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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.

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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 []). 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.

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