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Between Politics and Reason

  Chapter 6.   Legalization and Decriminalization: An Overview

    Erich Goode — State University of New York, Stony Brook

It is against the current punitive policy that all the proposals for change must be measured. According to what criteria should a given proposal be measured? How is the success of a given proposal indicated? In what specific ways would we want a given policy to succeed? Is our goal the reduction in the number of users of all the currently illegal drugs? Or a reduction only in addicts and abusers of the hard drugs? Do we want to see a decline in the illegal drug trade? What about drug-related murders? Drug overdoses? Drug-related diseases, such as infection with the AIDS/HIV virus? Do we seek a reduction in the amount of money the society pays to deal with the drug problem, especially the cost of incarcerated drug offenders? What if a given program helps in one way but harms in another? Is there one overall best drug policy? Would either legalization or decriminalization produce changes we all would regard as desirable? Are the legalizers right? Has our punitive or prohibitionist drug policy failed? Which drug policy is likely to work better; which will be worse? What do we know that will tell us something about the feasibility of one or another drug program?
    Beginning in the late 1980s (Kerr, 1988), a taboo, almost unthinkable proposal—the decriminalization or legalization of the currently illegal drugs—began to be advanced with remarkable frequency and urgency. Dozens of books, hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, uncountable editorials and op-ed pieces, and scores of prominent spokespersons have urged the repeal of the drug laws. Drug legalization has become a major focus of debate in recent years, joining such controversial subjects as abortion, pornography, the environment, the economy, gun control, and homosexual rights, women's rights, minority rights, and affirmative action as yet another battlefield of controversy.
    It must be emphasized that legalization is not a single proposal. Instead, it is a cluster of proposals that stands toward one end of a spectrum of degrees of regulation and availability. As we've seen, very few, if any, legalization advocates argue that there should be absolutely no controls on drugs whatsoever—for instance, that minors be allowed to purchase heroin and cocaine from whoever is willing to sell to them. Instead, all agree that some sorts of controls will be necessary; the question is, how far along the spectrum of control to decontrol—and whether those controls should be legal or of some other type—the currently illegal drugs should be moved. Consequently, both the similarities and the differences among the various legalization programs have to be considered.



Many observers of and commentators on the drug legalization issue are not very careful about making distinctions among what is in fact a variety of proposals. In fact, the terms "legalization" and "decriminalization" refer to a wide range of different practices. Of the many distinctions between and among the many different legalization proposals we might make, perhaps the most crucial would be between generalism and specifism. Both reject the legalistic definition of drugs I spelled out in Chapter 1 and embrace a definition based on psychoactivity. Where they part company is on the question of whether legalization applies to all psychoactive drugs, or only to some of them. The generalist proposes some form of legalization for all psychoactive substances, whether currently legal or illegal, whereas the specifist is more selective, proposing legalization for some substances and prohibition for others.



A generalist approach to drug abuse is one that sees all psychoactive substances, legal or illegal, as more or less equal in harm and health costs, it approaches drug abuse as a medical matter. This is an "all drugs are created equal" approach, leading to a "one size fits all" solution—legalization for drugs, treatment for drug abusers (Zimring and Hawkins, 1992, p.10). The generalist sees similarities between and among the many psychoactive drugs. Hence—seeing all drugs as basically the same—the generalist is likely to support some form of legalization for all psychoactive substances. The distinctions we might make among them are secondary their similarities, all-important. In a nutshell, the generalist believes that drug use and abuse should be taken out of the realm of the criminal law; as a consequence, when the currently illegal drugs are legalized, the problems we now experience with drug abuse will decline drastically or disappear altogether. Generalists see moral and empirical absurdity in different laws for different drugs; they see an injustice here as well as a policy that can't work. Going beyond the issue of drug use, generalists do not believe that prohibition is possible at all—for drugs or anything else. Generalists see the sin not in use itself but in making drug use a crime. To them, the solution is legalization. Some generalists believe that, with the exception of sale to minors, there should be virtually no restriction on the possession and sale of psychoactive drugs (Szasz, 1992), while others argue that there should be certain restrictions on them—and, in addition, that current restrictions on cigarettes and alcohol should be made more stringent—but all should be dealt with in more or less the same fashion (Trebach, 1993).



In contrast, the specifist believes that all drugs are not created equal; each drug presents a somewhat different problem with respect to control and public harm. Whether the law or the drug causes more harm is an empirical question—one we have to resolve with evidence, not by resorting to rhetoric or moralizing. Specifists agree with generalists in that they also base their definition of drugs on psychoactivity. However, the specifist believes that each drug, while nonetheless psychoactive, should be approached somewhat differently with respect to the law. The specifist is a pragmatist, a utilitarian, and bases drug policy on the principle of harm reduction. Forget the moral question of whether certain varieties of drug use constitute an affront to the established order, the specifist says; forget the ideological question of whether users of illegal drugs get a "raw deal" by being regarded as criminals while the users of legal drugs are seen and treated as respectable citizens. These issues pale into insignificance when considering the question of what is best for the society, what policy causes the least harm, what contributes to the public's well-being. The law should be changed where appropriate and enforced when that, too, is worth-while. Yes, the specifist says, some instances of prohibition have worked, and, yes, others have done more harm than good. Our task is to figure out which is which for the substances under consideration. The bottom line, and what should count in the long run and should guide public drug policy, is a detailed cost-benefit analysis.
    Thus, the heart of the specifist's approach is that the harm a drug causes, and the impact of the drug laws, should be weighed on a case-by case basis (Zimring and Hawkins, 1992, pp.9-10). Like the generalist, the specifist includes legal substances in a definition of drugs; unlike the generalist, the specifist does not see all drugs as created equal. No sweeping generalizations can be made about the best policy for all drugs; in fact, there is no best policy for all drugs. It is possible that the possession and sale of some drugs should remain a crime and that other drugs should be legalized. The question can be resolved only by looking at the facts, by a practical, pragmatic weighing of the consequences of drug abuse versus the consequences of the law. The moral issue of whether it is "fair" or "just" to prohibit access to one drug and permit access to another is irrelevant, a non sequitur (Kaplan, 1988, p.37); it does not enter into the specifist's equation at all. The specifist ranks drugs in terms of degrees of harm, and seriously considers the question of which drug represents the "lesser of two evils" (Zimring and Hawkins, 1992, p.l2). Neither the use of illegal substances per se nor the use of the criminal law to reduce use and public harm are themselves immoral, according to the specifist. Rather than being concerned about immorality—to the legalist, breaking the law by using drugs; to the generalist, attempting to control drug use by means of the criminal law, and criminalizing some drug users but not others—the specifist focuses on reducing harm to drug users and to the society as a whole. Perhaps the most readily grasped of the specifist's programs is to decriminalize or legalize marijuana and keep the "hard" drugs illegal (Kaplan, 1970, 1983, 1988; Kleiman, 1992b).



Once we've recognized that some legalization proposals wish to remove criminal penalties from all psychoactive substances while others are selective and aim to legalize some substances and retain penalties on others, we need to make a number of additional distinctions. Legalization is not the same thing as decriminalization, as we'll see momentarily; and requiring the addicted or drug-dependent to obtain their supply via prescription is not the same thing as permitting drugs to be sold to anyone, without benefit of a prescription. More generally, it must be recognized that legalization and prohibition do not represent an either-or proposition. In reality, they form a continuum or a spectrum, from a completely libertarian or "hands-off" proposal—with no laws governing the possession or sale of any drug—at one end all the way over to the most punitive policy imaginable, let's say Darryl Gates's proposal that even casual marijuana smokers be "taken out and shot" at the other end, with every conceivable position in between. In reality, very, very few commentators advocate a policy of no controls whatsoever on the possession and sale of any and all psychoactive drugs. At the other end of the spectrum, very, very few commentators call for the death penalty for the simple possession of the currently illegal drugs. Hence, what we are discussing in the drug legalization debate is degrees of difference along a spectrum somewhere in between these two extremes. In fact, as Ethan Nadelmann (1992, pp.89-94) has argued persuasively, the "moderate" legalizers and the "progressive" or reform-minded prohibitionists share far more in common than the first does with the extreme, radical, or "hard-core" legalizers or the second does with the more-punitive prohibitionists.
    Therefore, the issue is not legalization versus prohibition. Rather, the debate centers on some of the following issues: How much legalization? Which drugs are to be legalized? Under what conditions can drugs be dispensed? For instance, are drugs to be dispensed in approved, licensed clinics? To whom may drugs be dispensed? To addicts and drug abusers only? Or to anyone above a certain age? In what quantity may drugs be dispensed? At what purity? At what price are the legalized drugs to be sold? (For these and other questions that legalizers must answer, see Inciardi and McBride, 1991, pp.47-49). Each legalization proposal will answer these questions in a somewhat different way. Hence, there are many legalization proposals, and not just one. It is naive to assume that the broad outlines of drug policy are the only thing that is important, and that the details will take care of themselves. (For just such an approach, see Trebach, 1993.) In my view, this assumption is fallacious. Zimring and Hawkins (1992, pp.109- 110) refer to this view as the "trickle-down fallacy"; I call it the "let the chips fall where they may" approach. On both sides of the controversy, observers too often "simply ignore the detailed questions... of priority and strategy" (p.109). A specific policy—what should be done about each and every particular—"cannot be deduced" from a general position (p.110). At the same time, there are some points that are shared in common by all legalizers and some points that are shared in common by all prohibitionists.
    To simplify the picture a bit, let's distinguish among the four most commonly proposed drug policy reforms: legalization, decriminalization, the medical and prescription models, and harm reduction.



One common legalization proposal refers to placing one or more of the currently illegal and/or prescription drugs under the controls that now apply to alcohol and cigarettes. Under this proposal, psychoactive drugs could be purchased on the open market, off the shelf, by anyone above a certain age. Since the same controls will apply as for the currently legal drugs, presumably, a proprietor would not be able to sell to a minor or an intoxicated individual, or to an inmate of a jail or prison or a mental institution, and could not sell within a certain distance from a house of worship, a school, or an active polling place on election day. Controls may also apply to the establishments that sell the drugs in question; with respect to alcohol, certain types of bars, for instance, must also serve food. Package stores must observe a variety of rules and regulations; some, for instance, are run by the government. Even those that are private enterprises are controlled: They cannot be owned and operated by a convicted felon; they cannot be open on Sunday; they cannot sell substances above a certain potency; and so on. Thus, legalization refers to a state licensing system more or less similar to that which prevails for alcohol and tobacco for the currently illegal drugs.
    One qualification: Under our current policy of legalization, manufacturing alcohol (beer and wine, for instance), or growing tobacco, for the purpose of private consumption—not commercial sale—does not come under state control and yet is perfectly legal; the state retains the right to step in and play a role only when selling takes place. In addition, under legalization, use, at least in public, is controlled under a variety of circumstances—for instance, driving while intoxicated and public intoxication are illegal. And lastly, for both alcohol and cigarettes, there are restrictions on advertising; cigarette ads and ads for hard liquor are banned from television advertising, current athletes cannot be depicted endorsing alcoholic beverages, and beer cannot be drunk on camera. Presumably, the drugs that are to be legalized will be controlled more or less the same way as alcohol and tobacco now are.



"Decriminalization" refers to the removal of state control over a given substance or activity. (Many observers use the term to refer to what I call "partial decriminalization." Full decriminalization is the removal of all state controls over a given product or activity.) It is a legal "hands off" policy of drug control. Under decriminalization, the state no longer has a role in setting rules and regulations concerning the sale, purchase, and possession of a given drug. Here, the distribution of marijuana, heroin, or cocaine would no more be the concern of the government than, say, selling tomatoes or undershirts is. Of course, no one may sell poisonous tomatoes or dangerously flammable undershirts, but under a policy of full decriminalization, the rules and regulations that apply to drugs would be even less restrictive than those which now apply to the currently legal drugs alcohol and tobacco. Under full decriminalization, anyone can manufacture or grow any quantity of any drug and sell it to anyone without any serious restriction at all; the only factor that should determine the sale of drugs—blatant poisons aside—should be the operation of a free and open economic market (Szasz, 1992). Of course, almost anyone proposing this policy is likely to add one obvious restriction, that sale to a minor be against the law. It must be pointed out that full decriminalization for every currently illegal drug, with the possible exception of marijuana, is not a feasible or realistic policy, and is of theoretical interest only. To expect that legislatures will permit the possession, sale, and distribution of substances which have a powerful effect on the mind and great potential for harm be subject to government controls no stricter than those which apply to the possession, sale, and distribution of tomatoes simply beggars imagination. It is not a proposal that has any hope of implementation in the foreseeable future.
    There is one exception to this rule, however. Some commentators argue strenuously (and, in some quarters, persuasively) that users be permitted to grow certain natural psychoactive plants—such as the opium poppy, the coca bush, the peyote cactus, psychedelic mushrooms, and, of course, the marijuana or cannabis plant—for their own private consumption (Karel, 1991). Thus, one aspect of full decriminalization remains a—marginally—viable subject of debate, while most of the other particulars are so unrealistic as to seem disingenuous.



The term "decriminalization" is often used to refer to what is in fact partial decriminalization. Partial decriminalization does not remove any and all legal restrictions on the possession, sale, and/or distribution of a given substance, but it does remove some of them. Currently, in one way or another, small-quantity marijuana possession is already partially decriminalized in nine states of the United States, as we saw, and in parts of Europe. The Netherlands pursues a far, far bolder and more radical policy of partial decriminalization for marijuana than that which prevails even in the most liberal states in the United States—in fact, in practice, it borders on full legalization.
    In the Netherlands, by law, small-quantity marijuana possession is technically illegal; however, in practice, the drug is sold openly in "coffee shops" (or "hash bars"), and these transactions are completely ignored by the police. No advertising of marijuana products is permitted; sale to minors under 16—even the presence of minors in an establishment— and the sale of hard drugs will cause the police to shut a shop down. Thus, small-quantity marijuana possession and sale there have been decriminalized de facto, that is, in practice—although, again, "legalization" might be a more apt term—but de jure or according to the law, they are still technically illegal. The "hard" drugs are unaffected by this policy; sale of heroin and cocaine, especially in high volume, remains very much illegal. In fact, in the Netherlands, the proportion of prisoners who are convicted drug offenders is the same as it is in the United States, roughly one-third (Beers, 1991, p.40). At the same time, possession by the addict or user of small quantities of heroin or cocaine (half a gram or less) is typically ignored by the police. However, the sale of even small quantities of the hard drugs is not permitted to take place openly in legal commercial establishments, as it is with marijuana (Jansen, 1991; Leuw and Marshall, 1994).



The prescription and the maintenance models overlap greatly, although they are conceptually distinct. Both are usually referred to as the medical approach to drug abuse, since both see drug abuse as a disease that can be treated by making certain drugs available to addicts or the drug-dependent. Currently in the United States, the prescription model prevails for certain pharmaceuticals deemed to have "legitimate" medical utility; as we saw, certain approved psychoactive substances may be prescribed by physicians for the treatment of their patients' ailments. Under an expanded prescription or maintenance policy, sometimes referred to as a type of legalization plan, anyone who believes himself or herself to be dependent on a given drug would be able to go to a physician or a clinic and, after a medical examination, be duly certified or registered. Certification would enable one to obtain prescriptions at regular intervals which, in turn, would make it possible to purchase or obtain the drug in question. Or the drug could be administered directly by a clinic or a physician. Some current prescription models call for an eventual withdrawal of the client or patient from the drug, but they insist that this must be done gradually, since it is both humane and effective. Under the current prescription policy, drugs have to be tested by pharmaceutical companies and reports submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demonstrating that they are safe and effective for the ailments for which they would be prescribed. A drug demonstrated to be either unsafe or ineffective cannot be approved by the FDA and hence, cannot be prescribed as a medicine. Presumably, if the currently illegal drugs are to be prescribed to addicts, they must pass muster as safe and effective medicines.
    One version of, or variation on, the prescription or medical model is referred to as the maintenance model because the addict or drug-dependent person is "maintained" on doses of the drug in question. As we saw, currently, in the United States, some form of maintenance is in effect for roughly 100,000 heroin addicts, most of whom are administered methadone. However, methadone maintenance programs are fairly tightly controlled in most jurisdictions, and most addicts nationwide are not enrolled in them, either because they do not wish to be—for instance, because the restrictions are too severe and the quantities administered are too small—or because the clinics do not have room for all who wish to enroll. To set up a full walk-in program for any and all heroin addicts who want to take part in methadone maintenance therapy would require a quadrupling of the current operating budget of this treatment modality. In addition, there is no heroin maintenance program in place in the United States, and none for those dependent on any drug other than a narcotic, including cocaine. (Such a program is in effect in Great Britain, in Liverpool, on a provisional basis.) Presumably, a legalization proposal that relies heavily on the medical model would aim to expand the number of addicts currently on methadone; expand the number of possible narcotics used for maintenance programs, including heroin; and possibly even expand maintenance programs to include nonnarcotic drugs, for instance, cocaine. Again, regardless of the particulars, a drug maintenance program sees drug abuse as a medical, not a criminal, matter and aims to legalize the administration of psychoactive substances to addicts or abusers. It is not clear what such a program proposes to do when drug abusers refuse to participate in the program, demand to use other drugs in addition to the legal drugs they are being administered, or demand a significant escalation in the dose they are administered. Or what should be done when someone who is not chemically or psychologically dependent demands quantities of a given drug from the program. This program sees the primary motivation of drug abusers as maintenance, not recreation.



Harm reduction represents an eclectic or mixed bag of policy proposals. It is, as we saw, a specifist legal policy: different programs for different drugs. Harm reduction is the explicit policy that prevails in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and certain jurisdictions in the United Kingdom, such as Liverpool. Its goal is stated in its title: Rather than attempting to wipe out drug distribution, addiction, and use—an impossibility, in any case—its goal is for drug policy to attempt to minimize harm. Legal reform, likewise, is secondary; the emphasis is on practicality—what works in concrete practice rather than what seems to look good on paper or in theory. A needle exchange and distribution program stands high on the list of particulars of any harm reduction advocate: Addicts can turn in used needles at distribution centers and receive clean, fresh ones free of charge. This is designed to keep the rate of new AIDS/HIV infections in check. Another particular of the harm reduction advocates relates directly to law enforcement: Make a sharp distinction between "soft" and "hard" drugs, and between users and small-time, low-level sellers on the one hand and high-level, high-volume dealers on the other. In practice, this means de facto decriminalization of small-quantity marijuana possession, attempting to route addicts into treatment programs but not arresting them, but arresting and imprisoning big-time heroin and cocaine dealers.
    In short, harm reduction means: Stress treatment and rehabilitation; underplay the punitive, penal, or police approach, and explore nonpenal alternatives to trivial drug offenses. Expand drug maintenance, especially methadone programs; experiment with or study the feasibility of heroin maintenance programs; expand drug education programs; permit heroin and marijuana to be used by prescription for medical treatment. Consider ways of controlling the legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Be flexible and pragmatic: Think about new programs that might reduce harm from drug abuse, and if one aspect of the program fails, scuttle it, and try something else. Remember: Drugs are not the enemy; harm to the society and its constituent members is the enemy. Whatever reduces harm by whatever means necessary is all to the good (Beers, 1991).
    No one who supports a harm reduction proposal questions the fact that there are theoretical and practical difficulties and dilemmas in implementing such a policy. Some tough and troubling questions demand an answer. For instance, how do we measure or weigh one harm against another? What if our policy results in fewer deaths and more addicts? Less crime and more drug use? If we are truly worried about harm from drug abuse, why concentrate on legalizing or decriminalizing the illegal drugs—why not focus on ways of reducing the use, and therefore the harm, that the legal drugs cause? What if our policy improves conditions for one group or category in the population but harms another? And will harm reduction really result in less state control of the drug addict, abuser, and user? Government regulations and programs designed to reduce drug-related harm is likely to result in far more state intervention into the lives of persons affected by them. (For a cynical, mechanistic, and ill-conceived critique of harm reduction programs from a radical or left-wing perspective, see Mugford, 1993.) No advocates of a harm reduction program suggest that it is a problem-free panacea or cure-all, but all believe that these and other criticisms are not fatal, and that its problems can be resolved with the application of reliable information and good common sense.



Proposing that the drug laws and their enforcement be changed implies that the current ones are ineffective and/or harmful. (In fact, the bulk of the legalizers' writings is devoted to criticizing the current punitive policy; only a very small proportion of it deals specifically with the particulars of a viable legalization program.) Consequently, to fully understand the justifications for drug legalization, it is necessary to explain, in the view of the legalizers, how and why the current prohibitionist program to deal with the drug problem is a failure. Behind the punitive reasoning of criminalization is the assumption that a drug war can and should be fought, that it can be won, and that the principal weapons that must be used in this war are the law, arrest, and imprisonment; they agree that drug abuse is primarily a police matter. In stark contrast, all, or nearly all, legalizers, agree on one point: They oppose the current punitive system. They insist that drug abuse is not primarily a police matter. They believe that relying on the law and its enforcement is ineffective, counterproductive, and unjust.
    Why do the legalizers and decriminalizers believe that our current, mainly punitive approach to drug control doesn't work? In their view, what are some major flaws in attempting to solve the drug problem by criminalizing the sale and possession of drugs? Why don't drug prohibitions work, according to the legalizers?
    Before these questions can be answered, we have to lay down specific criteria as to what constitutes "working" in the first place. No specific drug policy is likely to "work" best in all important ways. It is entirely possible that a given program may work well in one way and badly in another. What do the legalizers mean when they say the punitive policy toward drug abuse doesn't—and can't—work? In criticizing the current policies and urging drug legalization or decriminalization, they make 10 points.
    First, the legalizers say, criminalization makes the illegal drugs expensive and, hence, profitable to sell; because of the profit motive, arresting producers and sellers and taking them out of business simply results in other producers and sellers stepping in to supply the shortfall. Therefore, drugs can never be stamped out through the criminal law: The demand for drugs is constant and inelastic; the criminalized status of illegal drugs makes them expensive, and therefore highly profitable to sell. Therefore, it is inevitable that suppliers will remain in business; ironically, it is criminalization that guarantees "business as usual."
    Second, they say, the currently illegal drugs are less harmful than the prohibitionists say and, in fact, less harmful than the currently legal drugs. Hence, drug criminalization is both aimed at the wrong target and discriminatory as well. If anything, controls ought to be applied to cigarettes and alcohol—which kill many more people—and not to the far safer currently illegal drugs.
    Third, the legalizers insist, prohibition is futile because criminalization does not deter use. Drug abuse is as high now, under a punitive policy, as it would be under a policy of legalization; legalization would not produce an increase in use. Anyone who wants to use is doing so now. Prohibition is a logistical impossibility; there are simply too many holes in the net of social control. Drugs will always leak through the net. Hence, the very foundation of prohibition is invalid, they insist. Moreover, since the demand for drugs is inelastic—users will pay any price, no matter how exorbitant—raising the price through legal harassment cannot work.
    Fourth, the legalizers argue, prohibition encourages the distribution and therefore the use of harder, stronger, more dangerous drugs—and discourages the use of softer, weaker, safer drugs. This is the case because criminalization places a premium on selling drugs that are less bulky and easier to conceal, drugs that show a greater profit margin per operation. This has been referred to as the "Iron Law of Prohibition": The more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes (Thornton, 1992, p.70). In contrast, under legalization, they say, less potent and less harmful drugs (such as cocaine leaves, cocaine gum, opium, and marijuana) will be substituted for the more potent, more harmful illicit drugs now in use (crack, heroin, "ice," and methamphetamine) (Goldstein, 1986).
    Fifth, they say, drug dealers sell in a market in which there are no controls whatsoever on the purity and potency of their product. Hence, users are always consuming contaminated—and dangerous—substances. In contrast, legalization would enforce strict controls on purity and potency; as a consequence, death by overdose would be virtually eliminated.
    Sixth, the legalizers say, by undercutting the profit motive, organized crime would be forced out of the drug trade. As a result, the stranglehold that criminal gangs and mobs have on the throat of the community would be released; residents would be able to reclaim their neighborhoods, and democracy would triumph.
    Seventh, legalizers say, the current level of drug-related violence is solely a product of the illegality of the drug trade. Drug-related murders are the result of disputes over dealing territory or "turf," robberies of drug dealers, assaults to collect a supposed drug debt, the punishment of a worker, a drug theft, and a dealer selling bad or bogus drugs (Goldstein et al., 1989). Eliminate criminalization, and the profit motive will be eliminated, and so will drug gangs and the violence they inflict. The murder rate will decline, and neighborhoods and communities will be safer.
    Eighth, by placing such a huge priority on the drug war and encouraging the arrest of dealers, the government has opened the door to the violation of the civil liberties of citizens on a massive scale. False or mistaken arrests or rousts, the seizure of the property of innocent parties, corruption and brutality—these are the legacies of prohibition. Under legalization, such violations would not occur. The police would not be pressured to make questionable arrests, nor be tempted by bribes from dealers; consequently, they will be better able to serve the community (Ostrowski, 1990; Wisotsky, 1990a, l99Ob, 1993).
    Ninth, consider the enormous cost and the staggering tax burden of enforcing prohibition; billions of our tax dollars are being wasted in a futile, harmful endeavor. Under legalization, not only would this waste not occur, but the sale of drugs could be taxed, and revenues could be raised to treat drug abusers. In an era of fiscal austerity, surely the budgetary argument should weigh heavily. Legalization would represent using the tax dollar wisely.
    And tenth, under legalization, useful therapeutic drugs, now banned by the government, will be reclassified so that they will find their rightful place in medicine. Marijuana, a Schedule I drug, is useful in the treatment of glaucoma and in reducing the nausea associated with chemotherapy; heroin, also completely banned by virtue of its Schedule I status, is an effective analgesic or painkiller. In addition, a current Schedule I classification is the kiss of death for scientific experimentation. The book has been prematurely closed on some drugs, such as MDMA ("ecstasy") and LSD—both Schedule I drugs—which have enormous potential for unlocking the secrets of drug mechanisms and, possibly, valuable therapeutic application as well. Our society cannot afford to remain ignorant about drugs with such complex and potentially revealing effects as these (Beck and Rosenbaum, 1994, pp.l46ff.; Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1993).
    Taken as a whole and at first blush, these arguments might seem forceful and persuasive. But are they really valid? We'll examine a few of them in the next two chapters.

Chapter 7.   Business as Usual?

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