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A Review of Drug Legalization, For And Against

I was honored (?) with the task of reviewing the book "Drug Legalization, For and Against". For publishing the review they let me have the book. So here it is, "published" on the net.

[in paper: ISBN-0-8126-9169-5 in cloth: ISBN-0-8126-9168-7]

The book is published by Open Court Publishing Company, (LaSalle IL, 61301 (c) 1992) edited by Rod L. Evans and Irwin M. Berent with a forward by Linus Pauling and a redundant introduction by Hugh Downs. The editors are appologetic for being biased in favor of some form of legalization and given the arguments they picked favoring the status quo of prohibition it's easy to see why. I think they tried hard to find good arguments for continuing prohibition but it really boils down to accepting a paternalistic government versus a free society. Out of 11 articles favoring prohibition, only 2 were consistent: given their basis of argument you could logically reach the same conclusion. I just happen to disagree with their basis.

So there's no confusion, both the editors and reviewer agree, legalization (of some form) is the way to go.

In general, the legalizers used facts and talked much about marijuana and the prohibitionists used rhetoric and polls (nobody believes the other side so don't listen to them) and talked much about heroin and cocaine. Given the skew argument, maybe legalizing hemp really is possible? All other drugs are just a matter of changing a few polls. To this reader, the best prohibitionist argument was "we have helmet laws, therefore we can control your mind too." This is true. We ought not have helmet laws!

What follows are my notes of each contributing author.

Their efforts were culled from various journals and proceedings from 1988 to 1992. Only one article has never been published before. It was actually my favorite piece.

Linus Pauling opens the book with the concept of *orthomolecular substances* as things which the human body has adapted to over the past million years or so and *drugs* as substances not normally present. He figures distilled alcohol is only a few hundred years old so that falls in the category of drugs but he says "marijuana and cocaine, and perhaps also peyote" should be as available as beer. I hope he meant coca leaf and not processed cocaine because that would make him a hypocrite, calling distilled alcohol a drug but not processed cocaine!

Hugh Downs asks the readers to think about legalization and suggests a few questions to have in mind while reading the book. The editors then spell out their rational for putting the book together the way they did. The book is laid out in 11 chapters of various types of arguments with the first chapter a list of questions that Charles Rangle (chairman of the select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control) asked his committee to consider at the behest of Kurt Schmoke's request to investigate legalization. They are really good questions and he obviously ignored the answers to stay a prohibitionist. All in all the book starts out interesting. Next up was a very abridged version of Nadelmann's 1989 Science article arguing for legalization. I'd read the original so I skipped this.

James Wilson (prof. of mang. and public policy at UCLA) mounts a personal attack on Nadelmann and tries to use history of drugs starting in 1970. Very unconvincing.

Then comes Milton Friedman's famous letters to Bill Bennett and the reply. Bennett says "I advocate a larger criminal justice system to take drug users off the streets." And "drug use is a threat to the individual liberty and domestic tranquillity guaranteed by the constitution." Friedman replies with a quote from Justice Brandeis:

"The greater dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning, but without understanding."

At this point I'm wondering if the prohibitionists have anybody who can articulate their viewpoint at all with reason.

Fortunately Ed Tully and Marguerite Bennett of the FBI show up with the most consistent argument for the prohibitionists. They start out making good points about individual rights versus social safety. They feel that laws which "protect the individual" (seat belt and helmet laws) are good things. Using this as a basis they argue well for prohibition. They also use several specious arguments about the dangers of marijuana which are blatantly false but this does not affect their arguments. Proves to me that paternalistic society is a bad thing.

Merrill Smith (U.S. Chief Probation Officer) gives lots of quotes from professors and medical doctors. Lots more facts than the FBI argument and an excellent review of history of how drugs went from the medical domain to the criminal starting from the 1890's.

John Hill (Law prof. and Ph.D. philosophy) then comes along with a really nice libertarian perspective. The book might be worth getting for this article alone. Hill argues for the principle of a "zone of privacy". He defines "'privacy' in the jurisprudential sense is that which is beyond the legitimate concern of the government and its laws." A couple of quotes I really liked are: "Similarly, monarchists, Marxists, and fascists of various brands reject the notion of a private realm of individual choice as a chimera of modern Liberalism." And "Defenders of a zone of privacy, on the other hand, recognize the logical and moral primacy of the individual over the state. The individual is not, as it was for Aristotle, a part of the state. Rather, the state is the creation of the individual and, as such, the servant of individual ends." Right on dude!

Hill goes on to study supreme court rullings about privacy and covers 4 specific areas. He then quotes Mill's definition of 'harm to others' and relates all this to drug use. He does not venture a direct opinion towards legalization and tosses out bits for debate such as "prohibition might also be warranted in the case of certain specified drugs that pose a threat to the continued autonomy of the individual user." An ivory tower argument but a great place to get definitions and a basis for legalization.

Mark Moore (Harvard Prof. of Criminal Justice) starts off with "In this Article, I note that the 'drug problem' is primarily a cocaine epidemic." Sets up 6 straw men 'alternatives' of legalization and then knocks them down. Very unconvincing. He blames all of societies problems on drug use. Actually it's kind of sad.

Todd Brenner (Lawyer, Notes Editor for Capital Law Review) is very repetitive of the legalization side. Nadelmann covered the facts and Hill covered the logic. I didn't finish reading it. It seemed like 50 pages of the book could have been saved leaving Moore and Brenner out.

I then skipped Wisotsky (Law prof. at Nova University) as just another boring lawyer. [That's part of the reason I'm running for office on the Libertarian ticket. I'm sick of lawyer's telling me how to live my life.]

Kurt Schmoke gives a short, succinct and powerful message for legalization. Bill Bennett (again!?) rantingly replies "law enforcement works". Is this bias of editors or is there really no rational explanation of prohibition?

Dr. Gazzaniga (psychiatry prof. Dartmouth Med. school) is published in interview format. This was interesting to read after the previous boring rants and gave a useful counter to the "drugs create crime" falicy. Compares alcohol, tobacco to crack and cocaine addictions.

Gabriel Nahas (pharmacologist and known liar) claims alcohol "does not impair mental acuity" but marijuana does "even in minute quantities". Seeming to admit he has no facts he says "Only when the vital grass-roots forces of America feeling their existence threatened, become determined to fight drugs will they be able to wage a war and win it." He basically believes propaganda and lies will work forever. Made me want to puke.

Thomas Szasz (psychiatrist prof. from SUNY) follows in typical great style. He has a sharp wit but uses few real facts. He gives a high level abstract argument with some of the best legalization propaganda I've seen. He directly ties Hitler's argument of the 'dangerous jew' to WoD's 'dangerous drugs'. He says: "The perennial confrontation between authority and autonomy, the permanent tension between behavior based on submission to coercion and the free choice of one's own course in life - these basic themes of human morality and psychology are now enacted on a stage on which the principal props are drugs and laws against drugs." Kind of made me wonder if the human race is worth the effort I expend on it.

David Musto (psychiatry prof. Yale) gives an accurate historical perspective. He argues public opinion polls be used to determine what to do with drugs: "My belief is that the popular attitude which is growing so powerfully against drug use in this country is in the long run more determinative than profits or even foreign supply." He does think "we must not again revert to extreme punishments, silence or exaggeration" when discussing drug use. He suggests that the war should plow ahead as usual because it is working. He ignores his own arguments but it ranks up there with the FBI paper as the best of the prohibitionists.

William Buckly (editor National Review) complains that "no politician can be elected who recommends the one thing that hasn't been tried." They could have picked a better piece. I think this could have been left out also.

Morton Kondracke (senior editor New Republic) claims that "drugs have been the rage in America only since about 1962". He makes the amazing assumption that because alcohol kills 200,000 people per year that legalizing marijuana would do the same thing and including all drugs he says "the number of deaths actually could go as high as 500,000 a year." He concludes "in the name of health, economics, and morality, there seems no alternative but to keep drugs illegal." The 'liberals' are more dangerous than the 'conservatives'!

Ms. Taylor Branch (freelance writer) comes at it with a literary attack. She compares Prohibition to today. She comments on the connection between racism and drugs and why doctors did not defend use of opium or cocaine. She argues for a "Koop model" of legalization: no advertising, no sales to minors, but legal to purchase with warnings that it's bad for you. She ends with "To fight the entire drug war by Everett Koop's rules would require disciplined courage within individual citizens and enormous trust between them. But so does the practice of democracy itself."

The book ends with Arnold Trebach (law prof. American University and head of Drug Policy Foundation) throwing a self promoting rah-rah. He gives a few good points on how activists should push for medical marijuana and heroin and asks that users be left alone but dealers still be punished. Argues for political reason on the part of legalizers and suggests taking things one step at a time.

The lawyers were definitely boring. Too many words and not enough said. If you've been in the WoD for awhile, this book does you no good at all. But their market is the "public" and for that it may be too thick. If the market is libertarians it may sell ok. I just have the feeling that there must be more to the prohibitionist argument. If there isn't then it should be really easy to legalize hemp. The major argument is that the government has the power to control individual behavior. This is absurd. Government can not control its own behavior let alone that of individuals. This is observed historical fact. I'll be suprised if the book gets wide circulation because it is biased in favor of legalization. The powers that be are biased against it.

Nahas is right about one point: "Only when the vital grass-roots forces of America feeling their existance threatened" will they fight oppression. If this book really represents the prohibitionists then they are planting the seeds of their own destruction. And this book documents their demise.

Patience, persistence, truth, reality:

Dr. mike UUCP: uunet!pyramid!cdp!mrosing

IMI, P.O. BOX 2242, Darien IL 60559 bitnet:



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