Monday, December 19, 2005

More Enlightened People

I missed this, from last month's elections:

City of Denver, Colorado
The "Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative"


The initiative removes criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana among adults 21 and older, in the City of Denver.


Yea - 57,540
Nay - 50,090


VICTORY !



Rationality wins the day.

While Denver city officials say that the Denver police will continue to cite adults for marijuana possession under state law, they are apparently unwilling, as of yet, to go to court over it, since there hasn't been a single citation issued for marijuana possession since 1 Nov. '05.

I have only a mild desire to see marijuana legalized - what I REALLY want is for America's "drug warriors" to stop plucking the low-hanging fruit of relatively harmless marijuana, and redouble their efforts to stop intensely harmful stuff like heroin or methamphetamines.

Just as we have "wet" and "dry" counties, I'd like individual state and local governments to be able to approve or ban marijuana sales, and of course any public space has the right to bar public intoxication or smoking, and any private property owner can ban the use of alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana on the premises.

15 Comments:

Blogger Brit said...

Oroborous:

Relatively harmles, maybe. But they seem to be finding increasingly strong evidence linking cannabis use and psychosis.

I'm no drug libertarian, but I did argue here that prohibition, as a policy, has utterly and indisputably failed.

December 20, 2005 1:50 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Everything that we ingest or otherwise enter into our systems has an effect, even water.

I don't argue that marijuana is harmless, only that we're wasting a lot of time, money, and effort on it, while other drugs kill people and pretty directly cause increases in crime - neither of which is an effect linked to marijuana use.

In fact, (at least in places like America and Scotland), the use of refined sugar and corn syrups is a bigger problem that causes far more human suffering and social costs, than does marijuana use, in gross terms.

December 20, 2005 9:43 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I see that you addressed the crime issue very effectively in your linked prohibition post.

The thing is, marijuana just doesn't belong in the hard drug category, so legalization or decriminalization of it will have relatively minor effects.

As you say, there are very few people in prison for crimes committed to support a tobacco habit, (although there are indeed a few), and the same would be true of legal marijuana.

However, when it comes to legalizing the harder drugs...

The cost in crime, due to illegality, might be worth it, to keep people from becoming addicts from "trying" legal heroin or methamphetamines, or anything else.

The staggering growth in the number of addicts in Britain during the 90s suggests that something else was going on, not just vastly increased experimentation or radically more-effective drug pushers.

December 20, 2005 10:06 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Brit made an excellent case the the costs, obvious and huge, of drug prohibition might very well exceed the benefits, which are much more speculative, in that they are estimates of what would happen in the absence of prohibition.

Oroborous is right on this one. It seems the worst side effect of marijuana consumption is a fairly small subset of the late-20s to mid-30s male population still living in their parents' basements. I doubt eliminating the prohibition on marijuana is going to change that any.

This:

I don't argue that marijuana is harmless, only that we're wasting a lot of time, money, and effort on it, while other drugs kill people and pretty directly cause increases in crime - neither of which is an effect linked to marijuana use.

pretty much hits the nail on the head.

Both this, and Brit's very well researched article, suggest there might be a slightly different path for "hard" drugs.

Completely decriminalize drug use, while maintaining prohibition against distribution.

I suspect it would greatly reduce the risk premium hard drugs command, while keeping users out of jail and in treatment programs.

But that comes off the tip of my head, so it isn't very well thought out.

December 21, 2005 4:41 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I was thinking of a system where possession of hard drugs is illegal, but addicts can go to gov't approved treatment centers to get pure, cheap stuff to use on-premises, which would remove the financial incentive to deal from criminals.

But, doesn't the Netherlands do something like that, provide heroin, and needle exchanges ?

I haven't read anything which suggests that it's done wonders for them yet, except to cut down on AIDS.

December 21, 2005 10:58 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I guess the answer is secondarily in whether the litany of woes attending prohibition has been attenuated there.

Primarily, has the increased legality of drug consumption led to an increase in social problems resulting from drug use, to the extent that those costs outweigh the benefits?

I haven't been to the Netherlands since the early 80s. I remember being struck by Hash Cafes, and the far greater likelihood of getting approached by someone hoping to sell some marijuana.

But, other than that, I didn't notice any problems. The best person to ask, though, would be Bret, as he just returned from there last week.

It would also be interesting to see if the legalization of prostitution there has had any nasty side effects (my bet is that prohibition here produces far worse knock-on effects than legalization).

December 21, 2005 11:36 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Good Golly, don't get me started on prostitution.

There are valid arguments to be made for banning marijuana - essentially the same ones that apply to banning alcohol and tobacco - we merely note that our society is not serious about doing so, and messing around with it is taking attention and resources away from FAR more serious problems.
Focus, people, focus !

However, there is NO valid argument to be made against prostitution, which is probably why it's been legal in so many places, in so many eras.

Morally, prostitutes are exactly equivalent to professional athletes, or rather superior to professional athletes, since top-tier prostitutes don't need to ruin their health by shooting up with illegal supplements, to perform better.

American football, for instance, in chock FULL of steroidal freaks.

Turns out that professional and Olympic track & field stars are also more likely to be juiced, than not.

If we legalized prostitution in some fashion nationally, maybe in brothels so we get these ho's off the streets, we'd see fewer drug addicts, fewer deaths due to lunatics, FAR less transmission of disease, and increased tax revenues.

There really is NO downside.

It did used to be true that making prostitution illegal provided a small social push to get men to commit to marriages, but birth control and no-fault divorce eliminated that.

December 21, 2005 3:52 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Oroborous:

Well, it seems we are in complete agreement.

It would be nice for someone to stop by and tell us why prostitution is so evil we need to make it illegal so the women have to suffer pimps and arrest records making it harder to get out of prostitution, should they so desire.

Something just struck me as odd. Prostitution is illegal nearly everywhere in the US.

But is making an adult movie illegal?

December 21, 2005 5:17 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Prostitution laws are a logic-free zone.

In fact, Britain's are so vague that I’ve never known what they are. I'm pretty sure it is illegal to 'kerb-crawl', but I don't know whether it is the prostitute or the kerb-crawler or both who is the criminal. And then again there are thinly-disguised 'massage parlours' dotted around all cities. I haven't a clue about the legal status of those places, their workers or their customers. They seem to be tolerated, yet all of a sudden you'll hear a news report where one gets raided by police and they find a load of illegal Eastern-European immigrants working as sex slaves.

The whole thing is a grey area, with probably the worst elements of all worlds and, as with hard drugs, the market controlled by gangsters.

No doubt the reason for the illogic is that prostitution is an area where libertarian principles and Victorian-style moral attitudes to sex directly collide. Compared to the continentals, we’re pretty confused about whether we’re prudish or licentious in Britain, but if anything America is even more so.

In the States bawdy humour and innuendo is much more unacceptable in certain circles than in equivalent circles in the UK. Nipples are also a bigger deal in the US - practically a fetish. Americans are generally shocked by topless page 3 girls in our daily newspapers, and the Janet Jackson Superbowl fuss bemused the Brits.

Yet on the other hand America has this gargantuan porn industry. Not to mention what is, to my eyes, a slightly disturbing obsession with High School teens and cheerleaders.

This confusion is personified by Britney Spears, who would declare her virginity and all-round wholesome family values, then prance around lasciviously in a skimpy school uniform.

December 22, 2005 2:15 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Yes, making adult movies is legal, provided that certain record-keeping provisions related to identity and age are met.
Although, there's really no logical reason why it should be, eh ?
Simply because the parties having sex don't pay each other...
They're still being paid by a third party, and wouldn't be having sex otherwise...

And, "gonzo" films are also legal, even though in that case one of the participants IS paying the other(s).

Really, almost ALL sex between people with prior relationships, is either legal or well-tolerated.

For instance, there is ZERO difference between a street-walking prostitute, and a women who has sex with a "sugar daddy", solely because he provides her with an apartment, and/or a car, and/or other baubles.
Well, nothing except that the latter woman isn't in any danger of being arrested.

I guess the key to being a legal prostitute, a "semi-pro", as they're known, is to go out to dinner at least once, and accept payment in forms other than a direct transfer of cash.

Then you're "dating", and "accepting gifts".

Brit:

We Americans do love to be titillated, which is harder to do if things aren't "forbidden".

In many cities in the U.S., there are PAGES of periodical ads for "escorts" and "masseurs" or "masseuses", who EXPLICITLY claim to be "full service", and often feature naked or near-naked photos.
Since actually providing "full service" is technically illegal, I'm not sure why such ads are allowed.

Not to mention [...] a slightly disturbing obsession with High School teens and cheerleaders.

The Japanese make Americans look apathetic towards teenagers.
And, bondage is much more mainstream there. The combination of those two elements is disturbing, even to American eyes.

Britney Spears is an interesting case.
She's talented - but not extremely, there are many, many people who are more talented.

She's attractive - but same caveat.

Many people have done the "wholesome" bit, and many people have done the "slut" bit, and both are avenues to success.

However, for some reason, Britney became so popular that she's one of the 100 richest people under the age of 40 in America, and among people of her gender and approximate age, who are self-made millionaires, there are only TWO people in all of America who are richer: The Olsen twins.

It is a wonder and a puzzle.

(Actually, how the Olsen twins came to be worth over $ 100 million apiece is even more puzzling).

December 22, 2005 6:00 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I pretty much agree with everything said regarding prostitution. Make it legal but highly regulated. The biggest danger is in the trade in underage girls. Making adult prostitution legal won't satisfy those men who absolutely must have a 12 year old virgin, or wish to do things that an in-demand adult prostitute would never subject herself to. No matter what is allowed, there will always be a black market for what is not.

Likewise with drugs. Skipper, I think that legalizing use while prohibiting trade gets us the worst of both worlds. Crime is driven by the profits to be made in the trafficking side, and by leagalizing use you will be quadrupling the demand which that illicit market serves.

But since cocaine and heroin will still be in demand once marijuana is legalized, the problem will remain, with the potential that an increased marijuana user base will be primed to graduate to the heavier stuff. I don't see any easy or cost free solution to the problem.

December 22, 2005 7:31 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

That's right - unless we can somehow remove heroin from the face of the earth, there are no cost-free solutions. There are only greater or lesser evils.

I don't think the libertarian argument for legalisation works because there is no such thing as an addiction that only affects one person. However, the crime figure argument for legalisation is more compelling.

I'm not sure about the idea that marijuana users are primed to go on to heavier stuff because of the use of the drug per se, any more than are drinkers or smokers. One argument is that that danger only exists because marijuana users have to get their drug of choice from illegal dealers, who can then push the harder stuff.

December 22, 2005 7:46 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Duck:

I'm not certain legalizing consumption makes anything worse.

First, addiction (which is what prohibition is aiming at) is essentially a health, not a criminal, matter. By turning drug users into criminals, they belong to the same team as the dealers.

Second, it might be that the overall risk premium goes down, because there is less risk in the entire drug production-consumption system.

And with fewer people in prison, that whole money pit gets smaller, thereby allowing more resources for chasing dealers.

Alternatively, I could be way off base.

Which, if so, means I really need to stay away from the blow.

December 22, 2005 5:22 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Which, if so, means I really need to stay away from the blow.

Good advice, regardless of whether or not it's ever legal again.

December 22, 2005 11:03 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Hmmm. Perhaps I should have followed that up with one of those smiley emoticons I reflexively, and unreasonably, dislike.

Irony is so hard to convey by pixel.

December 23, 2005 2:32 AM  

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