Against drug legalization bumper sticker baloney

This diary is not against drug legalization per se. We have witnessed in recent years a  shift in polling on some issues, the lack of honest debate about what is really going on. Drug legalization seems particularly prone to a cult-like incantations of supposedly brilliant points that are actually garbage. So when I see what are to me obvious illogical bumper sticker statements here on Redstate, I had to respond. The comment became enough of a response it deserves it’s own diary:

“Not only is the drug war anti-liberty”

There are two sides to that issue. Liberty implies individual choice, but saving people from the slavery of drug addiction is PRO-liberty.

In a perfect world there would be no dangerous drug use and no addictions, but its the nature of addictions to attach to our desire too strongly for reason to resist. For that reason, to speak in terms of “Let me put anything I want into my bodies” is self-limiting in case of substances where one can be slave to an addiction. Addiction is not reason nor is it a choice; as I said, it’s a form of slavery. We don’t allow people to sell themselves into slavery, and laws against drugs are laws against allowing people to put themselves in the position of making their bodies slaves to that addiction.  Now, some, indeed in most cases a recreational drug user may be taking an intoxicating drug and not be fully addicted, so they are still deciding. The right to decide and use in that case might be reasonable, but the ‘freedom’ to use drugs is not pure unalloyed ‘liberty’ but a double-edged sword.

“it’s ineffective”

How much societal harm is saved by reducing drug abuse? That’s the question, with 100,000 people killed from alcohol each year (accidents, addiction, etc.), and MJ the second-most abused drug in the US, one can argue BOTH that making MJ illegal is imperfect but ALSO that making MJ legal will certainly increase drug addiction, abuse, and the negative consequences of it. So is letting more people become addicted ‘effective’?

That’s not to say that ‘lock em up’ is the only answer to how to deal with drugs, but it IS to say that this libertarian bumper sticker BS is naive, misleading and NOT what’s really going on and what the real tradeoffs are about.   What you WON’T get from MJ legalization is a “New Birth of Freedom” and Libertopia. You dont get smaller govt. Nope, gotta spend more on those ‘community health services’ like govt spending money for drug treatment for deadbeat Dads and welfare Moms who are too dysfunctional to take care of themselves let alone their spawn. You wont get less police.  if the result is more addiction and more driving-while-stoned cases, they will be plenty busy chasing the DWIs, filing the petty crime reports and dealing with the expected human consequences of what trashy addicts do to the lives around them.

We are simply trading off one set of freedoms, choices and negative consequences of those choices for another. Laws support moral behavior and through that support a safer, better
and in the end MORE FREE community overall. Because an addict in the family is NOT FREEDOM for the rest of that family. It’s a prison. Which is more ‘effective’?  Perhaps not spending much effort at those ‘victimless’ cases of causual use, but

“costly and fills up prisons.”

So does the law against theft, child abuse, sex predation, rape, murder, stock fraud, violation of EPA and OSHA regulations, etc. So does ANY law.  This blanket statement is ignorant. This is one of those empty arguments that somehow makes it sound like it means something, when it means little. Again, what is social benefit of increasing drug abuse vs making efforts to fight it – that’s the question never answered by these shallow, blanket statements.  If the honest tradeoff is “More addiction and its consequences and lower incarceration costs versus higher incarceration to reduce negative social impacts.”

Furthermore, there is sophistry behind these blanket arguments that are applied blanket to ‘drugs’. So we should legalize heroin and other hard drugs? Or is this just a convenient argument for the pot legalization bumper stickers to be wheeled out for them, and then put back in the closet before its contradictions regarding the dangers of other hard drugs become too obvious?!?

How is a large police state “pro-liberty”?”

Associating drug laws with a ‘police state’ is another bumper sticker rhetorical trick. What pray tell is wrong with having police? are you opposed to having local police forces enforce laws that protect communities, stop criminal behavior such as theft, public drunkenness / DWIs, and assaults? So you prefer violent neighborhood to a police presence? Why do you insanely talk about a ‘police state’ just because I’ve argued against legalization of drugs and for protection of the unborn?

“The drug war has done a lot in growing the power of the police and vice-versa.”

In the greater scheme of things, nope. Not really. There are thousands of laws on the books, drugs only a fraction of them. All the alphabet soup agencies in the federal govt, regulate emissions, land use (EPA, Dept of Interior), regs on the workplace (OSHA), consumer regs (CSPB), autos (NHSA, EPA), the IRS (just about anything), and now the tentacles that reach into the nooks and crannies of health insurance decision … these have NOTHING to do with hard drugs.

The Leviathan State was leviathan BEFORE and will be leviathan AFTER MJ is legalized. How do we know? Look at California? Has california become a great libertarian paradise in the wake of phony medical MJ dispensaries giving it out to walkins looking to ‘ease pain’ (or whatever the excuse is)?  Nope. it’s a liberal / left nanny-statist hellhole, and I have a genuine concern that the ‘stoopid sticks’ (like cancer sticks but a different) will make politics on many levels worse whereever the MJ issue ‘wins’ (after all, studies show MJ use in your teens as a habit leads to 8 IQ pt reduction and increase in risk of mental issues). Stupid crazy people voting? oh joy! that’s how you get “Gov Jerry Brown” and other nutty results.

“How would you feel if a swat team had knocked down your door and arrested you cause they thought you were possessing drugs?”

Yikes. More bad ‘logic’. How would you feel if a swat team had knocked down your door and arrested you cause they thought you were a child molester? Would we then need to abolish child molestation laws?  So police abuse of a Law X means we should not have the law X? There have been of course abusive prosecutions of cases of child molestation (just read up on the sordid history of Janet Reno before the days of knocking off that waco compound, back in Miami). The point is that police behavior that violated Constitutional rights is not justified no matter what the law involved.

But the converse is true as well. Dont judge a law based on examples of enforcement zeal. Police misbehavior of a particular law doesnt invalidate that law. I understand for example that RICO statutes have a lot of teeth and can be abused (like when prosecutors used them on anti-abortion protestors, this for statutes intended for mobsters!) and drug kingpins and mafia dons sometimes require a SWAT team to be safely taken out. if they go to far, fix the problem, which is abusive police behavior, but dont use it as some excuse/reason to repeal a law.

There have been cases of innocent people killed by police due to errors in handling domestic disputes. Should we stop sending police to such incidents? Or maybe, just maybe – training police, enforcing laws against police brutality including jailing police that are abusive, and protecting people’s rights is the way to go.  And keep and enforce the laws we need on the books.

None of the bumper sticker BS acknowledges that subtle truth or the reality of what drug laws are really about and are trying to do. This has unfortunate consequences for the policy debate on a  way forward towards a more reasonable handling of drug laws. We should be rejecting these blanket bumper sticker slogans and focus more on the balanced realities.

Coda: OK, so what do I think we should do? A more intelligent public policy response would recognize the liberty interest in rational and reasoned human choice about recreational drug use, but it would importantly ALSO take into account the need and responsibility of the community and society as a whole to discourage and if need be to forbid dangerous drugs that harm individuals, families and communities. In an era of the quantified self,  herbal health remedies, online ‘pharmacies’ hawking knockoff prescription pills, etc. we are in a different world than a generation ago when it comes to the various drugs we could (and should) take.  We are in an era when the past use of drugs a ‘self medication’ for things like depression should be stopped cold, but where its hard to tell kids ‘drugs are bad’  while we give many of them Ritalin for behavior modification.

A combination of law enforcement, public health treatment, societal constraints, and education (like DARE and ‘just say no’), is needed, but formulated in a different way in the past, to account for and acknowledge both these trends and for the possible opportunities of a more treatment-based approach to eliminate addictions. The distressing thing about the bumper sticker slogans and their consequence in policy is that rather than reformulate our response to the challenge of drugs, it seems we are going ‘cold turkey’ on prohibition in some states without considering the alternative approaches, and doing things in a way that will ensure that usage, in particular among children, drug exposure to children, and addiction rates don’t climb as a result.  We need to recognize the addiction risks of drugs (this includes alcohol, MJ and other hard drugs), and pro-legalization side simply doesn’t put that in the equation, aside from meaningless statistic throwing like:

“Nobody died from an MJ overdose”. 

Fine, but an Amtrak driver that was stoned managed to kill dozens of people by driving a train while high; pretending the drug has lesser risks because you can’t overdose on it like you can heroin is an interesting factoid but not determinative.

So my position in this topic for now this is simple.  Don’t act based on bumper stickers. Look, and think, before you leap.