From: email@example.com (Chris Lawrence Amshey) Newsgroups: alt.drugs,alt.hemp Subject: An Argument Towards Legalization Date: 20 Jul 1994 09:17:09 -0400 Message-ID: <30j84lINNp26@twain.ucs.umass.edu> I wrote this as the final paper for my Drugs & Society course at the University of Massachussetts at Amherst. I do retain copyright, but grant limited permission to duplicate this article for any NON-PROFIT use, including publication. I do ask that a reasonable attempt be made to notify me if you publish it in a newsletter or some-such. I do require that you retain my name and copyright notice in any copy or distribution of this paper. Any for-profit publications are required to obtain my permission before printing. (c) 1994 Christopher L. Amshey An Argument Toward Legalization by Christopher L. Amshey Although the legalization argument is not widely supported, I feel that legalization is probably the best solution to the drug problem that America faces today. Of course, it can not be as simple as just legalizing and the social changes that Elliott Currie outlines in his book _Reckoning_ would probably be a good way to help adjust. As long as drugs are illegal however, the great profits that can be made by organized crime and covert operations will remain a temptation. No amount of social change will remove the underlying reasons that we have such a great problem. The greed and desire for power that have plagued drug legislation and the black markets that followed in its wake are still there. By legalizing drugs, we effectively cripple the ability of organized crime or covert agents to use it as a tool to gain money and power, as well as removing the excuse of drug laws from those who institute racist policies in the name of a "Drug Free Society." It has been shown repeatedly, from southeast asia to central america, agencies in our government use the profits from illegal drugs to fund illegal covert operations. Whether or not they are merely using the opportunity to increase their power base and financial security, or actually believe that they are doing the right thing it is clear that they are operating outside of accepted channels. By funding operations that have already been turned down by congress they are acting as a shadow government, deciding for the American people things that their representitives have decided against. While these activities would surely not cease due to the loss of drug money, it would make it considerably more difficult. Drug money is valuable because it is easy for a covert agency already practiced at smuggling information and agents to smuggle a few kilos of cocaine or heroin here and there. Larger scale operations are riskier, but clearly have been achieved in the past. The drugs brought in then reach the organized crime network. At worst, the CIA is selling directly to US Triad leaders and Mafia lords, and at best selling to third parties who turn around and sell to these criminals. It is theoretically possible that the CIA sells directly to the street dealers, but I think that such a broad network would be far to risky when exposure could mean a serious problem. Further, there is no doubt that we have conspired with organized crime, as in the case of "Lucky" Luciano . The end result is that it is highly probable that the CIA is directly funding organized crime in this country. Legalization would drop the market out from under this network. Admittedly, the CIA would probably find another way of funding themselves, and organized crime still has prostitution, gambling, and other illicit activities to rely on. However, at best it would cause a serious drop in their incomes and effectiveness, and at worst force them to take up higher risk activities with more chances of getting caught to make up the difference. One can not, after all, smuggle an $5000 anti-aircraft missile as easily as a couple kilos of cocaine; nor can one hide a hundred prostitutes as easily as one can hide a brick of heroin. This is not to gainsay arguments for legalization of other victimless crimes, such as prostitution and gambling; merely to make the observation that most illicit activities are neither as lucrative nor as easy as dealing in hard drugs. Legally, the current drug laws have no true basis. An examination of each campaign finds a multitude of fallacies, both in propoganda leading to restriction and in the testimony that the laws were based on. In the case of opiates, the problems cited were patent medicines , which has some validity, and use by Chinese immigrants, which has no validity: at this time we can safely say it was clearly a racially motivated assault on an ethnic population that was competing with white Californians for jobs . The racism inherent in the anti-opiate campaign is painfully clear when we see such quotes as "the whites cannot stand their dirt and the fumes of opium and are compelled to leave their vicinity," this from a California Senate report of 1877 . As far as patent medicines are concerned, truth in advertising restrictions, especially with regard to medicine, is much stricter today than it was at the turn of the century. Opiate addiction with respect to patent medicines is no longer a valid issue. Certainly, it would be irresponsible to permit the sale of opiate based medicines that did not carry a warning that they were physically addictive; it would also be irresponsible to allow the advertising of opiates for any purpose to which they are not suitable. The safeguards for this are already in place however. Many medicines carry legal warnings, and an attempt to claim that ibuprofen cured cancer would be met quickly with a lawsuit. The patent medicine industry is dead, and a handful of re-legalized pharmaceuticals is not going to revive it. The campaign against marijuana was equally racist, and without any excuse such as patent medicines. The medical uses of marijuana were well established and accepted up until it became a controlled substance. Despite its well established usefullness, Harry J. Anslinger, then Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narctics claimed: "While opium can be a blessing or a curse, depending on its use, marihuana is only and always a scourge which undermines its victims and degrades them mentally, morally and physically."  The Department of the Treasury (of which the Federal Bureau of Narcotics is a part) received letters that contained statements such as "I wish I could show you what a small marijuana cigarette can do to one of our Spanish-speaking residents. That's why our problem is so great: the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of whom are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions."  When the movement for legislation reached congress, the Public Health Service was not invited, despite the fact that it is probably the federal division with the most knowledge of the behavior of drugs. This may be because Dr. Walter L. Treadway, the head of the Mental Hygiene Division, was on record as stating that marijuana may be habit forming but was not addictive, and caused no more "social and moral degradation" or "violence" than alcohol.  Congress took the unsupported word of the head of the Bureau of Narcotics, whose own position and power were increased immensely by this legislation, despite the volumes of medical evidence and opinions to the contrary. The film "Reefer Madness" is tame in comparison to the images that Mr. Anslinger brought up for people. Mr. Anslinger claims, "A small dose taken by one subject may bring about intense intoxication, raving fits, criminal assaults."  I suppose that no medical expert would claim that a psychoactive substance *couldn't* cause these effects, since chemistries differ and there are occasional hypersensitive and alleregic reactions. However, I have neither seen nor has Mr. Anslinger or his supporters come up with one shred of evidence to support this. There are a number of horror stories about homicidal rages and the like, but last names, court docket numbers, and other useful references are not included. Dr. Lester Grinspoon is on record both in print and in speech on the subject of medical uses of marijuana: There are many valid uses for which marijuana is the only or the best medicine. In short, there is no confirmable evidence that any of the reasons cited for outlawing marijuana are true. Naturally, drugs are not remaining illegal out of a lack of concern. Rather, drugs are a foremost issue in today's society. William Bennet, former drug czar, claims that the 'War on Drugs' can be won. His article "Should Drugs Be Legalized?" has few facts in it, but a lot of sensational language. He says that, "Like addicts seeking immediate euphoria, the legalizers want peace at any price, even though it means the inevitable proliferation of a practice that degrades, impoverishes, and kills." This colorful language is not even remotely supported by fact, in his article or elsewhere. He states, "Even limited experiments in drug legalization have shown that when drugs are more widely available, addiction skyrockets." This may or may not be true, and given the state of today's inner cities has little bearing on the legality of drugs. AS support, he claims that "In 1975 Italy liberalized its drug law, and now has one of the highest heroin-related death rates in Western Europe." This may be true, though a causal relationship has not been shown, perhaps an assumption of such a relationship is warranted. What is not mentioned is that drug use in Italy is marginal compared to the United States. According to self-report surveys, more than five times as many high school students in the U.S. have tried cocaine as in Italy. Italy may have a drug problem compared to the rest of Western Europe, but it pales beside the U.S. Mr. Bennet 'counters' the argument that government can tax drugs heavily and still undercut the black market, with the claim that "Criminals could undercut the official price and still make huge profits." His only support for this statement is the rhetorical question, "What alternative would government have? Cut the price until it was within the lunch- money budget of the average sixth-grade student?" While the rhetorical appeal surely brings tears to my eyes as I think of the poor sixth grade student becoming another victim of the killer weed marihuana, the reality is that smuggling is only profitable when prices are highly inflated. Cocaine was selling for $2.50 an ounce when it was outlawed . Supposing that today it would retail for perhaps $10 an ounce on an open market, a ten-fold tax of $100/ounce STILL puts us more than a $1000 below todays black-market prices of $1200/ounce cited by Mr. Bennet himself. If that isn't high enough, it can be raised. There's a lot of room between $10/ounce with no taxes and the current $1200/ounce value. If you cut the street value in half, a lot of pilots are going to think twice about risking life and limb to smuggle cocaine. Mr. Bennet also claims that a black market will continue to exist for drugs to dangerous to be legalized, such as PCP. Perhaps this is true, but it seems far more likely that the draw of any illegal drug would pale if there were legal drugs with similar effects available. He brings up the example that crack is being laced with insecticides and animal tranquilizers to heighten its effect. This seems to me to suggest that a cocaine user would get safe, clean powder cocaine from a legitimate retailer rather than possibly dangerously adulterated street 'crack.' The drug is the same, after all, and if the user really wants 'crack' they can make it themselves or learn how to freebase. I suspect however, that just as beer and wine are more popular now than under prohibition milder forms of the same drug will be more popular under legalization. Mr. Bennet also claims that a black market will continue to exist for under-age users, but I say that getting an older brother to buy for you is not even remotely the same thing as an Uzi-wielding gang fighting for turf and connections. It would be a problem, just as underage drinking is a problem, but not of nearly the same magnitude. Mr. Bennet claims that "Legalization will give us the worst of both worlds: millions of *new* drug users *and* a thriving criminal black market." Neither Mr. Bennet, nor any of us can see the future; however, 'millions' of new users seems extreme. Of course, Mr. Bennet is failing to distinguish between marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and any other drug. If you added up all the new users, I suppose that it might total in the millions. However, 24 million new users, a rather larger number than I expect to see, is only 10% of our nation's population. If most of them are using marijuana, I don't see this as being particularly problematic. Even if they are using the big two, cocaine and heroin, as long as they are keeping it under control or seeking help when they find themselves behaving addictively, I don't see why it should matter if we DO have new drug users. In a circle of illogic that completely eludes me, Mr. Bennet tells us that many drug-related felonies are committed by people involved in crime *before* they started taking drugs. It seems to me that this is precisely the point that pro-legalization has been arguing: drugs do not cause people to become criminals. Mr. Bennet claims that "The drugs, so routinely available in criminal circles, make the criminals more violent and unpredictable." It is a well documented fact that the #1 drug relating to violence is alcohol. Mr. Bennet's counter-argument to the argument that "drug-users only harm themselves" is a series of anecdotes: 36 bullet wounds in a three year old, abandoned babies of cocaine-addicted mothers, etc, ad nauseum. If drugs were legal, guns would probably cease to be part of the addict's lifestyle; the easy slaughter that takes place when millions of dollars of black-market cocaine is involved would be reduced to the occasional armed robbery of a 'drugs' store, just as the violence associated with alcohol dealing has gone reduced greatly with the end of prohibition. What drug-related violence remained would probably not really be drug-related: The fact that we have people who are capable of killing innocent people, with no apparent guilt is an indictment of our society, not the recreational drugs that some members of it use. Mr. Bennet makes some points, that violence will not dissapear, that there may still be a black market in some drugs that are not legalized, and so on. What he fails completely to do, is to acknowledge that he has not countered the argument that _most_ of the black market would dissapear, that the violence associated with _dealing_ drugs would disappear. He has not even touched on such issues as being able to seek addiction treatment without having to go 'cold turkey' (doctors cannot prescribe illegal drugs such as heroin, and so if you seek help overcoming your addiction you have to go through immediate and full-force withdrawal.) He has, in fact, side-stepped the entire issue with colorful rhetoric, culminating in a comparison of the War on Drugs with World War II. This may move some, but to me it is just a bad cover for a flawed argument. There are many more issues in the legalization debate, but the points I have chosen are ones that I felt were neglected or were particularly interesting. Certainly, this article cannot stand entirely on its own. I have not even touched on the industrial uses of hemp, I have barely touched on the valid medical uses of many illegal drugs, and have not even mentioned the huge costs associated with the War on Drugs, both financial and in terms of the loss of civil rights. I have not argued the point, but an assumption I make in my legalization model is that drug advertising would be restricted at _least_ as much as cigarette advertising, if not banned altogether. Although it may sound it at times, I do not mean to argue that our inner-city problems will be solved with legalization. There is a lot of social change that needs to be made, but I feel that legalization would bring about a freer, more open society. Violence and criminal activity will continue as long as inner city residents feel hopeless and persecuted, and the economics of our cities is an issue that sorely needs to be redressed. Legalization is only one step, not a panacea; but I feel that it is an important step. *This is not a complete bibliography, as I have incorporated material from nearly all the reading I have done on the subject. These are footnote references for specific facts that some readers might question and wish to verify for themselves.  PBS Documentary: "Cover Up," "Running Drugs and Secret Wars" by David Truong D.H. (Covert Action #28, Summer 1987) "Cocaine and the White House Connection" by Murray Waas (L.A. Weekly, Sept 30-Oct 6, 1988)  "The Mafia Connection" by Alfred W. McCoy with Cathleen B. Read and Leonard P. Adams II (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park and Wasyl M. Matveychuk)  "Opium and Cocaine Problems" by Hamilton Wright (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park and Wasyl M. Matveychuk) Original citation: From Hamilton Wright: "Report on the International Opium Commission and the Opium Problem as Seen within the United States and its Possessions," In: "Opium Problems: Message from the President of the U.S., Senate Document No. 377, 61st Congress, 2nd Session.  "The Chinese Opium Crusade" by John Helmer. (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park and Wasyl M. Matveychuk) Original citation: From John Helmer: _Drugs and Minority Oppression_  "Marijuana Effects on the Individual" by Harry J. Anslinger and William F. Thomas. (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park and Wasyl M. Matveychuk) Original citation: Pp.20-22 "The Effect on the Individual," from _The Traffic in Narcotics_ by H. J. Anslinger and William F. Thomas.  "The Mexican Scare" by David F. Musto (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park and Wasyl M. Matveychuk) Original citation: From David F. Musto: _The American Disease, Origins of Narcotics Control_  "The Anti-Cocaine Campaign" by Richard Ashley (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park and Wasyl M. Matveychuk) Original citation: From Richard Ashley: _Cocaine: Its History, Uses and Effects_
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