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posted by martyb on Tuesday May 15 2018, @05:08PM   Printer-friendly
from the making-way-too-much-sense dept.

AlterNet reports

Embracing a harm reduction and public health perspective, one of the world's most prestigious medical journals has released a signed editorial calling for the legalization, taxation, and regulation of currently illegal drugs.

In an editorial [May 10] entitled Drugs Should Be Legalized, Regulated, and Taxed, Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, notes that under drug prohibition, the global trade "fuels organized crime and human misery", and asks, "Why should it not instead fund public services?"

Citing an opinion piece[1] in the same issue of the BMJ from British members of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP, formerly known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) Jason Reed and Paul Whitehouse, Godlee notes that in the United Kingdom (as in the United States) "vast sums are spent prosecuting individuals and trying vainly to interrupt the flow of drugs into cities" while that money would be much better "spent on quality control, education, treatment for drug users, and child protection". Under legalization, "revenues could be diverted from criminal gangs into government coffers", she writes.

Godlee notes that the global drug prohibition consensus is fraying around the edges, and points to the example of Portugal, which decriminalized the possession of all drugs in 2001. There, drug use remains in line with levels in other European countries, but the harms associated with drug use under prohibition have decreased dramatically, particularly in terms of fatal drug overdoses and the spread of injection drug-related infectious disease.

[1] Bad link in TFA; corrected in TFS.

Previous: Portugal Cut Drug Addiction Rates in Half by Rejecting Criminalization


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Azuma Hazuki on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:02PM (34 children)

    by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:02PM (#680116) Journal

    Look, some shit just shouldn't be legal. Maybe decriminalized, but not legalized outright like marijuana. There is never going to be any good excuse for recreational fentanyl use, for example, and ditto meth. Weed, definitely, that stuff is more medicine than drug if you prepare it right, but not the harder ones.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by NewNic on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:09PM

    by NewNic (6420) on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:09PM (#680123) Journal

    You are asking the wrong question.

    Yes, there are drugs that are harmful. The question should be: "is the harm that is created because some drugs are illegal greater than the direct harm caused by the drugs?"

    Portugal's experience suggests that legalization reduces the overall harm to society from drugs.

    --
    lib·er·tar·i·an·ism ˌlibərˈterēənizəm/ noun: Magical thinking that useful idiots mistake for serious political theory
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by takyon on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:21PM (2 children)

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:21PM (#680126) Journal

    I'm guessing you have heard about supervised injection sites as a method of reducing the harm of heroin. Since heroin overdoses are typically easy to treat if a first responder is nearby.

    Meth is probably worse than heroin in some ways. But if you want to reduce harm, you have to take bold steps. People are probably not going to bother cooking meth in their house if they can get pharmaceutical grade stuff from the government.

    Legalizing across the board would put many alternatives to $BAD_DRUG on the market. Selling the worst of the worst, drugs like meth and heroin, becomes a revenue generator rather than a revenue drain that doesn't do much to stop the activity. You bring up fentanyl. Most heroin customers want to avoid fentanyl. They can't because heroin is often cut with more dangerous substances. It would be simple enough to legalize/decriminalize everything, but not provide easy access to the drugs that could be considered straight up chemical weapons.

    Drugs like LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, and others are relatively safe and have legitimate medical uses. Yet they are all lumped into Schedule I. It's time to reevaluate everything, every unscientific assumption. Study Portugal's model, and you might find that it is a good thing, even if it means some people or kids have easier ways to get their hands on scary meth and other "hard drugs".

    The definition of insanity blah blah blah blah blah.

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    • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:26PM

      by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:26PM (#680180) Journal

      You're mostly right, and there's a reason I said decriminalize for the harder ones rather than "keep exactly as illegal as they are now." What we really need to do is fix the underlying societal problems that cause people to turn to these substances, but Satan's gonna get his tongue stuck to a pole in the Malebolge before our government does that.

      --
      I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15 2018, @09:44PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15 2018, @09:44PM (#680206)

      Most heroin customers want to avoid fentanyl

      Wrong. Totally wrong! Junkies actually *want* fentanyl. They ask for it. They want the extra kick fentanyl gives. Maybe weekend warriors and occasional users want "pure" drugs but junkies know what gets them higher. Just ask any dealer.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by requerdanos on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:22PM (6 children)

    by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:22PM (#680127) Journal

    Look, some shit just shouldn't be legal. Maybe decriminalized, but not legalized outright like marijuana

    Not to derail you or anything, but "decriminalize" is a word meaning "make legal."

    Dictionary.com literally uses marijuana legalization [dictionary.com] as their example sentence for "decriminalize."

    decriminalize [dee-krim-uh-nl-ahyz]. verb (used with object), decriminalized, decriminalizing.
    To eliminate criminal penalties for or remove legal restrictions against:
    to decriminalize marijuana.

    Other misconceptions...

    There is never going to be any good excuse for recreational fentanyl use, for example, and ditto meth.

    Fentanyl, in appropriate doses, is a safe, effective painkiller and cough medicine. The main problem with it now is that it's so tightly controlled that most of its users get it illicitly from sources that have no interest nor skill in quality control nor lab standards; not the fentanyl itself. Safe, effective forms of fentanyl would provide safe, effective fentanyl for those people who would choose to use fentanyl recreationally (a strange choice, in my opinion, but different strokes for different folks).

    Dextromethamphetamines--the safe, quality controlled, pharmaceutical kind sold as "Adderall" and other brand names--is pretty popularly recreational as well. Having it safe and legal, with good safety information available (not just "Just say no") would go a long way towards eliminating the "meth problem". One factor to consider: Longtime Adderall users don't have bad teeth as a result, despite Adderall being simply a mixture of four different meth salts.

    In short, what are you talking about??

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:39PM (3 children)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:39PM (#680134) Journal

      In the context of this issue, "decriminalize" means to legalize possession and use of the drug, and maybe production at home. So the guy being stopped on the street doesn't get charged for carrying an ounce or two. The "weed smell" stops being probable cause under decriminalization. "Legalization" means that businesses can sell the drug, with regulation and taxation by the government.

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      • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:54PM (2 children)

        by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:54PM (#680142) Journal

        That's not what the words involved mean, but if it's drug-legal jargon, then okay.

        And no one should be in a jail cell nor prison anywhere for "simple possession" of anything that they were planning to ingest via any means. Even if you're an anti-drugger, that's bad utilization of resources.

        From a humanitarian health and safety standpoint, however, I don't see benefit in "decriminalizing" the production of, for example, meth*, at home, while simultaneously "criminalizing" safe, standardized manufacture.

        --------------------
        * Insert the name of any drug here. Safe and standardized > Bob said he totally knows how to do this

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Tuesday May 15 2018, @07:00PM

          by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday May 15 2018, @07:00PM (#680148) Journal

          And no one should be in a jail cell nor prison anywhere for "simple possession" of anything that they were planning to ingest via any means. Even if you're an anti-drugger, that's bad utilization of resources.

          Here's where we're at (cannabis only):

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_cannabis_by_U.S._jurisdiction [wikipedia.org]

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        • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Wednesday May 16 2018, @11:24AM

          by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Wednesday May 16 2018, @11:24AM (#680350) Journal

          That's not what the words involved mean, but if it's drug-legal jargon, then okay.

          Actually, sorry, but this is precisely what the words mean. You're operating under the assumption that "decriminalize" means "make legal," which is a false assumption. "Decriminalize" is a technical term that generally means to "remove (or at least lessen) criminal penalties," which is different from "making legal."

          As Merriam-Webster defines "decriminalize":

          to remove or reduce the criminal classification or status of; especially : to repeal a strict ban on while keeping under some form of regulation

          "Criminal" implies a crime is committed, typically a felony or misdemeanor, and usually crimes are at least theoretically punishable by jail-time. There are plenty of things that can be "illegal" but not necessarily "criminal." Speeding and minor traffic infractions are a standard example. While some jurisdictions treat them as "crimes," in other jurisdictions they fall under a legal category of "infractions" and sometimes aren't even typically handled in criminal proceedings if they go to court.

          For example, last year there was a proposal in California to decriminalize speeding (see here [mercurynews.com]). That would NOT make speeding LEGAL -- it would merely lessen potential penalties and transfer jurisdiction to civil courts in most circumstances.

          Basically anything that falls under civil torts is arguably in this category too: "decriminalized" but not necessarily "legal." For example, you may not go to prison for breaking a minor business agreement, but you can be successfully sued in court and a judgment obtained forcing you to pay. Your actions were not criminal, but they weren't legal either. Another classic example is libel, which used to be a criminal offense under some circumstances in many jurisdictions -- you could actually go to prison for knowingly printing false information with malice (particularly against government figures, etc.). Libel has now basically been decriminalized in most jurisdictions (either through repeal of criminal libel statutes or through the fact that they haven't been enforced in many decades), but it is still not legal and exists as a civil tort.

          Those who argue for decriminalization of drugs are requesting reduced penalties or no penalties for minor offenses (possession, use, etc.), not necessarily complete legalization.

          Legalization has two standard connotations: (1) to remove all penalties (criminal, fines, civil, etc.) from an action, and/or (2) to regulate more explicitly under the law (i.e., apply legal elements to). One can easily advocate for decriminalization of some drugs without necessarily legalizing them in all (or most) circumstances.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:26PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:26PM (#680179)

      aderral is a mix of plain old amphetamines salt and isomers... you meant Desoxyn

      • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:46PM

        by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:46PM (#680190) Journal

        Hmm, good catch.

        Looking, instead of trusting my memory (which does not get better with time), tells me that Adderall is a mix of dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate and amphetamine sulfate, while Desoxyn is methamphetamine hydrochloride; both are prescribed for attention deficit disorder. Neither is reported to cause bad teeth.

        Thanks.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by RedBear on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:47PM

    by RedBear (1734) on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:47PM (#680140)

    Look, some shit just shouldn't be legal. Maybe decriminalized, but not legalized outright like marijuana. There is never going to be any good excuse for recreational fentanyl use, for example, and ditto meth. Weed, definitely, that stuff is more medicine than drug if you prepare it right, but not the harder ones.

    Superficially, what you say makes some sort of sense. Yet, ultimately I feel you're still falling into the same sort of trap that we're currently stuck in. You want to keep some substances "illegal" despite the fact that those substances are already highly illegal and yet this does absolutely nothing to keep people from illegally distributing it to the people who desire to use it.

    I think we can all agree that it should always be a crime to provide dangerous and/or addictive substances to minors, but beyond that, the act of making substances illegal for adults to choose to use on themselves has been backfiring for as long as it has been in practice. It simply doesn't work. Actually, it's worse than that. There is in fact substantial historical evidence to suggest that attempting to legally control these substances triggered epidemics of addiction by making drugs more interesting and "fun". Where the bulk of society didn't much care about using those substances and looked down upon those who abused them just as they looked down on obvious alcoholics, suddenly after they were declared highly dangerous and illegal they became much more titillating and attractive to several segments of society, from the destitute to the wealthy and powerful. It is a self-defeating process, and produces a powerful criminal underclass that gets its power and influence from the ability to provide what people want despite the illegality. The exact same thing happened during Prohibition. Crime families gained a ridiculous amount of power over American society from our failed attempt to stop Americans from drinking alcohol.

    In the end, attempting to keep any substance "illegal" will always have the opposite effect to what you want it to have. Mass incarceration of people who are only harming themselves is destroying our society, and the money and criminal violence sweeping through South and Central America that triggers most of the undocumented immigrants to risk the journey to come here is directly caused by the fact that middle-class and wealthy Americans keep buying their illegal drugs. If we legalize, we pull the rug out from under all of that, including all of the drug-related gangs here in the US. If the drug dealers become "legal", licensed and regulated businessmen, the violence related to the drug trade will drop like a stone. A completely legal business owner has far less interest in losing everything by committing crimes when it isn't necessary. Instead of wasting billions of dollars accomplishing nothing with militarized police raids that only find a small fraction of the drugs in circulation we can instead tax the drug sellers and put that income toward helping people who find themselves addicted, just as we have done with alcohol, tobacco, and now marijuana.

    I know it's hard, but it's time to let go completely of the idea that drugs can be controlled by making them illegal. They very obviously can't, and the related consequences of harsh drug policies are far more harmful and expensive than what will happen if we legalize everything. (For adults.)

    The same argument can and should be made for legalizing and regulating prostitution and gambling, and anything else that right now provides power and income to organized crime instead of providing public tax revenue to help support a stable society.

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15 2018, @07:07PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15 2018, @07:07PM (#680153)

    Heh, how quickly we march back on to the slippery slope! Gotta watch where you step with the good intentions ;)

  • (Score: 2) by bobthecimmerian on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:27PM (6 children)

    by bobthecimmerian (6834) on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:27PM (#680182)

    NewNic, requerdanos, and RedBear were more eloquent than I could be or need to be. But I would add that legalizing all current controlled substances doesn't just solve more problems than it creates in the US. It's probably the single most powerful move we can make to reduce organized crime in Mexico and large portions of Central and South America.

    On the other hand, I've read a little that the US tobacco industry responded to the current restrictions on tobacco sales and advertising in the US by promoting the living hell out of their cancer sticks worldwide. I don't want a world where heroin is legal, monitored, and not used any more than it is today in the US but five percent of the population in every age group in India, China, and sub-Saharan Africa are hooked.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:43PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:43PM (#680188) Journal

      I don't want a world where heroin is legal, monitored, and not used any more than it is today in the US but five percent of the population in every age group in India, China, and sub-Saharan Africa are hooked.

      It's up to those countries to deal with it in their own way. The U.S. and U.S.-led institutions have interfered plenty.

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      • (Score: 2) by bobthecimmerian on Saturday May 26 2018, @12:44PM

        by bobthecimmerian (6834) on Saturday May 26 2018, @12:44PM (#684493)

        Sorry for the late response. Agreed - given the choice between the current state of events versus having US (or US owned puppet) companies sell drugs elsewhere, I choose the latter.

    • (Score: 2) by dry on Thursday May 17 2018, @05:11AM (3 children)

      by dry (223) on Thursday May 17 2018, @05:11AM (#680632) Journal

      Is heroin that bad? Assuming you have a cheap clean source of it.
      Here in BC they've been experimenting with giving heroin to junkies and the results have been pretty good. Instead of fixating on where their next hit is coming from, some at least have got jobs and become productive members of society, just have to go to the clinic twice a day for their fix.
      Heroin is actually pretty harmless when used in moderation and even heavy use just causes constipation and lethargy, its just societies hatred of (some) addictions that make people look down on users.

      • (Score: 2) by bobthecimmerian on Saturday May 26 2018, @12:47PM (2 children)

        by bobthecimmerian (6834) on Saturday May 26 2018, @12:47PM (#684495)

        Interesting. I've had three cousins die due to heroin, I thought the inevitable life path for most junkies was larger and larger hits until they died. It's "sustainable"?

        I guess alcoholism could be a good comparison. I know too many people that drank themselves to death, but I knew others that drank 6-12 beers per day, every day, for decades until dying in their 60s.

          Thanks for the insight.

        • (Score: 2) by dry on Saturday May 26 2018, @03:35PM (1 child)

          by dry (223) on Saturday May 26 2018, @03:35PM (#684549) Journal

          Yes, the comparison to alcoholism is probably as good as any. Some people are in so much pain that they end up killing themselves trying to get away from it and lots are sustainable, as you say, drinking enough to get drunk every day for decades.
          Throw in the illegality, the expense and how addicting heroin is and that by itself can create a lot more stress and a horrible feedback cycle. Then there are the problems with purity, seems that most people who die due to heroin misjudge their dosage and die. Used to be a regular thing around here where a batch would hit the streets that was too pure and junkies would be dropping dead from taking what they thought was their usual dose and ODing. Now they're dying like flies from the heroin being cut with extra strength stuff.
          Really the problem is mental health, even experiments with rats show that happy rats don't become addicted though they will party now and again while overcrowded stressed out rats become addicts. Most of the alcoholics that I've known who drank themselves to death seemed to be veterans who couldn't handle the PTSD.

          • (Score: 2) by bobthecimmerian on Tuesday May 29 2018, @07:07PM

            by bobthecimmerian (6834) on Tuesday May 29 2018, @07:07PM (#685805)

            I think you're underselling the risks of addiction some. I used to work with software for addiction management, and the psychologists and psychiatrists working in the field said that the majority of addictions were from injury or self-medicating a mental illness. That fits your assertion. But the same researcher said a substantial minority of addictions were just plain user errors. Jane was emotionally and mentally fine, developed a partying habit simply because partying was fun, and became an alcoholic or junkie all on her own.

            And of course, your risk of anxiety and depression and the associated risk of substance abuse goes up if you're facing stress. More than half of all Americans live with a frightening level of stress over finance on a day to day basis. I'm sure that doesn't help.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by sjames on Tuesday May 15 2018, @11:32PM

    by sjames (2882) on Tuesday May 15 2018, @11:32PM (#680225) Journal

    Fentanyl is very much a medicine. It is used routinely in a hospital setting.

    It is frequently abused as well, of course.

    Many things can be and are abused. People sniff glue, they take meth, and occasionally you see some idiot using a lawnmower to trim hedges. That doesn't mean that they should be illegal. Most really bad ideas are not illegal.

    As a side note, it turns out that LSD and 'shrooms are two of the few things that are effective against migraine and cluster headaches and they have fewer nasty side effects than the legal and much less effective drugs.

    If you have a nasty food poisoning, paregoric (a mixture of kaolin and opium) will fix you up fast. That used to be available over the counter, and then with a signature (still no prescription needed).

    Then there's crazy knock-on effects of some drugs being illegal. It's getting so hard to buy a decent decongestant in some places that there are tongue-in-cheek articles on how to convert street meth back to decongestant in your kitchen.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16 2018, @07:12AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16 2018, @07:12AM (#680309)

    fentanyl is not illegal. Legalizing === decriminalizing, not selling them recreationally.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16 2018, @03:48PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16 2018, @03:48PM (#680416)

      The nasty part of the drug war is imprisoning people over these drugs being used recreationally. Sure you might keep a few users out of jail but the main problem would still be there. Stop with the morality war already and focus on helping the addicts.

  • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Wednesday May 16 2018, @11:29AM (7 children)

    by Wootery (2341) on Wednesday May 16 2018, @11:29AM (#680351)

    There is never going to be any good excuse for recreational fentanyl use, for example, and ditto meth

    So you're going to completely ignore the entire conversation about legalisation, and go with they're bad so keep them illegal?

    • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Wednesday May 16 2018, @04:57PM (6 children)

      by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Wednesday May 16 2018, @04:57PM (#680449) Journal

      No, for something like that I support *decriminalization* at least for possession, followed by shutting down production where possible.

      --
      I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
      • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Thursday May 17 2018, @08:56AM (5 children)

        by Wootery (2341) on Thursday May 17 2018, @08:56AM (#680664)

        Then where do you disagree with the BMJ?

        • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Thursday May 17 2018, @07:54PM (4 children)

          by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Thursday May 17 2018, @07:54PM (#680861) Journal

          It seems not to say anything much about cutting off the international flow of narcotics. China, in what I am almost sure is ironic and poetic revenge for the Anglosphere poisoning them with opium for centuries, seems to be the main source of these potent fentanyls and family in the US isn't it?

          --
          I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
          • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Friday May 18 2018, @09:06AM (3 children)

            by Wootery (2341) on Friday May 18 2018, @09:06AM (#681088)

            If I were running the BMJ, I'm not sure I'd want to weigh-in on international politics. Medical doctors, in their professional capacities as such, do well to remain above the political fray.

            The particular question of drug criminalisation is an exception. The question there is whether society is best served by treating drug abuse as criminal problem, or as a medical problem.

            • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Friday May 18 2018, @07:31PM (2 children)

              by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Friday May 18 2018, @07:31PM (#681339) Journal

              Oh, medical, for sure. Reason being, most of these drugs rewire the brain and nervous system. If that's not a clear case of "this is a medical problem" I don't know what is.

              --
              I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
              • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Monday May 21 2018, @09:11AM (1 child)

                by Wootery (2341) on Monday May 21 2018, @09:11AM (#682082)

                Seems to me the more compelling argument is that the war on drugs just isn't working.

                Slight aside: I'm currently reading Peter Hitchens' book, A Brief of History of Crime [wikipedia.org], a.k.a. The Abolition of Liberty. He makes a pretty typical hard-conservative case in favour of drug criminalisation. I don't find him at all convincing.

                • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Monday May 21 2018, @04:22PM

                  by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Monday May 21 2018, @04:22PM (#682240) Journal

                  Let's just say that between the two brothers Hitchens, Peter, er, didn't get the lion's share of the brains. Or human decency.

                  --
                  I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16 2018, @03:58PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16 2018, @03:58PM (#680422)

    free people don't need to make excuses for their personal decisions. it's none of your business what they do with their lives unless you birthed them. fucking authoritarian.

    • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Wednesday May 16 2018, @04:55PM (1 child)

      by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Wednesday May 16 2018, @04:55PM (#680447) Journal

      Let's see you say that after you've been violently robbed :)

      --
      I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
      • (Score: 2) by dry on Thursday May 17 2018, @05:17AM

        by dry (223) on Thursday May 17 2018, @05:17AM (#680633) Journal

        That's caused by the war on drugs jacking up the price. Clinical heroin is very cheap and some of the other opiates are even cheaper. The big thing is that it all needs to be regulated so the junkies know what they're buying and what they're buying is pure.