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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: 5, Interesting) by Arik on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:44PM (4 children)

    by Arik (4543) on Tuesday May 15 2018, @06:44PM (#680137) Journal
    Because maintaining social controls and mass obedience is more important than health, in the estimation of the state.

    There is a critical problem that keeps democracy from working well among humans, and this is as good an example of it in action as any. I'll use made up, round numbers just to give you the idea, if you want real numbers go get them.

    But let's say you have a direct democracy with 1000 citizens, for ease of illustration. You have a bill which will cost the large majority of the citizens (900 of them) $1 annually for the benefit of a small minority (10) of them, who will split $500 between them, for a cool $50 each. The remaining $400 will be eaten in administration costs, indirectly benefiting another citizen or two, who will be employed at least in part to administer our redistribution program.

    There's no valid "general welfare" argument to do this, quite the contrary, and since it directly harms most voters you might expect it to have no chance of passing. You'd be wrong though. Most voters aren't going to be all that motivated over $1/year. The 10 people who stand to benefit directly obviously have significantly more motivation to see it pass, and the 1 or 2 additional voters whose office would see an expanded budget and prestige are as well. So it actually stands a pretty good chance of passing, one way or another.

    The drug war makes no sense from a general welfare point of view but it makes great sense from the point of view of all the various people and organizations that derive money and prestige from it. They are similarly far more motivated to maintain it than the average citizen is motivated to stop it, despite it representing a direct drain on the finances (and other forms of harm as well) for the latter.
    If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
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  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15 2018, @07:27PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15 2018, @07:27PM (#680163)

    It takes quite a bit of time for ideas to work their way through the general population, and it is a critical mass sort of thing that spreads exponentially. I think the current support for the war on drugs is more about ignorance, it isn't that most voters care. Most voters want drugs illegal because they simply do not have all the facts yet and are victims of so much brainwashing propaganda. That mindset is shifting, we shall see how long it takes.

    • (Score: 2) by Arik on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:20PM (1 child)

      by Arik (4543) on Tuesday May 15 2018, @08:20PM (#680177) Journal
      "I think the current support for the war on drugs is more about ignorance, it isn't that most voters care."

      Sure, to a degree, but that very ignorance is part of what I'm talking about. It can be analyzed as coming from two main sources.

      In part this is - it just doesn't make sense for me to spend a large amount of time and energy becoming knowledgeable about the issue when it's only $1/day! I have other things to do with my time.

      And it's partly artificial ignorance i.e. the result of propaganda. Again, people that stand to lose $1/year have far less motive to create and disseminate propoganda than people that stand to gain $50/yr.

      So both of these elements can be seen as aspects of the same fundamental problem - that special interests tend strongly to outweigh the general interests in the decision making process in a democracy.
      If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16 2018, @03:05AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16 2018, @03:05AM (#680274)

        A good point about special interests, but without democracy ALL you get are special interests. Democracy at least provides some feedback from the populace.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16 2018, @04:02PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16 2018, @04:02PM (#680424)

      it's mainly because the old people won't die and they vote more than the young people.