Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Cop on Drugs

When I told my friend that I was interested in going to hear the speaker at 8:00 PM, they wanted to know what it was all about. "It's a presentation by that cop, on drugs," I told them. Meaning a presentation on controlled substances, not a cop using them. And although it would be fun to say that, by the end of the evening, the easily misconstrued statement may have held true either way, I concede that would not be fair. The argument presented by retired detective Jack A. Cole was indeed a reasoned one, and presented a very convincing argument for legalizing drugs in America. Yet, I find there are still flaws. Let's explore.
Without going into too great detail (Mr. Cole backed his claims up with graphs, percentages, and quotes), the argument was something like this: Drugs are illegal. This creates a black market. People murder and steal in that market, this leads to crime. People overdose because their drugs are contaminated from that market. Police spend too much time dealing with powder, and not enough time dealing with dangerous criminals. Drug arrests are racist toward African-Americans. Over the years, the "war on drugs" has cost more and more, but done nothing. In countries where drugs are legal, drug use drops. When polled, kids said that if drugs were legal, the vast majority wouldn't be any more likely to try them.

And now, the part where I rebut:

Contradiction: He claims police aren't getting to "violent" criminals...yet argues that drug users/dealers are criminals (murderers, thieves). If they are criminals, police are indeed finding criminals.

Slippery Slope: He argues that, since people are getting hurt from illegal (contaminated) drugs, we should legalize and regulate them. Sounds good, until we think big picture: Should we legalize prostitution? Better; should we legalize theft? Sometimes, theft turns into unintended murder of witnesses. Make it legal, save the lives. Right? Let's legalize everything to destroy the criminality. Legalize copyright infringement. Legalize sexual harassment. Right?

Racism: Let me get this; drug arrests are race-biased, so the solution is to make drugs legal? How about fix the racism?

Cost of Fighting Drugs Rises: That's because the cost of everything rises. Besides, the United States spends more and more on all of its programs each year. The cost of education, the cost of jails, the cost of maintaining the USPS. This statistic is useless.

Around the World: Other countries have different drug policies, and less users. Woa! Have we heard of correlation vs. causality? There are hundreds of variables between countries; just because we can find a few examples of drugs going down and legalization going up doesn't mean the legalization caused the decrease. Any number of factors could cause decrease; better education, different family values, different availability of substances, what is/not classified as a "drug," etc.

Most importantly...

If Legalized, Kids Won't Try It: Because that's what they told you in a survey? (1) They lied. (2) They want the drugs legalized, that's part of why they lied. (3) They're afraid of getting in trouble for drug use, that's also why they lied. (4) They don't know what it would be like to grow up in a generation where drugs aren't "bad," but something everyone's parents do! If that were our world, they would try them more and more and more, despite their self-reports to the contrary.

Those are the "arguments." Then, in terms of the presentation, there were some serious problems. We were shown statistics with little comparison; we saw that apartheid South Africa's population of black people in jail is X% of its population, while the United States's population of blacks in jail is Y% of its population. We were told Y>X, so the US is more racist than South Africa. Hold on! You never told us the percent of South Africans in jail! If X% of South Africans are in jail, and 2Y% of Americans are in jail, then 100% of the South African incarcerated are black, while 50% of the American incarcerated are. Big difference.

Then there's the outright hypocrisy. He starts off telling us that Nixon used the politics of fear to get elected, fighting an unnecessary drug war. Later in the presentation, we are told to keep police fighting "VIOLENT" (caps and red font) criminals, not drug abusers. Then we were told to "SAVE OUR CHILDREN." That's not politics of fear?

Worst of all, the officer seems to believe that drug laws stem from the desire to attack the Chinese, African-Americans, Hippies, and Black Panthers. He actually said that the president(s) created these policies to attack these groups that "we don't like." The man is a conspiracy theorist. That's not inherently a bad thing, only, he's wrong. And he's trying to affect policy.

Maybe there's something to legalizing medicinal marijuana. But I think there's a lot more to worry about concerning racism in the criminal justice system, theft and murder rates, and mismanaged tax dollars. In short: the way to stop people from breaking the law isn't to eliminate the law. Especially when that law is the only thing standing between "our children" that we need to save, and a world of substance abuse we do not want them thinking is acceptable. We already allow our society to abuse alcohol and tobacco, are we really going to improve things by introducing more substances into our everyday, acceptable, widely used, as-seen-on-television, all-the-cool-kids-do-it, my-brother-is-21-and-can-get-some lives?

Want to keep our kids safe? Want to stop violent crimes? Go after drug dealers. Not politicians.

The cop on drugs certainly wasn't, but if we turn pharmacies into candy shops, perhaps the next generations of police officers, judges, teachers, doctors, contractors, and anyone else we hope to rely on, will be.


  1. Part 2

    In slightly more direct response:

    Contradiction: Eh, I guess I can go with you on this one.

    Slippery Slope: I think you are ignoring a crucial aspect. Theft is morally wrong. Drug usage is not. Therefore to make it safer (legalize) for all those involved is a good thing. No sane person would agree to legalize theft - society would break down.

    Racism: Definitely a good point. Also it just might be that the races mentioned have it more ingrained in their cultures to use certain drugs. Opiates have long been the problem of the chinaman, as has cannabis usage been large among african americans.

    Cost of Fighting Drugs Rises: Good point.

    Around the world: Good point.

    I don't trust the survey either. I somehow doubt that all the kids are organized enough and have the forethought to have the goal in mind to use the outcome of the survey to try to influence the gov't to legalize drugs. Still, I can imagine many of them just filling in random bubbles or something.

    You don't know whether certain drug laws were created to hurt some groups or not. It seems unlikely, but you simply don't _know_.

    And yes, it is possible that we can improve our lives through the legalization and usage of certain drugs. Granted, the population would need to be educated, and such drugs aren't for everyone, but it's terrible that they've been lumped in with the likes of heroin and cocaine. Read "The Doors of Perception" by Aldous Huxley, read "PiKHAL" and "TiKHAL" by Alexander Shulgin, read "The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead" by Timothy Leary.

    People have had profoundly positive, life-changing experiences through the use of various drugs. This isn't a topic that can be instantly dismissed by saying "Drugs are wrong, bad, and dangerous". That's true in some cases, but to be truly thorough you need to examine the situation further. (referencing your older post on tautology ftw)

  2. Part 1
    See this graph:

    For me, the argument "Drugs should be legalized" is far too broad. Some should, some shouldn't.

    Heroin causes the most harm to its users, and is the most addictive. Interesting factoid: It was developed as a cure for morphine addiction around the turn of the previous century. Turns out it is a prodrug for morphine. Hehe. All its users want is an escape from life. No legitimate reason to legalize. (One may argue it has been used medicinally, but there are other equally effective and much less addictive drugs in its class)

    Cocaine is nearly as bad. Same basic reasoning as heroin, no reason to legalize.

    Methadone is prescribed to treat opiate addictions. Legal, and for good reason. I suppose street methadone is rated so adversely on that chart due to adulterants.

    Barbiturates have a role in medicine, but not to be prescribed to patients. Doctors legally use them for anesthesia, so I think the law is right on this one.

    In a world devoid of the pre-existing social customs that are traits of our world, I'd suggest alcohol and tobacco should be illegal. They cause staggering number of deaths. Alas, as the prohibition has shown us already, it won't work. Oh well.

    Benzodiazepines - legal with a prescription, and for good reason. They deal with anxiety and depression related disorders well.

    Amphetamine - no reason to have this around when methylphenidate is available. It is the active drug of Adderall. I think it should be illegalized.

  3. Part 1.5 (sorry for the weird ordering – comment posting system was semi-broken.)
    Buprenorphine - useful like methadone in the treatment of opiate addiction. It should remain legal.

    "Ketamine is a core medicine in the World Health Organization's "Essential Drugs List", which is a list of minimum medical needs for a basic health care system." It is used for anesthesia.

    Cannabis - This is a tricky one. There are no reported deaths from it and it is not physiologically addictive, so I'm going to have to say it would be better to legalize it. Tax revenue ftw.

    Khat - it is basically coffee. It's probably legal in the US, if not, it should be.

    GHB - breaking some pre-conceived notions, this is actually less dangerous than alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco. Should be legal.

    LSD - A normal, fairly mild dose is 100 micrograms. Dosages of up to 300 milligrams have been survived. This is 3000 times the normal dose. What other drug can you take 3000 time the normal amount and come through OK? Even aspirin at that level would kill you. So would tylenol. There is no addiction potential. LSD flashbacks are a myth. There is no reason for LSD to be illegal.

    Ecstasy (MDMA) - Again, no reason to be illegal, and actually some good work has been going on for a long time concerning MDMA in the field of psychotherapy - most recently in the treatment of soldiers with PTSD. There's much folklore of it "leaving holes in your brain" - this is simply false.

    Methylphenidate, otherwise known as Ritalin, is legal and used for treating those with ADHD. It gets abused by students sometimes. I still think it should be legal (with a prescription).

    I'm tired of typing, so let me just say that everything else in the yellow group is safe enough that I am OK with it being legal.

  4. I'll start off with saying I agree with most of your points. Also, it's 1:30am so I'm not going to go into mad detail about everything.

    With your claim about the Officer's contradiction, I think you may have misunderstood what he was trying to say. He put forward figures about how many people had been arrested for drug use, and how many cops were out there looking for drug users. They are specifically NOT looking for the dealers and others who might be considered criminals. Because so much of the police force's resources are being spent on catching drug users, such as teens smoking pot behind the school, they don't have enough to spare for more violent crimes like those that occur within the underground drug markets.

    I'm not saying I agree with his comment. Just trying to clarify. Now... sleep.

    (also nice post ^_^)

  5. I'd love to sit down and talk to you about this sometime
    -Alex Baskin


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