Prohibition and Abuse

I hope everyone had a good Repeal Day. It's fun to celebrate the State's retreat, but as many people wrote yesterday we're still firmly in the grip of a very destructive prohibition that's done far more damage to the country than the first one.

Hard-headed devotion to Prohibition -- and frankly, I don't really see any other kind -- is one of the trademarks of the law-and-order types. Some people are genuinely convinced that certain substances cannot be used responsibly, and that the state should enforce their prohibition. Some people don't feel that strongly about the use of substances, but believe that since they're illegal, their prohibition should be enforced rigorously: we need to minimize these violations of the law in the name of respect for the law. (A large number of these people, when pressed, will also oppose changing the law, putting them back in the first category, but not all of them, and not by necessity.)

Even assuming that it's morally legitimate for the state to enforce the prohibition of some substances, the person with a genuine respect for the law ought to oppose prohibition, because many of the people charged with this crime aren't actually guilty of it. Police abuse is systematic and widespread, and actually does far more damage to law and order than violations of prohibition could. After all, people still recognize violations of prohibition as illegal, even if they think they shouldn't be. Police abuse of the system is often hidden, and so the outcomes of their abuse are illegal, but with the fa├žade of legality. Testimonies are coerced or suppressed. Evidence is planted or mishandled. The Fourth Amendment is parodied. Apparently legally.

Occasionally, a higher-level branch of law enforcement will investigate allegations of police abuses, but normally they're internal investigations, carried out within the department. If there were a better method to insure the vast majority of police officers are cleared of wrongdoing, regardless of actual guilt, I couldn't imagine it. The problem with external reviews is that the people who conduct them are often from the same circles, failing to get around the problem.

Even if Prohibition is a morally permissible action, the effect is that many people who aren't guilty of a crime are punished. A legal system and a legal philosophy that put more people in jail than any other country in the world ought to worry the law-and-order types, doubly when many of those people are innocent. It ought to make them consider legalization, out of respect for the law.

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Heroine should be illegal.

I'm for the legalization of weed, coke, ecstasy, and speed. On the fence about LSD. Against punishment, for rehabilitation.

Yet I for one cannot see from a medical, psychological, or legal standpoint how legalizing heroin can ever by a good policy. Heroin cannot be handled responsibly. It is the single most addictive drug. It actually does have a demonstrated rate of first use addiction. It is the hardest to quit and it is debilitating. Heroine is not a recreational drug, it's a suicide attempt.

I think the backlash anti-drug hysteria has blinded many intelligent and honest people into believing that all drugs are as harmless as marijuana. The legitimate scientific conclusions on the dangers of heroine are mocked, as they are erroneously seen as a continuation of "reefer madness" style agitprop.

I oppose full legalization of all drugs.

Heroin should be legal

I think the backlash anti-drug hysteria has blinded many intelligent and honest people into believing that all drugs are as harmless as marijuana.

I think that drugs are probably harmful, including marijuana. But I think they should be legal, for the same reason that I think it should be legal to ride a motorcycle. Motorcycling is an absurdly dangerous way of getting around, but if someone chooses to ride motorcycles, that is his business.

Motorcyclists were 35 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash in 2006, per vehicle mile traveled


If someone wants to get from one place to another, they are needlessly putting their own life at risk by riding a motorcycle to get there. Nevertheless, it is their right to endanger themselves for the sake of the momentary thrill of riding a bike at high speeds.

It is in some ways unfortunate that many who have argued for legalizing drugs have built their arguments around the supposed harmlessness of drugs. The argument might be effective to a certain extent, but it has the unfortunate side-effect of implicitly acknowledging the notion that unsafe activities should be illegal. Libertarians reject this notion.

Every activity carries some level of risk, and some amount of benefit. It is the right of an individual to decide whether to place himself at risk.

Nitpicking and irrelevant to

Nitpicking and irrelevant to the general point, but the 35x figure is not corrected for age. Young drivers are always the most at risk, and I'll bet the motorcyclist age distribution is skewed towards young riders. Just sayin'

Drugs own motorcycle

How did we skip over the dangers of addiction? These dangers are not only a local threat to friends and family, but to everyone.

A motorcycle driver is a very limited (and simplistic) analogy.

Refuge of the emptyheaded

How did we skip over the dangers of addiction?

Instead of blaming the other guy for not addressing every stupid little point you think is important, how about just highlighting the point?

On addiction:

If you get fat to start with, it screws up your chemistry and it becomes hard thereafter to lose weight and keep it off. The success rate of people who've gotten fat and who are trying to lose that weight and keep it off is very low, because they're struggling against the signals that their body is constantly telling them - cravings that don't go away until they're fat again. These unhealthy cravings are like the unhealthy cravings of drug addiction in that they are unhealthy and hard to ignore.

Shall we make it illegal to get fat? No. Similarly for heroin.

These dangers are not only a local threat to friends and family, but to everyone.

Oh, really? You think that drug addiction has negative externalities but road accidents do not?

A motorcycle driver is a very limited (and simplistic) analogy.

If you can't think of anything compelling to say, call other guy's argument "simplistic".