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Drugs, the Victimless Crime, Vol. Eight Zillion

One of the principal arguments for legalizing drugs is that they are "victimless."  This is false even when the argument concerns only the user.  It is all the more so when one considers the large number of non-user deaths and injuries caused by drug-impaired driving.

There is another category of victims seldom mentioned, however.  They are in an even poorer position to protect themselves from the consequences of drug abuse than the driver or pedestrian suddenly slammed into by whomever felt like getting high that day.  A story about them appeared on Yahoo News this last Sunday.

I have no illusions that the awful facts the story recounts will give pause to the Drugs Are Wonderful lobby.  That's because the lobby has never been about facts.  It's about nostalgia for a long-gone youth full of pot smoking, now combined with a snarling ideology that mistakes license for liberty. 


Perhaps rather than locking people up, we could just ask them to show a little personal responsibility and not smoke pot when they are intending to drive. You know, the same way we deal with alcohol.

And look what happens when we give people a little more personal responsibility, driving accidents go down! http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/11/marijuana-reduces-drunk-driving-fatalities.html

You neglected to quote this line from the site you linked: "Because alternative mechanisms cannot be ruled out, the negative relationship between legalization and alcohol-related traffic fatalities does not necessarily imply that driving under the influence of marijuana is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol."

But I have an even better idea: Rather than comparing one kind of dangerous behavior to another, how about a legal policy that punishes, and otherwise discourages, both?

Yes, well, moving right along..........I notice that you had not one word to say about the actual subject of the story I linked, that being about the suffering of drug dependent infants. I guess asking the mothers to "show a little personal responsibility," as you cheerfully suggest, didn't work too well.

All causal mechanisms are defeasible. The study merely shows that the positive association you draw between pot availabiltiy and driving accidents is flawed. You need more than to show correlation is not causation, you need to show the opposite correlation before we can even start to believe you!

On drug dependent infants: their mothers' behaviour is disgusting and abhorrent. A small minority of people will always do horrible things to themselves and/or others using whatever they can get their hands on, whether its drugs, vehicles or weapons.

But locking people up for smoking pot isn't going to stop other people from abusing prescription pain killers. Unless you have some sort of correlation, and plausible causal mechanism to suggest?

"But locking people up for smoking pot isn't going to stop other people from abusing prescription pain killers. Unless you have some sort of correlation, and plausible causal mechanism to suggest?"

Yes, I do have one to suggest: A culture that punishes consumption of drugs will get less drug consumption than a culture that doesn't, and therefore fewer of the harmful consequences of such consumption. You don't know this?

Not that it makes that much difference. Very, very few people get prison sentences just for smoking pot, and such sentences as get handed out are minimal.

If people want to avoid the (minimal) risk of criminal punishment for smoking pot, I have a suggestion that doesn't require legislation or any kind of government action.

Quit smoking it. Problem solved.

"A culture that punishes possession of guns will have less gun possession than a culture that doesn't, and therefore fewer of the harmful consequences of gun possession."

"A culture that punishes possession of cars will get less car possession than a culture that doesn't, and therefore fewer of the harmful consequences of car possession."

Its a trivial and useless statement. It works on anything, so long as you only look at the harms on the one side of the ledger, rather than the benefits and harms of prohibition. (Liberals do that with guns, you do that with drugs).

Incidentally, the criminal law clearly has a relatively small effect on overall culture: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/netherlands_v_us

Bill, have you heard of something called "fetal alcohol syndrome"? Abusing alcohol during pregnancy is as bad or worse than most illegal drugs--certainly more harmful to the child than abusing marijuana during pregnancy. Similarly, driving under the influence of alcohol is more likely to result in an accident than driving under the influence of marijuana.

I agree that driving under the influence of alcohol (or marijuana or any other drug) is blameworthy conduct we should deter. I'd love to see the expansion of ignition locks for DUI offenders (or, perhaps, even required for all vehicles.) But one thing I don't want to see: a return to alcohol prohibition. Do you? Although some marijuana (and alcohol) users cause harm, it does not follow that criminalizing all marijuana (and alcohol) use is a moral imperative as your post seems to suggest.

As a side note, your post weirdly references people who spent a youth filled with pot smoking but the article you link to appears to focus on prescription drug users. I'm not sure I see the connection between the article and marijuana policy, but I'd be curious for you to explain it.

You initially said that a culture that locks people up for smoking pot isn't going to stop other people from abusing prescription pain killers.

I responded that a culture that punishes consumption of drugs will get less drug consumption than a culture that doesn't. My point, which you could not have missed, was that keeping our nerve in the fight against drug abuse, whether abuse of legal (in prescribed doses) prescription drugs, or against consumption of flatly illegal drugs, will produce less drug use.

You now respond that this is a "useless" statement -- not because it's false (since you concede it's true), but because it does not take account of the "benefits" of drug use and "the harms of prohibition."

Would you mind describing for us the "benefits" of staying stoned all day? And don't hand me this phony medical stuff. People smoke pot to get blasted, not to cure cancer. And you know that too.

As to the costs of prohibition: I have said before, and you conspicuously decline to deny, that almost no one goes to jail just for smoking a joint or puffing on a bong. You also take a pass on my observation that the way to trim prohibition costs down to zero is for potheads to cut it out and do something constructive with their time. Instead, you do what criminals ALWAYS do -- make like everything is the system's fault, nothing is the product of their own bad choices.

As to criminal law's having a "relatively small effect on overall culture": Crime has a big effect on its millions and millions of victims, and, unlike you, I think those people count in the "overall culture." And criminal law has an effect on crime, for good or ill. If the law is indulgent, we get more crime, and more crime victims, as we did (with no visible consternation from you) in the Sixties and Seventies. When the law gets serious, as it did in the Eighties under Reagan (and still is, to some extent, today), we get less crime and fewer victims.

There are annually more than four million fewer victims of serious crime today than there were a generation ago. Those people might not count with you, but they do with me. That is not going to change no matter how much pot you or your allies want to smoke.

Finally, I can't help observing that the amount of juvenile whining potheads do about the law is just staggering. We have had the CSA for 40 years, and for 40 years -- that would be 20 Congressional elections and 10 Presidential terms -- your side has failed to repeal or even modestly alter that law.

The reason for his is not some Big Conspiracy. The reason is that your arguments don't have any traction. They have no traction whether it's with Speaker Gingrich of Speaker Pelosi. They have no traction whether it's Barack Obama or Ronald Reagan. The Drugs Are Wonderful movement is the biggest and longest flop of a crusade I have seen in my lifetime.

Frustrated with this fact, you take to the Internet to stomp your foot. OK, that's fine. We believe in free speech (within very broad limits). But stomping your foot is still just stomping your foot.

But even that isn't the most salient point. The supposed "right" to get stoned is unimportant even if it existed. By contrast, the right to execute Tsarnaev and other multiple killers is quite important. Wouldn't it be a better use of your time to campaign for the latter and forget about the former?

See my response to morofski. I will add only that encouraging pot use (by legalization) is a good deal less of a "moral imperative" than virtually anything else that gets discussed on this forum. If nothing else, pot use is de facto legal anyway, so if you (not you personally, but "you" in the generic sense) absolutely must smoke it, go to your basement rec room and have at it. No one will bother you.

But it you decide to take care of the munchies you develop by driving to the 7-11 while blasted, and mow down some kid on his bike, don't come running here for mercy.

Thanks for the reply. Though I agree that few are incarcerated for simple marijuana possession, it is far from de facto legal. I believe there were something like 660,000 marijuana possession arrests in 2011 out of 12,400,000 total arrests. In other words, about 5% of all arrests nationwide are for simple possession of marijuana. Like many who support reforming marijuana laws, I think it's a drain on law enforcement and court resources and with few benefits. I'd rather every hour we now spend arresting and processing a marijuana user be put to a better use.

For example, I once had a bag stolen from a friend's car. When I went to report it, I filled out a form for insurance. The idea that the police would take fingerprints or conduct any investigation whatsoever to try and find the person who did it (along with my belongings, some of which could not be replaced) was completely off the table. Only 21.5% of larceny/thefts are cleared in this country every year. I think putting enforcement dollars toward improving that clearance rate by doing even minimal investigations of thefts would be a far better use than arresting people for marijuana possession.

In addition, I must say, I'm always confused by the argument that we should not legalize something because its de facto legal anyway. If it were de facto legal anyway, what would be the downside to legalization?

I cannot see a substantial difference between someone getting drunk in their was with someone getting stoned in their basement. Or for that matter getting hopped up on adderall. The only reason I can think of is maybe one beer (or two or three...) doesn't make anyone over 100 lbs drunk whereas one toke or one line gets someone really high...so maybe it is drinking alcohol is not a dangerous activity whereas getting drunk is and there is no "safe" usuage of controlled substances (without prescription).

So what is the gallery's opinion of gambling? Should it be legal? Illegal?

It's already legal, as those of us in the stock market in 2008 found out.

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