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REPLY #7b TO
"DRUGS"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the last of a two-part reply.

(R) Further reasoning:
    1) People (adults "of sound mind", anyway) are 100 percent responsible for their acts, no matter what legal or illegal substances (from chocolate to heroin) that may be influencing them, so long as they ingested those substances voluntarily. I don't think you'd disagree with this.

(MB) That is correct. The key phrase here is "voluntary behavior".


(R) 2) The presumption in our Constitution and in our democratic system is that free men are entitled to make their own decisions about how their lives should be lived, so long as no other parties are unjustifiably injured in that pursuit of happiness. Granted, our legislatures have not always heeded this directive in making laws, but the idea of individual freedom as expressed above still maintains the status of an ideal, something we as a society should work toward.
(MB) True again. However, people don't always make sound judgments about whether or not their activities injure others. If one is overly self-centered about his behavior and personal pleasures, he may not even care about what effect his actions have on others.
    In a free society, laws are supposed to protect the rights of the individuals. Rights guaranteeing such things as free speech are largely designed to prevent government from squashing citizen dissent. The personal rights and freedoms of individuals are not all-encompassing, however. As the old adage goes, "Your right to swing your fist stops where my nose starts". If our population situation was such that swinging one's fist produced a high probability of striking someone else's nose, government might well ban fist swinging in the public interest of preventing broken noses even though it wouldn't happen in all cases.



(R) 3) A person with the capacity to be held responsible for 100 percent of his acts (you or me, say) is entitled to the individual freedom above. Any abridgment of that freedom is an offense against that person; any failure to hold that person 100 percent responsible for his acts is an offense against the greater society.
(MB) See the example of fist swinging above. Prosecuting the fist swinger after the fact doesn't do much to heal the broken nose that he caused. Even though a person is undoubtedly responsible for his own actions, if any particular action produces a high probability of a negative effect for another person, the government -- acting on behalf of the general public -- would be justified in enacting legislation to try to ban that action.


(R) 4) The ingestion of drugs, in and of itself, does not constitute a direct injury to anyone else. (The acts of an intoxicated person with impaired judgment might; the idea here is to punish those acts fully, 100%, just as if they were committed stone cold sober. The drug use itself did not cause the accident; the stupidity and/or immorality of the user did.)
(MB) That is an illogical argument since it attempt to separate an action from the expected consequences of that action. What is the purpose of using drugs if not to "get high"? I doubt anybody smokes marijuana primarily for the taste. If they do, would they be just as likely to smoke marijuana if it contained no THC? Wild hemp with negligible THC content still grows in parts of the country, but nobody raises it with the intent of smoking its leaves.
    Since the primary purpose of using drugs is to get high, anybody who does so is, by extension, more likely to commit acts that are associated with impaired judgment. While that person might well be completely responsible prior to his drug use, his judgment is not nearly the same after using them. Since the negative effects of drug use outweigh the positive, there is justification for banning the drug use itself. Of course, we must also punish the illegal acts that the user might commit.



(R) Thus...
    5) The government's prohibition of drug use does not have moral authority, and should be lifted if we are to have the truly free society that our version of government empowers free men with.

(MB) The moral authority rests in the government's larger obligation to the general safety and well-being of the population. If a particular individual right must be restricted so that the larger goal of public safety, then so be it. For example, your individual right to free speech does not extend to being permitted to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theatre. Laws against this behavior mean that we are not totally free, but there can really not be any workable system that permits total and absolute individual freedom without degenerating into anarchy. If we wish to live in a civilized society, that's something we have to accept.
    This is not "legislating morality" such as rightly could be argued for laws against certain types of private sexual activity between consenting adults.



(R) I could bring up other arguments, e.g. the problems with the current black market nature of drugs (yes, drug prices would come down, unless you're willing to say that the drug industry, if it were to become a legal industry, would not then obey the economic axioms that all other legal industries do. This might be true, but, as the defender of the exceptional position you are required to assume the burden of proof that this is so.
(MB) My argument on this issue assumes that legitimate business would be very hesistant to get into the production of drugs due to the massive adverse public opinion such a thing would generate. It also assumes that the current bosses of the drug production and distribution system would not easily relinquish their huge profits to corporate competitors. Finally, the laws of supply and demand would still apply. I see little reason for drug prices to drop much since the current market has already established the going rates and the fact that users are willing to pay whatever it takes for their supply.


(R) I doubt you could do that successfully; most exceptional positions are exceptional because they're wrong, not supported by the facts.)...
(MB) To demonstrate that prices would come down would require a survey attempting to discover how many legitimate businesses would get into drug production. I think I have good reason to postulate that this number would not be large enough to create the level of competition required to drive prices down by any significant amount.


(R) ...or your hypothesis that drug use would skyrocket if it were legal, which almost no expert opinion I've ever read would support. The consensus of projections concerning a drug legalization scenario suggests that abuse of the less dangerous drugs (marijuana) would spike upward for a little while, then settle back down to near-normal ranges once the initial party was over.
(MB) I'm rather skeptical of that hypothesis. Consider that such projections are often commissioned by groups which favor drug legalization and, as such, we might expect their findings to reflect positively upon their own views.
    My view is based upon the deterrent effect of laws against drug use and comments on this subject from others. Many people wish to experiment with marijuana use or would use it regularly, but do not do so since they fear the consequences of getting caught. Those who already use it with little or no fear of the consequences would continue to do so. Add the new users who would be free from such consequences upon legalization and you end up with higher levels of use after legalization.



(R) Just to give my personal take on this, I think repeated cocaine use is very, very stupid. Making it legal is not going to get me to run out to the coke store and start squandering all my money on it; the fact that it's legal doesn't make it any less stupid.
(MB) Quite correct. Just because something is decriminalized or legalized doesn't turn somebody who wouldn't do it anyway into somebody who would. The change in legality will only affect the fence-sitters.


(R) I feel the majority of non-drug users are so, not because they're afraid to get caught, but because they feel that drugs should have no place in their lives.
(MB) I agree, however since there are undoubtedly a significant number of people who don't share the majority view, the argument postulating increased drug use upon legalization focuses upon them.


(R) By way of a real-world example, a study was done with high schoolers in Amsterdam, where marijuana (and lots of other things banned here) are legal. The percentage of high-schoolers that used pot regularly was found to be LOWER than the average for the U.S. From what I understand, this study was not commissioned by NORML or anything; the research entity that administered the survey was legitimately neutral.
(MB) It doesn't work to compare the effects of similar laws in different countries whose general societal attitudes are almost in direct opposition. There are too many other factors which contribute to levels of drug use.


(R) I wouldn't quote one study as gospel truth, but it seems I've seen some similar studies on people in legalized climates that suggest that the high schoolers from Amsterdam were not the exception, but the rule.
(MB) Again, one must consider all factors that are involved and must be careful not to draw invalid parallels when the basic foundation of societal attitudes can be very much different.


(R) Besides that, in the case of marijuana, the chance that a reasonably careful casual user who doesn't deal and buys personal use quantities only being caught is rather remote. It happens, but the chances are probably similar to getting a speeding ticket for going 73 on a 65 mph highway. If you get caught, the consequences, as you say, are not that severe; it's easy to say "Ah well, I was just unlucky today", pay the fine and move on.
(MB) I agree. However, one must consider that many states have different levels of punishment for possession of larger amounts of marijuana. Where possession of 1-2 ounces might be a misdemeanor, possession of amounts larger than that may be grounds for serious felony charges. Knowing that, why would anybody purchase more than "personal use" quantities?
    The same logic applies to your example of speeding tickets. If you know that there's little to fear from driving less than 10 mph over the posted limit, but much to fear from driving faster than that, why drive any faster? In addition, I think it's safe to say that a significant number of drivers would drive at much higher speeds if all speed limit laws were revoked.



(R) As for the statement that advocates of legalization are just "whining about not being allowed to have their fun"...well, yes, a lot of the arguments coming from that camp are specious and hazy (no pun intended) indeed, and a bad argument for whatever cause is nothing more than a bad argument; it is useless.
(MB) It basically comes down to valuing "personal freedom" more than the larger issue of the safety and welfare of the general public.


(R) But let me ask you: What if your type of fun were banned?
(MB) Then, I would have to evaluate my desire to continue having my fun against the potential legal penalties for doing so.


(R) I would find it hard to believe that you have never enjoyed any practice which has been off-limits somewhere.
(MB) Hey, we'd *all* be in jail for most of our lives if enforcement and prosecution were 100% effective...*grin* As an example, oral sex -- even between consenting adults (married or not) -- is illegal in some states and falls under laws against sodomy. I submit that 100% enforcement of those laws would put almost everybody in those states in jail.


(R) You like a glass of fine wine? Very well then; what would your stance have been in 1925, when Our Government said that you could not have that glass of wine, that they knew better what your best interests were?
(MB) Most people don't realize that it was not illegal to consume alcohol under Prohibition. The 18th Amendment says:
    "After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited."
    In other words, the amendment criminalized selling, production, and transport of alcoholic beverages. If you had a wine cellar or other private stocks of such beverages on hand, you could drink it and even serve it at parties. Just don't sell or make any.



(R) As a law-abiding citizen, you may not have drank on the sly, but you might have protested, stated the law was wrong.
(MB) Again, consumption was not illegal under Prohibition. You merely had to buy it on the sly.


(R) Wouldn't you agree that lives are diminished when fun options, like good-wine-drinking, are removed?
(MB) That depends on what one considers to be "fun" and what effect his "fun" might have on others.


(R) I don't smoke pot very often (probably a few times a year, with old friends), but I enjoy its pleasant, relaxing qualities (and its taste, if it's good) at times. I feel I should have the right to make the decision to smoke (or not to smoke) for myself, and if I hurt anyone else as the result of my marijuana use, let 100 percent of the responsibility and punishment for my acts fall on me where it belongs, and not on others who are acting responsibly.
(MB) Unfortunately, there will always be cases where completely responsible individuals will end up being limited or restricted by the need to take action against the majority. Since there's no way to know ahead of time whether any particular individual will be responsible or that he will be responsible 100% of the time, and since the consequences of irresponsibility can be very detrimental to others, it is in the government's interest (again, acting on behalf of the general public) to restrict or criminalize certain actions and behaviors. To get such laws overturned, the proponents of a given action or behavior will have to demonstrate that its positive aspects clearly outweigh any negative ones.


(R) Awaiting your response, and thank you.
(MB) Thanks for your comments. You have presented your case well. I hope that I may have filled in a hole or two that will improve any final conclusions.



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