to the point that the US sends $1.4 billion in aid to Mexico and Central American nations to wage their drug wars at home. The commission is calling for decriminalization and legal regulation.

Then, in The Atlantic, I saw a great line from David Simon, creator of The Wire, which really told to story of the drug war to the people. The show is based on the real drug war in downtown Baltimore. It accurately portrays the many issues with the drug war. For some reason, Eric Holder asked for another season of The Wire. Simon said he would be happy to consider it if the administration was ready to reconsider its current stance on the drug war.

Next, President Jimmy Carter weighed in with his endorsement for ending the drug war. Citing the great work of the aforementioned international group, Carter turns the issue into a political one and talks about how great he was and how bad Reagan was. But there are some worthwhile points in his Op-Ed. For example, in California 11% of the budget goes to prisons and 7.5% goes to higher education. He calls on the American government to adopt the strategies of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Perhaps the most important factor is that Americans from all political ideologies can agree on this. Conservatives want to spend less money on drug enforcement. Liberals want to even the playing field for under-privileged folks and libertarians don’t want the government telling people what they can and cannot do.

We can all agree on this issue. Doesn’t it make sense to stop fighting about things we will never agree on for just a few minutes to end the War on Drugs? It seems to me that we can actually get some good work done if we would fix the things we agree about.

What should the drug policy be? Same as alcohol. Indoors only. Sold and taxed. Public intoxication or endangerment to others would be illegal.

What would happen? The courts would be less burdened. Our prisons would be mostly empty (and humane). The police and the citizens in their neighborhoods would have a less adversarial relationship due to less arrests and less fake drug sales. Police could return to more wholesome police work. Our local and federal government would have money to spend on much more important projects. We all win.

End this war.

Links: Guardian, The Atlantic, NY Times

  • >What should the drug policy be? Same as alcohol. Indoors only.
    You mean even hard drugs?

    >The police and the citizens in their neighborhoods would have a less adversarial relationship 

    Maybe you can ask an actual police office about that. Drugs are legal…people (perhaps) using more of it, getting stoned and beating up their wives and kids (indoors of course). Police are still called in. 

    • Yes even hard drugs.

      Police coming in to assist in a domestic dispute is not adversarial, it is “peace keeping”. But fooling addicts so you can arrest them is adversarial and creates distrust between law enforcement and citizens.

      • Do you believe there may be any negative affects to legalizing hard drugs?

        • Not really. I don’t believe there is anyone who doesn’t do drugs because they are illegal.

          • nor really? interesting!

            So you really don’t think there would be any negative consequences to a society, as a whole (including its youth) once it sends the message that its basically ok to do it in the privacy in your home no matter how hard the drug is. That now its more readily acquired and more of it now?

            • Decriminalization is not the same as approval. It’s not illegal to cheat on your wife. Does that mean its okay? I am fine with teaching my kids values that are not based on the law. Aren’t you?

              As it is, I have taught my son about the problems of drugs and it just dawned on me that I never even mentioned that they were illegal. It has no bearing on whether one should use them.

  • >Was the end of the war going to be some utopian time where no one used drugs? Was it when all the drug users were in prison? How would winning this war look
    Good questions…but one should also think of the consequences the other way. Is it going to be all roses and good if you legalize it as you describe in the end of your post….or may it become much worse.

    I will say, that I think the punishments should be reformed. There is no need to send someone to hard time for using weed for example. 

    • It will be same without all the wasted resources. We lost. There are drugs. There will always be drugs. Now we have to figure out how to build a society where drugs are not punished. Instead they need to be dealt with like any other social problem.

      • will there be much more drugs? Will government—in saving money on law enforcement—now have to be spent on more programs for drug addicts (since they now legalized it, it will OBVIOUSLY fall on the governments lap to help)?

  • >Decriminalization is not the same as approval. It’s not illegal to cheat on your wife. Does that mean its okay? I am fine with teaching my kids values that are not based on the law. Aren’t you? 
    Of course. But I am concerned with society as a whole. Personally, it has been a bit frightening when I saw this explosion of medical marijuana shops all around LA. The difference between making it legal and keeping it illegal is in fact the PUBLIC statement a people are making. That public statement you are making is GOING to make some sort of impression on people. The society in general is removing an important stigma. So yes, you teach your child cheating on his wife is bad, but at the same time, he sees sexualized posters everywhere and billboards for ashleymadison.com. Why not have public billboards next selling PCP? 

    • There is no need for a public statement on drug use. No one normal thinks it is good or healthy.

      I am all for regulating advertisements (like Tobacco and Alcholol).

      We as a society need to self govern our families and communities. Having the criminal justice system govern drug use is far more damaging and harmful than people realize.

      • You misunderstood what I wrote entirely. I was talking about the unintentional statement the public sphere is making about drug use…not that there should be a public statement by the government.

        • No. I understood. I think statements like that are dumb and useless.

          • What statements??????????

            Are you sure you are understanding what I am writing?

          • That public statement you are making is GOING to make some sort of impression on people.

            I disagree with that statement. Clear?

  • Anonymous

    Funny, I was just thinking about this issue last night. I have a whole argument I would like to make, but first I’ll have to address what appears to be a fundamental disconnect in this article.

    The bulk of this article argues that it is wrong to incarcerate drug users, from both a moral and economical perspective. That’s not a particularly controversial point, but it makes for a very narrow prescription: Prosecute the suppliers not their consumers. (Many countries have decriminalized cannabis possession, and others simply decline to prosecute users.) However, the article concludes with a recommendation of considerably greater scope: End the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs, as I understand it, consists mostly of battling traffickers, trying to choke off sources of drugs so that they cannot enter the United States (and other participating countries). Whether we can afford to end this war is a far more difficult question then whether we should be jailing hobos.

    Fink’s proffered solution is to legalize drugs and tax them like nicotine and alcohol. The moment this is offered as a solution, we should ask an important question: Will we allow Philip Morris (taking PMI as our token large drug company) to compete with the traffickers on price (assuming they can do so, which I imagine would be the case)? If not, they will not sell a gram of drugs. The drug cartels will not be willing to simply go out of business; they will considerably undercut the burdened corporations, and we will have to decide whether to continue the war against the cartels exactly as before. Legalization will have, in effect, gained us nothing.

    The other possibility, then, is that we let Philip Morris win. We tax its products, but lightly enough that it can use its industrial strength to produce drugs as prices that the black market simply cannot match. Effectively, we let the official market drive the black market out of existence. This could conceivably work, but keep something in mind: We are allowing a price war over cocaine and heroin, over coca plants and common garden poppies. How many high school kids can currently afford to bring any quantity of those drugs to a party? Can we afford to change that situation?

    Seems like a pretty tough question to me, and right now I don’t have the answer.

    • The war is mostly being waged on the streets of our inner cities by arresting and prosecuting petty drug abusers.

    • Your point is fair. I will point out that the worst case scenario (within reason) is still better than what we have now. As I said above, it is up to families and communities to educate their selves about drug use and its ills as opposed to relying on the government to inefficiently wage this war.

      • Anonymous

        In light of those two points, why not take the middle ground?

        At the moment possession, use and sale of drugs are all illegal and criminal offenses. (I should emphasize the distinction between Decriminalization and Legalization here, since several comments have failed to distinguish between the two: Decriminalization means that an offense no longer results in jail time or a criminal record for the offender. It does not imply that the act is no longer illegal (i.e. Legalization). Plenty of things are illegal without being criminal offenses, I assume that most traffic violations are within that category.) To solve the problems you are raising you only need to remove two of those six checkmarks: Possession and use of narcotics need to be decriminalized (though they can remain illegal). In your article, you suggest that we should remove all six checkmarks, that the possession, use and sale of drugs should be not only decriminalized but legalized. Given that it’s no longer an either-or  question, this would require a far stronger argument than the one above.

        (I also noticed that your solution seems to go well beyond the course of action suggested by the Drug Commission which seems to take a middle ground consisting largely of decriminalization, with the possible legalization of marijuana. [I’m judging by the article here: http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/06/02/report-the-global-war-on-drugs-has-failed-is-it-time-to-legalize/])  

        • Anonymous

          It turns out that the report is actually quite readable, and available here: http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/Report

          Their suggestions: “Replace the criminalization and punishment of people who use drugs with the offer of health and treatment services to those who need them” and “Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs (with cannabis, for example) that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.” (See page 12 in the report for expansion of those two points.)

          They stop well short of suggesting that we should legalize all drugs, for fairly straightforward reasons.

          • This is a step in the right direction. But it is only a step.

        •  I don’t take the middle ground because I don’t agree with it.

          I am for legalization. Yes legalization. Why not decriminilization? Because I want the government’s role to be the same as it is in any other product in the market. A regulator. They can’t regulate illegal activity by taxing its sale. That only works if it is legal.

          It may not have been clear. But my post was expressing hope that since there is a mainstream voice clamoring to end the war of drugs in certain respects, perhaps the legalization effort will also pick up steam.

          • Anonymous

            Okay. Don’t agree with it, but try to recognize that the primary argument in your article fails to support the line of action you are recommending.

            Now let’s look at your actual argument:

            “I want the government’s role to be the same as it is in any other product in the market.”

            The government forbids open sale of countless products, often for good reason. You want to buy plutonium? You can’t. Anthrax? Also controlled, for good reason. Amoxicillin? Still no, also for very good reasons (bacteria becoming immune to the agents designed to eliminate them). Any number of substances (drugs, chemicals, bacteria etc.) are controlled (i.e. illegal to manufacture, sell or even use without a license), due to their potential danger to the user, others or society at large. This is a form of regulation, banning products except when we can be sure that they are being used for legitimate purposes. I understand that in ideal world we could allow everything from LSD to grenade launchers to be sold without constraint, and rely upon people’s common sense to prevent misuse. But we don’t live in such a world and, frankly, ‘the government should “regulate” everything through taxes!’ isn’t nearly enough to justify putting cocaine in the aisle at Duane Reade.

            • Right but there is a balance between what is good for the market and
              what is good for society. When we balance what has come from
              prosecuting drug users against not prosecuting them j think not
              prosecuting wins.

          • Anonymous

            Note: As I’ve noted before, this isn’t to say that there aren’t strong arguments for legalization. There are (in fact, the TIME article I mentioned touches upon two of them). But this is a serious issue, and the arguments presented on this page do not come close to justifying the potential for millions of additional teenagers to become addicted to heroin and cocaine. 

            • Duly noted. This blog post was an attempt to start a conversation not end it.

          • Anonymous

            I’ve already granted that your argument supports decriminalizing drug use (i.e. no “prosecuting drug users”). You’ve further argued, however, that once drug use is decriminalized you would go further and legalize both the sale and use of drugs. This is the suggestion that is in need of support.

            • Short answer: I don’t see a reason not to. Plus in order to tax it and
              regulate its purity. One of the biggest problems with unregulated
              drugs are impure products which kill their users.

          • Anonymous

            Well, in that sense, you’ve been successful.

            (Note: All my previous responses should be read as replies to the posts by E. Fink two above them, rather than the immediately preceding one.)

  • Susan Barnes

    You make an interesting argument. However, my concerns include:
    1. Should there be an age limit on drugs (lke there is for alcohol and tobacco) and if so, what should it be?
    2. If drugs are more readily accessible, will more people try them “just for fun” and end up addicted?
    3. If drugs are more accessible, will more people do drugs and drive or operate machinery, thereby harming or killing others?
    4. If drugs are more accessible, what will be the increase in cost for additional medical care, emergency care, and decreased productivity of drug-imparied workers?
    5. Will employers be allowed to restrict the use of drugs on the job (or before a work shift or on breaks)?
    6. If drugs are all legal, and can be obtained without a prescription, people (especially poor people) will be encouraged to self-medicate without seeking medical advice. What will be the cost in life and health due to people taking the wrong drugs, having bad drug reactions and interactions, misdiagnosing themselves and thereby not getting the medical care they need, etc.?
    7. Won’t this encourage atheletes to use performance-enhancing drugs and thereby develop more medical problems later in life, and what will the cost of that be to society?

    That’s just what springs to mind off the top of my head.

    • Good questions Susan

      And it has been my point as well. You can’t just rush to change something like making hard drugs perfectly legal. You gotta ask what the reprocutions (<— yes, I know that is a typo) will be. 

    • 1. 21
      2. Probably not. Few people consider the legality of drugs when they start using them.
      3. Again, I don’t believe drug use will increase.
      4. See above.
      5. Yes. More importantly it will never be socially acceptable to show up for work high.
      6. Interesting question.
      7. Athletes are already banned from using LEGAL drugs. This will not affect them.

      • Susan Barnes

        Thanks for the response. I disagree that legalizing drugs will not lead to more drug use, but there is no way to know which one of us is right about that.

        Number 6 is still troubling, though. As an added thought, medical insurance doesn’t pay for over-the-counter drugs, so if no drugs  require a prescription, the insurance companies will save a ton of money and a lot of people may not be able to afford their medications.

        • Do you know a single person who wants to use drugs but doesn’t because
          they are illegal?

          • Susan Barnes

            Sure, I know people who have said they would have liked to try illegal drugs but were afraid they’d be caught and arrested, and thought the risk wasn’t worth it.

            • If they were caucasion they had nothing to worry about…

          • Anonymous

            R’ E. Fink – If they were caucasion they had nothing to worry about…

            That’s way oversimplifying it. It mostly depend son socioeconomic level. The poor caucasians in Appalachia (and elsewhere) are treated similarly.

            Basically (obviously not entirely, but more or less), the policy boils down to:
            * If you have money and you buy drugs with it, use it in a mostly responsible manner (i.e. don’t cause harm to others), we won’t vigorously pursue you.
            * If you don’t have money, you burgle stuff or bash people on the head to rob them to get money for drugs, we will vigorously pursue you.

            • It is oversimplifying it. But it is almost entirely accurate.

              Your version of the drug policy is wrong. A more accurate version is: If the neighborhood has a lot of crime, people who have drugs on them will be arrested.

              You are quite misinformed if you think most drug arrests are about burglary, assault or robbery. That is not the case. Not at all. If you rob or assault someone you will be charged with those crimes, not drug charges.

          • Anonymous

            R’ E. Fink – It is oversimplifying it. But it is almost entirely accurate.
            But mostly “accurate” due to socioeconomic status (which correlates well with skin shade).

            Your version of the drug policy is wrong. A more accurate version is: If the neighborhood has a lot of crime, people who have drugs on them will be arrested. 
            Yes. That’s a good way to put it. And it proves the point you are making in the post. We really care about the crime, not so much about the drugs.
            You are quite misinformed if you think most drug arrests are about burglary, assault or robbery. That is not the case. Not at all. If you rob or assault someone you will be charged with those crimes, not drug charges.

            I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear in my previous comment. I KNOW that most drug arrests are purely about drugs, but mainly (as you say above) in places where it is typical for the money used to purchase those drugs to have come from criminal activity.

  • >That public statement you are making is GOING to make some sort of impression on people.
    So public expressions of over sexualized billboards, posters, manner of dress, TV makes no impression on people? There are no consequences to these?

    • Tea? China? Shmita? Sinai?

      • what?

        • The public statement we are talking about is whether drugs should be illegal / prosecuted. If they are not, NO GRAND PUBLIC STATEMENT GIVING TACIT APPROVAL TO DRUG USE IS BEING MADE.

          • You didn’t answer my previous question. Does it, or doesn’t it make on the general public?

            • Doesn’t. And even if it does, WHO CARES? I don’t look to or expect my
              children to look to society for what is acceptable behavior.

          • I am also a bit surprised by you R’ Fink. In Judaism, it is sort of a staple in its teaching to avoid X because of how X might affect the people. 

            I am asking the same thing about legalizing hard drugs. FYI, there was no grand town cryer proclaiming promiscuity is OK. But with its over exposure in our normative culture, that is in fact what has happened. Will there, or will there not be unintended consequences to saying all drugs are perfectly legal to the virtuousness of a society?

          • In Judaism, it is sort of a staple in its teaching to avoid X because of how X might affect the people.

            Example please? I have no idea what you mean.

            there was no grand town cryer proclaiming promiscuity is OK. But with its over exposure in our normative culture, that is in fact what has happened.

            Evidence? Please?

            Will there, or will there not be unintended consequences to saying all drugs are perfectly legal to the virtuousness of a society?

            There are always unintended consequences. If you are asking if they will be negative and harm you, me and the next guy? No. The only thing that might affect you is that you will able to afford UCLA when they drop tuition again because they are funded by the state as they should be.

  • >Doesn’t. 
    wow!!!

    >And even if it does, WHO CARES? I don’t look to or expect my children to look to society for what is acceptable behavior.

    Thats the thing….I don’t only care for my children. I can for what makes the best society. And even if you do care only for your children, there is a nice saying: “It takes a village to raise a child”

    • Yes. Let the village set the standards for appropriate behavior. Not the government.

      The government’s role is to keep us safe and protect our freedom. Not be our mommy and tell us what is good and what is evil.

      • >Not the government.
        I totally agree, in general. My “it takes a village to raise a child” comment was simply said to give an example that the surrounding society needs to be virtuous as well, and JUST carrying for your child only, with society doing whatever it wants (as your previous comment implied)  is short term thinking. 

      • btw, if government’s role is to keep us safe and protect our freedom, how is it their role to fund your tuition? 😉

  • Example please? I have no idea what you mean.
    Well, idolatry for one. The torah warns against and the immorality that it may cause as it caused the canaanites. Read Judges. Modesty rules. Chukat hagoyim. Greece is always portrayed for its sexual immorality.

    All these are brought up for the affect it might have on the Jewish people. Evidence? Please?

    You need me to bring you what exactly??? That our society is not over sexualized?>There are always unintended consequences. If you are asking if they will be negative and harm you, me and the next guy? No. The only thing that might affect you is that you will able to afford UCLA when they drop tuition again because they are funded by the state as they should be.

    Ya well…..it’s like what Thomas Sowell calls “first stage thinking”

    • Idolatry is the most severe prohibition in the Torah. Plus its practice was sanctioned if not required by the canaanites. How is not prosecuting drugs in the same conversation?

      Modesty rules? What? The rules about how to dress are not necessarily to prevent anything. They are to promote certain attitudes conducive to avodas Hashem.

      Chukas Hagoyim? Huh? There is a prohibition against acting like Heathens. This applies here… how?

      And I want evidence that there is more promiscuity in our society than in more sheltered societies. Or even more today than 10 years ago.

      • Boy, you really DO seem to narrow something down to fit your argument. 

        Holy Hyrax: Things affect a society
        R’ Fink: No they don’t

        Much in Judaism is there to protect the Jews. To keep them as holy as possible to serve Hashem, to be moral and virtious in order to be a light unto the nations. Things are proscribed to maintain that kedusha. So for example, its not just immodest of you to dress a certain way, but there is an understanding that immodest things around has an affect,  a negative affect. Hukat HaGoyim DOES protect against being heathens, but at the same time, kal vachomer it prohibits taking upon us any immoral (ie, sexual prohibitions) things that harmfully affect us. 

        So what are you going to say…”No, Judaism does not think bad things affect a society”

        >And I want evidence that there is more promiscuity in our society than in more sheltered societies. Or even more today than 10 years ago.

        I can only go by gut, and personal experience that our society is a more sexualized society. Do you disagree? MTV???? It’s no longer about music rabbi and neither is what they are selling to kids on that program. 

        • Perhaps I simply should not have used the word “promiscious”

        • So what are you going to say…”No, Judaism does not think bad things affect a society”

          No. I am going to say that certainly we are affected by our surroundings. But drug use is more prevalent now than it has ever been, do you feel safer for your family / community / society because it is illegal?

          If so. That is the least rational thing you have said so far!

          • These are two separate things:

            >I am going to say that certainly we are affected by our surroundings. 

            So if now there is more drugs in our surroundings. More drugs OPENLY in our surroundings, you don’t think it is going to make a negative impression on society….or even to children in explaining how bad it is, but, as before it was hidden…now it is TOTALLY out in the open???????

            >But drug use is more prevalent now than it has ever been, do you feel safer for your family / community / society because it is illegal?

            Why wouldn’t I feel safer. If it looses all stigma against the drug, why wouldn’t more people happily do it openly? It’s more available. It’s easily available. It’s NOT that the illegality makes me feel safer, its that illegality causes it to be harder to acquire. It’s  harder for rebellious teens to get a hold of them and easily share it with—one day— our own teens. 

          • Why do you think people will all of the sudden start doing drugs out in the open if they become legal?

            There is no basis for this assumption. Drugs are really really bad for you. 99.99% of society knows this and will continue to avoid drugs. Further, I clearly stipulated that any public drug use would be a criminal offense.

            Oh and it is not hard to obtain drugs. If you think it is, you are being very naive.

  • >Why do you think people will all of the sudden start doing drugs out in the open if they become legal?

    Because its more readily available. People can now freely do as much of it as they want in there home. Stigma against it, will over time diminish. It would only be a matter of time before you have attractive models advertising them in magazines. 

    >Further, I clearly stipulated that any public drug use would be a criminal offense.

    It’s publicly available out in the open…not that its USED out in the open

    >Oh and it is not hard to obtain drugs. If you think it is, you are being very naive.

    So something being illegal is JUST as easy to acquire as when its legal?

  • Wow. I read some of these comments and I wonder about two things mainly:

    1: Have any of the commenters actually tried hard drugs?
    2: Do any of the commenters actually know of someone who was incarcerated over drug charges?

    When I was in college, I tried just about every drug there is…except heroin. I would say that none of them are any more addictive than cigarettes. It’s not like you take them, and then “boom” you’re a junkie. But I would like to mention something else. My personal take is that I do not take drugs now for two major reasons: the first is that since they are illegal, and I’m looking for jobs, I don’t want anything in my system that a test can pick up and would disqualify me in a drug test. So in that sense, I guess I am one of those people who doesn’t take drugs because they are illegal; however the second reason may trump that….in that I don’t find drugs to be very cost effective. Drugs are expensive…and I would rather spend my money on other things. The only drug that gives a real bang for your buck is LSD (in that it lasts for hours), but the effects are too unpredictable. So the illegality of the drugs alone does not deter me, but it’s effects (barring from employment and being super expensive) does.

    In regards to the incarceration of people over drugs…it is absolutely silly. I have family members who spent several years in jail because of drugs. They had no other criminal histories. They were working, served time, came out and rejoined the workforce. So the system basically supported them for a while. And people complain about welfare! Also the one family member just happened to be a roommate of someone who was hiding kilos of cocaine in their ceiling tiles. She could not prove that she was NOT an accomplice to drug dealing, so away to prison she went! A good attorney could have gotten her off. But she did not have the money to hire a “good attorney” and just had to settle for a PD on her case.

    I grew up with people in my family smoking marijuana. They are business owners and working professionals….not junkies or drug abusers. I personally do not like the effect that marijuana has on me. I prefer to sit and sip a good beer. But other people are the opposite. I definitely do not see marijuana as being any better or any worse than beer. I don’t really follow the reasoning of those who argue differently.

    Excellent post Rabbi Fink!

    • I would expect that most employers would continue to not hire people who are taking drugs. It’s not because they are illegal, it is because drug users are a risky employment prospect.

      And PDs can be great attorneys too… 🙂

      • True. But it is ironic that very few employers ask applicants how often they drink alcohol? I have seen a few employers post ads for job vacancies that specifiy that they want a non-smoker. But it is far from commonplace.

  • Interesting post, R’ Fink. Did you see this article on Salon about the origins of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986? It’s a real eye-opener. http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/06/19/len_bias_cocaine_tragedy_still_affecting_us_drug_law

    What scares me the most about our War on Drugs is the numbers. Getting caught possessing a tiny amount of drugs can literally ruin your life, and the lives of your family and loved ones. Anybody who’s ever gone to law school can recall reading insane cases focusing on statutes that mandate minimum prison sentences for possessing tiny trace quantities of drugs. All these people whose lives are ruined, what a waste. The real absurdity is that we take otherwise non-dangerous individuals off the street, pay to incarcerate them for decades, have them associate with and depend for their welfare on rapists, kingpins, and murderers, all the while they can still get drugs in prison. It’s completely pointless. All the while, alcohol and tobacco, which have killed millions, provide perfectly legitimate revenue streams.

    I’m not sure what all the repercussions would be if we legalized drugs, but I’m not sure how much worse it could be than it is now. At some point, we have to trust in people’s ability to act rationally. Rational people will assess the risk that drug abuse presents to them, and condition their behavior accordingly. Isn’t that same calculus what makes us think that potential drug users will react to longer and harsher prison sentences? If a kid can be trusted not to smoke pot because he’ll never get to go to college, or an adult should know not to snort cocaine because he’ll never see his kids again, then those same individuals should be able to figure out they shouldn’t use drugs that will threaten their health. Plus, as the Salon article makes clear, these prison sentences have nothing to do with the relative health risks involved – they’re completely arbitrary. The only calculus that went into them was “Heaven forbid anyone appear to be ‘soft on crime.'”

    I understand that people want to protect their children, but this rings hollow to me. What sane parent would rather live in a world where their son, if he gets drugs, and then gets caught, never can be the success they hoped for (because, barring a good attorney, his life may be over), than in a world where he can get drugs slightly easier than he can now, but face no legal consequence?   

    • Vox Populi

      I would favor legalization over decriminalization because I actually want these cartels to be forced out of the market. An organization, like Phillip Morris, which is allowed to trade a commodity in the open market will be able to do it more cheaply than can a black market cartel. Phillip Morris doesn’t have to kill anybody, and can achieve larger economies of scale, and can sell it for cheaper.

    • I will read the Salon article. Thanks for the link.

      I think your comment raises a real important point. People who have seen the inside of the criminal justice system are more likely to see the fallacy of law and its selective (discriminatory) application.

      • @4dfe5dd461119c8f20f3e109aba992b5:disqus Great comments as always. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Vox Populi

        Right. I didn’t even want to raise the discrimination angle, because in some ways it’s a red herring. The whole system is “facially” stupid, not just as applied. But the sad truth is, its effects are much more pronounced in some quarters of society.

    • Good comment Vox, but from what I am understanding, is that your problem (as well as R’ Fink’s basic problem) is not that its illegal….but the punishment vetted out is too extreme for a drug use. Like I said before, I don’t think someone should be sitting in prison for smoking some joints. What can be done is reforming the sentencing, and not necessarily making hard drugs perfectly legal. 

      • Vox Populi

        Well, okay, on one level, I would agree with you, obviously, that the sentencing regime is ridiculous, and if possible, it should be drastically reduced, but I don’t see that bill passing any Congress in this dimension, for much the same reason that no legislature will take up the cause of the cruelly and unusually stored/packaged/punished inmates in the California penal system (or pretty much every American penal system). I understand I’m probably delusional, but I think for reform to happen, it has to be more of the complete 180 of what we’re doing now. It has to be packaged as a sort of libertarian/populist thing; we seem to be on one of those kicks at the moment. Or, if compromise is in the future, better we start with me and compromise around your position, then start from you and compromise somewhere else.

        But substantively, I would argue that government should largely get out of the drug game. I’m not a libertarian by any means, but this is the classic case of government trying and trying and spending and spending on a solution to a problem, and literally making it worse. I’m just not sure what the point is in attempting to continue this farce – in any guise. I know you want there to be a social stigma attached to the use of drugs, but I think the coercion of the state should not really be used for that purpose – it’s a mighty heavy cudgel, and I’m not sure it’s either necessary or desirable.

        We know drugs are bad for people, just like alcohol and tobacco is bad for people. If someone really doesn’t care about killing himself slowly but pleasurably with drugs, let him do drugs. What do I care? It’s not my job to punish morons so I can feel morally superior. The coercive power of the state is a great and terrible (and expensive!) thing, and shouldn’t be wasted on finger-wagging. It should be used to protect people from the dangerous behavior of others, not themselves. I’m perfectly happy with a regime that criminalizes and punishes driving under the influence of these things, or makes it a crime to sell them near schools – in these cases the potential for harm to non-consenting others is clear. But people should die, so I can have society make a statement to my kids? Mexico and Colombia should sink into the sea rather than me doing my job as a parent? That seems like overkill.

        • So two things:

          1) I don’t believe any of the large cartels in Columbia and Mexico are going to go down without a fight. The mob still controlled all of vegas when alcohol and gambling were perfectly legal. I believe they will evolve. 
          2) If alcohol is used as a comparison to drugs, well then, why on earth would it be regulated ONLY to the home as R’ Fink suggests? Alcohol is certainly not regulated only the privacy of the home. The only thing that is regulated is public intoxication. Meaning, there is no reason that if hard drugs are legalized, you won’t see “Happy Hours” at bars or night clubs selling LSD. In the same way a restaurant applies for an alcohol license, why shouldn’t they be able to apply for a hard drug license where they can sell Speed to anyone over 21? If Alcohol (and even cigarettes) are allowed advertising rights on billboards for example…what rational is there for outlawing Crack to be advertised?

          Mind you, I am very libertarian when it comes to Nanny State issues. I am against chocking (no pun intended) anti-cigaratte laws. But when it comes to hard drugs, I personally set a line. I believe there should be a distinction between hard drugs and soft drugs. 

          • Vox Populi

            Regarding the mob, if organized crime wants to, it’s free to invest its resources in the labradoodle market. It just wouldn’t be very lucrative, because labradoodles can be traded (relatively) freely. Curse you American Kennel Club! The mob used to control alcohol, but with the demise of prohibition that is no longer the case, unless they’re much more sophisiticated than previously thought. Organized crime thrives on a black market, where wronged consumers have no leverage or legal recourse, because contracts are unenforceable, and where any of the conduct involved is illegal, so the effective “law” is set by the cartel, which has little disincentive to resort to correspondingly extrajudicial remedies to enforce its rights. I’m not arguing that Mexican drug cartels will disappear overnight, or that we can end organized crime in one fell swoop, but this would be a huge blow. Regarding the casinos, it’s my understanding, at least from the Godfather, that moving into legal gambling was part of their plan to go legit! 😉

            Regarding the alcohol comparison, I’m not sure what you want. I’m guessing you think that hard drugs should at least be as regulated as alcohol? That’s fine with me, because I think the relevant concern the state should have is the damage done to others. Insofar as public intoxication is a menace to the public, it should be prohibited.

            If a bar wants to sell hard drugs, let them do just that – I just hope they have the necessary insurance. I see very little public policy reason to support a liquor license regime – licenses are, almost by definition, little more than artificial barriers to entry put in place by incumbents.

            If we think being able to enjoy narcotics in a public place is dangerous to others, then forbid it. I just want to see those findings.

            I don’t have a problem, in principle, with crack being advertised. Give them all the restrictions you give to marketing alcohol and tobacco to children.

  •     It takes courage to oppose drug prohibition, when many people still equate ending prohibition with being “for” drug use. I have long felt that the “War on Drugs” was a failed policy, having read Dr. Thomas Szasz’s views over 25 years ago.  Unfortunately, few people want to go on the record for fear of being seen as being “soft on drugs.” The laws of economics being what they are, trying to constrict the supply of drugs only enriches the profits of drug dealers. Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens are deprived of access to cold medicine.  As the NRA would say about guns, drugs don’t kill people; people who use drugs kill people.  A rational approach to drugs goes after the demand for drugs, which is what religion is supposed to do, rather than the supply of drugs, which only seems to cause more problems.

        To quote Dr. Szasz on this issue:  If the grown son of a devoutly religious Jewish father has a ham sandwich for lunch, the father cannot use the police power of American society to impose his moral views on his son.  But if the grown son of a devoutly alcoholic father has heroin for lunch, the father can, indeed, use the police power of American society to impose his moral views on his son.  Moreover, the penalty that the father could legally visit on his son might exceed the penalty that would be imposed on his son for killing his mother.  It is that moral calculus–refracted through our present differential treatment of those who literally abuse others by killing, maiming, and robbing them against those who … abuse themselves by using illicit chemicals–which reveals which reveals the depravity into which our preoccupation with drugs and drug controls has led us.

       To be sure, as others have commented, ending drug prohibition is not without some risk.  We would need to sustain and even enhance the social stigma against recreational drug use, especially hard drugs.  But we all know what doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is.  Time to try something different, and at least debate this respectfully and openly.

  • Great piece. Our culture has no problem with drugs, yet a politician saying something like legalizing marijuana in public would brand him a lunatic. So as always, the American political answer is to throw money at the problem to pretend you’re doing something.

  • Couldn’t agree with you more

  • Anonymous

    I don’t have time to read all the comments right now, but after a quick perusal, it looks like there are some excellent ones.

    But arguing about what might happen if drugs are legalized seems to me to be besides the point. That’s because we already know what will happen if they are not legal and it isn’t good. The facts are that most people who want drugs find a way to acquire them, and that huge illegal enterprises have grown around drugs. Furthermore, these illegal enterprises cause all sorts of secondary (murder, intimidation, etc) and tertiary (petty theft to get $ for next hit) crimes as they operate their businesses.

    We KNOW that our current policy doesn’t work at all. We have 2 million people imprisoned, mostly based on drug charges (or secondary or tertiary crimes related to drugs). That’s a heck of lot more than any other western country in the world. And most of those other countries seem to do just fine without locking up anyone using or selling drugs. Not just fine, but they appear to have lower crime rates than we do.

    So it’s time to try a different policy. Let’s see if it works better for us. And there is precedent, we outlawed alcohol for a while, and then determined that it didn’t work very well, so changed our laws and made it legal again with reasonable regulation.

  • >Regarding the casinos, it’s my understanding, at least from the Godfather, that moving into legal gambling was part of their plan to go legit! 😉

    How well did that go? 🙂

    >Regarding the alcohol comparison, I’m not sure what you want. I’m guessing you think that hard drugs should at least be as regulated as alcohol? That’s fine with me, because I think the relevant concern the state should have is the damage done to others. Insofar as public intoxication is a menace to the public, it should be prohibited. 

    >If a bar wants to sell hard drugs, let them do just that – I just hope they have the necessary insurance. I see very little public policy reason to support a liquor license regime – licenses are, almost by definition, little more than artificial barriers to entry put in place by incumbents. 

    >If we think being able to enjoy narcotics in a public place is dangerous to others, then forbid it. I just want to see those findings.

    >I don’t have a problem, in principle, with crack being advertised. Give them all the restrictions you give to marketing alcohol and tobacco to children.

    Exactly. That’s my point. It would be contrary to what R’ Fink suggested that it would stay only within the confines of ones home. And personally, all these things that you agreed with me, scary me for it to become a reality. 

    PS- Why is sometimes I see a “reply” button, and sometimes I don’t?

    • [Threads only go 4 deep.]

    • Anonymous

      HH – scary me for it to become a reality.

      More scary than having 2 million people in prison getting an excellent education about how to be hard criminals and large numbers about to be released into society due to massive state budget deficits?

      More scary than a whole neighboring county almost being taken over by drug cartels?

      More scary than a whole generation (actually two almost three already) of inner city youth growing up with complete disdain for the cops and by extension just about any authority (other than the local drug heavy)?

      More scary than lack of reasonable and timely access to justice due to our court systems clogged up with drug crime?

      • >More scary than having 2 million people in prison getting an excellent education about how to be hard criminals and large numbers about to be released into society due to massive state budget deficits?
        I made it quite clear that the sentencing system needs to be reformed. Someone that has smoked pot does not need to sit in prison

        >More scary than a whole neighboring county almost being taken over by drug cartels?

        That’s also scary, of course. But the fact that it is scary that there are murderous gangs in Mexico, does not negate what I feel will be the diminishing of virtue in THIS country with hard drugs being legal. Everyone knows murder is wrong…but after a couple of generations, will this society still feel drugs are a vice like we think of it today? Which battle will be easier to wage? I realize this is more of a meta explanation, but I feel it is also important. 

        >More scary than a whole generation (actually two almost three already) of inner city youth growing up with complete disdain for the cops and by extension just about any authority (other than the local drug heavy)?

        Well great. Let’s just make anything legal in order for people not to have disdain for the police. Putting drugs aside, people will naturally have disdain for any authority figure that tells them what they are doing is wrong. 

        >More scary than lack of reasonable and timely access to justice due to our court systems clogged up with drug crime?

        See my first comment.

        • Anonymous

          HH – Someone that has smoked pot does not need to sit in prison

          Already done to a great extent. Probably 30 or 40 million people have smoked pot and the vast majority of them have never been to prison. What about the kid that uses crack once in a while? What about a “runner”? What about the kid that delivers it for 5 bucks? What about the lookout on the corner that gets $20 a day?

          will this society still feel drugs are a vice like we think of it today?

          I don’t know, but it is quite likely that society will look upon it as a vice just as they look upon smoking and drinking as vices today. Heck, we even call them “sin” taxes nowadays! 🙂

          Let’s just make anything legal in order for people not to have disdain for the police.

          Nope, not “anything”, just those things that are “victimless”.

          See my first comment.

          Please elaborate. “Reforming sentencing system” is often another way of saying “make [some] drugs [effectively] legal” (but with a lot more useless paper shuffling).

          • >Already done to a great extent. Probably 30 or 40 million people have smoked pot and the vast majority of them have never been to prison. What about the kid that uses crack once in a while? What about a “runner”? What about the kid that delivers it for 5 bucks? What about the lookout on the corner that gets $20 a day?
            Sellers should be imprisoned. Simple enough. 

            >I don’t know, but it is quite likely that society will look upon it as a vice just as they look upon smoking and drinking as vices today. Heck, we even call them “sin” taxes nowadays! 🙂

            Could be. I have a feeling that legalizing hard drugs would be much worse that drinking and smoking.

            >Nope, not “anything”, just those things that are “victimless”.

            IMO, I think society at large will be victims of having LSD, Crack, Speed publicly and easily accessible, plastered on billboards, bartender serving it to you along with your tequila and in homes with children.  

            >Please elaborate.

            Nothing to elaborate on. See what people are sitting decades in prisons for and see if the punishment is really fitting the crime. 

        • Anonymous

          HH – Sellers should be imprisoned. Simple enough.

          Really? You think the kid that sells $5 of crack should be imprisoned automatically? Please realize that jails are “college” for criminals, and prisons are “graduate school”. Just a few months inside hardens you as a criminal, a few years and it’s generally irreversible.

          Could be. I have a feeling that legalizing hard drugs would be much worse that drinking and smoking.

          A feeling??? We have proof that making them illegal is pretty darn bad. Doesn’t proof trump feeling at least in the decision-making process?

          Also, you qualifying the statement. What exactly do you mean by “hard drugs”? As mentioned earlier, pot use is already close to decriminalized (in terms of actually being sentenced).

          IMO, I think society at large will be victims of having LSD, Crack, Speed publicly and easily accessible, plastered on billboards, bartender serving it to you along with your tequila and in homes with children.  

          So do you also support making alcohol and smoking illegal?

          See what people are sitting decades in prisons for and see if the punishment is really fitting the crime.

          Again, it’s too late at that point. They are career criminals by then. And even shorter sentences encourage further crime.

          • >Really? You think the kid that sells $5 of crack should be imprisoned automatically? Please realize that jails are “college” for criminals, and prisons are “graduate school”. Just a few months inside hardens you as a criminal, a few years and it’s generally irreversible.
            You are asking me for VERY specific circumstances. That is up for legislatures to decide HOW MUCH crack sold is merit for prison. Even the Netherlands imprisons illegal drug selling. How many kids out there are selling a one time $5 crack deal vs. larger kids making hundreds and hundreds of dollars in crack deals?

            >A feeling??? We have proof that making them illegal is pretty darn bad. Doesn’t proof trump feeling at least in the decision-making process?

            Proof of what? You have proof the sentencing structure does not work for drug use. You have proof that a lot of money is used for the war on drugs. You don’t have proof of what might happen if hard drugs are legalized. You don’t  have proof of how much money the government will eventually put up (and you know it WILL happen, because the people are going to demand the government get involved) for medical costs and further addiction prevention. You are getting rid of one problem, but lets not be naive here….we will just be inheriting another problem. One can argue one problem is preferable to another. But proof? How much proof can you have to something that has not been done yet and the affect it will have on society. 

            >So do you also support making alcohol and smoking illegal? 

            Not at all. I think there is rather a hysteria on the left to second-hand smoke. People can drink and smoke without getting mind- $#k

            >Again, it’s too late at that point. They are career criminals by then. And even shorter sentences encourage further crime.

            That is basically an argument not to imprison anyone then. Hence my point: Someone that was found snorking coke at a party….should he spend time in jail????

        • Vox Populi

          >But the fact that it is scary that there are murderous gangs in Mexico, does not negate what I feel will be the diminishing of virtue in THIS country with hard drugs being legal. Everyone knows murder is wrong…but after a couple of generations, will this society still feel drugs are a vice like we think of it today?

          I don’t really get this line of reasoning at all. Shouldn’t people actually dying in Mexico outweigh the “diminshing of ‘virtue'” in this country? What is this virtue you speak of, anyway? It just sounds like a very vague sort of concern. You don’t want to legalize drugs, because then people will use them. If people use them, then they won’t look so bad. And so? Whats is the terrible thing you are foreseeing if the stigma of drug use diminishes, exactly?

          • >Shouldn’t people actually dying in Mexico outweigh the “diminshing of ‘virtue'” in this country

            I can’t stop Mexico deciding to make drugs legal in Mexico. 

            >Whats is the terrible thing you are foreseeing if the stigma of drug use diminishes, exactly?
            I am not sure how to exactly respond to this. Either drugs are bad or they are good…or they are neutral and it all depends on the whim of the people at the moment. I personally do not see the later being the case. A society that enjoys taking mind warping drugs freely (hypothetically) is not a society I believe you can depend on. Not a society I believe you would want to raise your kids in. Not a wholesome society. Not a healthy one. Are these concept vague? Ya, ok. Perhaps. But nonetheless, I believe it to do be true. Feel free to pigeon hole everything I said here till I simply throw in the white towel. [I think at least on this, R’ Fink can back me up :P]

        • Anonymous

          HH – How many kids out there are selling a one time $5 crack deal vs. larger kids making hundreds and hundreds of dollars in crack deals?

          The vast majority earn VERY little. Research has shown that they probably earn less than minimum wage. See here for more information – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UGC2nLnaes

        • Anonymous

          HH – Proof of what? You have proof the sentencing structure does not work for drug use. You have proof that a lot of money is used for the war on drugs. You don’t have proof of what might happen if hard drugs are legalized. You don’t  have proof of how much money the government will eventually put up (and you know it WILL happen, because the people are going to demand the government get involved) for medical costs and further addiction prevention. You are getting rid of one problem, but lets not be naive here….we will just be inheriting another problem. One can argue one problem is preferable to another. But proof? How much proof can you have to something that has not been done yet and the affect it will have on society.

          The proof is that drugs have been illegal for a while now. Since they became illegal, and since drug crime has be prosecuted more vigorously, there is more and more violence and crime related to drugs. The proof is that there are 2 million people behind bars. Furthermore, we ALREADY have plenty of people doing drugs, we already have plenty of government spending, mostly on incarceration and the legal process, and some on treatment. Obviously there is no proof regarding what might happen in the future; That’s impossible!

        • Anonymous

          HH – People can drink and smoke without getting mind- $#k

          Really? So why do so many people drink and then operate a motor vehicle and thereby kill 20 or 30 thousand people a year?

        • Anonymous

          HH – That is basically an argument not to imprison anyone then. Hence my point: Someone that was found snorking coke at a party….should he spend time in jail????

          Nope. It’s an argument to imprison those who commit crimes. Crimes that affect others adversely, or crimes that involve ill-gotten gains. Even if certain drugs are legalized, if a guy decides to sell them outside the law (not licensed, impure or adulterated in a way that isn’t legal, in an unsafe manner, to a minor, etc) then he should be imprisoned for those crimes. Just as a shopkeeper that sells booze to minors would be prosecuted.

          • >then he should be imprisoned for those crimes. 
            Isn’t that what I was implying?????

      • Vox Populi

        Basically, what Mark said. In a certain sense, we’re already living in a drug policy dystopia. What exactly are we afraid of from legalization?

  • >More scary than a whole generation (actually two almost three already) of inner city youth growing up with complete disdain for the cops and by extension just about any authority (other than the local drug heavy)?

    This comment needs to be researched some more. I don’t know how much of an extant it is true…and if it is…for what reasons. I went to an LAPD orientation and one of the things that was talked about was how much better things have gotten in many of the minority communities and how they work to keep it that way. One of the big problems was the rampart scandal that was not solely centered around drugs. Fake drug arrests was not the reason people grew suspicious of the cops after that scandal. 

    There are bad people in these communities that by their nature are going to have disdain for the police. There are gangs and pimps on the streets.

    So the argument that people are going to have disdain for authority is not an argument in of itself to legalize hard drugs.

    • HH: It Mark’s comment is 100% true. The relationship between LAPD cops and inner city residents is absolutely adversarial. They hate each other.

      The Rampart scandal was a small piece to a much larger puzzle. But undoubtably the two groups do not work together.

      Go watch the movie Crash. It’s not entirely fiction…

      • I saw it. Great movie. My point was that there are several factors why there is disdain. You think its all about fake drug arrests? You seem to be putting the entire onus on law enforcement side.

        • It’s not about fake arrests at all. It is about not being on the same team.

          • What is going to cause them to be on the same team?

          • Mutual goals. Community meetings. Local cops. Less arrests. I could go on…

  • >Not at all. I think there is rather a hysteria on the left to second-hand smoke. People can drink and smoke without getting mind- $#k
    To elaborate on this, I simply have to ask myself: Would I care if I knew someone smoked? Would I care if someone drank? Would I care if someone took PCP? 

    • Anonymous

      HH – Would I care if I knew someone smoked? Would I care if someone drank? Would I care if someone took PCP?

      I don’t care about any of these … until they affect me or my loved ones.

      I don’t care if someone smokes … unless they do it one table over from where I am sitting eating dinner.
      I don’t care if someone drinks … unless they get in the car and hurt or kill someone afterward.
      I don’t care if someone uses PCP … unless they rob me to get the money to buy it, or drive, etc while high on it.

  • Vox Populi

    >I can’t stop Mexico deciding to make drugs legal in Mexico. Well, we’re not without our influence. We supply most of their demand. If we make drugs illegal, it stands to reason less Mexicans will be murdered by the drug trade. Would you prefer that more Mexicans die, so that we can preserve our virtue?

    (Of course, the Mexicans should probably legalize it too!)

    >A society that enjoys taking mind warping drugs freely (hypothetically) is not a society I believe you can depend on.

    Here is where I want you to dig deeper. In what sense can you not depend on it? Do you think that pilots will fly jumbo jets while high (ha ha pun!)? Will the president be hopped up on acid while negotiating on the White House  jumbotron with supervillains? Will people drive intoxicated? Will teachers sell drugs to their classes?

    Why would any of this stuff happen? What exactly, are you afraid of?

    • >Well, we’re not without our influence. We supply most of their demand. If we make drugs illegal, it stands to reason less Mexicans will be murdered by the drug trade. Would you prefer that more Mexicans die, so that we can preserve our virtue? 

      Yes, we help influence them. Yes, they should have seen this coming years and years ago what with their corupt law enforcement and their incompetence. But to fix Mexico’s problems, I am to introduce something legal what I believe to be wrong into this country now?

      >Here is where I want you to dig deeper. In what sense can you not depend on it? Do you think that pilots will fly jumbo jets while high (ha ha pun!)? Will the president be hopped up on acid while negotiating on the White House  jumbotron with supervillains? Will people drive intoxicated? Will teachers sell drugs to their classes? 

      There is no digging deeper Vox. It’s axiomatic. Why do MOST parents not want their kids around other people do drugs? It isn’t because they are afraid the other person might drive high or because they are afraid they might grow up to be a high president.  I consider people that dope on drugs to be lesser in their quality. They ruin their lives, and ruin the lives of those around them. I believe them to be a people (in general) that simply care about their selfish need for instant gratification of altering their minds. These are all character traits. I think character traits are important in people. I have YET to meet anyone that taking hard drugs has improved their lives and their character. For now, all I know of are those that have destroyed their lives. 

      • Vox Populi

        >They ruin their lives, and ruin the lives of those around them. I believe them to be a people (in general) that simply care about their selfish need for instant gratification of altering their minds. These are all character traits. I think character traits are important in people. I have YET to meet anyone that taking hard drugs has improved their lives and their character. For now, all I know of are those that have destroyed their lives.

        Ah, but precisely! All these negative and harmful effects will continue to exist once drugs are legalized. Doing drugs will still make you a halfwit, or a loser, or signal that you likely have poor credit. The stigma remains! Sure, is it possible, that the stigma will be relaxed somewhat because the activity is legal? Sure, I suppose. But how much, alreay? Doing drugs then will be just as stupid and self-defeating as doing drugs today.

        I think you said above that you believe the decriminalization of adultery or something has contributed to laxer standards of public decency, and I would disagree, but that’s not even relevant here. Adultery is immoral, but not really against an adulterers interest. Unless a shotgun gets involved, adultery is good, clean fun. But poisoning one’s self has readily cognizable consequences, which dissuade people much more effectively than the law. There’s no real reason for that calculus to change. The stigma will stick, by and large.

        • >Sure, is it possible, that the stigma will be relaxed somewhat because the activity is legal? Sure, I suppose. But how much, alreay?
          I think a lot more than we expect…but I hope you are correct.

          >I think you said above that you believe the decriminalization of adultery or something has contributed to laxer standards of public decency, and I would disagree, but that’s not even relevant here.

          No, I argued against R’ Fink that initially said things around us do not create negative impressions on people. My example was an overly sexualized society caused by the media (in all its manifestations). It wasn’t against adultry per say, but I did mention the billboard of ashleymadison.com. For there to even be a public billboard like just shows the digression. But this was mostly an argument that things around us affect us. That’s all. 

  • Anonymous

    Vox – >Shouldn’t people actually dying in Mexico outweigh the “diminshing of ‘virtue'” in this country

    HH – I can’t stop Mexico deciding to make drugs legal in Mexico.

    That’s a very disingenuous response. You know well that the bulk of the problems in Mexico are due to the insatiable demand we have here in the USA for illegal drugs and the fact that we are willing to pay premium prices for it. It has less to do with internal Mexican policies about drugs.

  • >Mutual goals. 
    Cops are there to protect those people that want to lead a law abiding life. What other mutual goal is there?

    >Community meetings. 

    They already do that.

    >Local cops.

    What does that mean? 

    >Less arrests. I could go on…

    Change the laws…less arrests. 

    • Cops are there to protect those people that want to lead a law abiding life. What other mutual goal is there?

      That’s not how it goes. Cops decide which corners and blocks to do their arrests. They can get great stats in a rough part of town. But the people who live a few blocks away would rather they focus on people speeding down their residential street and are happy to let the rough part of town beat up themselves.

      They already do that.

      I mean where they address community concerns. Not where they sternly warn everyone that they better listen.

      What does that mean?

      Cops from the neighborhood that know the people in the neighborhood. As it is, cops in bad neighborhoods are all from the “outside” which creates an adversarial dynamic.

      • >That’s not how it goes. Cops decide which corners and blocks to do their arrests. They can get great stats in a rough part of town. But the people who live a few blocks away would rather they focus on people speeding down their residential street and are happy to let the rough part of town beat up themselves.

        Huh? Are you saying the cops should not focus on the rough spots????

        >I mean where they address community concerns.

        Yes, they do that. I don’t know how often, but they do that. I have a friend in the LAPD and in the sheriff. Part of their great efforts is to be connected to those areas. Do you ever talk to PD’s?

        >Cops from the neighborhood that know the people in the neighborhood. As it is, cops in bad neighborhoods are all from the “outside” which creates an adversarial dynamic.

        1) How many people from those neighborhoods are joiing the forces??? 2) After reqruitment, you are placed depending where the force needs the most help. 3) I am not sure what a cop from that neighborhood is going to do differently. Is he supposed to turn a blind eye? ALL COPS, are supposed to follow the law and rules of engagement. Your comment that somehow only a person from that ‘hood’ can properly police is an insult to anyone that actually puts their lives on the line in those dangerous areas. It’s also insulting to the people that actually live there. You don’t think they can do their part in the adversarial dynamic? Are they some lesser people that can only relate to a ‘ brother from their hood?’ It reminds of when people complain about Israel antagonizing the Palestinians into attacking Israel. And I always thought that was such an insult to the Palestinians that somehow, we can’t expect from  NOT to attack like some bulldog the same way we expect from others. Should only rich white police officers patrol beverly hills, since they can better relate to them there too????

        • Plenty join. They are moved to other neighborhoods.

          Being from the neighborhood means understanding the needs of the community.

          All police work is decided based on a priority list. There is selective enforcement and engagement.

          I think you ? button is broken. When you press it once, like 6 or 7 ?s come out.

          • Anonymous

            In cities and in rural areas, almost all “beat” cops used to be neighborhood cops. They didn’t necessarily come from that neighborhood, but very often they did. But they were assigned to a neighborhood for the long-term. That meant that they walked around the neighborhood most days, it also meant that they knew many of the neighborhood folks, and they knew who to “keep an eye on”. For example, they knew which teens were “troublemakers” and could keep tabs on them and even warn them off when the cop thought it might be likely they would be attracted to something new and interesting where they could make trouble. In rural areas, cops were neighborhood cops by default due to the small population and small local police forces.

            Neighborhood cops are pretty much a thing of the past. I think for various reasons, one, the hierarchy and need to advance in rank and responsibility by most (better educated) cops (today). Two, cops get bored with single-neighborhood (certain ones obviously) work and want to move on every few years. Three, cops get burned out with single neighborhood (certain other ones obviously) work and want to move on. There are many different police agencies available nowadays and cops often move to different agencies early in the careers, perhaps from local PD to county sheriff dept, or to state police (part of the general phenomenon of increased mobility by employees in the USA). Some even (rarely) move on to the FBI or other national law enforcement organizations (sometimes after earning a law degree). Finally, many retire as early as possible and then move to private security companies. It’s not like the 50’s when a cop spent 30 or 40 years in a single neighborhood.