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Drugs, the Victimless Crime, Part Eight Zillion

I don't think I need to say a great deal about this Washington Post story, which begins:

A Silver Spring man was sentenced to 80 months in prison Friday following a February crash in which the man drove his SUV onto a downtown Washington sidewalk during afternoon rush hour, striking and killing an attorney on his way to night classes at Georgetown University's law school...Prosecutors said [the defendant, James] Chandler, was high on PCP at the time of the crash....

According to prosecutors, on Feb. 23, around 4:50 p.m., Chandler drove his SUV at nearly 60 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone west on H Street NW, between Second and Fourth streets, striking two other vehicles without stopping. As Chandler crossed Fourth Street and struck the curb of the corner of Fourth and H streets NW, his vehicle mounted the sidewalk.

Prosecutors said evidence showed that Chandler never tried to apply his brakes or take any actions to avoid the crash.

It could just as easily have been me.  I have walked that street many times on the way to teach.

This comes at the same time Congress is set to consider lowering drug sentences, because everyone should have the right to control what he puts into his own body, etc.


Hello Mr. Otis,

This is a horrible tragedy.

I believe that PCP is already illegal. How did the illegality of PCP prevent this from happening? Could making PCP even more illegal help prevent these types of tragedies?

What this demonstrates is not that drugs are a victimless crime but that making drugs illegal does little to nothing to keep people from obtaining, using or abusing them.

Note that he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, not to possession/use of a controlled substance, which means that he would not stand to benefit from drug sentencing changes. Apples and oranges.

More like smack and ice.

The main point of the entry is that drug consumption, combined with ordinary behavior undertaken millions of times every day by millions of people, is anything but victimless. What this particular killer pleaded to does not dilute that point in the slightest. Nor does it suggest that the next person who kills or injures because he was blasted -- thousands of whom can and will be charged with drug use -- should get the more lenient sentencing than they would under present drug law. It suggests the opposite.

Severe Drug Sentencing, the Ineffective Means to Reduce the Harms of Substance Abuse, Part Eight Zillion: the real point of this entry is that the tough sentencing regime that has placed thousands in prison for just being involved in "free market" transactions consistently fails to prevent dangerous people from misusing human freedom to the detriment of others.

Relatedly, should I respond with the story of the Tennessee Marine masacre because you and others assert we must preserve the everyone having the right to guns? Gun freedoms are used to kill or injure many more innocent people than illegal drugs. And yet, if I am not mistaken, Bill, you do not favor government efforts to broadly prohibit and criminalize gun possession. Why exactly not, when the victims are more direct and more plentiful?

"placed thousands in prison for just being involved in free market transactions"

I think the flaw in your analysis is that these are not normal free market transactions like a guy buying a computer at the Apple store. First, you have a drug addict who is being preyed on by a greedy drug dealer content to make money by ruining the lives of others. Second, these transactions cause significant harm to others. What about the innocent children who are born to drug addicted mothers? What about the innocent children who are neglected because their parents would rather smoke meth than feed them? What about the innocent people who have their daily lives ruined by the crack house next door? Please don't respond by saying "what about alcohol?" I have met a lot of people who can drink alcohol and not have it ruin their lives and the lives of those around them. That's not true with meth or heroin or crack, at least not in my experience.

If we lived in a world where people could abuse drugs and that decision harmed nobody but the drug addict, then fine let them screw up their own lives. But, that it is not the world we live in. Drug abuse destroys communities. It not only destroys the abuser's life, it destroys the lives of a lot of innocent people.

Answer me this simple question, when you looked for a house would you have bought one in a neighborhood with a crack house on the corner, dirty needles in the local park, strung out prostitutes roaming the sidewalks, drug deals openly taking place in the gas station parking lot across the street, and a neighborhood school with bars on the windows? No, you wouldn't have. And, in fact, you didn't buy a house in such a neighborhood. Why? Because you know that is not a safe environment for you, your family, and your children. I think we have an obligation to try our best to make sure that other people don't have to live in such neighborhoods.

I am all for drug treatment programs, educational programs, job training programs to help folks beat addiction. But, I believe those "demand reduction programs" have to matched with harsh "supply reduction programs" that incapacitate those people who make a nice living by selling illegal drugs.


Reasonable comments, Zackary, which I cannot respond to fully until at a real computer. But let me start with a simple one via iPhone: what is the best evidence you can cite to support the claim that long mandatory minimum prison sentences have helped reduce illegal drug supply?

-- "... the real point of this entry is that the tough sentencing regime that has placed thousands in prison for just being involved in "free market" transactions consistently fails to prevent dangerous people from misusing human freedom to the detriment of others."

Actually, the "real point of this entry" is to show that illegal drug consumption is NOT victimless -- a point you don't deny.

(P.S. Isn't it the author of an entry who gets to decide what its "real point" is?).

I am perfectly fine stepping hard on a "free market" that expresses "human freedom" when the results of NOT stepping on it are dreadful -- as they were in this case and thousands of similar ones. I feel the same way about what was probably the first "free market," to wit, prostitution, which objectifies, demeans and devalues women (and girls and boys, now that I think of it).

Freedom has a very, very high value with me. But it does not have the only value. Preventing the degradation of blameless human beings also has a value. Liberals used to agree with me about this.

-- "Relatedly, should I respond with the story of the Tennessee Marine massacre because you and others assert we must preserve the everyone having the right to guns?"

No, you should avoid misrepresenting my position, as you have done here to a remarkable degree. At absolutely no point have I said that "everyone [has] the right to guns."

You have truly turned this one upside-down as to who is taking what position. I have consistently supported the Heller dictum RESTRICTING the right of gun ownership so that convicted felons can't get firearms. You, by contrast, have vigorously taken the opposite view, promoting the "right" of gun ownership by felons you regard as safe, or who, even if not safe at all, "need" them for supposed self-defense.

Fair points, Bill, on the gun front as my point was poorly expressed by saying you support everyone everyone having gun rights. Let me restate how I see parallels between guns and drugs:

When used responsibly, both drug use and gun use is victimless. When used irresponsibly, drug misuse and gun misuse can produce many victims. For this reason, as I think you know, I favor a scheme of regulation that seeks to permit responsible use and minimize irresponsible use. Others favor schemes of blanke prohibition for one or the other because of a view/fear than regulation is insufficient as a means to minimize harm.

I think you and liberals share lots of similar perspectives on these fronts, but you probably see a lot more value in responsible gun use than responsible drug use, and liberals tend not to see much value in responsible gun use.

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