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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: 1) by pTamok on Wednesday May 16 2018, @07:02AM (1 child)

    by pTamok (3042) on Wednesday May 16 2018, @07:02AM (#680308)

    I support decriminalisation of drugs, so I'm not picking holes for the sake of it.

    Some drugs are (a) pretty nasty if taken by someone unprepared and unused to their effects (b) easy to administer without the victim's consent. Lacing thrown-away food with LSD for dumpster-divers to eat would be regarded as funny by some people, as would sprinkling fentanyl powder on someone (it is absorbed through the skin in clinically significant amounts [umd.edu]), so making them easily available would carry some risks. Restricting their distribution, like other fast-acting poisons, would probably be a good idea. This means that there would still be a market for those seeking a different high.

    You would probably need some form of licensing regime, much like driving licences, and licences to sell alcoholic liquor, so that supply could be regulated and taxed, and users could show certification that they were allowed to buy particular types of drug. There would still be a black market, but it should in theory, be much smaller. The black market would always be capable of growing to meet demand, where people regarded the taxation as onerous, or if somebody tries to implement prohibition.

    Alcohol shows a possible model. Many jurisdictions allow people to brew their own beer and wine. A small number allow home distillation - most don't. I'm not aware of any jurisdictions where you can home brew or home distill and sell your product commercially - you normally need to follow a lot of regulations and be taxed to be able to operate commercially. Alongside such legal structures, you always find a black market.

    So people need to understand that decriminalisation and legalization do not magically make black markets and abuse vanish - they simply have the possibility of reducing the harm from the current levels. I think that [harm reduction] is a sensible approach, but many disagree, believing that a sufficiently strong anti-drugs regime will entirely prevent a black market, and we simply have not been harsh enough yet. To me, that seems like flying in the face of reality, but I am aware that opinions differ, and some people hold their beliefs very strongly, even if irrational to do so. Such is being human.

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday May 16 2018, @09:05AM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday May 16 2018, @09:05AM (#680330) Journal

    There's one drug that probably wouldn't need a black market if it was available for sale:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysergic_acid_diethylamide#Economics [wikipedia.org]

    An active dose of LSD is very minute, allowing a large number of doses to be synthesized from a comparatively small amount of raw material. Twenty five kilograms of precursor ergotamine tartrate can produce 5–6 kg of pure crystalline LSD; this corresponds to 100 million doses. Because the masses involved are so small, concealing and transporting illicit LSD is much easier than smuggling cocaine, cannabis, or other illegal drugs.

    Manufacturing LSD requires laboratory equipment and experience in the field of organic chemistry. It takes two to three days to produce 30 to 100 grams of pure compound. It is believed that LSD is not usually produced in large quantities, but rather in a series of small batches. This technique minimizes the loss of precursor chemicals in case a step does not work as expected.

    Theoretically, at those rates, a lone chemist could create a billion doses in 3 years. They would just find it hard to distribute under the current regime. A company could make a truly stupendous amount of LSD with some fancier and automated equipment. Other than initial equipment costs, production costs would be relatively low and storage of unused megadoses of LSD could be done in a compact amount of space (perhaps you could fit 10 billion doses in a single walk-in fridge).

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