WSJ on decriminalizing drugs

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Category : Medical Rants

My last rant on this subject: An economic look at medical marijuana Today’s Opinion Journal features this article – Musings About the Drug War

Milton Friedman saw the problem. To the extent that authorities curtail supplies of marijuana, cocaine and heroin coming into the rich U.S. market, the retail price of these substances goes up, making the trade immensely profitable–tax-free, of course. The more the U.S. spends on interdiction, the more incentive it creates for taking the risk of running drugs. In 1933, the U.S. finally gave up on the 13-year prohibition of alcohol–a drug that is by some measures more intoxicating and dangerous to health than marijuana. That effort to alter human behavior left a legacy of corruption, criminality, and deaths and blindness from the drinking of bad booze. America’s use of alcohol went up after repeal but no serious person today suggests a repeat of the alcohol experiment. Yet prohibition is still being attempted, at great expense, for the small portion of the population–perhaps little more than 5%–who habitually use proscribed drugs. Mind-altering drugs do of course cause problems. Their use contributes to crime, automobile accidents, work-force dropouts and family breakups. But the most common contributor to these social problems is not the illegal substances. It is alcohol. Society copes by punishing drunken misbehavior, offering rehabilitation programs and warning youths of the dangers. Most Americans drink moderately, however, creating no problems either for themselves or society. Education can be an antidote for self-abuse. When it was finally proved that cigarettes were a health risk, smoking by young people dropped off and many started lecturing their parents about that bad habit. LSD came and then went after its dangers became evident. Heroin’s addictive and debilitative powers are well-known enough to limit its use to a small population. Private educational programs about the risks of drug abuse have spread throughout the country with good effect. Some doctors argue that the use of some drugs is too limited. Marijuana can help control nausea after chemotherapy, relieve multiple-sclerosis pain and help patients whose appetites have been lowered to a danger level by AIDS. Morphine, some say, is used too sparingly for easing the terrible pain of terminally ill cancer patients. It is argued that pot and cocaine use by inner-city youths is a self-prescribed medicine for the depression and despair that haunts their existence. Doctors prescribe Prozac for the same problems of the middle class.

The argument against decriminalization is morally based, rather than logically based. I agree that these drugs are easily abused – however, I also believe that the current laws do not influence drug use decision making. And the externalities argue strongly against this current prohibition.

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Comments (3)

Dr. Centor, what would you personally recommend where these drugs are concerned?

“Most Americans drink moderately, however, creating no problems either for themselves or society.”

can you cite some reference or data on this ?

(This point seems to be seminal…for those who believe alchohol is only an occasional societal nusiance would argue against spending federal and state monies on the “drug wars”.

For those who see alchohol as a stepping stone to harder drugs and a great harm to society would tend to favor continuing spending money and effort on the “drug wars”

I have seen countless lives destroyed by drugs, including alchohol…so I favor an anti drug effort.

Dr. Centor,

You stated, “The argument against decriminalization is morally based, rather than logically based.” Methinks this is too categorical.

While I do believe that MANY arguments against legalizing “Mary Jane” are moral in nature, that does not mean that ALL are. Heard someone the other day argue that it is a gateway drug. Also heard someone argue from the emphysema standpoint.

Even if I concede that heavily smoking weed will not cause emphysema on the level of smoking cigs, one might argue why we should get into that “hash” (pun intended) anyway.

I have to confess that I am not versed in the debate about legalising this drug. And all of the material I have read leads me to favor legalizing the substance. However, it seems to me that implying there are not LOGICAL arguments against legalizing marijuana is a bit of a stretch.

I’m sure I’ll pay for this later. Knowhutimean? 😉

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