On the Morality of: Recreational Drug Use

Today’s post on atheist morality concerns the use of natural and artificial pharmaceuticals for pleasure. This practice may be nearly as old as humanity – three-thousand-year-old Andean mummies have been found to contain traces of coca, and the brewing of beer may date back to the Stone Age. Today, the legality of such substances varies widely across the world: some religious sects consider psychoactive drugs to be a sacrament, while other religions, such as Islam, ban them altogether.

Rather than rely on these reasonless edicts presented as absolute dogma, we can turn to the moral system of universal utilitarianism, which is a means for arriving at objective ethical decisions founded on human happiness. Given this basis, one of the most important moral principles of UU is self-determination. No one other than you yourself can speak with authority about what makes you happy, and therefore we should permit individuals the maximum freedom to choose for ourselves and pursue our own course in life, so long as those choices do not cause others to suffer or infringe on their equal right to choose for themselves. Just because we disapprove of another person’s choices is utterly insufficient grounds to forbid them from choosing.

That being the case, I believe that the general principle which UU dictates is that we should permit people to seek happiness in whatever way seems best to them, including the use of recreational drugs if they desire. Granted, some drugs can be addictive; nevertheless, the initial choice to take them, if made by a mature and informed person, is still a free one. Granted, drugs can have harmful effects on the health of the user. Nevertheless, this is insufficient justification for banning them. Protecting people from themselves is not a goal that is cognizable under UU, unless the people being protected are children or otherwise mentally immature in a way that would interfere with their ability to make rational choices. Otherwise, we should stay hands-off and permit people to chase their happiness in a way that seems best to them.

There are many other hobbies that involve a significant risk of personal harm – skydiving, mountain climbing, motorcycle riding, even playing sports – yet I’ve heard no one suggest that all these activities should be banned as well. As part of living in a free and democratic society, we must accept that other people may have different risk-reward structures than we ourselves do. I, personally, think drug use is ill-advised, and I would discourage others from trying it. (I feel the same way about football or boxing, in fact.) But I don’t think it’s my right to overrule other people’s own decisions if they make a choice that I think is wrong.

Now, if there are drugs that by their very nature make the user violent or otherwise dangerous, that’s a different story. But very few drugs could plausibly be said to do this, and one of the most commonly banned drugs, cannabis, has no such effect at all. There is no rational justification to outlaw marijuana use! If its transport and consumption is frequently associated with crime, that’s only because legal businesses can’t supply it, leaving ample room for criminals to step in. And even if it serves as a “gateway drug” – though I know of no reputable studies which demonstrate this – it’s very likely that this is only because people who try it and find it harmless are apt to conclude that government’s claims about other drugs are probably lies as well.

Society’s hypocrisy in allowing some drugs while banning others is evident when one considers that the two drugs which are legal throughout most of the civilized world – alcohol and tobacco – are almost certainly the two most dangerous and most addictive drugs in existence. Tobacco is incredibly addictive – only 6% of users who try to quit succeed for even a month – and kills more than 400,000 people each year in America alone by producing malignant cancers of the jaw, esophagus and lungs. Alcohol, meanwhile, is so toxic that a person can easily kill themselves unintentionally from a single session of binge drinking, and over 1,000 people die from alcohol poisoning each year in the U.S. alone. Drunk driving, meanwhile, added almost 18,000 more deaths in America in 2006.

If any illegal drug produced anywhere near these death totals, we could be sure of mass protests and outraged demands to know why the government wasn’t doing more to protect people. But there seems to be no meaningful constituency pressing to outlaw alcohol or tobacco. Of course, America did once outlaw alcohol; the fact that this experiment fizzled out may still serve as a reminder discouraging modern-day prohibitionists.

There’s no doubt that addiction exists, and that it is a serious problem which should be dealt with. But treating it as a criminal matter solves nothing at all. Imprisoning non-violent drug offenders floods the jails, producing a massive strain on society’s resources for no perceptible benefit. I’m ashamed to say that America imprisons more people than any other country in the world, mostly because of drug offenses. This head-in-the-sand attitude creates a disenfranchised underclass that perpetuates cycles of poverty and crime, and our draconian measures in combating drug crops abroad have led to terrible violence and shocking violations of human rights in numerous countries, including our own. Ironically, meanwhile, all this effort has had no effect whatsoever on the availability of illegal drugs.

It’s time for society to adopt a rational ethical policy and recognize that this approach simply is not working. If we legalized most drugs and allowed them to be sold by legitimate businesses, this would solve a multitude of problems at once. It would cut off the cash flow that has fueled so many violent and bloodthirsty criminal gangs. Since these businesses could be legally monitored, it would be easier to prevent the use of drugs by children, as opposed to illegal traffickers who have no incentive to refrain from targeting the young. People suffering from addiction could come forward to get the medical help they need, and legitimate businesses could be taxed to support these programs. And pardoning those non-violent offenders whose lives have been destroyed by brutal, Kafkaesque anti-drug laws would permit them to become productive members of society once again.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • MisterDomino

    Intriguing post, Ebon.

    What always bothered me the most about the “war on drugs” is the underground sub-culture that develops as a result of its criminalization. If someone does develop an addiction that proves detrimental to their health, society views them simply as criminals – no different than thieves and murderers – and thus they are forced to sink deeper into that underworld. And the longer they remain in that world, the more difficult it is for them to seek treatment.

    This is particularly true of “hard” drugs such as heroin and cocaine, and it is becoming more common with the abuse of prescription drugs.

  • http://mcv.planc.ee mcv

    You left out Caffeine which is claimed to be most used psychoactive substance in the world, which oh by the way can also be lethal (although not in regular use).

  • velkyn

    excellent post, ebon. IMO, it seems that the idea if enoying oneself is caught up in the idea of ‘sin’ and that there needs to be some “big daddy in the sky” or in “government” to decide what is “right” and what is “wrong”. how dare we think people could have responsiblity for themselves?

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    Overall, a good post. Western societies, on the whole, are very inconsistent regarding what is considered as harmful, sinful, etc. You correctly pointed out that alcohol and tobacco are among the most addictive and harmful substances in the world. Another commenter added caffeine to that list. If we decriminalized more drugs, cannabis among them, then the consumption of those drugs could be monitored and regulated. This could increase pleasure and safety for all concerned.

  • Samuel Skinner

    And in todays news it turns out that 1 in 100 adults in the US is currently in prison.
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation/bal-te.prisons29feb29,0,2057053.story
    Yep, we have almost 2 and a half million people in prison.

  • Curiosis

    I’d like to see a presidential candidate who says that he will, upon entering office, pardon all non-violent drug offenders and will pardon anyone convicted for the same during his term.

    He could sell it by pointing out the tax cuts that would result from the savings on prisons.

    I know, pipe dream. Or would that be a bong dream?

  • billf

    “then the consumption of those drugs could be monitored and regulated.”

    And taxed.

    Will we ever wake up to the fact that the “war on drugs” is a loser?

    It is fast becoming more and more difficult to do so. Too many jobs would be lost in the prison system if we decriminalize and pardon drug offenders. I am not saying that the end result would not be MORE than worth the temporary pain suffered by those displaced. But those whose livelihood depend on having 1% of our adult population incarcerated will fight tooth and nail to maintain the current situation.

    It is kind of like simplifying the tax code. There are probably over a million people employed in this country whose jobs exist only because of our complex tax codes. These people and businesses make a ton of money and are huge contributers to political campaigns. It is in their interest to make sure things get more complex, not less. So what is the likelihood of seeing a simple tax code?

    Many prison systems are now being privatized and being run for profit. the “Corrections Corporation of America” is just one of the many companies formed to take advantage of this “growth” industry. Makes me sick.

    13% of the black male adult population does not have the right to vote due to felony convictions. 4.6% of the black adult male population is incarcerated. Over 10% of black males between the ages of 18 and 29 are incarcerated. The vast majority of all people who are incarcerated are there due to drug related offenses. And it is getting worse.

    I am just rambling now, so I’ll stop.

  • Paul S

    If the private use of recreational drugs only affected those that use them, I would agree that nobody has the right to prevent someone from using them. Unfortunately, drug users don’t live in a vacuum. The addictive nature of many drugs (alcohol and tobacco included) obviously has a potentially detrimental effect on society as a whole. Drug use and addiction have many ancillary costs besides those borne by the user. Who is going to be responsible for the health and welfare of a child who is born addicted to crack and the parent(s) are so addicted they are unemployable? Or the people who will spend every last dollar on the drug they are addicted to?

    I would like to note that I agree with Curiosis that non-violent drug offenders should not be spending time in prison. But isn’t there something strange about legalizing drugs and using the tax proceeds from the sale of those drugs to treat the addictions of people who bought those same drugs in the first place? I’m no fan of “Big Brother” prying himself into our homes to regulate what we do privately, but the ultimate costs to society need to be taken into account.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Yup.

    I will say, as the child of an alcoholic, that drug use isn’t entirely a personal decision. It does affect the people around you, often profoundly. (The large number of people killed or injured by drunk drivers also attests to this.) I would agree that responsible drug use is pretty much entirely a personal decision… but of course, one of the effects of drugs is often to impair your judgment and make you less responsible, so there’s a bit of a Catch-22 there.

    That being said, I do think drug policy should be based on, you know, reality: evidence about which drugs are more or less harmful and in what circumstances, what kind of response is actually effective in preventing and dealing with drug problems, etc. And the current “lock ‘em up” policy has clearly been shown to be grotesquely ineffective. (Not to mention racist, classist, and otherwise unjust.) If people are having problems with drugs, then we need to treat it as a mental health problem and try to get them help; if people aren’t having problems with drugs, then their drug use is none of our damn business.

  • Christopher

    You and I are in agreement here on this issue: if people want to ingest a substance that has the potential to addict them, it’s not the business of society to try and stop them. All this does is create a criminal culture that subverts them, as well as make life difficult for people like myself (it’s not unhead of for drug dealers to smuggle their products through the lands my community owns, creating all sorts of problems).

  • InTheImageOfDNA

    Excellent points Ebon. However, there is one side effect that you may need to consider or at least consider more thoroughly – theft motivated by addiction/usage. I’ve personally been a victim of such a crime. Granted, it wasn’t much, the addict burned the latch off our garage and stole a couple hundred dollars worth of tools. But let’s just look at the analog of legal addiction with alcohol. I know of many people who are consistently broke, who sell their food stamps every month, go without food sometimes, etc to stay in booze. (I live in a very poor Southern WV town.) And booze is pretty cheap. What would happen with these same people who had a similar income and wanted to stay in cocaine for example?

    I think the ease of legal access might exacerbate some of the peripheral negative side-effects (of course, as you point out, many negatives like gangs would also be solved) but let us just consider a hypothetical. Pool-hall Jim (forgive the stereotype) spends every dime that he can and many that he can’t on beer and occasionally other drugs every month. His access to other drugs is only rare and inconsistent and he jumps at the opportunities when they do arise. How does this situation change if he can walk into town and buy cocaine from the liquor store? I’m not so sure if that is an experiment that I want to run.

    Jim has easy and free access to programs/facilities provided for by the taxes of legal drugs that can help him steer away from addiction? Jim doesn’t want help. He wants another fix and there’s a garage with some nice tools in it…

    I’m with you on legalizing marijuana; I think it can be regulated just like the alcohol industry. The “harder” drugs though I think would create as many, if not more problems with their legalization than it would solve. The distinction between “soft” drugs like alcohol and marijuana and “hard” drugs is arbitrary? No, I think a legitimate distinction can be drawn on grounds of monetary price for reasons outlined above. Their high cost is an artifact of their illegality? The price would drop significantly if legalized? But then, do we really want an 8-ball that costs the same as a case of beer?

    I don’t know; maybe I am giving a personal anecdote too much weight in the bigger picture, but those are my thoughts on the matter.

  • Entomologista

    I don’t think you can emphasize enough how the war on drugs is really a war on minorities and poor people. If you’re rich, white, and use coke do you think you’re going to get the same penalties as if you’re poor, black, and use crack? Yeah, right.

  • Joffan

    InTheImageOfDNA said:
    But then, do we really want an 8-ball that costs the same as a case of beer?

    I don’t think psychoactive drugs should necessarily be more affordable than they are today. Maybe some should be more expensive; some less so. Taxation levels migth need to be high to counter the possibility of harm (including self-harm) on some of these substances.

    Alcohol is the easiest drug to measure societal success and failure by. There are drunks in every society, so elimination of addicts is not going to happen for any drug, although we could measure not only how many drunks there are but how well they continue to integrate (or not) into society. Personally I have known people who could fairly be described as alcoholics who nevertheless contributed and carried out their job responsibly. Other things to consider are how much general societal damage the drug inflicts, how it changes social attitudes, effects on various age/gender/income groups, etc. All these will influenced by cost, relative ease of access, typical behaviour, acceptance and a host of other factors.

    Perhaps a clear picture will emerge; certainly some indicators will be apparent; but you can be sure that nothing clear or honest will be learned if the whole is overlaid with pre-existing preferences for the outcomes, whether dictated by “mere” preconceptions or the dictates of someone’s bible.

  • Alex Weaver

    Paul and DNA:

    Do you actually think the problems you describe are going to be made worse by legalizing drugs, allowing their sale to be monitored and addicts to receive treatment without risking being thrown in prison?

    (Don’t you think that addressing the social and economic factors that tend to encourage drug abuse by certain groups would be more effective than trying and failing to keep them from getting drugs?)

  • Eric

    To Greta Christina,

    I would say that we do not meed to treat addiction as a mental illness, rather as a social problem and disease. I find by labeling addiction as “mental illness” we erode the success of rehab in the addicts.

    Addiction to substances is not a mental illness, it is a physical disease that has symptoms which reult in depression, etc…the real core problme though is physical.

    As for leglizing certain street drugs, I am all for it. Again, when we have arcan laws such as the Rockefellar Laws whcih mandate a 7 year sentence in a FEDERAL PEN for mere MJ posession, we have a problem. Legalize it, tax it, and treat it as a social issue vs. a criminal issue. Wake up America, the “war on drugs” is a farce.

  • GSmith

    I totally agree with you Ebon. The bottom line is that if a drug is something that old white men like (i.e. alcohol and nicotine), it is okay; otherwise, it is made illegal. I think that all drugs, including alcohol, are terrible. However, I do not think they should be illegal.

    However, I do think Paul makes a good point with regard to the effects that drugs have on others. What would we do to a person who chooses to do heroin or some other hard drug while they are pregnant?

  • ellen

    Most rational people would agree with your position, Ebon. The one difference between the adults having a glass of wine with dinner and sharing a joint is that, in the latter case, the children in the house are exposed to the secondhand high. Naturally responsible adults would always smoke their pot outside…but are most parents are that responsible? I rather doubt it.

    Aside from that, the prison-industrial complex is so powerful that they will fight tooth and nail to keep drugs illegal. As someone pointed out, many jobs are at stake and they have a powerful influence.

  • lpetrich

    I’ve seen it in some other news sites. What is especially interesting here is how little all that prison construction has affected the crime rate and how expensive it has been to construct and run those prisons. Of course, the politicians like to seem “tough on crime”, but when seeming “toughness” gets nowhere, then they ought to have second thoughts.

  • Joffan

    lpetrich said:

    Of course, the politicians like to seem “tough on crime”, but when seeming “toughness” gets nowhere, then they ought to have second thoughts.

    And we ought to give them a really hard time about it at election meetings etc. Journalists especially with their frequent and privileged access to politicians need to be more direct about this. “Tough on crime” has been the tag for so many years that it’s perfectly valid to ask (and keep on asking) what lessons have been learned from this human experiment so far.

  • Matt

    Society’s hypocrisy in allowing some drugs while banning others is evident when one considers that the two drugs which are legal throughout most of the civilized world – alcohol and tobacco – are almost certainly the two most dangerous and most addictive drugs in existence.

    Really? More dangerous than heroin or cocaine? A 2007 study ranked alcohol and tobacco as the fifth and ninth most dangerous drugs respectively.

  • Jeff T.

    I am going to disagree on this one. Legalizing most drugs is not a good idea. Drugs affect the person taking them as well as everyone else around them. Some drugs cause flashbacks and other psycho illnesses/traumas. As many recent headlines reveal, drugs taken in the incorrect sequence or dosage could cause death or worse.

    Personally, I have to rely utterly on the soberness and reliability of co-workers in routine life threatening situations and the knowledge that drug use is prohibited is very much appreciated. I understand that Ebon made this disclaimer in the article, but that would lead to the question of who decides which drug is ok— precisely the same situation we have now.

    I am not defending the current system of making tobacco legal and pot illegal. I find the most convincing reason for the current drug policy and ‘war on drugs’ is money making, on both sides of the field. I am also not defining the term drug, but in my opinion, coffee is not in the same category as LSD.

    I would not be opposed to legalizing pot and steriod usage.

    I honestly do not believe that most people could flirt with drug use and not become burdens on society. A proof of this is easy to see—drunk drivers often affect others well being.

  • Jim Baerg

    I’ve long thought that we need something like: Make all drugs that might reasonably be considered addictive a government monopoly. Adjust the price to just below the point where there is a serious black market problem. I would make the smoked form of any drug at least twice as costly as the other forms as a sort of public nuisance tax, since a smoker is inflicting the drug on everyone nearby.

    Perhaps we can placate the drug warriors by keeping them suppressing the remaining black market.

  • Karen

    Given how immediately addictive and powerfully life-altering some drugs are (crystal meth, crack, heroin) I would worry about the affect on society of legalizing every recreational drug.

    Though I don’t want to impose a moral code on others, I do want to minimize the harm that these drugs can cause to someone (particularly a young person) who is highly susceptible to becoming addicted after even one or two uses. Even if their cost was brought down by legalization, many of those drugs put the addict in a state where they are unable to work, hence cannot afford their next dose, hence must commit crimes to buy their supply.

    I realize that people can and do get access to these drugs today illegally, and I understand that some people can use them without becoming addicted, but that doesn’t alleviate all my concerns about blanket legalization. And I actually would include nicotine along with the most dangerously addictive substances. A study came out just last week showing that many teenagers who smoke just one or two cigarettes immediately show signs of addiction.

  • Chet

    I will say, as the child of an alcoholic, that drug use isn’t entirely a personal decision. It does affect the people around you, often profoundly.

    Sure, but some of that effect is circular in nature; i.e., the profound shame that the families of drug users often feel is simply the result of a society that stigmatizes drug use.

    Part of the nature of living together in a civilization is that we all absorb, to some degree, the costs of other people’s life choices – what they choose to eat, who they choose to marry, etc. And they absorb ours. The question is not whether or not drug use has an effect on other people; the question is, is the effect significantly larger than other classes of choice to the degree that it justifies intervention. Given how much of the “drug problem” is simply the result of the legal prohibition, I conclude that, for most drugs, that justification isn’t there.

  • John Gathercole

    I think Universal Utilitarianism is a great moral system and a great service to philosophy and ethics. But I don’t think it requires drug legalization. After all, it states:

    “Minimize actual and potential suffering; Maximize actual and potential happiness.”

    There must be some happiness gained by making our own decisions about something, but UU requires that we weigh that happiness in the balance with potential suffering. I think a lot of people would argue that the potential suffering caused by drug addiction is significant and outweighs the happiness gained by being able to choose to do something dangerous and unwise.

    I think a good parallel is usury laws. If lenders are allowed to lend at usurious interest rates, surely some desperate or shortsighted people will take them up on it, ruining their lives and the lives of those who depend on them. Does the happiness they get from being able to decide to accept a usurious loan outweigh the huge potential suffering that often follows? Right now, at least, our society thinks not, and I think Universal Utilitarianism confirms that decision.

  • Chet

    I think a lot of people would argue that the potential suffering caused by drug addiction is significant and outweighs the happiness gained by being able to choose to do something dangerous and unwise.

    Drug users might disagree. They did, after all, make the choice to begin using the drugs they became addicted to. It’s not clear on what basis the UU claim to know better.

    Almost everybody in America is a “drug user”. Let’s be absolutely clear about that. Even children are using drugs, if they’re old enough to open a can of soda. The choice at issue here isn’t drugs or no drugs; we’ve made that choice in favor of drugs. The decision is which drugs, and from what basis we’re going to say which drugs are ok and which are not.

    Currently the metric is “drugs white men like are ok; drugs black people like are illegal.” I object to that metric, and would prefer one that reflects the potential toxicity and harmful effects. On that basis, there’s no reason for marijuana, ecstasy, and ibogaine to remain prohibited.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    I find it fascinating how the ineffectiveness of the American ‘War on Drugs’ affects the debate here. The truth is, it’s got nothing to do with the debate unless you’re arguing that the ineffective, damaging (classist, racist) drug regulation system can only be removed from its entrenchment in American culture by a dramatic change such as legalisation. But in that case, your argument is pragmatic and applies only in a very specific situation. There’s a difference between a pragmatic argument that rests on the existence of particular legislation and culture in one (notably unique) country in the world and a more generally-applicable argument that looks at the likely consequences of decriminalisation of drug use in general.

    Now, if there are drugs that by their very nature make the user violent or otherwise dangerous, that’s a different story.

    No methamphetamines, in other words. We’ve had some terrible cases of completely irrational, violent crimes caused by methamphetamine usage here in New Zealand that had nothing to do with the illegality of the drug and everything to do with its psychological effects. You can’t decriminalise everything. This means we do still have to have the debate about the best way to regulate an illegal drug. You can’t dodge the whole question of ‘How do we remove the racist, classist, unreasonably punitive elements from our drug use laws?’ by advocating blanket decriminalisation.

    I emphasise this point because, in addition to considering the best pragmatic move in relation to current American drug laws, it also makes sense to ask what the best-case legislation is (given human nature and much broader pragmatic limits). I’m not convinced that continued criminality of some of the more damaging drugs is off the table in that case. I have no hesitation in viewing narcotics, cocaine, cannabis, tobacco and, yes, alcohol as potential social ills whose misuse should be actively discouraged, certainly by education and in some cases also by strong legal restrictions. Having dabbled in the use of alcohol as a mind-altering drug myself, I’m certainly not saying we should advocate a ‘don’t ever use it’ rule in all cases. Cannabis should probably be legal; we should be concerned about it in the same way as alcohol as regards the potential social effects of over-use and in the same way as tobacco as regards its effect on your lungs, but its wise usage for occasional mind alteration isn’t pernicious. On the other hand, I (who am admittedly not an expert) am not sure it’s possible to use narcotics ‘wisely’. Unwise use of drugs which spirals out of the user’s control in some sense doesn’t just affect the user; it’s a social problem. Moreover, someone who is addicted to a drug like heroin just isn’t capable of making the best possible decisions for themselves, and I don’t consider paternalism to be wrong in such a case. If some form of criminalisation would minimise this problem without the associated social ills of the ‘War on Drugs’, well, I’d be for it.

    Note, also, that while the potential social problems of alcohol are large and the addictiveness of tobacco is considerable, it’s the combination of the two that really makes for a drug that should be avoided at all costs.

  • konrad_arflane

    What would we do to a person who chooses to do heroin or some other hard drug while they are pregnant?

    Well, what do we do to someone who drinks regularly while pregnant? The potential harm to the foetus is in the same ball-park, I’d say.

  • javaman

    A topic I know a little bit about. I started smoking cannabis when I was 16. I’ll soon be 56. I’m going to celebrate my 40th anniversary of cannabis culture and consciousness. I have gotten high on an average of 2-3 times a week, and now that I’m retired, every day. I would describe myself as an atheist Zen buddhist backcountry wilderness traveler. I can honestly say that cannabis has saved my life. Coming from a very impoverished childhood with no role models, cannabis helped me to dream and to become the successful person I am. I am not a criminal. I worked as a New York City police officer, an emergency room inner city trauma nurse, a drug counselor, and a high school health education teacher. I have been married for 30 years and have produced two wonderful children who both will in time get their PhDs. I have a lot of friends who smoke, and they are all professionals, pillars of their community, but are on the down low, as I have to be. I think I will vote for Barak Obama based on the following YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpBzQI_7ez8&feature=related

  • http://deleted MisterDomino

    Karen wrote,

    A study came out just last week showing that many teenagers who smoke just one or two cigarettes immediately show signs of addiction.

    I’d be interested to see this study and who had it conducted, as I’m pretty sure it’s bogus. Since I don’t want to re-type the whole argument in this thread, here’s a link to what I mean:

    http://www.forestonline.org/output/Page134.asp

    I’d be careful about all of those “horrors of cigarettes” studies out there, as many of them are funded by anti-smoking lobbies that have a vested interest in turning up evidence of the evils of tobacco, no matter what the truth is. Propaganda is propaganda any way you swing it, and it comes from both sides.

    I had a good friend who conducted a research project into the techniques of those “informative” anti-smoking organizations. You know all those television ads they run, with headlines such as “there are 500,000 deaths annually due to smoking?” He found out that this data is misleading, as it’s collected in a dishonest manner. When they go into hospital records and look up the number of fatalities, if the patient was mentioned to be a smoker – even a casual one – they attribute the death to smoking. It doesn’t matter if the person died in a car accident, they add him to that 500,000 tally.

    I’m not saying that nicotine isn’t addictive; it certainly is. And smoking is certainly very bad for one’s health. Heck, James I wrote A Counterblaste to Tobacco in 1604; it’s been known that smoking is bad for you for over 400 years.

    But coming from a former smoker, it takes time to develop a smoking habit. I didn’t find that I was addicted until after about two years of heavy smoking. It doesn’t make sense that if a teenager doesn’t become an alcoholic after his first drink, they would nevertheless become a nicotine addict after his first cigarette.

    Entomologista wrote:

    I don’t think you can emphasize enough how the war on drugs is really a war on minorities and poor people.

    You don’t know how right you are. This was the quickest link I could find:

    http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/stories/2003/12/22/whyIsMarijuanaIllegal.html

    There have been many studies on this subject. Marijuana was originally criminalized as racist legislation against Mexicans, a move that was furthered by the Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression as an excuse to deport Mexican immigrants who were occupying potential jobs for Americans.

  • Robert Madewell

    No one is really sure how cocaine got into those mummies. Seems that coca is native to the americas and the plant is not indigenous to europe, africa or asia. Maybe, the ancient egyptians were trading with the americas somehow. We may never know.

  • MisterDomino

    Karen wrote:

    A study came out just last week showing that many teenagers who smoke just one or two cigarettes immediately show signs of addiction.

    I’d be interested to see this study and who conducted it, because I have an inkling that it’s bogus. Since I don’t want to re-type the entire argument, here’s a link to what I mean:

    http://www.forestonline.org/output/Page134.asp

    I’d be careful about all the “horrors of cigarettes” studies out there; many of them are done by anti-smoking lobbies that have a vested interest in presenting evidence about the evils of tobacco, regardless of the facts. Propaganda is propaganda any way you swing it, and it can go in both directions.

    I have a close friend who undertook a study examining the techniques of these groups in conducting their surveys. I’m sure you’ve seen the television commercials that many of them run, the ones with the slogans such as “500,000 people die each year as a result of smoking,” and so forth.

    What he discovered was that those statistics are intentionally misleading, as the data is manipulated to augment the numbers. When hospital fatality records are examined, if the patient was mentioned to be a smoker – even a casual one – they attributed the death to smoking. It didn’t even matter if the person died in a car accident, they would chalk him up as a smoking death.

    I’m not saying that nicotine isn’t addictive; it certainly is. And I’m not saying that smoking isn’t bad for one’s health. Heck, James I published A Counterblaste to Tobacco in 1604, so the dangers of smoking have been known for over 400 years. But coming from a former smoker, it takes time to develop a habit. I didn’t become addicted myself until after at least a year of heavy smoking at regular intervals.

    It seems illogical to me that if a teenager doesn’t become an alcoholic after his first beer, he nevertheless becomes a nicotine addict after his first cigarette.

    Entomologista wrote:

    I don’t think you can emphasize enough how the war on drugs is really a war on minorities and poor people.

    You don’t know how right you are. Here’s the quickest link I could find on the subject:

    http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/stories/2003/12/22/whyIsMarijuanaIllegal.html

    Numerous studies have been conducted regarding this topic. Marijuana was originally criminalized as racist legislation directed toward Mexicans. Under the Roosevelt administration, the federal government took a similar approach during the Great Depression as an excuse to deport Mexican immigrants who were seen as “stealing” American jobs.

  • Robert Madewell

    hey, sorry. You said Andean mummies. lol. I thought you were refering to the egyptian mummies that were found with trace amounts of cocaine.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Samuel Skinner brings up a superb piece of evidence in that Baltimore Sun article, which I would’ve mentioned myself if he hadn’t beaten me to it. Both per capita and in absolute terms, the U.S. imprisons more people than any other country in the world. Astonishingly, we even beat out China, which has more than three times our population and is a repressive dictatorship. Naturally, most of these inmates (around 70% in Maryland, according to the article) are non-violent drug offenders.

    This unbelievable statistic should cause even the most jaded politician to realize the futility of our mindless, senseless “tough-on-crime” ethos. If imprisonment was a solution to the “war on drugs,” we’d have won that war long ago. No matter how many people we put in jail, that method is never going to stop drug abuse, and by keeping it illegal we’re only fueling the criminal enterprises that stand to profit in the absence of a legitimate market.

  • hb531

    @Javaman: You rock! My dad has smoked for many years, and he seems fine. He also had a very successful wall street friend who lit up too, and he retired at 40. Marijuana is an incredible plant, not only for the drug THC, but also for hemp, hemp oil, and many other reasons. Imagine an economy where paper is made from hemp, cars run on organic hemp biofuel, and you can go to a smoke shop for some nice bud. Amsterdam, anyone?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    We’ve had some terrible cases of completely irrational, violent crimes caused by methamphetamine usage here in New Zealand that had nothing to do with the illegality of the drug and everything to do with its psychological effects. You can’t decriminalise everything.

    Point well taken, Lynet. (The U.S. has had a terrible rash of methamphetamine-related crimes in recent years also, especially out in the west.) I agree that there are some drugs that are so intrinsically dangerous that society has a vested interest in putting a stop to their use. The only question, to my mind, is whether outlawing those drugs is the best way to go about it.

    So far, I haven’t seen evidence persuading me of the effectiveness of this policy. As an interim measure, I could probably be persuaded that we should make and enforce laws against those who brew and manufacture the drug. Dealing with the ordinary users is a more difficult problem. Of course, if they become violent or otherwise commit crimes, they need to be imprisoned and treated; this is true for both legal and illegal drugs, obviously. For those who aren’t violent, however, could it be possible that setting up official distribution centers for the drug might be the most effective solution? If there was a legal channel of distribution, it would drive the criminals out of business; it would reduce the danger to the public from meth labs; and it would make it easier to supervise addicts, keep them under observation, and get them into treatment.

  • javaman

    hb531,
    Thanks. I failed to mention I can do a sub-1 hour 10K, with hills, and I’m training for my first marathon this summer.

  • MisterDomino

    Ah crap, did I post that twice?

    Sorry everyone, my computer’s on the fritz today.

  • Alex Weaver

    Re Jeff T. and others:

    You’d think by now that people would have stopped offering arguments against your position that are based on the implicit premise that criminalizing drugs actually stops people from using them.

  • Alex Weaver

    Err, by “your position” I mean Ebon’s. Need to edit more carefully. x.x

  • Alex Weaver

    So far, I haven’t seen evidence persuading me of the effectiveness of this policy. As an interim measure, I could probably be persuaded that we should make and enforce laws against those who brew and manufacture the drug. Dealing with the ordinary users is a more difficult problem. Of course, if they become violent or otherwise commit crimes, they need to be imprisoned and treated; this is true for both legal and illegal drugs, obviously. For those who aren’t violent, however, could it be possible that setting up official distribution centers for the drug might be the most effective solution? If there was a legal channel of distribution, it would drive the criminals out of business; it would reduce the danger to the public from meth labs; and it would make it easier to supervise addicts, keep them under observation, and get them into treatment.

    Another good idea might be to limit the quantity that could be obtained from the distribution system over a given time period.

  • Eric

    Ebon,

    In regards to your last post responding to Lynet (and agreed, Lynet – point well taken), isn’t there something in between all or nothing? Meaning, we know that current and previous ooicies and laws simply have not worked. Couldn’t it be better to say, okaylet’s take the next X years and try something new. If it doesn;t work, we go back to the status quo and rethink the strategies. A temporary suspension of criminal law and having yoru mentioned distribution centers, Tx centers and such and then do a series of studies determining the effecacy of the new methods?

  • random guy

    The problem with the “some drugs are so dangerous” argument is that it assumes that upon legalization the quality of drugs will remain exactly the same.

    The worst drugs, like heroin and crack, all have less addictive and less dangerous versions. Opium and coca leaves have been used by primitive cultures for thousands of years, and with almost none of the horrible side effects of their modern variants. Both crack and heroin are peddled by drug dealers who take an expensive recreational drug and turn it into a highly addictive cheap(er) one. These particular drugs exist as direct result of the illegality of their parent substances. In other words, in a world where cocaine is legal no one would ever want to consume, and no company would be willing to produce, a substance as destructive as crack.

    In fact caffeine only came into wide usage after cocaine was made illegal. Cocaine was better at maintaining high energy levels without crashing lows. Caffeine requires a more steady rate of consumption, and in greater quantities, than cocaine. Of course this refers to much smaller dosages of cocaine than is consumed by most recreational users today. Its similar to how after prohibition beer was scarce, but moonshine flourished.

    Its also interesting to note that the two groups most interested in pushing through the income tax and prohibition, were the communists and religious conservatives of the early twentieth century. Both groups disdained the idea of individuals being accountable for their wealth and wellbeing. Its sad that some extremists from nearly a century ago completely sold out the rights of the individual that were included in the constitution, and that four generations later we’re still suffering from their shortsighted beliefs.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Random guy, that’s an interesting point about less damaging forms, if true. However, I think tobacco companies prove that legal drug merchants also prefer to use shady methods of getting people addicted. I do think that having less damaging drugs around that are easier to access can reduce the possibility that people will use the more damaging varieties. However, I think expecting heroin and crack and such to just disappear if less powerful versions are available is unrealistic. Heroin has been around for a long time; it didn’t just develop after recreational narcotics became illegal.

    As an interim measure, I could probably be persuaded that we should make and enforce laws against those who brew and manufacture the drug.

    Why ‘interim’? Do you think that, if it’s merely tightly restricted, there won’t be a black market for it? I don’t. We’re stuck with drug regulation laws of some sort, and people are always going to break them, and we’re stuck with that, too. I agree with targeting producers over users, though.

    I disagree with Alex’s comment:

    You’d think by now that people would have stopped offering arguments against your position that are based on the implicit premise that criminalizing drugs actually stops people from using them.

    Then let me make the premise explicit. Yes, I think making a drug illegal will reduce the number of people who use it, if only because there are many people who are less likely to do something stupid if they know that it’s also illegal. There’s a limit to the extent to which greater enforcement can stop recreational drug usage, and America appears to be many times over that limit, but this is not the same as saying that there should be no laws and no enforcement.

    For those who aren’t violent, however, could it be possible that setting up official distribution centers for the drug might be the most effective solution? If there was a legal channel of distribution, it would drive the criminals out of business; it would reduce the danger to the public from meth labs; and it would make it easier to supervise addicts, keep them under observation, and get them into treatment.

    It’s not a bad idea. Didn’t they try that in the Netherlands or somewhere with heroin? Hey, if it reduces the problem, do it.

    I suspect I still differ from some of you, though, in that I do think that drugs which are both highly addictive and seriously impair people’s ability to function are sufficiently dangerous that we should be trying to stop people from using them by whatever means necessary. If people think the principle of personal freedom is too important to bend in this case, I might be willing to advocate only the criminalisation of selling and manufacturing heroin and such, on grounds that giving it to other people is damaging them, not only yourself. I’m not sure, though. I suspect that people in general will be happier if it’s harder to slide into debilitating heroin addiction, and maybe having (smaller) penalties for usage is an important part of keeping the use of highly damaging drugs out of the general culture.

  • TEP

    I think psychoactive drugs should be treated in the exact same manner as other drugs such as aspirin. I don’t believe in the blanket legalisation of all drugs; rather psychoactive drugs should be subject to the same safety criteria as all others in order to be legally sold. So while the likes of cocaine and heroin shouldn’t be legalised, what should be allowed is for pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs with the same effect, but without the side-effects and addictiveness. By putting psychoactive drugs in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies rather than the black market, there is a greater incentive for these drugs to be made safe – after all, the people making black market drugs don’t generally tend to worry about being sued should someone suffer ill effects from their product. People who wish to use psychoactive drugs should be allowed to do so as safely as possible, and by encouraging research into making drugs safer, this form of drug legalisation would probably save many lives. By keeping drugs illegal, all this means is that people will continue to use the same old, obsolete and dangerous drugs. What it guarantees is that psychoactive drugs will remain dangerous, because there will be little if any technological progress in their design. Such a situation is as ridiculous as it would be if women today still used thalidomide to cure warning sickness, because nobody was allowed to develop safer alternatives.

    The other benefit of a legalised drug industry would be that you could encourage more responsible drug usage by requiring a prescription from a person’s physician in order to buy drugs. The physician would be able to advise the user on safe usage, and would also be able to avoid prescribing other drugs which may lead to dangerous drug interactions. If someone has a medical condition pre-disposing them to adverse effects from a particular drug, the physician would be able to prescribe alternatives. The physician would be able to use their access to the person’s medical history in order to ensure that the chances of the patient taking drugs which have detrimental effects on them will be minimised.

  • James B

    When people are talking of harm are they talking about the average harm done to an individual who uses a drug or the total harm to all users of it? Surely:

    Total harm = “Average harm caused by activity” x “Number of people engaged in that activity”

    Secondly, the questions raised above seem similar in some ways to the question of whether seatbelt usage in cars should be enforced by law. If given total personal freedom a person may choose the convenience of not wearing a seatbelt, saying “Well I’m not gonna crash, I’ve never crashed before and I’m a good driver.”. In much of mainland Europe, for a passenger to put their seatbelt on is seen as an insult to the driver! Yet seat belts do save lives, even of “good” drivers. The accident may not be their fault.

    My opinion is that we have a responsibility to do everything we can to encourage people to wear seatbelts. If laws insisting that the do so means some people wear seatbelts who would not have done so otherwise then surely they are worthwhile?

    Furthermore, as far as I’m aware, going without a seatbelt doesn’t impair your judgement or cause you to have an increased preference for not wearing a seatbelt.

    Throwing people in prison for not wearing a seatbelt is unlikely to help (neither intuitively nor in practice) and anyway in prison they can sit around all day not wearing a seatbelt! ;-)

    However, if someone was producing cars without seatbelts then I think we’d have some justification for throwing them in prison. OK, this analogy has gone on long enough… I’m sure there are some important differences that someone will be quick to point out.

    Isn’t the question which needs to be answered here whether the total harm, personal, social, economic etc. is less for a particular substance when it is made legal than when it is illegal? I think that’s quite a hard thing to measure even if you motives are honest – and in my experience both sides have been known to distort the evidence on this question.

  • Karen

    I’d be interested to see this study and who conducted it, because I have an inkling that it’s bogus.

    It was published in The Journal of Family Practice by Dr. Joseph R. DiFranza, a family health and community medicine specialist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. The New York Times science section, as well as some other media outlets, reported on it last week.

    In terms of your own experience with addiction, it seems that people have widely varying physical and psychological propensities for addiction. My mother-in-law, for instance, recounts that she smoked one or two cigarettes a week during the 50s and 60s because it was the “sophisticated” thing to do at a party. She never craved nicotine and never became a regular smoker. When evidence came to light about the ill effects of smoking, she never touched another cigarette and had no withdrawal.

    Obviously, she was one of the lucky few! But just because some people can do that doesn’t negate the idea that for others there’s a very high risk of dangerously quick addiction.

    I suspect I still differ from some of you, though, in that I do think that drugs which are both highly addictive and seriously impair people’s ability to function are sufficiently dangerous that we should be trying to stop people from using them by whatever means necessary.

    I basically agree with you, although I’d be cautious about the “whatever means necessary” part. Imprisoning drug users definitely does not seem effective and loads up the prisons unnecessarily. But I do think that those high-addictive, high-impairment drugs have to be controlled somehow, and if they are made available to already-addicted persons legally (perhaps not a bad idea) there has to be a massive educational effort aimed at stopping others from getting addicted in the first place. There are dual memoirs out right now written by a father and his addicted son. The story of the son’s meth addiction is just downright horrific – nothing any parent would want their child to go through.

    I started smoking cannabis when I was 16. I’ll soon be 56. I’m going to celebrate my 40th anniversary of cannabis culture and consciousness. I have gotten high on an average of 2-3 times a week, and now that I’m retired, every day.

    I never tried the stuff, myself. (Hey, I was a fundy Christian, I didn’t do anything rebellious!) But coincidentally to this conversation, I happened to catch part of “Reefer Madness” on the IFC channel last night. I had heard about it, but didn’t realize it was an actual full-length movie from the 1930s. I thought it was one of those short health filmstrips shown in schools in the 1950s. It was a real hoot! ;-)

  • Chet

    But just because some people can do that doesn’t negate the idea that for others there’s a very high risk of dangerously quick addiction.

    Then that would seem to support the treatment-oriented drug policy, where we recognize that addiction is an organic characteristic of the addicted person, not an intrinsic physical property of the drug.

  • MisterDomino

    Karen,

    I was actually referring specifically to a copy of the scientific report itself, but now that I think about it, I’m not sure that would be readily available online. Thanks for the NY Times link, though; I hadn’t read the story.

    The one problem I have with the article is the lack of hard scientific and medical evidence to back up the study. From what was described, it seemed more like a sociological or psychological survey than a medical research project, and the results seem at least a bit circumspect. The article itself mentioned that addiction symptoms (which are common enough to be caused by factors other than nicotine withdrawal) were only found in 30% of the teenagers tested, meaning that the other 70% did not. I don’t see that as conclusive evidence.

    Here’s a review of that study that I found by Googling Dr. DiFranza’s name. It seems to have some legitimate criticisms:

    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/eletters/120/4/e974

    This study does prove what you say about varying physical resistance to addiction, but it seems that in this study, a deviating result is being presented as standard. I think that this is misleading.

    There’s also an inherent bias. In regards to one of DiFranza’s secondhand smoke studies, one man wrote this:

    I visited the web site of the financing organization, the Robert Wood Johnson foundation, and saw that they have an anti-tobacco agenda, but they weren’t very specific about it and it didn’t appear to be too extreme. But a few days later, while researching a related subject I learned that they had donated ten million dollars to eighteen states to lobby for higher tobacco taxes in 1995, the year before the study was published. I then discovered they’ve spent over 100 million dollars on anti-tobacco programs and studies. The source of their funds is five billion (yes billion) dollars worth of Johnson and Johnson stock. Every time someone buys one of J&Js patches, inhalers, nicotine gum, etc., it literally puts money in their pocket. Suddenly, their position of as the sole financier of the report took on a much greater significance. A bit more digging revealed that Dr. DiFranza, the author of the report, had been an anti-smoking activist for at least six years before he wrote this study. He advocates taking custody away from smoking parents. Is it likely that a report created by a crusading anti-smoking activist and funded by an ardent anti-smoking organization might be just a little bit predisposed to finding that SHS was a horrible, deadly, evil thing?
    http://www.davehitt.com/facts/agendas.html

    DiFranza also claimed that smoking in movies is more common today than it was in the 50’s and 60’s. This I don’t buy for one second. Most movies from that era have most of the characters smoking in every scene. Today, characters in movies only smoke when it’s relative to their character image, such as that of an outlaw or a “tough guy,” and it’s always portrayed in a negative way. Most times another character, seeing someone smoking, will pipe in with a line such as “You know, those will kill you.”

    This is why I tend to be skeptical about any of these studies, but granted that tobacco companies have been even more devious about fabricating scientific studies and attempting to discredit research detrimental to their business.

    Once again, though, these are assertions that I’m making without having seen the actual research report and lab results. I think what studies such as this prove is that addiction is based more upon human mental/chemical composition and genetics than the substances themselves.

    Hope this wasn’t going too off topic. ;)

  • Eric

    YEARS ago when I was a university student, I smoked heavily. I was smoking about two packs a day of Camel Lights. Then after about two years of that I woke up and said, this iss ridiculous, I wheeze when walking up a flight of satirs, and just quit. Cold Turkey. Done. And I had a rough week and that was it. I have not had an urge or inkling since then and it has been 17 years now. And again, I was smoking heavily for about two years.

    So maybe I am not wired for addiction? And on a side note, also in those crazy chemical-addled days, I had what I realized was becoming a LARGE cocaine habit. And the same thing, I realized it was creating turmoil and simply quit. Cold trukey. No rehab. No 12 step. So, there are cases where addiction does not take hold. But maybe my genetics are wired against addiction?

    Who knows.

  • http://fromwembleypark.typepad.com Lyn

    Atheists are better than this article portrays them. Most atheists have a sense of personal responsibility for one’s actions.

    Drug use blurs moral judgment and personal responsibility. Society is right to tell people not to use illegal drugs and to penalize them when they do. Why? Because society knows from experience that people who choose to use illegal drugs make other lifestyle choices that harm other people. Illegal drug use leads to addiction. Addicts lose the ability to function in normal jobs, and they have to find other ways to earn money. Many addicts turn to prostitution, shoplifting, burglary, and robbery. Some drug addicts commit crimes like embezzlement and insurance fraud.

    And don’t tell me about recreational drug use. That is still wrong and can lead to addiction. And it still supports drug dealing and drug smuggling – 2 destructive criminal acts that undermine society.

  • Eric

    Lyn,

    Your thoughts and opinions are quite outdated and have been shown time and time again to be inccorect and flase.

    Recreational drug use is not “wrong” anymore than the recreational use of porn is wrong. Your argument of “it leads to drug smuggling and dealing” also falls by the wayside when confronted with REGULATING the industry. What do you think liquor stores are? Or pharmacies? Those destructive criminal acts you speak of would go away with the legalization of “illegal” drugs.

    Time to enter the 21st century.

  • Alex Weaver

    Atheists are better than this article portrays them. Most atheists have a sense of personal responsibility for one’s actions.

    Most atheists are intelligent enough not to confuse disagreeing with them about what personal responsibility entails with lacking a sense of it. I’m sorry that you aren’t.

    Drug use blurs moral judgment and personal responsibility. Society is right to tell people not to use illegal drugs and to penalize them when they do. Why? Because society knows from experience that people who choose to use illegal drugs make other lifestyle choices that harm other people. Illegal drug use leads to addiction. Addicts lose the ability to function in normal jobs, and they have to find other ways to earn money. Many addicts turn to prostitution, shoplifting, burglary, and robbery. Some drug addicts commit crimes like embezzlement and insurance fraud.

    Three questions.

    1) has criminalizing drugs stopped any of the evils you’re decrying?
    2) have you even considered the possibility that the very illegality of these drugs is the driving force behind some of the evils you’re decrying?
    3) have you even considered the possibility that the other evils might well be mitigated if drug addicts were able to seek help without having to worry about being thrown in prison for identifying themselves as drug users?

  • shifty

    I suppose we shouldn’t discount the positive contributions of recreational drug use to society. Rennaisance and impressionist art, music and literature have all had users and abusers interpret and shape the way we view the world and have left us richer for it.

  • Cheistopher

    Lyn,

    “Drug use blurs moral judgment and personal responsibility. Society is right to tell people not to use illegal drugs and to penalize them when they do. Why? Because society knows from experience that people who choose to use illegal drugs make other lifestyle choices that harm other people.”

    Oh yes, and the existing social order always knows what’s best, right? I mean, they’d *never* use their power to wage a personal vendetta against the things the perceive as “evil” simply to elevate themselves in the eyes of plebeans – thus causing them to place more trust in them than they deserve – would they?

    Societies do what they see as being in their own interests, not those of the residents within it…

  • James B

    Surely if a person can’t stick their hand up and say, “I’d like to get off drugs” without fear of legal repercussions there’s something going wrong.

    I suppose we shouldn’t discount the positive contributions of recreational drug use to society. Rennaisance and impressionist art, music and literature have all had users and abusers interpret and shape the way we view the world and have left us richer for it.

    To be consistent we should also thank schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

  • Wayne Essel

    From reading other areas where Ebonmuse has commented on morality, I am surprised that the conclusion here is that recreational use of drugs is moral (if I read this correctly). I agree that the war on drugs is an abysmal failure, as is the case with the war on illegal immigration. However, I still think that to make a choice that puts oneself on a slippery slope to loss of self control and making oneself a ward of society as a result of poor choices is immoral. There is a fine line here, dependent upon the nature and nuturing of the individual that governs the point of no return (or the point of return only with assistance of others). It would be very easy for a person to overestimate their ability and lose it, resulting in a life of addiction, thereby making themselves into a burden on family or society.

    I think government should avoid the legislation of morality as a generality. And because of the state of evolution of humans, it is necessary to legislate SOME morality to level the playing field.

    I would not call ALL recreational drug use immoral, however I believe that caution is advised and MOST persons would be wise to avoid it as SOME recreational drug use can be immoral. Last comment refers to the end result of addiction/dependence. So if it COULD be immoral, I would consider treating the entire topic as potentially immoral.

    I know that I would not want my kids experimenting with anything of the sort while they are minors. For the most part, we were successful in that regard.

    I absolutely am in favor of decriminalization of most drug related offences for users, perhaps with the exception of violent offences related to trafficking.

    My two cents…

  • Barbie

    I was just looking for information for my uni studies here in Australia on Drugs in Society, and I happen to come across your site, must of mean’t to happen this way.

    Anyway I would like to comment that no matter what our opinions or anyones opinions are on the illicit or licit means of recreational drugs or drug users, everyone in their life time have taken drugs, and as for trying to find solutions on these serious matters only because they are affecting millions of populations health, we cannot win in the arguement of legalising drugs such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis and the like as the bl..dy governments are making billions from every source we think is going to give us pleasure now and then, the bl..dy (excuse my language)world is in a mess because of all these things being enticed to the masses to try, it is getting out of control even trying to find solutions to stop it. It would never work out for the better of man, because the world is corrupt anyway. I wish that it could be a better place for all of us, but it just is not and never will be unless a miracle happened to get rid of governments who say they are helping the populations when they know they have the power over tax payers.

    When you get someone that comes along to try and make a difference and is genuine, they seem to disappear of the face of the earth, because the rich don’t want it that way, they think of the billions of dollars they can make through the means of tax payers who spend their money into gambling, illegal drugs and many more issues I could go on about. The working class peoples of the world are production lines for the higher class and their selfish greed and yet they are never happy with all the money in the world.

    I would prefer to be the ominus one and keep going against the status quo, because they do not do anything for the working class people of this world. It happens globally.

  • Alex Weaver

    Barbie, while your post does address some genuine problems, it’s a rather striking example of “counting cubing the misses and forgetting the hits.”

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    Sigh, as inevitable as it is with any other site, finally here is the article that I disagree with. As you can see by the titles in my name, I am well versed at working with addicted people of many types. Thus, I would consider myself to have a reasonable level of expertise in this matter. I would like to begin by saying that this argument cannot be decided by opinions, armchair philosophies (including morality/ethics), or individual personal experiences with a particular drug. What must be taken into consideration are the same elements that fuel our collective atheism: mainly empirical data.

    For example, there is a bias to view alcohol as an acceptable or “softer” drug. Perhaps this is due to the fact that its use is legal. However, the human body has no ability to distinguish legal drugs from illegal ones, and alcohol is anything but “soft” on the body and the brain. Where one is more likely to overdose on heroine or crack cocaine, the withdrawal from these drugs is not very lethal at all. However, while one can die from overdosing on alcohol, this person can die just as easily by detoxing (the process of the drug metabolizing and leaving the system). In other words, alcohol is as deadly going out as it is coming in. Consider also, that while stimulants, narcotics, and many other drugs affect distinct parts of the body, the “soft” drugs alcohol and marijuana are the only two (aside from certain inhalants) to cause harm to the whole body on a cellular level.

    This knowledge is not popularly known, and this is understandable as not everybody spends the time to become a pharmacologist. However, the physical effects aren’t important to consider since they only affect the individual and not society and it only happens gradually right? Well, considering Medicare, medical insurance, and their costs to taxpayers, one might be more likely to reevaluate allowing poor-decision makers to have the privilege to damage their bodies in this way.

    http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa11.htm
    http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/may98/nida-13.htm

    There is no questioning that treatment works and that the War on Drugs does not. http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:xct3x8zP13oJ:www.pacdaa.org/pacdaa/lib/pacdaa/IRETA_main__Facts_About_Addiction.doc

    Whether decriminalization is the correct answer or not should be left up to evidence and reason as opposed to speculation and personal experimentation. It is always interesting to see logical atheists, for example, attempt to persuade others that marijuana is okay by explaining that the dangers of tobacco are worse. Wouldn’t the more logical conclusion be that both are bad? Even if marijuana is the lesser of two evils, does that in turn make it an acceptable evil?

    I am expecting there to be the typical picking and choosing ritual following this post; by that, I mean that only select bits and pieces of this post will be argued against and thus the entirety will be viewed as refuted. This is a logical fallacy. I bring this up as it is easy for this generation to fall victim to this fallacy as we see the types of propaganda and brainwashing that previous generations were subjected to (such as Reefer Madness lol). However, we are in danger of moving to the opposite extreme (propaganda and brainwashing that drugs are acceptable and/or harmless to society).

    The mere fact that this is a community that freely thinks is marvelous. Now, apply the same level of scrutiny to your beliefs about pro/anti drug use that you consistently do about theism.

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    Sigh, as inevitable as it is with any other site, finally here is the article that I disagree with. As you can see by the titles in my name, I am well versed at working with addicted people of many types. Thus, I would consider myself to have a reasonable level of expertise in this matter. I would like to begin by saying that this argument cannot be decided by opinions, armchair philosophies (including morality/ethics), or individual personal experiences with a particular drug. What must be taken into consideration are the same elements that fuel our collective atheism: mainly empirical data.

    For example, there is a bias to view alcohol as an acceptable or “softer” drug. Perhaps this is due to the fact that its use is legal. However, the human body has no ability to distinguish legal drugs from illegal ones, and alcohol is anything but “soft” on the body and the brain. Where one is more likely to overdose on heroine or crack cocaine, the withdrawal from these drugs is not very lethal at all. However, while one can die from overdosing on alcohol, this person can die just as easily by detoxing (the process of the drug metabolizing and leaving the system). In other words, alcohol is as deadly going out as it is coming in. Consider also, that while stimulants, narcotics, and many other drugs affect distinct parts of the body, the “soft” drugs alcohol and marijuana are the only two (aside from certain inhalants) to cause harm to the whole body on a cellular level.

    This knowledge is not popularly known, and this is understandable as not everybody spends the time to become a pharmacologist. However, the physical effects aren’t important to consider since they only affect the individual and not society and it only happens gradually right? Well, considering Medicare, medical insurance, and their costs to taxpayers, one might be more likely to reevaluate allowing poor-decision makers to have the privilege to damage their bodies in this way.

    http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa11.htm
    http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/may98/nida-13.htm

    There is no questioning that treatment works and that the War on Drugs does not. http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:xct3x8zP13oJ:www.pacdaa.org/pacdaa/lib/pacdaa/IRETA_main__Facts_About_Addiction.doc

    Whether decriminalization is the correct answer or not should be left up to evidence and reason as opposed to speculation and personal experimentation. It is always interesting to see logical atheists, for example, attempt to persuade others that marijuana is okay by explaining that the dangers of tobacco are worse. Wouldn’t the more logical conclusion be that both are bad? Even if marijuana is the lesser of two evils, does that in turn make it an acceptable evil?

    I am expecting there to be the typical picking and choosing ritual following this post; by that, I mean that only select bits and pieces of this post will be argued against and thus the entirety will be viewed as refuted. This is a logical fallacy. I bring this up as it is easy for this generation to fall victim to this fallacy as we see the types of propaganda and brainwashing that previous generations were subjected to (such as Reefer Madness lol). However, we are in danger of moving to the opposite extreme (propaganda and brainwashing that drugs are acceptable and/or harmless to society).

    The mere fact that this is a community that freely thinks is marvelous. Now, apply the same level of scrutiny to your beliefs about pro/anti drug use that you consistently do about theism.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Joe,

    It is always interesting to see logical atheists, for example, attempt to persuade others that marijuana is okay by explaining that the dangers of tobacco are worse. Wouldn’t the more logical conclusion be that both are bad?

    You seem to have missed the part of my post where I say exactly that:

    I, personally, think drug use is ill-advised, and I would discourage others from trying it. (I feel the same way about football or boxing, in fact.)

    Your comment seems to be attacking a position I don’t hold. I’m not saying that drugs aren’t potentially harmful; I’m saying that that fact alone does not constitute good reason for society to ban them. The purpose of my bringing up alcohol and tobacco use was to point out that society already accepts this logic in at least some cases.

    However, the physical effects aren’t important to consider since they only affect the individual and not society and it only happens gradually right? Well, considering Medicare, medical insurance, and their costs to taxpayers, one might be more likely to reevaluate allowing poor-decision makers to have the privilege to damage their bodies in this way.

    This is an extremely worrying argument. Are you saying that anything you do which might drive up my health-insurance premiums or cause me to pay higher taxes should be banned? If that is a valid concern, again, returning to my post, why don’t we also ban sports? Thousands of people injure themselves playing sports every year. Why don’t we ban unhealthy foods like sugar and red meat and force everyone to eat a vegetarian diet? Why don’t we ban TV watching and institute mandatory exercise? (We could give it a catchy name, like “Physical Jerks”). Once you conclude that the state has a right to protect people from themselves, rather than just protecting them from others, where does it end and why?

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    I, personally, think drug use is ill-advised, and I would discourage others from trying it. (I feel the same way about football or boxing, in fact.)

    [quote]Your comment seems to be attacking a position I don’t hold. I’m not saying that drugs aren’t potentially harmful; I’m saying that that fact alone does not constitute good reason for society to ban them. The purpose of my bringing up alcohol and tobacco use was to point out that society already accepts this logic in at least some cases.[/quote]

    I did not say that.

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    I, personally, think drug use is ill-advised, and I would discourage others from trying it. (I feel the same way about football or boxing, in fact.)

    [quote]Your comment seems to be attacking a position I don’t hold. I’m not saying that drugs aren’t potentially harmful; I’m saying that that fact alone does not constitute good reason for society to ban them. The purpose of my bringing up alcohol and tobacco use was to point out that society already accepts this logic in at least some cases.[/quote]

    I did not say that.

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    What is the benefit of using drugs or alcohol?

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    What is the benefit of using drugs or alcohol?

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    However, the physical effects aren’t important to consider since they only affect the individual and not society and it only happens gradually right? Well, considering Medicare, medical insurance, and their costs to taxpayers, one might be more likely to reevaluate allowing poor-decision makers to have the privilege to damage their bodies in this way.

    This is an extremely worrying argument. Are you saying that anything you do which might drive up my health-insurance premiums or cause me to pay higher taxes should be banned? If that is a valid concern, again, returning to my post, why don’t we also ban sports? Thousands of people injure themselves playing sports every year. Why don’t we ban unhealthy foods like sugar and red meat and force everyone to eat a vegetarian diet? Why don’t we ban TV watching and institute mandatory exercise? (We could give it a catchy name, like “Physical Jerks”). Once you conclude that the state has a right to protect people from themselves, rather than just protecting them from others, where does it end and why?

    I would agree that I did not sufficiently make this point. It does seem interesting that a society would reject some potentially harmful things such as certain drugs, certain foods, certain firearms, certain sports and yet would allow other drugs, foods, firearms, and sports to be used or practiced freely. Where do we draw the line?

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    However, the physical effects aren’t important to consider since they only affect the individual and not society and it only happens gradually right? Well, considering Medicare, medical insurance, and their costs to taxpayers, one might be more likely to reevaluate allowing poor-decision makers to have the privilege to damage their bodies in this way.

    This is an extremely worrying argument. Are you saying that anything you do which might drive up my health-insurance premiums or cause me to pay higher taxes should be banned? If that is a valid concern, again, returning to my post, why don’t we also ban sports? Thousands of people injure themselves playing sports every year. Why don’t we ban unhealthy foods like sugar and red meat and force everyone to eat a vegetarian diet? Why don’t we ban TV watching and institute mandatory exercise? (We could give it a catchy name, like “Physical Jerks”). Once you conclude that the state has a right to protect people from themselves, rather than just protecting them from others, where does it end and why?

    I would agree that I did not sufficiently make this point. It does seem interesting that a society would reject some potentially harmful things such as certain drugs, certain foods, certain firearms, certain sports and yet would allow other drugs, foods, firearms, and sports to be used or practiced freely. Where do we draw the line?

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    If you want a good argument to legalize narcotics, note that a vast portion of the world’s illegal narcotics (opioid and opiate) come from Afghanistan. Where do the profits from illegal sales go? Much of it ends up in the hands of the extremist group known as the Taliban.

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    If you want a good argument to legalize narcotics, note that a vast portion of the world’s illegal narcotics (opioid and opiate) come from Afghanistan. Where do the profits from illegal sales go? Much of it ends up in the hands of the extremist group known as the Taliban.

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    It is always interesting to see logical atheists, for example, attempt to persuade others that marijuana is okay by explaining that the dangers of tobacco are worse. Wouldn’t the more logical conclusion be that both are bad?

    You seem to have missed the part of my post where I say exactly that:

    It seemed that you came to the opposite conclusion that both should be allowed though. Perhaps I misunderstand you.

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    It is always interesting to see logical atheists, for example, attempt to persuade others that marijuana is okay by explaining that the dangers of tobacco are worse. Wouldn’t the more logical conclusion be that both are bad?

    You seem to have missed the part of my post where I say exactly that:

    It seemed that you came to the opposite conclusion that both should be allowed though. Perhaps I misunderstand you.

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    Surely if a person can’t stick their hand up and say, “I’d like to get off drugs” without fear of legal repercussions there’s something going wrong.

    Treatment is available to anybody who would like to “get off drugs” without legal punishment (at least in the states).

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    Surely if a person can’t stick their hand up and say, “I’d like to get off drugs” without fear of legal repercussions there’s something going wrong.

    Treatment is available to anybody who would like to “get off drugs” without legal punishment (at least in the states).

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    1) has criminalizing drugs stopped any of the evils you’re decrying?

    For many people it has. The issue seems to be if it is worth the high price that falls on taxpayers.

    2) have you even considered the possibility that the very illegality of these drugs is the driving force behind some of the evils you’re decrying?

    Unfortunately, in many cases the illegality may be a factor. However, the types of crimes that this member has described are also committed by people who are supporting gambling and alcohol addictions (both of which are legal).

    3) have you even considered the possibility that the other evils might well be mitigated if drug addicts were able to seek help without having to worry about being thrown in prison for identifying themselves as drug users?

    Again, see my post above. There are numerous resources for people. One should never have to worry about being turned in to authorities. Even better, treatment is extremely confidential. In fact, confidentiality laws are much more strict for counselors who work with addiction suffering clients that with mental health patients.

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    1) has criminalizing drugs stopped any of the evils you’re decrying?

    For many people it has. The issue seems to be if it is worth the high price that falls on taxpayers.

    2) have you even considered the possibility that the very illegality of these drugs is the driving force behind some of the evils you’re decrying?

    Unfortunately, in many cases the illegality may be a factor. However, the types of crimes that this member has described are also committed by people who are supporting gambling and alcohol addictions (both of which are legal).

    3) have you even considered the possibility that the other evils might well be mitigated if drug addicts were able to seek help without having to worry about being thrown in prison for identifying themselves as drug users?

    Again, see my post above. There are numerous resources for people. One should never have to worry about being turned in to authorities. Even better, treatment is extremely confidential. In fact, confidentiality laws are much more strict for counselors who work with addiction suffering clients that with mental health patients.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    It does seem interesting that a society would reject some potentially harmful things such as certain drugs, certain foods, certain firearms, certain sports and yet would allow other drugs, foods, firearms, and sports to be used or practiced freely. Where do we draw the line?

    That’s a question for you, not for me. I’ve already explained my position: the state should have the power to protect people from each other, but not to protect people from themselves. If you’re proposing something different, it’s incumbent on you to explain where the limits on that power should be and why. It won’t do to just throw up your hands and say, “Gosh, that’s an interesting question, how should I know?” If you have a coherent political philosophy, you should have an answer to that.

  • Joe G-K

    “That’s a question for you, not for me. I’ve already explained my position: the state should have the power to protect people from each other, but not to protect people from themselves. If you’re proposing something different, it’s incumbent on you to explain where the limits on that power should be and why. It won’t do to just throw up your hands and say, “Gosh, that’s an interesting question, how should I know?” If you have a coherent political philosophy, you should have an answer to that.”

    However, the harm that people do to themselves in this situation does harm others.

  • Joe G-K

    It is your responsibility to clarify how much people should be allowed to harm themselves knowing full well that it vicariously harms other people.

  • Joe G-K

    Please reconcile this to me. I want to understand. Is it that you think that drug use doesn’t affect sober people? Is it that you don’t think it has a greater impact than sport related injuries? Or, is it something else?

    I’m also sorry that my post earlier made you think that I was “throwing my hands up” and giving up. At times I misunderstand and I legitimately want clarification. If I understand what you’re saying, you think that amphetamines such as Meth shouldn’t be legalized due to the harm that the people who use it cause to society, then wouldn’t you also be in favor of prohibition as alcohol users cause terrible damage and death as a direct result of alcohol’s effect on judgment and decision making?

    I get that sport related injuries have an effect on insurance premiums, but hospital and emergency room visits due to tobacco and alcohol use has a far greater effect. As of now, marijuana contributes more of a problem due to the fact that so many people are arrested for the “crime” of selling/using it. Alcohol, on the other hand, costs society in tremendous ways; It is involved in more deaths per year than all other drugs combined and guess what, it’s legal.

    To tell you the truth, I completely agree that prison isn’t a cost effective way to deal with this issue. If you want my honest opinion, I’m not against legalization, I’m against total legalization. I’m against it because certain drugs cost more to allow than to prohibit.

  • Alex Weaver

    wouldn’t you also be in favor of prohibition as alcohol users cause terrible damage and death as a direct result of alcohol’s effect on judgment and decision making?

    Maybe if it *worked*…

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    “Maybe if it *worked*…”

    Ultimately Prohibition failed because it tried to eliminate the supply of alcohol without reducing the demand for alcohol. If you could target both the supply and the demand then it would work.

  • Joe G-K MISA, CADC, MSW, CSAT

    “Maybe if it *worked*…”

    Ultimately Prohibition failed because it tried to eliminate the supply of alcohol without reducing the demand for alcohol. If you could target both the supply and the demand then it would work.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Joe,

    Ultimately Prohibition failed because it tried to eliminate the supply of alcohol without reducing the demand for alcohol. If you could target both the supply and the demand then it would work.

    Actually, you would just need to target the demand. Supply would naturally follow it. All you need for drug prohibition to make people not want to do drugs.

  • lpetrich

    I marvel at the sight of a drug warrior defending something that’s anti-criminalization: drug treatment. I state this with confidence because many politicians MUCH prefer funding jails than funding drug treatment — even if the treatment is MUCH less expensive.

  • He Who Invents Himself

    Just wanted to make a quick observation. This post is about the legality of recreational drug use, not the morality of it. The closest thing about morality that was stated was the personal opinion that it was “ill-advised.”

  • David

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I’m totally pro-drugs, but I’m not a radical libertarian. Crack, Meth, Heroin and other drugs which are ultra-destructive should not be legalised. I think the standard should be against alcohol: worse than alcohol, banned, safer than alcohol, allowed.

  • Matt R.

    How ’bout this:

    Overeating can lead to many health disorders which are far more destructive than recreational use of cannibis. Adult-onset diabetes is an incredibly disabling disease and incredibly expensive. It ruins lives and drains dollars from medicare, all from being addicted to food.

    This helps put things into perspective, I think, because it shows that many things, even things which are necessary to survive can be addictive and can have grave consequences. So I suppose that legalizing some drugs, ones that are not terribly destructive, would not usher in the downfall of society here in the US.

    Cheers,

    matt

  • Mike

    I never understand the argument for legalization. Its hard to not intermingle legality with morality when it comes to this argument. For people that think that using drugs is their choice and they can do what they want with their body, I wonder if they are beholden to anyone. I feel responsible to the people that love me and care about me. And because I live in a wealthy industrialized country I feel I have the responsibility to the world at large to leave the world a better place. Most of all, I am beholden to my own personal humanity. My brother/friend/wife has no more right to slam lines of coke and heroin up their nose than they do putting a gun to their head. I believe it is the responsibility of a society at large to promote virtue. Before people go trying to satisfy their craving for pleasure I don’t understand why they don’t ask questions like, 1) would I want my family and friends to see me doing this, 2) would I want to see my family and friends doing this, and 3) what if everyone in society did what I am about to do?

    I always come up with, “no, I wouldn’t want my loved ones to see me doing this”, “no I would never want my loved ones to do what I am about to do”, and “the world would be a pretty miserable place if everyone took a turn slamming a line up their nose in a bathroom stall”.

    I don’t know why these questions and their answers aren’t enough to dissuade people from promoting legalization. Maybe everybody else doesn’t think they are good questions to ask.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I don’t know why these questions and their answers aren’t enough to dissuade people from promoting legalization

    Because criminalising drug use doesn’t even begin to address the moral aspect. If drug use (as opposed to drug supply) is illegal it actually creates a situation where criminality can thrive, people can be exploited, vast profits are generated and terrorism funded. At the same time criminalisation reduces drug use not one jot! If drug use is legalised and the supply is heavily regulated and taxed the atrocious social fallout is mitigated, users have “safe” products they use in an environment that is also safe. Revenue is generated for legitimite government which could be hypothecated for drug rehab programs. Then at least you have a chance of addressing the moral issues.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Mike “I never understand the argument for legalization.”
    If your body is not your own, whose is it?

    “Its hard to not intermingle legality with morality when it comes to this argument.”
    Whose morality? It’s not a black & white issue. For some, alcohol is a deadly sin (see Prohibition), while for most, a beer after work isn’t going to kill anyone (and it won’t). For some, dancing and music are moral issues. If you think it’s wrong, you’re free not to dance. If you want to force others to not dance, you’d better bring some pretty good arguments about the deadly harm of getting one’s groove on.

    “For people that think that using drugs is their choice and they can do what they want with their body, I wonder if they are beholden to anyone.”
    If their choice to use drugs doesn’t harm anyone, you’ve got no argument. If their choice harms others a little, you’ve got a little argument. The argument against pot*1, as far as I can see, is that it makes slow, lazy people a little slower and a little lazier (I assume you’re smart enough to know that most of the anti-pot propaganda, like Reefer Madness, is simple fear mongering*). The same can be said for television, but I don’t see it on the Schedule 1 list with pot, along with a bunch of drugs that are really, really bad. Pot, meanwhile, makes you think that it’s time to break out the acoustic guitar.
    Keeping drugs illegal doesn’t help the genuine addicts. It just puts them in jail. Punishing people for an addiction is exactly the wrong thing to do (for one thing, the threat of punishment caused some to avoid getting treatment). A just societ doesn’t punish addiction. It treats it (that drugs aren’t a cause but a symptom is another layer of conversation entirely).
    *1 Note: Pot does make some people paranoid. Anecdotal, I know, but people that I’ve met for whom pot made them paranoid avoid it for precisely that reason.
    *2 Note: I remember an anti-pot PSA that had two kids getting high. They then dug out dad’s gun and one shot the other. Oddly, up until the end, with the anti-drug splash, I was sure it was for gun control.

    “And because I live in a wealthy industrialized country I feel I have the responsibility to the world at large to leave the world a better place.”
    So I assume you’re for banning alcohol then? …Rock music? Pants on women?…Mixed-race marriages?…any other thing that others try to ban or regulate that you’re fine with?
    A world with legal pot would be a little more relaxed, with a lot more shows on TV like Spongebob Squarepants.
    The case of Portugal should, hopefully, be illuminating.

    “My brother/friend/wife has no more right to slam lines of coke and heroin up their nose…”
    Actually, they do. Their autonomy is not yours to legislate, unless it harms others (the Law isn’t to protect people from themselves. It’s to protect people from other people). Lots of people get by self-medicating with little to no harm to themselves or others (and you believe that “a little harm” justifies criminalization, the logical end of that puts everybody in jail). Coke fuels Wall Street and hospitals. The reason you don’t commonly hear about those cases is that they get by without stealing your car stereo. Also, they aren’t poor brown people (all Men are equal under the Law, but some are more equal than others).
    And the only reason an upper like coffee isn’t a target of the Moral Police (exept the Mormon ones) is that it’s the fuel of the office.

    “…than they do putting a gun to their head.”
    Again, it’s their life. I’d try to talk them out of it and help them get some professional help to find the cause of whatever’s leading them to self-harm, but I’m not the omniscient Police State. You can try to help, but you can’t save everyone. Life isn’t an ideal. The Utopian trap of thinking you can make everyone perfect just results in a lot of imperfect people being ground under your heel. Life is messy.

    “I believe it is the responsibility of a society at large to promote virtue.”
    Again, whose idea of virtue? I’m sure that Taliban-era Afghanistan thought their version of Sharia promoted virtue, but I suspect your line is considerably less conservative than theirs.

    “Before people go trying to satisfy their craving for pleasure I don’t understand why they don’t ask questions like, 1) would I want my family and friends to see me doing this,”
    There’s no shame in getting your toke on. No more than having a snifter of brandy.

    “2) would I want to see my family and friends doing this,”
    Dude, you’ve obviously never hung around stoners. Alcoholics drink alone. Stoners smoke in groups. Then they eat nachos.

    “…and 3) what if everyone in society did what I am about to do?”
    If everybody dropped liquor and took up pot, there’d be a giant reduction in violence. I’ve been at parties with booze and, almost inevitably, fistfights break out. The worst stoners do is forget who chipped in for pizza.
    When drinkers drive, they get into car accidents. When stoners drive, they forget to get in the car first. With the former, we punish them for getting drunk then doing something stupid. With the latter, we punish them for getting high…even if no one else is harmed and/or there’s no risk of harm to anyone else.

    “…and ‘the world would be a pretty miserable place if everyone took a turn slamming a line up their nose in a bathroom stall’.”
    I hate to sound flippant, but you must’ve missed the 70′s and most of the 80′s. There’s a reason why the fashion was so terrible. People were having too much fun to notice. I hear that intercourse was quite popular at the time. I keep hoping for that particular fad to return.

    “I don’t know why these questions and their answers aren’t enough to dissuade people from promoting legalization.”
    If what you do doesn’t harm me, it’s none of my business. That’s Liberty. Liberty is the right to do something, if it doesn’t infringe on the Liberty of others to not be harmed, even if someone else thinks that that action is stupid.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    The Utopian trap of thinking you can make everyone perfect just results in a lot of imperfect people being ground under your heel.

    Beautifully said, Modus. And I laughed out loud at this:

    When drinkers drive, they get into car accidents. When stoners drive, they forget to get in the car first.

    In all fairness, if a stoned person does manage to find the wheel, they can be dangerous, since THC can interfere with your perception of time. But there are plenty of legal drugs – booze, tranquilizers, sleep aids, painkillers, etc. – whose effects on drivers are as bad or worse, and no one seems to be proposing that we ban those.

    In particular, Mike conspicuously ignores the question of how we should deal with alcohol and tobacco, two drugs that are far more harmful than cannabis by any rational accounting. His arguments would seem to apply equally well to those drugs. What about it, Mike, are you arguing for a return of Prohibition? It worked so well the first time…

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Ebonmuse “…if a stoned person does manage to find the wheel, they can be dangerous, since THC can interfere with your perception of time.”
    Yes. Perhaps I should have written “When stoners drive, they get into car accidents…slowly.” In any event, for every downside with pot, alcohol beats it in worseness (even “pot paranoia” is preferable to “rye violence”. Personally, I’d rather have someone think I was out to get them than to have them punching me in my beautiful face for no reason).

    “…alcohol and tobacco, two drugs that are far more harmful than cannabis by any rational accounting.”
    There you go with that “rational” thing. Those two are socially acceptable additions.

  • Chigliakus

    Interesting, I’ve subscribed to the philosophy of universal utilitarianism for close to 20 years now without ever realizing it had a name.

    I agree with the commenter above about industries like the prison industrial complex impeding drug law reform. I’d like to add that much of law enforcement probably feels threatened by legalization as well. From what I understand local police receive federal funds for continuing the war on drugs. Some are also addicted to the additional income they receive from forfeiture law, which would be a terrible idea for a law even if it were implemented without such clear conflicts of interest.

    Modus I’m stealing your Utopian trap quote for a motd on one of my servers. =)

  • EvilVegan

    I think “atheist morality” should be renamed “secular morality”, atheism is not a belief structure, it cannot motivate to action, and is a nonmoral statement; it is simply a statement of lack of belief.


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