Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Controlling Drug Use

A study conducted by the British Journal of Criminology has concluded that Portugal's experimentation with drug decriminalization has been mostly successful. Drug use among youths has decreased, there are more drug users in treatment, and local law enforcement have been able to focus on big-time drug traffickers.

There is one caveat. The study shows that experimentation with drugs have risen. Kevin Drum concludes from the data that more Portuguese youth are trying drugs, but fewer are turning into long-time users.

This may be the case. I would like to see more evidence in Portugal and other countries. Either way, it makes sense that Portugal's experiment might have been fruitful. The drug prohibition in the United States has been a huge failure. Americans continue to consume more drugs than any other nation in the world, despite the billions of dollars spent on preventing this from happening.

A conservative approach to drug policy ought to focus on the most effective method for limiting drug use while not crashing the budget. There is a part of my conservative soul that believes that drug use is immoral and the users of such drugs should be punished. But the United States' current prohibition policies have done nothing to stem the flow of drugs into the United States or lower the demand for drugs among Americans. Furthermore, our prohibition policies have only fueled the violence and destruction seen in the drug war in Mexico.

I am going to be posting more on drug policy in the future, but let me first throw out a suggestion. How about the United States follow in the footsteps of Portugal and decriminalize the use of pot. Furthermore, we could adopt for drugs the alcohol policies of Canada, Sweden, and Virginia (liquor). That is, the government runs stores that sell pot (alcohol for the above mentioned places). The government could sell these drugs at a slightly higher price than market value as a small prohibitive measure, but not high enough to encourage illegal distribution. It would be almost like a tax on drugs (taxing bad behavior is good policy, right?). Furthermore, the drug traffickers in Mexico would have the opportunity of dealing directly with the United States government instead of trying to illegally bypass law enforcement and battle over plazas (drug routes). American law enforcement would also be free to target major drug dealers, instead of spending valuable resources on housing potheads.

Decriminalizing small drug use is not crazy. William Buckley once argued for it. He was one of the first political pundits to admit that the war on drugs has been lost.

More to come...

Cross posted at The Cross Culturalist


Anonymous said...

I would not be against individual states deciding if they want to decriminalize pot. I would not be for it on a national level.


Anonymous said...

Pablo, what is happening in Mexico is a crying shame. I'm open to any solution that changes the entire dynamic of the drug trade. I see both sides of the issue, but there's no denying pot is a gateway drug.

My son was telling me about the potential for hemp to be grown legally for other purposes, and how beneficial/profitable it could be. Do you know anything about this?


BOSMAN said...

So the argument is, if laws are not working to catch criminals, make the crime legal and you won't have to worry about catching them anymore.

Can we apply this to jaywalking and breaking the speed limit as well?

Bill589 said...

Legalize alcohol. Oh wait. . . . How about a weaker, not physically addictive drug - legalize pot.

Let’s save money on law enforcement, give some sick people cheap medicine, and kick the drug cartels in the cojones, all at the same time.

Did I ever mention that I’m only half conservative. I’m also half libertarian.

Pablo said...

"but there's no denying pot is a gateway drug."

Martha, you may be right and if so, that is a compelling reason to not legalized pot. However, here is the most recent research


Pablo said...

"So the argument is, if laws are not working to catch criminals, make the crime legal and you won't have to worry about catching them anymore."

Unfortunately, there is an element of truth to that. The government should not make rules that it can't enforce. However, there is a better way to think about this issue. We have a limited amount resources and we want fewer problems with drugs. How do we accomplish this?

I think that the method that I mentioned would lead to less violence and perhaps fewer long-term users. There are problems with it. But there is not a perfect answer and the money and resources that we use now has been inaffective.

Anonymous said...

Pablo, interesting article. I'm not sure I agree with every part but still interesting. I tend to agree with Martha about pot being a gateway drug. My problem with legalizing it is two-fold. One I believe kids use marijuana as a rebellion drug and since it is a, somewhat, safe recreational drug I see it being an important part of the growth of childhood into adulthood...not for everybody but for the few who do want or need an outlet for their rebellion.

The legalization of it strips the rebellion facet of the drug away from the youth who is yearning to live on the wild side(and the colored-girls sing...Do, DooDoo) so what will they be left with...ecstacy, LSD, coke. I'd much rather them rebel and experiment with mary jane.

My second reason for it is public safety, as far as I know, there is no on the site test to determine if a driver is intoxicated from marijuana. The officer will then have to rely on their own senses to determine if a driver is unfit to drive or if they should be arrested on assumption. I think unnecessary arrests and a waste of the public's money will be used to cotrol the effort or to meet a quota.

I will agree that something has to change.


BTW, I checked out your site. I wrote a reply to one of your posts, when I realized that you do not allow anonymous postings on your site...wish I had known that before I wrote my reply. Otherwise, I like the blog...especially the title. Good luck with it. You should try to get the domain name.


Pablo said...


Those are some very good points. I have done more research and reading about the drug issue than anything else, and the conclusion that I have come to is that there is no good solution.

And I did not realize that anonymous posters could not post comments. I will try to change that. And thanks for your encouragement. I think I will get the domain name soon.

Pablo said...


I just changed that about comments on my blog. Thanks for telling me that.

Anonymous said...

YW Pablo, after my experience with ROS, I'm not sure I want to sign up as a member for any site. I know I can use a gmail or google screen name but I already have too many email accounts and I am thinking about starting my own blog, sometime in the future, so I think I'll wait until then to open a blogger account. I don't think anons are that big of a deal...especially since I sign my handle to all of my posts.


Anonymous said...

Pablo, I think a possible solution is to reevaluate the sentencing of marijuana related crimes...especially for personal use when no dealing is involved. The punishment should be severe enough that it could deter the use and/or posession of small amounts but not enough where a person's life is ruined because they have 3 strikes. I feel that leads to nothing but creating more hardened criminals and wastes time and money in the judicial and penal system.