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Arguments and Answers - Page 1

by Clifford A. Schaffer

This is a collection of actual arguments and answers from a long chain of debates on drug policy. Somewhere in this archive, every argument you ever heard in favor of the drug war is encountered and rebutted. If I missed any, please send them to me by e-mail:

My opponent's comments are in boldface. My comments are in plain text.

{{1. "....After adjusting for covariants, the marijuana group showed small but statistically significant increased risk for all three catagories of conditions (Respiratory, accidental injury, and other)."}}

Other, longer studies, such as the Jamaican studies have shown no statistically significant differences between marijuana smokers and non-smokers, even when the marijuana smokers had an average daily dose about 28 times that consumed by the average US user. Therefore, one study is not going to break the back of the collected research on marijuana.

The collected summation of marijuana research is this: "Marijuana, in its natural form, is probably the safest therapeutically active substance known to mankind. It is safer than many of the foods we commonly eat." -- Francis Young, Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, after two years of review of all of the evidence presented by the DEA and by those asking for reform. That is the same conclusion supported by every major study of drug policy.

{{2. "Respiratory deposition of tar and adsorption of carbon monoxide in experimental subjects were four and five times higher, respectively, after smoking marijuana than after smoking tobacco."}}

Assuming this is true, how does this prove that throwing millions of people in prison is the best approach to the problem?

{{3. "Marijuana has repeatedly been found to be the second most common drug, after alcohol, present in the blood of nonfatally and fatally injured persons."}}

There might be a good, logical reason for this. Marijuana is detectable in the blood for up to two months after a person smokes a joint, even though the high is long since gone. It may simply be an indicator that far more people are smoking marijuana than you thought. You also have to remember that common over the counter drugs will make people test positive for marijuana.

You will note that they did not say "drivers." It is irrelevant what the passengers were using.

And, by this sort of reasoning, the penalties for alcohol sale and possession ought to be even higher than the pot penalties. Why aren't you fighting even harder for alcohol Prohibition?

{{4. "Laboratory studies have shown decreased driving-related skills after smoking marijuana."}}

Repeated real world experience has shown that marijuana is not a major factor in traffic accidents. The reason is fairly simple -- pot has a very mild effect on people and does not destroy coordination the way alcohol does. The real problem here is that the people who want to throw people in prison for drugs do not actually know anything about the drug and its effects.

{{5. "In a Swedish study following a cohort of 45,540 male military conscripts for 15 years, heavier cannabis users had a nearly three times greater risk of death than nonusers....and had an elevated risk of schizophrenia compared with nonusers."}}

A Johns Hopkins study, just as credible, showed that marijuana smokers were more ambitious than their peers and usually succeeded better than the rest.

The question here is "Death from what?" Their cannabis users could have been concentrated in those areas with a higher risk of death, in light of the fact that they engage in somewhat more risk taking than their peers. Like, for instance, our soldiers who smoked pot in Vietnam.

As for schizophrenia -- Did the pot cause the schizophrenia, or would it be more likely that a person with severe mental problems would try all sorts of self-medication to stop the voices in their head? I have a relative with schizophrenia and I can tell you what the answer is.

And, if the person is developing schizophrenia -- for any reason -- how does it help the situation to throw them in jail?

{{" The insoluable particulate (tar) phase of the smoke from marijuana contains about 50% of some carcinogenic aryl hydrocarbons, including benz[a]anthracene, and benzo[a]pyrene then the smoke from a comparable quantity of unfiltered Kentucky reference tobacco."}}

So? Should the prison sentences for tobacco be 50% of those for pot? Or should we also account for the fact that pot smokers typically smoke far fewer cigarettes than a tobacco smoker? Just how long should we put tobacco smokers in jail, anyway?

{{"The smoking of one marijuana cigarette - 800 to 900 mg, 1% to 3% delta-tetrahydrocannabinol - led to the deposition in the lower respiratory tract of about a four-fold greater quantity of insoluable particulates (tar) than smoking a filtered tobacco cigarette of comparable weight..."}}

See above.

{{"...the authors [Polen, et al, of the accompanying article] are the first to use a systematic review of medical records to assess the health consequences of marijuana...Their finding that near-daily marijuana smoking is a significant independent risk factor for the development of respiratory illness, injuries, and other medical problems requiring medical attention CHALLENGES THE VIEW THAT MARIJUANA POSES INSIGNIFICANT HEALTH RISKS." }}

It will have to do a lot of challenging, because there is alot of evidence to challenge. Actually, this is more evidence for a change in the law because every major study of drug policy said that prohibition only INCREASED the dangers which were already present in illegal drugs. The more dangerous you assume them to be, the more important it becomes to treat them in a non-criminal manner.

But, of course, that is not really the point, anyway. Let's suppose that I totally believed everything you just said. Why do you automatically assume that putting millions of people in prison is the best approach to the problem? If it wasn't a good idea for alcohol, and we can see that it would be a dumb idea for tobacco, why do you suppose it is such a great idea for any other chemical?

{{So, it would appear the marijuana is more dangerous than tobacco. Itwould also appear that, given the statistics concerning fatal accidents, that marijuana use can be deadly.}}

So how many people are actually killed by all these drugs in a typical year, anyway?

And, while you're at it, there are perhaps thirty million people who are regular users of pot. How many millions of people do you think we ought to throw in prison in order to control this problem?

And why was the most common agricultural crop in America made illegal in 1937 in the first place? Was it because of these "dangers", or was it for some entirely different reason? How did the most common crop in America suddenly become a dreaded menace to society?

{{}}Netherlands has fewer addicts per capita than the US. So does almost every country in the world. So what?}}

Gee, that would seem to argue that our prohibition isn't so effective, wouldn't it? And you said it was easy to control!!!

{{ Germany recently decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, as have several states in the U.S. So what?}}

Maybe you could tell me why hemp (and the other drugs for that matter) were made illegal in the first place.

{{"When a heroin addicts can get precise doses at regular intervals, he can function pretty normally." They don't want to get high?}}

Ever heard of Dr. William Halsted? Or Senator Joseph McCarthy? What do they have in common?

{{ I went and looked it up. You need 100 grams of heroin to get a 5-year sentence or a whole kilo to get a 10-year sentence. For cocaine, the figures were 500 grams and 5 kilos. That's a lot of dope.}}

See the 7-8-93 op-ed piece by Federal Judge Weinstein in the NY Times. He points out that it varies from one city to another. In some major metropolitan areas, 100 pounds will not get you any jail time, while in others, a marijuana seed might mean life in prison.

{{ If there is no evidence that punishment reduces crime, we should shut down the prisons entirely.}}

There are thirty million illegal drug users. Just tell me the most reasonable number to put in prison.

{{ You say that junkies don't do any harm, but would you want to live next door to one?}}

A better question is if you would want to have a drug addict (William Bennett) as a drug czar?

{{ I keep hearing this. No one provides any evidence. It doesn't seem logical that people who have so much trouble supporting a drug habit *outside* somehow acquire the necessary income when you lock them up.}}

Talk to someone who has been in prison.

{{ Then why lock up drunk drivers? Or any criminal? Generally, we lock people up because they are a menace to society. It is *always* possible to lose a potential "contributing member" in this way, but generally we are more interested in the rights of potential victims: Who could be you, me, or anyone.}}

Anyone who commits an offense against another person should be tried for the offense. What should be different is that a person on cocaine who commits a crime should not get life in prison while a drunk would plead diminished capacity for the same crime. We should have consistent standards for all drugs and we should apply our limited resources to the part of the problem where it will do the most good. For example, we don't lock up wine drinkers to try to control drunk driving. Generally, we do lock people up because they are a menace to others. Of course, that never was the reason for the drug laws.

You are far more likely to be the victim of something related to alcohol and tobacco than from the effects of the illegal drugs.

{{ The properties of heroin and alcohol are very different, and the social context is also different. For example, most people can use alcohol in moderate amounts without ever becoming addicted. Also, alcohol can be brewed up in any bathtub, or derived from common products such as after-shave and mouthwash, so the potential for controlling abuse is much less.}}

Yes, the properties are different. Alcohol is just as addicting and far more damaging to the health.

Yes, the social context is different. The illegal drugs were outlawed primarily because they were associated (wrongly) with racial minorities, while alcohol and tobacco were perceived as "white" drugs.

The evidence shows that most drug users of all types use in moderation. This can be shown quite quickly by a simple comparison between the total number of users and the number of addicts.

The fact that alcohol can be brewed in a bathtub is hardly a sensible argument for any kind of policy. It is equally nonsensical for other drugs. Does that mean we should legalize marijuana because people can grow it in their closet?

{{ Since "every major study" agrees with you, it follows that youagree with "every major study," for example:

* The President's Commission on Organized Crime (1986)

* The National Report of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (1992)

* The President's Commission on Model State Drug Laws (1993)

So, can I quote these studies as authoritative, or have you suddenly changed your mind?}}

The first study has little to do with drug policy and cannot be considered any kind of a study of the drug policy issue.

The second is a statistical report with no consideration of the historical or medical aspects of the problem (or many other aspects for that matter.)

The third did not do any real research on drug policy.

But, since I so rarely run into anyone who tries naming anything, I will give you credit. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that all three studies were about drug policy and right on the money. The score is now 10 to 3 against you. When you get a little closer I will name some more on my side.

{{ I believe your chronology is wrong. I remember reading a book on the subject (_Chasing the Dragon_, as I recall), which was published around 1985. Unfortunately I don't have it to hand . . . But, as I recall, Britain had legalized prescription narcotics in the 60s, and they were still legal at the time the book was published. The result was an explosive increase in drug use, along with the accompanying things that drug abusers like to do: abuse their spouses, neglect their children and live off the public dole. I believe it was the Majors administration, sometime around 1990, which flirted with stricter drug enforcement (still not very tough by American standards). Is this that what you're talking about?}}

The correct chronology is given in the text of the 60 Minutes show contained in In the 80s, under US pressure, the British adopted a get-tough policy. It was a disaster, causing both health problems and rising crime. In Liverpool at the current time, they prescribe heroin and cocaine to addicts. Most of the addicts are healthy, employed, and living with their families. One of the conditions of their treatment is that they must not commit crimes. It works. They originally did it because of the AIDS infection rates, and the infection rate has dropped to less than one percent of the addicts -- while in the US the rate is over fifty percent. They also found that Liverpool, which had become famous for crime, was suddenly peaceful again. It is happening now and about a half dozen of my friends (including doctors) are now in England discussing it with them.

}}The Dutch, may not be alone for long. Many other European countries are looking to decriminalization; many have signed the Frankfort Accord agreeing that is the best approach. I dunno about that,}}

The following countries have already either legalized drugs or taken steps toward legalization: The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, England, Italy, Spain, and Colombia.

}}But it indicates that Germany is moving in the direction of common sense, while we are not. Yeah, they are liberalizing hash and persecuting the hard drug users. That's the direction of common sense.}}

Why is it common sense to persecute anyone?

{{ Still, when soldiers returned to the States, where drugs were neither cheap nor easy to find, they gave up the habit.}}

The studies of the issue said that all of the soldiers surveyed reported they could get heroin after they got back any time they wanted it. The reason they quit was because they were no longer under stress.

{{ And we also lock up left-handed people . . . as I have already pointed out. However, there are very few people in prison simply for being junkies; most of them have committed other offenses.}}

Absolutely not true. There are considerable numbers. See the testimony of the Corrections Commissioner of New York in See also the op-ed piece by Federal Judge Jack B. Weinstein in the 7-8- 93 New York Times.

{{ Not at all. It is you have ignored my objection: The argument that expensive to lock up junkies ignores the experience with drunk driving. The fact is that severe penalties discourage crime, and therefore reduce the number of people who need to be locked up.}}

There are thirty million illegal drug users in the US (give or take). How many millions do you propose to lock up?

{{ More deceptive figures. According to my 1993 World Almanac, only 7% of prisoners serving terms of 1 year or more are in federal prisons.}}

What does that have to do with the price of eggs?

}}How many people must we imprison, and at what cost, before you think we will have solved the problem? --I dunno. }}

You hit the nail on the head that time. You obviously never thought about it. That is the problem in a nutshell. As President Nixon's commission said, the real drug problem is not marijuana, heroin, or cocaine. The real drug problem is the ignorance of our public officials who have never bothered to read the evidence.

{{}}There are way more alcholics than there are heroin addicts however, and the cost to society is astronomical. This has much to do with the relative cheapness and availability of alcohol. Do you really want to make narcotics equally cheap and available?}}

Narcotics are freely available at reasonable prices to anyone who wants them.

{{There are way more alcoholics than there are heroin addicts however, and the cost to society is astronomical. Doesn't that fact support continuing constraints against heroin, before it can cause damage on an "alcohol" scale?}}

No, not necessarily, but it does make me wonder why you aren't campaigning even harder for alcohol prohibition.

{{ }}Prohibition of alcohol did not work...{{{

Depends what you mean by "work".}}

I will accept the Wickersham Commission's definition. They said it was a hopeless disaster in all respects.

{{ Alcohol consumption absolutely, positively went down during


Absolutely false. The Wickersham Commission found that alcohol use went down in the first year of Prohibition, but rose every year thereafter, and that alcohol-related health problems were much more severe.

{{ Society, however, preferred its legal drug and repealed prohibition.}}

No, the Wickersham Commission, which was originally empowered to find ways to improve Prohibition, concluded that it was hopeless folly which did more harm than if we did nothing at all.

{{ It is also societies right to keep the lid on the Pandora's Box of legalization of cocaine and heroin.}}

So, how many millions of people should we put in prison for drugs?

{{ Clearly prohibition DID reduce consumption.}}

That wasn't right the first time. It is equally wrong the second.

{{ In Malaysia, they are executed (at least the dealers are).}}

In Malaysia, the authorities kill more people for drugs than the drugs do. And they still have a growing problem.

{{ I wouldn't be so quick to discount the deterrent effect of draconian measures.}}

Neither would I. How many people do you think we ought to execute to solve a problem that kills about 5,000 people a year?

{{ I would personally love to see an intoxicant developed that was safe, not physically addicting and doesnt make you (too) stupid. (I'm dead serious). Marijuana is almost OK, but I truly believe it makes one stupid (while under the influence) and a lot of kids would have their intellectual growth stunted if it were legalized.}}

The Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, after hearing years of arguments on the subject, concluded that "marijuana, in its natural form, may be the safest therapeutically active substance known to man" and that it is "safer than many of the foods we commonly eat." There is no evidence to support what you said about intellectual growth. In fact, marijuana was a common food in the 19th century.

{{ Alcohol does not directly involve the brain's internal "reward via euphoria" mechanism, opiates do. They are much more "fun" and way more addicting.}}

Nope. See the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs for a good discussion of the issue.

{{ The Liverpudlian addicts had to first come to the doctor for help, before being registered. Are you suggesting that potential heroin users come to the doctor for "controlled medically supervised doses" before starting the habit - or do they come after realizing they may have a problem?}}

They come after they realize they have a problem. But the program has dried up the sellers on the street, and it has greatly reduced the number one source of new addicts -- old addicts looking for recruits to support their habit. As a result, crime rates, health problems, and addiction have dropped dramatically.

{{ Is it possible that heroin, at cigarette prices, may lead to a lot of folks to suffer severe vocational and interpersonal damage, before finally presenting themselves for "Controlled, medically supervised doses"? The experience during Prohibition is instructive.}}

Is it possible that tobacco addicts under the same conditions would behave in the same manner as junkies? The experience in Europe, after WWII, when tobacco was scarce is instructive. The experience of Prohibition is instructive. It was a failure in all respects.

{{ Despite the obvious problems associated with prohibition, the rates of cirrhosis of the liver and of wife beating plummetted.}}

Wrong. See the report of the Wickersham Commission.

{{I agree that substance abuse is the trigger for much crime, violent and non-violent. In those cases, if you can eliminate the abuse, you probably have a much better chance of the individual becoming a contributing member. }}

The great majority of such crime is due to the effects of prohibition, not the effects of the drugs.

{{Instead of spending the money to maintain them in prison, some sort of supervisd home confinement, coupled with vocational training, counseling for the abuse, and routine drug testing. Clean 'em up, train 'em, put 'em to work. That may sound to simplistic, but what we're doing now isn't working, IMO. }}

The vast majority of drug users do not need treatment any more than the vast majority of wine drinkers need treatment. For the others, treatment is at least seven times as cost effective as prison, with a far greater rate of success.

{{ Alcohol is addicting to those predisposed.}}


{{ Heroin is addicting (if used for non-analgesic purposes) in everyone. Cocaine is the most addictive of all.}}

Wrong. See the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs for a good discussion. Heroin addicts commonly report that it is much harder to kick tobacco than to kick anything else. Or see the recent NIDA rankings of addictive qualities.

{{ Increased drinking during prohibition!! No way, no evidence, makes no sense. The logistics of obtaining, and the black market price of alcohol during prohibition were HUGE natural constraints on drinking for the vast majority. (ie. for all but the speakeasy crowd).}}

See the Wickersham Commission report, or any of the other studies I have mentioned.

{{ Be careful who you say things like " the deceptive thing about... liver disease are DEGENERATIVE diseases which take a little while to develop" to {g}. In 20 yrs as a general internist, I've treated plenty of alcohol relatedliver disease.}}

If you are a doctor, let me ask you a question. My mother suffers from severe chronic pain as the result of a nerve injury during surgery. It is bad enough that it has driven her to the point of seriously considering suicide. She has been to the Mayo Clinic, the National Pain Institute, the USC Pain Clinic and a long list of others. She has tried a long list of treatments. You name your best list, she has tried it. The doctors, and her own experience, tell her that the best treatment for her condition is either morphine or heroin. The doctors will not prescribe it to her because they are afraid of the DEA -- they have said so. The Department of Health and Human Services has issued two reports which have stated that the undertreatment of pain is a national tragedy and that is caused by fear. The California Medical Association recently encouraged doctors to prescribe more narcotics and said that the reason they did not was because of fear of the police.

I will not ask you if you would prescribe morphine for my mother because I have asked every other doctor who has appeared here and they all copped out. I expect you would too. Just tell me: Who should determine the medicine my mother gets -- her and her doctors -- or the police?

{{ It is clear that when prohibition was repealed, liver disease jumped up within the year, because of resumed drinking.}}

No, alcohol use continued the rise that it had already started during Prohibition. And, even if this was true, are you recommending that we bring back alcohol Prohibition? Why not?

{{ I'm sorry, but the statement that heroin is harmless flies in the face of long-agreed-on clinical experience.}}

What does your clinical experience tell you about the effects of prison? Is it beneficial or harmful to someone with a drug problem?

{{ Show me the references. I will be willing to bet anything, that they are not the result of well designed trials}}

Read any of the studies that I posted. I would suggest that you start with the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs, so you would understand how we got into this situation.

By the way, did you know that the medical community unanimously opposed these laws when they were proposed and said they would be a medical, social, and criminal disaster? Did you know that one of the first actions of the drug police was to jail more than 3,000 doctors, especially those who advocated drug treatment?

And, can you tell me why hemp is illegal?

{{ Historically technical question. Shouldnt be too hard to look up. I doubt very much that it was the OVERT crime issue. Society was not much affected by bootleggers killing other bootleggers.}}

One of the major factors was a campaign to "save the children." You see, the bootleggers discovered that they could escape harsh penalties by having kids do the dirty work, and there was quite a bit of concern about that. Sound familiar?

{{ However one related factor may well have been society was very concerned about corruption in the police and judiciary. It would have been scary, back then, to think this corruption was about to become institutionalised.}}

Prohibition gave us the institution of organized crime, which is still with us 60 years later.

{{ This doesnt seem to be much of a factor, however, in our current "prohibition"}}

Where have you been? The entire narcotics squad of the LA County Sheriff was sent to prison for corruption. The situation is the same in New York and other major cities. I seriously doubt if there is an honest drug enforcement agent living. I could go on with stories of their corruption that would curl your hair.

{{I don't like that picture very much at all.}}

You painted a picture of what could happen. How about a picture of what IS happening? According to the current rates of incarceration, we will put more people in prison than Adolf Hitler did, including about one-half of an entire generation of black men. Do you want to continue with that?

{{ No, only studies which are about legalizing drugs conclude that it is important to legalize them.}}

You obviously have not read them, have you?

{{ "Decriminalization" is not the same as "legalization." The "decriminalization" of small amounts of marijuana -- reducing possession to the status of a traffic fine -- has already been tried in several states, without stirring much controversy. This is a good deal different from legalizing crack and heroin however. You really won't impress anyone by trying to equate the two.}}

The issue is not legalization or decriminalization (whatever they may mean), because we don't know if we will do either, or anything like them. The issue is prison, because that is what we are doing now. How many millions of people do you think we ought to put in prison?

{{ What makes you think they *want* to contribute?}}

What makes you think they don't? Most drug users are employed individuals, not much different from their neighbors.

{{ Not at all. Heroin is far more addictive than alcohol. }}

Not true. See the recent NIDA rankings of addictive qualities.

Isn't it true that an alcohol addict is far more likely to die during withdrawal than a heroin addict?

{{ This makes it an important substance to control.}}

Let's assume that this statement is true. Where did you get the idea that jailing massive numbers of people is the best method of control?

{{ Heroin is also far less widely used than alcohol, and domestic production is close to zero. This makes it relatively easy to control.}}

"relatively easy to control"? Someone is out of touch with reality here. There is no credible evidence anywhere that any of these drugs are under control.

{{ You left out the key step: motivate 'em. That's the hard part.}}

Yeah, it is so much easier to throw them in prison at a half million dollars a pop.

{{ This information is outdated. I have here a psychology textbook, _The Mind_, by Dr. Richard M. Restak, which says: "Sigmund Freud was convinced that cocaine could be used to cure heroin addiction. . . .}}

Now that you brought up Sigmund Freud, you ought to know that he kicked the cocaine habit but died from the effects of cancer caused by his cigar smoking. He could not quit, even though most of the lower part of his face had been removed by surgery. What did you say about one drug being more addictive?

By the way, if you are a doctor, you should be able to tell me who Dr. William Halsted was, and what was so remarkable about him.

{{ I believe then you should urgently warn the people at the Hoover Institute that this so-called expert, Cliff Schaeffer, is feeding them bad information. I have a book here about the British drug experience (_Living With Heroin_), which was published in 1988, and prescription narcotics were still legal then. Obviously, the supposed American-style drug crack-down Schaeffer told you about didn't happen.}}

My associates and I have talked directly with the British authorities and some of my friends (doctors) are there right now talking to them. The British did try a crackdown, and it was a failure. The British Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as the head of Interpol have now called for decriminalization.

{{ These "sensible" policies led to a major increase in drug-related crime, according to _Living with Heroin_.}}

The doctors in Liverpool and the doctors in other European countries disagree.

{{ Liverpool and the Netherlands are too utterly different from the United States in too many ways to document here.}}

So what are the specific differences that would make their plans impossible here?

{{ First offense simple possession usually just gets you probation. Keep it up, and you'll eventually have to do some jail time. Hardly anyone goes to prison for simple possession.}}

Absolutely false. That is the reason that 52 Federal judges (about ten percent of the total Federal judiciary) have refused to enforce the drug laws.

{{ A lab. rat will starve himself pushing the cocaine lever (instead of the rat chow lever) when offered the choice. This tells me that there is a whole lot more biology involved in drug addiction than simply volition.}}

It seems to indicate that it gets beyond their ability to consciously control their actions. Which makes it all the more silly to punish them as a response.

{{ How confident are you that you would remain clean if offered cheap legal cocaine or heroin?}}

As confident as I am that I can walk past the tobacco and alcohol displays without the least desire to take either.

{{ And even if you have the knowledge that lets you resist, what about the millions that dont?}}

For the millions that don't, prison hardly seems the appropriate response.

{{We may just have a difference in semantics, here. I believe the majority of drug related crime is caused by individuals seeking funds to support the habit.}}

That is a direct result of Prohibition. Without prohibition such criminal activity is not necessary. That is why the police authorities in the Netherlands, England, and other countries have called for decriminalization.

{{The vast majority of individuals who drink are not alcoholics. I'm not familiar with statistics on the addict/non-addict fractions of the total population of drug users. The ones who need treatment are the ones whose addiction is affecting their live and the lives of those around them.}}

The vast majority of drug users of all t ypes (except perhapstobacco) are not addicted. I agree that drug use which gets to the point of affecting their lives or others, it is time to change their habits. But why should there be a different standard for how we view that when the problem occurs because of alcohol as opposed to cocaine or heroin?

{{Thanks for your post. I also hate to think of what life would be like in this country if drugs were legalized. Especially since, if we did legalize them, it would be sooo hard to turn back.}}

Well then, we could look to Europe for guidance. Most major countries in Europe are going toward decriminalization or legalization and they report that it is much better than the drug war.

{{Do I want to continue with that? Of course not! What sane person would want to throw so many people in prison. }}

Clearly, nobody. But that's what we are doing. If you really don't like it so much then we ought to honestly investigate our alternatives.

{{But the scenario I see, if we legalize drugs as you propose, would be worse.}}

When did I propose legalizing drugs?

{{ Do you want to see this country worse off? So a lot of people wouldn't go to jail. Instead, they could easily die. Abusing drugs tends to have that effect. I know - I have known many who have died from it. It is a terrible waste. }}

So how many people actually die from drugs each year, anyway?

{{ Your proposal would result in the quality of drugs going up, the cost of drugs in money going way down, and the risk (prison) going way down. }}

Yeah, it would probably eliminate most of the bathtub gin and wood alcohol which is sold to unsuspecting buyers, it would eliminate the Mafia's prime source of revenue, and it would keep a lot of little people from having their lives ruined with a stretch in prison.

{{ Instead of government programs to fight drug use, there would be advertising campaigns to encourage drug use.}}

Who said that? You are assuming an awful lot that I did not say.

{{ As you propose legalizing drug use, you must consider the fact, that due to all these facts, drugs use would soar.}}

No, that is simply not true. In areas which have changed their laws, drug use has stayed the same or gone down.

Every major study of drug policy agreed that there was no evidence to support your conclusion. Furthermore, they agreed that EVEN IF drug use did go up, the benefits of decriminalization would be so great that it would far outweigh the problems of increased use.

{{I think thowing drug users in prison is a terrible waste. I think legalizing drugs is much worse.}}

I agree with you on the first point. There never was a good reason to start this policy in the first place. But those aren't the only two options.

{{Oh yes, your stat on one-half of a generation of black men interested me. Are you saying that an absolute minimum of 50% of black males are drug abusers? I assume many get away with it, and don't go to prison, so what is the actual figure??? }}

The actual figures appear to be about the same as for the white population. However, the drug laws were originally intended to target minorities (look it up) and they target minorities above all other groups today. For example, about 95 percent of all the people sentenced under the mandatory minimums are black men. Over time, because of the police pressure on drugs, and because of the limited economic opportunities for black men, many of them will turn to drug dealing as a way to make a living and then, with the first stint in jail their future is formed. Black men who have been to prison are virtually permanently unemployable, so they return to the streets and act as bad role models for the kids.

{{}}Legalization will flood the market place with cheaper drugs --thats the box I want to keep the lid on. Interesting article in the _Journal of Drug Issues_ (Spring 1993) analyzes the issue on the basis of dynamic simulation modeling and concludes: "The model suggests that elimination of drug seizures by itself would pose little risk of increased prevalence, but neither would it alleviate the load on the criminal justice system. A policy of reduced arrests at the retail level probably would reduce the criminal justice load, but would also lead to a relative increase in cocaine use and addiction by a factor of two or three or more. A more sweeping policy that eliminates both seizures and arrests would certainly reduce the criminal justice load, but would lead to a relative increase in cocaine use and addiction by a factor of four to eight or more."}}

So, under the worst circumstances they cite, there would be perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 deaths per year from cocaine (4 to 8 times the current 2,500), compared to more than 400,000 for tobacco, and more than 100,000 for alcohol. For heroin the numbers would be similar, and for marijuana 4 to 8 times zero is still zero. On the other hand, we would not have an expensive and futile policy to put millions of people in prison. In fact, for the same money that it took to put one person in prison we could provide treatment for about one hundred.

Relative to your earlier statements on treatment, perhaps you missed the recent study that said that treatment saves seven dollars in related social costs for every dollar spent on treatment. On the other hand, prison costs an additional fifteen dollars for every dollar spent on prison.

{{ I've seen you in these discussions before, and people have gone over the fiscal issues for addicts ad nauseam. Try it again; maybe you'll make more sense this time.}}

OK, let's start out with the simple aspects. How many people do you think we ought to throw in prison?

}} And why do they steal money to buy drugs?}}

Because the drugs are illegal and therefore higher priced.

{{ I do have an interesting book here, called _Living With Heroin_ which studied the drug situation in the English town of Wirral. On page 99, there is a report which shows that, . . . The 'extra' crime Wirral has experienced in recent years appears to be closely related to the community's heroin 'epidemic.'"}}

Liverpool found that their addiction and crime went up as drug enforcement went up. They found it just about disappeared when they took their current approach. It may also interest you to know that the British Association of Chiefs of Police and the head of Interpol have both come out for decriminalization. Apparently they know something you don't.

{{ What about the legalized prescription-narcotics? Doctors are getting burned out .. .}}

Not so in Liverpool. The doctors report a high rate of success with their patients, perhaps because they base the prescription on the addicts continued good behavior.

{{ Junkies just are not good patients. Actually, they aren't really "patients" at all. . . .}}

Yeah? I could have guessed that. I also find most of them personally distasteful. That still does not mean that the best approach to the problem is to try to throw them all in prison.

{{According to the 1992 report of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of individuals surveyed (18-25 age group) who reported using an illicit drug in the past month has dramatically decreased:}}

Do you thnk it may have anything to do with the survey process? For example, with increasing penalties, and increasing publicity about the penalties, they call people up at random and ask them if they have used any illegal drugs (committed a felony) in the last month. I know what I would tell you, regardless of the truth. From what I have seen of that age group (having four daughters in that age group) the use habits are not terribly different than they were in the 60's -- but none of them would admit it to a telephone interviewer, either.

{{ The United States unfortunately has a far higher crime rate than other nations; this accounts for the higher incarceration rate.}}

That was not true until the war on drugs went into high gear and it is currently true only because of the war on durgs.

{{ Most prisoners are not convicted of drug-related offenses. }}

Correct, but the largest single portion are and nearly all of the rise in prison population over the last fifteen years can be attributed to drug offenses.

{{ The high rate of recidivism is not due to the weakness of the prison system, but the broader failures of American society. Poverty, poor education, the lack of family support, the prevalence of narcotics and a tradition of violence combine to produce a high crime rate, which is not susceptible to any easy solution.}}

Perhaps you did not see the 60 Minutes piece on Pelican Bay. They showed a series of convicts being released from California's toughest prison. They were put out at the bus stop with $200 (out of which they had to buy their only civilian clothes) with no instructions, help, advice, or anything else. They had no job skills, little education, and no real chance at employment anyway because of their prison record. What do you expect they would do?

{{* To begin with, heroin is one of the most powerful drugs known to man. The effect of a heroin dose is to flood the body with endorphins. This is incapacitating in the short run and can lead to long term personality changes.}}

Wrong. I can cite a whole long list of internationally recognized medical experts in the field who state that, except for the fact that heroin produces addiction, otherwise it is "harmless". Their words, not mine. Can you tell me who Dr. William Halsted is?

{{* Heroin is also extremely addictive.}}

True, but no more than alcohol or tobacco

{{The overwhelming majority of heroin users become addicts.}}

Absolutely false. There is no evidence to support this notion.

{{* Heroin is incredibly dangerous. A dose that is normal for one addict may kill another. Even a "normal" dose, to which an addict has long been accustomed, can kill him in different environmental circumstances.}}

See above about "harmless." The doctors in Liverpool state that they have patients on "massive doses" with no risk of overdose. They say "heroin is not a dangerous drug" and they prescribe it every day. The number of people killed by heroin in the US runs about 2,000 a year or about one half of one percent of the number killed by tobacco. Aspirin also kills about 2,000 people a year. The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs investigated the issue of heroin "overdoses" and did not find a single instance which they believed could be attributed to a true "overdose". Nearly all of the "overdoses", they said, had symptoms which were fundamentally incompatible with an overdose, such as instant death, or pulmonary edema. They said their research showed that the most probable cause of these deaths was the impurities mixed with the heroin, not the her oin itself. As the doctors in England put it, if an addict is buying heroin on the black market which is 10 percent heroin and 90 percent cement, it does not take a genius to figure out what is going to cause the most problems.

The low number of deaths from heroin is all the more remarkable because it is usually taken in the most dangerous manner possible.

{{* Tolerance for heroin declines rapidly after withdrawal. A junkie who abstains for only a short time can kill himself with a "normal" dose when he resumes.}}

False. See above.

{{* Even if the addict takes a "normal" dose in a stable environment, the lethal dose is not much greater than the effective dose, so the chances of a fatal miscalculation remain high.}}

False again. See above.

{{* Beyond that is the effect of withdrawal, including chills, runny nose, aching, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Insomnia and irritability may persist for weeks.}}

My mother-in-law gets that when she gives up her morning coffee. Should we put her in prison to improve her mood?

{{* Withdrawal symptoms may be reoccur long after the drug is withdrawn if the addict experiences environmental cues related to his former drug experience.}}

Same is true with any other addictive drug. Talk to ex-smokers.

{{* Street heroin is likely to contain impurities, anything from quinine to rat poison.}}

True, which is why every major study of the issue said that Prohibition causes more problems than it solves.

{{* Self-administered injections are also dangerous, often leading to septisemia, endocarditis, damaged veins, hepatitis or AIDS.}}

More reasons why the doctors in Liverpool decided to take the approach they did and why the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco have decided to openly violate state drug laws (at the urging of the medical community) to properly address the issue.

{{* The addict lifestyle is unhealthy. Doing heroin is not conducive to balanced diets, regular exercise, safe sex nor regular check-ups. Addicts often experience health problems not directly related to drugs.}}

So let's throw them in prison to improve their health? Does not make sense.

{{ The drug policy of the United States is to punish dealers severely. However, *users* face little or no punishment. }}

There are tens of thousands of people now in prison who know you are wrong. One woman got a mandatory minimum of ten years, even though she was not a user or a dealer.

{{ Hence, demand remains high. Economic theory predicts that where there is a high demand, there *will* be a supply . . . The principle effect of our enforcement policy is to raise the price.}}

Now that doesn't sound like a very effective approach, does it? We might have done just as well by taxing it.

{{ Strict drug laws have practically eliminated narcotics in Singapore and Turkey, which were once important centers of the drug trade.}}

Actually, no. And these countries kill more people than the drugs do. Is that what you want?

{{}}Sixty Minutes corroborated Schaeffer's version. Wouldn't be the first time they screwed up. Did you see the episode on Dungeons & Dragons?}}

As I said in another message -- we talked to the docto rs involved personally. Those doctors confirmed that 60 Minutes was accurate.

{{ My point was, when Americans moved from a loose-drug environment (Viet Nam) to a tight-drug environment (the U.S.) they gave up the habit. }}

As stated before, the studies of this phenomenon found it had nothing to do with availability because all the returning soldiers reported that they could get heroin any time they wanted in the US, they just did not want it anymore.

{{ Holland is a very small country, with a culture significantly different from the United States. In any case, you have not provided any figures to support your contention that drug use didn't increase in Holland after legalization.}}

I offered to put you in touch with the Dutch authorities so you can ask them yourselves. One of them volunteered to come to the United States to speak for us because he wanted to stop this kind of disinformation.

{{ I don't have that study (of over 20 years ago) here, but I'm old enough to remember that Nixon was greatly embarrassed when his commission recommended decriminalizing marijuana. It did nor recommend legalizing narcotics.}}

You may also remember that the commission was composed entirely of Nixon's handpicked law and order conservatives and they refused to even hear testimony from anyone who supported legalization or decriminalization. Still, they concluded there was no real choice in the matter. As they said, the real drug problem is not heroin, or cocaine, or marijuana. The real problem, they said, is the ignorance of our public officials who have never bothered to read the evidence. Nixon refused to even read his own report.

{{ But you apparently do not understand the difference between marijuana and narcotics. Allow me to explain. Marijuana is a herbaceous plant which grows wild in the United States and is easily cultivated. It is not highly toxic nor highly addictive.}}

Then maybe you can explain to me how hemp became illegal.

{{ Narcotics are derived from the opium poppy or from the coca plant, which are not grown in the United States, and which much be subjected to an elaborate refining process before consumption. Narcotics take various forms, all of them far more toxic and addictive than marijuana.}}

Nothing derived from the coca plant is a "narcotic". It is defined that way in law, but always has been incorrect.

Seeing as how there has never been a recorded human death due to marijuana, almost anything would be more toxic.

{{ While young and naive people may easily leap to the conclusion that all drugs are the same, this is simply not the case.}}

True, alcohol and tobacco are far more dangerous than most of the illegal drugs.

{{ None of your "credible studies" support the point you are trying to make. Not one advocates legalizing narcotics.}}

Which ones have you read, and what did they say? (I will bet I get a short answer, or none at all, to that question.)

((Note: When I pressed my opponent on this point, he ultimately admitted he had never read any of them.))

{{ This program was only recently adopted, so we don't know yet how well it works, but it certainly is not simply "being locked ia a cage."}}

Check that again. Most prisons are so overcrowded that there are no rehabilitation efforts of any kind. Those words on paper that you sent are nice, but they don't mean s**t in the reality of today's prisons.

{{ The experience of a recovering alcoholic may be similar to that of a heroin addict, but the fact is that most alcohol-users never become alcoholics. Most heroin-users do become addicts.}}

False. See the references cited earlier.

{{ The error of our present drug policy is that we punish the dealers, but fail to effectively punish the users. Dealing drugs is a high- risk activity; using them is low-risk. Therefore, there continues to be a demand for drugs. The main effect of our policy is to raise the price.}}

There are thirty million drug users. How many millions do you think we ought to throw in prison?

{{I assume you are not just being cute, and therefore you do not propose legalizing drugs. Excuse me for misreading you. I am glad you want to keep them illegal. }}

I did not say that either. Please read my other message to you.

}}So how many people actually die from drugs each year, anyway?

{{Good question! I haven't a clue. But neither do you. In your stats on drug caused deaths, what is included? If a heroin addict gets so run down he dies of pneumonia, is that listed as heroin caused? }}

The official Federal figures, which have been pretty consistent for a long time show the following approximate annual death rate:

Tobacco -- 400,000

Alcohol - 100,000

Sidestream tobacco smoke --- 3,000 to 50,000

Prescription drugs - at least 10,000

All illegal drugs combined -- 4,500

Cocaine - 2,500

Aspirin -- 2,000

Heroin - 2,000

Marijuana - No recorded deaths in human history.

The above figures do not include pneumonia type deaths. The AMA published figures recently which stated that the total of all such deaths for illegal drugs was about 20,000, still only a small fraction of the damage caused by alcohol and tobacco. As I have pointed out in other messages, there is a good deal of research to suggest that making drugs illegal increases the hazards of drugs -- such as impure bathtub gin during prohibition.

{{There were approximately 25,000 deaths on the highway last year in which at least one driver was drunk. Were those listed as alcohol caused deaths? }}

No, they were not listed as such in figures I gave above.

{{ I don't know the numbers, but I know that your figures are low. }}

Then how do you know my figures are low?

{{ I also know that any drug caused death is a waste of a life. You keep asking, over and over, how many people do we have to throw in prison. Let me ask you - how many deaths will it take for you to cry "Enough!"}}

Enough what? At the current rate we can't enforce this law no matter how many people it kills. There just aren't enough jail cells available to solve the problem this way and there is no way we can build them. It doesn't matter what you want to do, it is a matter of what you can do -- and there is no way we can solve the drug problem with prison.

The reason I keep asking this question is a simple one. You can figure out yourself what a good policy would be if you will just seriously address this question. There are thirty million drug users out there. We are currently working on putting an even million of them in prison, with no perceivable difference in the problem on the streets. Should we put five, ten, or twenty million people in prison? Just tell me what the most reasonable number is and you will have figured out why this policy cannot work.

{{ Naturally, the people who were running the program gave an objective account of the results, and of course a message from an e-mail friend in Liverpool settles the issue. There is really no need to read any academic studies from Liverpool University; you can learn everything you need to know just by watching television.}}

Well, no, actually you would be better off to go to Liverpool and talk to both the medical and police authorities there -- as a few of my close personal friends are doing right now. One, by the way, is a member of the Board of Directors of the California Academy of Family Physicians. But, he has already talked with the doctors and other officials there and confirmed that the 60 Minutes show is an accurate portrayal.

{{ If you want it compared, then it's practically identical, otherwise it's "utterly different."}}

Kinda sums up your attitude about comparing us with other countries, doesn't it? Singapore and Turkey are good comparisons but the Netherlands is not.

{{ Surprise! The study I have been referring too comes from Wirral, which happens to be a suburb of Liverpool. You insist, without having seen it, that this study is mistaken. However the information from Liverpool, which you know about from a 15-minute television episode, must be good and also relevant to the situation in America.}}

Then why did the British Association of Chiefs of Police -- including the Liverpool Chief of Police -- vote for decriminalization? As I said above, members of our group are over there right now - - for the second time -- talking with the officials there.

{{ You don't see any danger, then, from extrapolating from a small, homogenous country to a large, unhomogenous one?}}

Considering the same thing is happening all over Europe, that kind of equates to a large, unhomogenous one, doesn't it? And, by the way, what is the exact difference which would keep their approaches from producing benefits here? That is, assuming you know enough about what is happening over there to know the difference.

{{ They "go to jail" quite frequently; they don't do much prison time unless they deal or commit some other crime.}}

There are at least 52 Federal judges who disagree with you. I will take their word, and the word of the New York State Corrections Commissioner, over yours.

{{ Prescript ion was a miserable failure in England, according to _Living With Heroin_.}}

Check again, and this time talk to some of the people actually involved, as we have done.

{{ By and large, the Legalizers are disturbed, unhappy people who have friends and loved ones who are in prison or strung out. The aim of the Legalizers is simply to spread the misery around as much as possible. The more druggies there are, the more "normal" it is. The farther the web of destruction spreads, the better. The more people they can ruin and destroy, they happier they will be. The driving force behind legalization is Revenge.}}

Now we come down to the real driving force behind drug prohibition -- bigotry and ignorance. Do you really think that it is the desire of such organizations as the British Association of Chiefs of Police?

{{ To advocate legalizing narcotics isn't political suicide (the surgeon general did it) . . . but it is incredibly dumb.}}

No she did not. I suppose then, that the British Association of Chiefs of Police, the head of Interpol, and the Colombian Attorney General, as well as the California Medical Association, the California Society of Addiction Medicine, etc., etc., etc., etc., are incredibly dumb? (I could go on with a list of about 40 pages of such people, but why belabor the point?)

{{ If I were strung out, it's entirely possible my own family would turn me in. Lots of druggies get turned in by their own families; it's the only way to ensure treatment.}}

Judge Gray was on a radio show one night and one of the callers was a heroin addict who wanted help to get off drugs. He said he had called the police to ask for help but they just threw him in jail when he was desperately ill (with things other than drugs), he got a criminal conviction and no help at all.

The pity is that people who think they ought to throw people in jail "for their own good" hardly ever get the same favor granted to them.

{{ Interesting study. The fact that everyone is doing drugs has "nothing to do with drug availability." Presumably, then, they would do just as much if there were no drugs to be found . . . clever.}}

That is not going to happen, so why worry about it?

{{ Even the most strung-out junkie still wants to get high. They keep increasing their dosage, every chance they get. Higher dosage -}more drug tolerance -} fewer highs -} higher dosage. It's a vicious circle.}}

So the solution is to throw millions of people in prison?

{{ Heh, half of all drug arrests are for minors. How do you propose to legalize drugs for adults and keep them away from the kids?}}

You admit it is not happening under the current system, so what's the difference? You can't think of anyone who could control the sales to children better than the current people who sell drugs, right?

{{ "Worth more" means more expensive. More expensive means less demand . . . even if one assumes that people in prison have just as to spend as those outside . . .}}

More expensive means more profits -- enough to corrupt entire law enforcement agencies, like the LA County Sheriffs who went to prison.

{{Perhaps you are correct in saying the vast majority wouldn't become addicted. Perhaps. But then, I didn't like it either, and I did become an addict. Was one for about 12 years.}}

It is as illegal as it can be and that didn't stop you, did it? What makes you think it stops anyone else? Our policy, as it is, does not seem to have benefited you.

Would your life have been improved if you had spent twenty years in prison? By what you are recommending, you still probably would not be out on the streets to engage in this conversation. And, couldn't you still get your drugs if you decided you wanted to?

{{ I don't believe a non addict ever truly understands what it is like.}}

On the other hand, maybe it is the addict who does not understand. In general, I don't believe that becoming an addict gives anyone any great insights into national policy. That is giving more credit to drugs than they deserve.

{{ When you and Mona say that it isn't magical, you don't know what you are talking about. When the first buzz of the drug hits me, I become alive, and feel that I have become really human. When straight, I do not have that feeling. }}

That is not my experience with any of the drugs I have tried and it is not the experience of the majority of people I know. If you do not have the feeling of being human when you are straight then it seems the problem is there whether you have the drug or not. I (and most people I know) feel alive all the time so there is not much need for drugs of any sort.

{{ I continued using while convinced that I would die from it. }}

So prison, by comparison, would not do nearly as much to dissuade you, would it?

{{ However - I very rarely drove while high, because of fear of getting caught. Addiction is _not_ logical. }}

Another good reason why stiff penalties are unlikely to dissuade addicts from using. Their behavior is not logical.

{{ If it is legalized, there will be folks who will just try it to see what it is like, and will never be straight again. You do not account for those people. }}

Yes I do. I don't like their behavior but I don't pretend that putting them in prison is the proper approach to their problem, either.

{{Drugs _are_ magical to the addict. }}

Lots of things are magical to the addict. The addicts I have known used drugs of all types without regard for much of anything. If they could not get heroin they would do other things such as sniff gasoline, or inject coffee (quite a rush, they tell me). That still does not mean that it is a good idea to throw them in prison.

{{}}As for inflicting pain, I must agree that is a noble goal.

Sarcasm does not become you. If you never want to inflict pain, then never raise a child. Never become a supervisor. Never perform any function where you have the responsibility to modify someone's behaviour. Pain, whether it be a swat on the butt, a written reprimand, or a jail term, is an integral part of behaviour modification.}}

I don't believe in inflicting pain to the point where it renders someone permanently unemployable and submits them to things like gang rape, for trivial causes. Punishment, when used, should be corrective, not destructive.

{{I issue a mild protest over your figures on black male drug use. You said 50% go to prison for drug abuse. Now you say 50% go to prison period, with drug use the single biggest cause. But it is not a big point - I was just very shocked at your stat. }}

No, you misinterpreted. I am very careful about what I say on this subject, because I have been saying it for a long time to lots of people.

{{The two most dangerous? Do you think smoking a cigarette is as dangerous as free basing cocaine? C'mon Cliff! Sure, a lot more people die from tobacco, but that is because a whole lot more people use that. Tobacco is legal and marketed. That is something I want to avoid for cocaine.}}

Compare the death rates. The death rate, per user, for cocaine is less than that for tobacco. And, just for interest, I quote from a study done in 1967 - "Cigarette smoking is unquestionably more damaging to the health than heroin." -- Drs. Vincent P. Dole and Marie Nyswander, Rockefeller Univ.

{{What do you think about increasing educational efforts? Teach school kids more about it. Pound home what it can do, and what help is available. }}

As all of the major studies have said, most of the educational efforts have been based around ridiculous scare tactics which the kids soon discovered were hokey and disregarded. The main problem is a massive lack of accurate information by the people teaching the courses.

{{What about more money to help folks get straight? I think it would be poetic to increase the taxes on tobacco and alcohol to pay for this. }}

A recent Rand study showed that every dollar spent on treatment saved seven dollars in related social costs. How about just increasing the taxes on alcohol and tobacco until they pay their own costs?

{{Judge Gray's idea is intriguing. If we were to go to legalization, that would be a much better way to handle it then just turning it over to the market. Of course, that would make the government our pushers. Sounds a little scary. }}

His basic thought is that drugs are here anyway, so we should not kid ourselves that we are stopping them. The truth is that we currentlyinflict smaller losses (percentage-wise) on the drug dealers than K-Mart suffers from shoplifters. As you probably know, shoplifters are not about to put K-Mart out of business. Given the fact that they will be here forever, let's at least guarantee that there are pure, reliable sources which will not make the related problems worse, and which will provide a tax basis for providing treatment.

Keep in mind that Judge Gray is a former prosecutor with numerous drug convictions. He has also sentenced more than his share of people to prison for drug offenses, and is not regarded as lenient.

When he first came out for a change in policy a little over two years ago, he was vilified by all kinds of people. He just got back from the State Bar Convention and reported that the atmosphere has changed completely. He says he is getting more and more support from other judges and law enforcement officials. They don't all agree on what would be a better response, but they agree that our current policy is a failure and should be abandoned.

{{As to your repeated mentioning of the Netherlands and Liverpool, I am reminded of another drug success story. According to reports, we had found a way to successfully combat heroin abuse. It was low cost, and supplied free to addicts. Am referring to the methadone program. It took us a long time to realize what a horrible waste it was. But all the reports were glowing..... }}

The medical authorities I have talked to, and the research I have read (see the list) have indicated that the methadone programs were a major improvement. Not perfect, but a major improvement. Of the authorities I have talked to they have all said that the biggest problems with the methadone program were created by the government itself. First, they said, was a consistent pattern of lies about the results. The European authorities have reported the same thing about what the US Government says about their programs. Second, there were restrictions on methadone which, in effect, granted monopolies to certain people and allowed them to abuse the situation. It would be much better, they said, if addicts could go to their regular doctors for prescriptions, like any other medication.

Also, many of them point to the methadone programs as proof that the narcotics are not especially dangerous, because methadone is prescribed routinely without any significant overdose problem.

{{Let us look at some of your stats. You say the death rate for tobacco is 400,000. For alcohol it is 100,000. For cocaine it is 2,500. You then answer my question by saying the 2,500 does not include pneumonia type deaths. What does it include? No doubt (correct me if I am wrong) it is a count of those who OD, and die. Probably from ER's. How many of the 400,000 tobacco deaths are based on that criteria? }}

As I said, the AMA published figures on this subject, and said that, using the same standards of classification for the deaths, the comparable figure for illegal drugs is about 20,000, to tobacco's 400,000+.

{{ Only way to die of an OD of tobacco is to be in a tobacco wharehouse as it burns down. So, using that criteria, the death rate for tobacco is probably close to zero. }}

Absolutely wrong. You must have missed the news shows that reported on the problem of nicotine poisoning in people who work in the fields and pick tobacco. There are far more people who receive permanent nervous system damage (and even die) from that than from most of the illegal drugs. Nicotine, you may have forgotten, is an insecticide.

{{ Now if we include lung cancer, etc, with the tobacco deaths, we must also include pneumonia, suicides, traffic accidents, dehydration, AIDS, etc, in the cocaine deaths.}}

The AMA's figures included those causes. Tobacco still kills at least 20 times as many people as the illegal drugs.

{{ Many people become very aggresive on crack, and get in fights - and get killed. That is a cocaine caused death.}}

Wrong. A study done in NY during the height of the crack epidemic showed that, of 414 homicides, only three could be traced to the effects of cocaine in any form, and two of these were victim- precipitated. For example, in one case the murder victim tried to rape someone who was high on crack and got killed in the process. The study showed the only drug with a real connection to violence was alcohol. This was recently confirmed by the DOJ report "Psychoactive Substances and Violence."

{{ In the same way, how many alcohol deaths are caused by OD? Maybe a few hundred?}}

Wrong again. Alcohol overdose death is not at all uncommon, especially on college campuses. Former HEW Secretary Joseph Califano once estimated that about 40 percent of all hospital care in the US is due to alcohol related conditions, including overdoses.

{{ It is not easy to OD on alcohol so badly you die. You tend to pass out first.}}

False. People are simply lucky if they pass out, but alcohol overdose deaths are not at all uncommon. The main reason you don't hear about them so much is because they are not news.

{{ So your stats include liver disease, etc. I have met a heroin addict, who was unconscious, half in a gutter, on a cold night. If he had died of exposure, he should have been listed as a heroin caused death. It, of course, wouldn't have been.}}

So maybe we should adjust the death figures for heroin downward. As I said, even if you assume that, for whatever reason, the deaths from illegal drugs are grossly underestimated, you still don't get anywhere near the deaths caused by alcohol and tobacco. You should take a big clue from this. The reasons for the drug laws never did have anything to do with the reasons you are stating. When the laws were first passed, no medical evidence was even presented to show that these drugs were harmful and, in fact, the medical authorities in the US were opposed to the laws. While we are on the subject of history, maybe you can tell me why hemp was outlawed?

{{Please see the above. Also, your figures are now counting deaths only. Not fair for a discussion like this. How many messed up lives do cocaine and heroin cause? If a man is sent to prison, it does not kill him, it messes up his life. So - lets compare like to like. }}

So we take someone who already has a problem and mess up his life some more? Interesting approach, but I fail to see how it provides any benefit.

{{You say there are approximately 1,000,000 people in prison for drug abuse. That is 1,000,000 messed up lives. According to your stats, that leaves 29,000,000 still abusing drugs outside. That leaves 29,000,000 messed up lives. Now, to save the 1,000,000 in prison, youwant to vastly increase the 29,000,000. }}

The first point you should recognize from these stats is that it is folly to believe that anything is under control right now. So, basically, you are supporting a campaign that has no way to achieve your stated goals, even if it was a good idea. The lives messed up in prison are messed up permanently. Black men (by far the majority of those prosecuted for drug offenses) are virtually permanently unemployable once they have a prison record. They can recover from a drug habit (and many do) but it is much more difficult to recover from a stretch in prison.

And, as for the other 29,000,000, the vast majority of them are not any more messed up than the average wine drinker. That much is self-evident, or the problem would be far worse than it is.

{{Have you ever had a person you truly cared about who was an addict? }}

Sure, one of my aunts and a cousin I grew up with, among others. I deplore their behavior and I wish they would stop but, at the same time, I recognize that neither they nor society would be better off if we spent a million dollars to put them in prison.

{{What do I think is a reasonable number of people to imprison in order to stop drug abuse? Enough so that the overall welfare of the country comes out ahead. }}

I agree with that last part. So how many should we put in prison to come out ahead? Just tell me what the number is so we can make plans to build that many prison cells.

{{ I think we are a long way from passing the point where more people are messed up by the prison than by drug abuse. }}

How would you know if you admit you don't know the stats on deaths or people in prison?

{{How many additional deaths, resulting from the legalization of drug use, would it take for you to cry "Too many!" }}

What evidence do you have to show that there would be additional deaths? Other than your own opinion, that is. All the evidence I have seen says that the death rate would probably go down with a more intelligent policy.

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