Law in Contemporary Society
Why stop at drugs? -- DRussellKraft - 28 Feb 2010

Derek, can you clarify what you mean by this question? Are you referring to other vice crimes? Regardless, I don't think this essay was about line drawing. The legalization of other activities would require separate analyses beyond the scope of John's essay. -- PeterCavanaugh - 28 Feb 2010

Read my paper smile -- DRussellKraft - 02 Mar 2010

What bothers me more are the widespread misconceptions about drugs. MDMA, for example, during its DEA scheduling was recommended for Schedule III. Any doctor who knew anything about the drug said it had medicinal value. It had been used by psychotherapists with extraordinary success, some even calling it a miracle drug. For some, it blew anti-depressants out of the water. Of course, it ended up on the Schedule I, "no recognized medicinal value" along with Marijuana. Thank the pharmaceutical companies.

Drug policy is, and has always been, about control. For drug companies, it forces you to use their products. And the drug companies will do everything in its power to prevent drug laws from ever changing. I can't think of any other reason why you can pick up powerful dissociatives and schedule I precursors at your local Rite Aid. Drug laws are perfect for social control because they are so easy to selectively enforce. The only reason drugs aren't legalized is because more people are not arrested: white, black, rich, poor. Believe me, when people see their own uncles, aunts, parents, children getting arrested for smoking pot, it will become legalized. If legalization is your goal, then decriminalization is your worst enemy. Decriminalization is a strategic move taken by the government in order to maintain control in any way it can.

I gots more to say, but I'll leave it here for now. But to answer Derek's question--I wouldn't stop at drugs.

-- MatthewZorn - 28 Feb 2010

How about this - instead of trying to go whole hog and ask "why stop", let's think about how to make an argument of why it wouldn't go any further. Granted, I'm not opposed to the idea of pushing further, but that is probably not going to be an overwhelmingly popular argument. Heck, even this argument will meet stiff resistance, and it makes a pretty good deal of sense. Most people who may not be totally against the legalization of drugs may be afraid of the "slippery slope" that follows the legalization of a vice crime. If there's ever going to be a change like this one, it will be met with fear, so we should look at if those fears can be realistically met and calmed. I'll give it a shot.

First, the "slippery slope" argument would have to be met. I do not, and probably never will never will, accept the idea of a slippery slope. I think the courts have a little more self-control than that, and it's not very hard to point out. Look at the application of racial discrimination laws we've been reading about in ConLaw. The Court set a precedent that legislation which disparately affected a minority group without relating to a governmental purpose of exceeding importance would be examined with strict scrutiny. Then, through a series of decisions that found creative readings of former decisions as ways to fly in the face of that idea, the Court decided that's actually not how things are going to be. Poof! That slippery slope got pretty sticky. We all know the Court will decide what it's going to decide, precedent can be found anywhere, or made up on the spot. The slippery slope argument has little truth to it, and a exists generally as tactic used to stagnate social change and keep the status quo. If it can be beaten (using some pretty words so the general public will accept what we already know), that's one fear, and argument against legalization, out of the way.

Sweet, so let's just say we beat the slippery slope argument (upsetting however many hundreds of years of legal thought). What's next? If we legalize this specific type of "vice crime" then the next thing to deal with would be the idea/argument/fear of a moral unraveling. To be honest, I'd anticipate this noise coming largely from conservative christians, people with a lot of money in pharmacy, and your run of the mill (ignorant) racists.

Conservative christians is pretty self-explanatory, these are the people who worked their asses off to get an alcohol ban written into the Constitution, and did it. Not exactly a group that's going to take the legalization of drugs sitting down, no matter what the economic/social incentive. They'll be a difficult group to contend with, they're well funded, and arguing with a belief is like having a staring contest with the sun; you're going to lose in more ways than one. People with lots of money in pharmaceuticals are going to be difficult to persuade as well; no one wants to give up a money making monopoly. Money has power, so not only will this group be tough to persuade, but they'll be able to throw a lot of money into propaganda (DARE anyone?). Finally, you've got your (special) racists, who will most likely find another group to belong to real quick as to not be labeled racist (that's not PC anymore after all). These folks will be among the special few who still believe drug use will lead to an intermingling of the races, and hate that idea. They are still out there. Again, they're not going to be persuaded.

With at least three groups (at least two powerful and well funded) against this proposition, all of whom will be firing from a moral high ground, it's going to take baby steps if even the legalization of drugs is going to work. While not losing sight of the end goal is important, more necessary is taking the small steps to get there. Start with what already seems to be happening - marijuana. Medicinal use is legal in several states, and several more have laws being considered, so this could be fertile ground. If you've got a plan, this ought to be the first step.

-- MichaelHilton - 02 Mar 2010

@ John: Enjoyed this paper very much.

Michael, while I agree with you, if you're looking for allies within the Republican party, you're never going to get the Christian right or the law and order conservatives on your side, so it's pointless to try. The Libertarians are largely for ending the war, but seem to be marginalized. The fiscal conservatives are amenable in theory because it saves money, reduces the size of government and provides tax income, but don't want to anger the Christian right and the law and order folks, who are their footsoldiers in campaigns. The War on Drugs is such an interesting issue because a lot (I would say a huge majority) of "thinking men" on both sides agree it is an abject failure and a money drain, but it is never even raised during major campaigns because politicians feel it can only alienate voters- it's not a enough of a reason to vote for a candidate but can be a reason not to vote for someone, if you follow me.

Perception also plays a huge role. A friend said to me in 2007, "do you really think Obama is going to be the first black president and legalize weed?" Sure enough, he dodged every question posed to him during the campaign (I think Obama thinks legalization is the best option despite his public statements). The Democrats seem overly concerned with not seeming like hippies or pansies. I can just see "if we legalize drugs...then the criminals win!" rhetoric even though legalization would probably cripple gangs. I knew 16/17 year old kids when I was in high school who carried around hundreds or thousands of dollars. If that's prohibition, I don't think we can do any worse.

In MA we started with the decriminalization referendum in 2008, which eliminated CORI records for possession and changed the penalties to $100 fine. Polls showed that the electorate was split, about 1/3 each supporting decriminalization, full legalization, and the status quo. The referendum passed 65%-34%. The effort was led by a coalition of urban religious leaders, libertarians and leftists, and opposed mainly by law enforcement and DA's, one of whom famously admitted to using. Now, there's a bill for legalization moving (slowly) through the legislature. The problem with gradualism is that it doesn't deal with the problems of civil rights violations or the disproportionate effect these laws have on the poor.

-- JonathanWaisnor - 02 Mar 2010

Thank you for the feedback. I think Matt is completely correct: the day that people start seeing "upstanding" white people arrested and put in prison, the drug laws will immediately change. Almost all of our drug laws have racist roots and were intended to prevent minorities from corrupting white women and children. I recommend that everyone read the district court opinion in United States v. Clary, 846 F.Supp. 768, as it lays out a history of U.S. drug policies and makes a compelling case as to why the continued enforcement is horrendous.

I think that many people are aware that our laws are ineffective, but would like to believe that they work because they seem "moral." Moving people away from this belief would allow for changes to occur. I think a stronger paper would provide ideas on how this could be done. Any suggestions?

-- JohnAlbanese - 23 Mar 2010

Thought I'd chime in with a more personal note. Cartel violence is horrendous, and it hits close to home for me. I'm from El Paso, Texas which on the border with Juarez,ground zero for the new cartel wars. A few years ago, people would go back and forth across the border all the time. Now, few dare. Rumor has it that the owners of some of the clubs and bars right across the border--the clubs and bars where many El Paso teenagers used to go to drink--were murdered for not paying protection money, their heads placed on pikes outside their establishments.

The violence is also spilling over into the US.

Anyway, perhaps as the spillover violence increases (and it will), people will be shaken from the notion that the current legal scheme is "moral." But, probably not. More likely, it'll make people more conservative, favoring a crackdown on drug vendors and purchasers. I'm not sure what the answer is, but it certainly doesn't seem to crack down on cartels. In fact, the substantial increase in violence in the past few years was precipitated by a crackdown on the cartels by the Mexican Gov.

-- ConradCoutinho - 04 Apr 2010


-- JohnAlbanese - 02 Mar 2010


Webs Webs

r4 - 04 Apr 2010 - 15:35:47 - ConradCoutinho
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM