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Friday, April 03, 2009

Cato study: Decriminalization of drugs in Portugal an "unambiguous success"

In 2001, Portugal decided to make a dramatic U-turn when it comes to drug policy. Alone in the European Union, Portugal decided to try decriminalization of drugs as a strategy to deal with the negative outcomes of illicit drug use. They did not merely decriminalize marijuana, they decriminalized all drugs. Without exception.

Glenn Greenwald has taken a look at the numbers and reports, in a new Cato Institute study, on the outcomes of Portugal's new policy direction. The results, according to him, are positive. And not merely positive, but very positive. Decriminalization in Portugal is working, it is an "unambiguous success," as Greenwald puts it.

Greenwald will be at the Cato Institute today to discuss his reports. At 12 p.m. Eastern Time, you can watch his presentation by clicking here.

In the meantime, here is the summary he presents to his own readers:

...Drug policy is being more openly debated than ever before in the U.S. (Time 's Joe Klein just wrote a column advocating marijuana legalization [CNN's Jack Cafferty also recently wrote a piece entitled "The War on Drugs is insane."]), and the unambiguous success of Portugal's 2001 decriminalization -- which is what enabled the Portuguese Government to address their exploding drug problems in the 1990s and to achieve far better results than virtually every other Western country -- provides a compelling empirical basis for understanding the profound failures of the American approach.

And, for more intrepid researchers, here is the study itself:

Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies, Cato White Paper

Publish at Scribd or explore others: School Work Non-fiction europe the nanny state

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on April 3, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink

Comments

Until recently, people were saying the same thing about the Netherlands. But ever since Amsterdam started tightening restrictions and closing down the coffee shops, no one speaks about the Dutch case anymore.

And NO ONE talks about the Platzspitz, Geneva's infamous "Needle Park," where the establishment of an open-drug scene in the belief that a single place for addicts to congregate under supervision was preferable to having them shoot up and doorways and alleyways resulted in a bumper crop of addicts from around Europe. The local addict population swelled from 3,000 to 20,000, and at one point, paramedics were resuscitating 40 people per day.

In any case, this effort has the usual problem of the sort of materials anti-prohibitionists offer in support of their cause; it's basically an opinion piece by an author with a book to sell. And not a single person has ever been able to tell me why people would do something less after the government made it easier to do it. That's like saying you should leave your doors and windows unlocked to discourage burglary.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 6:21:28 AM


There is no definitive study demonstrating that the Netherlands experiment with drug liberalization was a failure. There are several that suggest that it was (and continues to be) a success. But something being a success has never stopped an intrepid politician from attempting to quash it.

It is not an opinion piece. It is an analysis of the numbers. There is no book attached to this, it is all there, freely available to anyone who wants to read it.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 6:52:39 AM


There is no definitive study demonstrating that the Netherlands experiment with drug liberalization was a failure.
Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 6:52:39 AM

Dutch use of marijuana is lower than surrounding countries. So the fact that marijuana is easily available hasn't led to a local explosion in use. And anybody who has been to Amsterdam or any other large Dutch city that have 'coffehouses" will notice that most of the people in them are foreigners. As a non-pot smoker I'm glad they are shutting them down as they stink up the area they are in.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-04-03 7:44:13 AM


The numbers are not, at this point, in question (although whether they represent all the relevant data, or merely those portions that seem to agree with the author's opinion, is certainly open to question). However, any conclusion derived therefrom constitutes an opinion; many others look at the same freely available data and conclude otherwise. And Glenn Greenwald is indeed a published author of political opinion pieces, on some highly controversial topics.

In spite of all the experts the anti-prohibs have quoted through the last few years, the fact remains that at least as many experts believe that drugs should remain restricted. Remember, marijuana was removed by the pharmacopoeia by doctors, not politicians. Just because someone has a new approach and a new idea doesn't automatically make it right. And bad as the current situation is, it is far from being so bad that it couldn't get worse. The common anti-prohib assertion that any change could only be for the better is therefore naive.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 8:10:19 AM


And NO ONE talks about the Platzspitz, Geneva's infamous "Needle Park,"
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 6:21:28 AM

Maybe the reason that nobody talked about Geneva's Platzspitz is that the "Platzspitz" was in Zürich. At least you are in the right country.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-04-03 8:13:43 AM


P.S. The Dutch themselves consider the experiment a failure; they were tired of being a magnet for drug tourists. Such real-world examples have a far more convincing than cloistered academics or professional activists who massage cherry-picked numbers into supporting a conclusion they've already reached in accordance with an abstract and arbitrary ideal.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 8:14:03 AM


"However, any conclusion derived therefrom constitutes an opinion"

Also, water comes out of the tap. Why is it necessary to mention things that are obvious? Any proposed policy, or any analysis of a policy, is an opinion.

"many others look at the same freely available data and conclude otherwise."

Who are these "many others"? Can you link to a study/report/opinion piece, anything?

"In spite of all the experts the anti-prohibs have quoted through the last few years, the fact remains that at least as many experts believe that drugs should remain restricted."

What do you mean by "restricted"? Drugs continue to be "restricted" in Portugal. Legalization proponents mostly support having regulations preventing minors from getting drugs, and regulating the sale of drugs. That counts as "restriction." Decriminalization, like in Portugal, still includes "restrictions."

The debate is between whether or not the war on drugs should continue in its present form, vs. some sort of loosening (or cessation) of the drug war. In this debate, the number of experts supporting loosening or ending the war on drugs vastly outstrips the number of experts that support its continuation. In fact, I know of no credible expert who supports the continuation of the war on drugs. Please point me to one.

"Just because someone has a new approach and a new idea doesn't automatically make it right."

But if someone has a new idea, that has been proven to work, then maybe we should take a second look at it. That is the argument. It is not "it's new, therefore it is better."

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 9:23:45 AM


Excellent post, Peter.

In your comment to Shane you wrote: "I know of no credible expert who supports the continuation of the war on drugs."

I would add that the only so-called experts who do support the war on drugs are the people paid to fight it. The drug war employs a huge number of people who are loath to give up the racket -- from law enforcement (cops, prosecutors, parole officers) to the prison industry to addiction councillors.

But once these people are out of office, they often reflect on their work as having been a failure, and advocate at least some degree of reform. (LEAP is literally made up of reformed drug warriors.)

Until Harper, the Canadian conservative movement was drifting slowly toward a liberal approach to drug policy. The change in policy under Harper has been about winning votes, and not about good policy.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-04-03 9:50:38 AM


Damn Swiss cities, I always get them confused. Thanks for the correction.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 10:01:22 AM


"Also, water comes out of the tap. Why is it necessary to mention things that are obvious? Any proposed policy, or any analysis of a policy, is an opinion."

Because the solution to the current drug problem is not obvious, at least not to some people. It's certainly less obvious than trying to determine if you can get water out a tap.

"Who are these "many others"? Can you link to a study/report/opinion piece, anything?"

I see. So, if you tell me the Earth is flat, and offer your evidence, I'm supposed to provide a complete list of the people who think it isn't flat? The AMA, the DEA, the FBI, and numerous medical and social entities oppose the legalization of hard drugs for certain, and to a lesser degree, marijuana. They're far too numerous to list. Your job is much easier because you are quoting exceptions to the rule who are famous for that very reason.

"What do you mean by "restricted"? Drugs continue to be "restricted" in Portugal. Legalization proponents mostly support having regulations preventing minors from getting drugs, and regulating the sale of drugs. That counts as "restriction." Decriminalization, like in Portugal, still includes "restrictions."

Virtually all currently restricted drugs, including marijuana, are available with a doctor's prescription in Canada. That prevents minors from getting them, and regulates their sale. Does it not?

"The debate is between whether or not the war on drugs should continue in its present form, vs. some sort of loosening (or cessation) of the drug war."

It's not a war, it's an enforcement policy. "War" is a word beloved of activists who try to paint a stark, bloody picture as bad as the killing fields of Cambodia. The only people doing the killing are criminals. The difference is they are being bankrolled by John Q. Citizen.

"In this debate, the number of experts supporting loosening or ending the war on drugs vastly outstrips the number of experts that support its continuation."

You mean the number of experts with an opinion they feel strongly enough to go public on. The only ones you hear about are the ones controversial enough to make the news. Same for the death penalty--only a small fraction of Canadians supported its repeal, but they were the ones that got all the airtime.

"In fact, I know of no credible expert who supports the continuation of the war on drugs. Please point me to one."

Who decides who is credible, and based on what criteria?

"But if someone has a new idea, that has been proven to work, then maybe we should take a second look at it. That is the argument. It is not "it's new, therefore it is better.""

That's what they said about Amsterdam. What they didn't tell you was that Amsterdam already had a low rate of drug use, and that liberalizing the law didn't actually change anything, until the drug tourists got wind of it. Besides, America is a completely different animal than Portugal. In any case, just because it's been proven to work to Greenwald's satisfaction doesn't make it actually proven.

The problem with your logic is this. You argue that making something harder to do will increase the likelihood that people will do it. As I said, that's like recommending that you leave your doors and windows unlocked to remove the "forbidden fruit" syndrome and thus discourage burglary. It flies in the face of all logic. In fact, it undermines the very idea of law enforcement in general. And the fact that so many advocates of drug legalization are anarchist types tends to support that assertion.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 10:13:42 AM


Sure, Matthew, sure. It's a vast Right-wing conspiracy. That is the standard libertarian answer whenever anyone points out that the "establishment" and conventional experts do not support their ideas. This is precisely what I had in mind when I questioned P.M.'s criteria for determining who is "credible."

A few highly publicized former officials feeling hopeless and discouraged that they didn't accomplish more is nothing unusual, and certainly doesn't discredit the approach they used in office. Albert Pierrepoint, "England's last hangman," became an opponent of capital punishment after his retirement and ostensibly resigned because of it, although the records show that he actually resigned because of a dispute over his fees. And the crime rate in England hasn't gone anywhere but up since he left. Now civility in England has declined to a point he would likely have considered unimaginable in 1956.

Lastly, I remind you that you live in a democracy, and in a democracy, the majority rules. To say that Harper is trying to win votes is to say that the voters are wrong on this matter. It is they, not the politicians, you ultimately have to convince; supremely expedient and self-serving, they simply gravitate to wherever the votes lie. And you're unlikely to win many converts by repeating over and over again that everything they're doing is wrong and only you and a few longtime malcontents have the perspicacity to see it.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 10:22:16 AM


And NO ONE talks about the Platzspitz, Geneva's infamous "Needle Park," where the establishment of an open-drug scene in the belief that a single place for addicts to congregate under supervision was preferable to having them shoot up and doorways and alleyways resulted in a bumper crop of addicts from around Europe. The local addict population swelled from 3,000 to 20,000, and at one point, paramedics were resuscitating 40 people per day.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 6:21:28 AM

Wow! You mean there are only 20,000 addicts from all around Europe who went to Platzspitz? Imagine if all of Europe similarly legalized drug use, and addicts were allowed to stay were they were instead of concentrating in such small parks and coffeehouses! 20,000 spread out over all of Europe would be a trivial number, a trivial public-health problem, and a non-existent criminal-activity problem.

Thanks, Shane, that's the best argument in favour of a general legalization of drugs I have read in a while!

Posted by: Grant Brown | 2009-04-03 10:31:03 AM


Portugal 2001- wise good noble drug liberation
Portugal 2005- unwise, non good non noble drug explosion >>largest cocaine haul in European history in Portugal
- that was a pretty quick flip from ethnogenic enlightenment to
patsy fall guy safe house nation of the drug cartels

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4726428.stm

Posted by: 419 | 2009-04-03 10:35:06 AM


CORRECTION'' - drug haul was in 2006, _not 2005.

Likely it took that extra time to get that tremendous quantity of personal liberation powder together for distribution to oppressed Europe,,

Posted by: 419 | 2009-04-03 10:49:43 AM


Wow! You mean there are only 20,000 addicts from all around Europe who went to Platzspitz?
Posted by: Grant Brown | 2009-04-03 10:31:03 AM

They weren't from all over Europe they were mostly Swiss, and they were almost exclusively heroin addicts. There are 40,000 registered heroin addicts in the UK and probably 20,000 more who are unregistered. There are 250,000 Class A addicts in the UK. That's no small number. Pull your finger out Brown.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-04-03 11:30:44 AM


I don't think the drug war is a vast right wing conspiracy, Shane. I think it's a vast statist conspiracy supported by the left and the right. The war on drugs is a socialist enterprise, as Friedman once said.

I also think it is fair to demand that you rely on experts who don't make their living from the drug war. It's like asking someone working at a human rights commission whether they think the war on free speech has been a success. Let's look at what independent scholars are writing.

As for democracy and majority rule, we live in a liberal or constitutional democracy where basic freedoms are -- or shoudl be -- protected can not be voted away. What you seem to be advocating is majoritarianism. That's not what Western democracy is about.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-04-03 11:40:56 AM



You people always talk about drugs as if it should be a free choice made by adults.

The problem is that so many of our addicts get hooked on drugs not as adults but as children.

Legal or not, our children will continue to get hooked on drugs and therefore outright bans are the only solution.

Like Harper says, Llibertarians are irresponsible and this is another example of how Llibertarians refuse to take responsibility for our children or for people who are too depressed, gullible or just plain stupid to act reponsibly.

Posted by: epsilon | 2009-04-03 12:02:00 PM


"Wow! You mean there are only 20,000 addicts from all around Europe who went to Platzspitz? Imagine if all of Europe similarly legalized drug use, and addicts were allowed to stay were they were instead of concentrating in such small parks and coffeehouses! 20,000 spread out over all of Europe would be a trivial number, a trivial public-health problem, and a non-existent criminal-activity problem."

You call 20,000 criminals a trivial problem? And do you really think we can't tell the difference between a sound argument and a bunch of mock-shock cheek-slapping? Is this really you writing, or your pet monkey?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 12:06:40 PM



'Legal or not, our children will continue to get hooked on drugs and therefore outright bans are the only solution."

You do realize how dtupid that sounds, right?

If they continue to get hooked on drugs when they are illegal, how is that an argument to keep them illegal?

You say in your reply that outright bans do not work, then assert that as a reason why we must keep them?

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-04-03 12:10:22 PM


Matthew, this debate is not about what you think. It's not about what anybody thinks. It's about what you can prove. And you have proven no conspiracy.

Yes, we live in a liberal democracy. However, that does not mean that anything goes. You have no Constitutionally protected right to get high. Getting high is not a right. Street disorders are not what Western democracy is about, either, but try telling that to the "foot soldiers of democracy."

Bottom line: Your case for a conspiracy is not proven. And Who says only scholars should have a voice in how society is run? Or that only scholars know what they're talking about? Scholars have agendas too, you know. For that matter, so do activists.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 12:12:28 PM


You do realize how dtupid that sounds, right?

Not as stupid as your spectacularly bungled attempt to type the word "stupid." On a blog with automatic spell check, yet.

If they continue to get hooked on drugs when they are illegal, how is that an argument to keep them illegal?

Think about it. Yes, some people are willing to risk breaking the law to indulge in certain behaviour. But the spectre of a criminal record manages to keep many away. If you remove that, how many more will get hooked? Or put another way, how does it logically follow that making something more accessible will result in fewer people buying it?

You say in your reply that outright bans do not work, then assert that as a reason why we must keep them?

Outright bans are not 100 percent effective; on sample sizes this large, nothing is. But doing nothing is ZERO percent effective. The math is pretty simple. But then, potheads aren't known for their math skills. They tend to bite at history, too. And boy does it show in their arguments, because those are the two most important things to master if you want to create sound policy or even win an argument about it.

Like I said, the higher brain centres are the first to go.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 12:23:35 PM


Shane: I would like a policy paper, or an academic paper arguing for the continuation of the drug war. Just one. I would like you to name one academic or expert who supports the drug war. Just one.

Can you (please) provide one instance of each?

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 12:25:51 PM


If th Portugese Miracle gets applied to Vancouver- heres what you get:

1) line ups of junkies - en masse - waiting to score their freedom powders every hour of the day & night forever
2) the Canadian Govt and police pretending its not there in order to appear nice, warm liberal socially advanced guys (* aka retards )
3) when enough is enough whole blocks of druggie slums get bulldozed and the freedom powder clients warehoused elsewhere - oops that was a bad moment for freedom
4_ instead of an incarcerated life facing guards and cops - the freedom powder clients face an incarcerated life of facing doctors, social workers and various agency clipboard people-- costs double and instead of being compelled to quit, they are entertained as they indulge in chemical selfishness at taxpayers expense,, taxpayers revolt, here we go --
********

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEDZXuRcGig

*********


what a dreadful glimpse of the shape of things to come--see for yourself folks- Portugal drug decrim experience is a clogged toilet spilling down the stairs ... how can anybody applaud this ?
maybe just Govt Retards and their Wipehead delusionoids but the rest of us are not buying this plan .. the oft quoted above happy face Portugese govt report on success..

\ dream on all you liberatarian goofs- the War on Drugs will only wind down when the Wipeheads themselves give it up ,ya we all agree they are too fucked up to do this..so are wipeheads to be guarded buy cops or doctors ? thats they only real choices here Its what society can afford- a phd or mall cop-
choose now choose well ' cause you'll be paying for it for th rest of your life6

10,000 years of drugs and humanity at odds and suddenly surrender is the answer?

NO it isn't--

Posted by: 419 | 2009-04-03 12:35:13 PM


Yes. Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in the EU in 2001. They changed their policies, and now things are better.

Have you considered at least skimming the Cato report, 419?

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 12:44:42 PM


"Not as stupid as your spectacularly bungled attempt to type the word "stupid." On a blog with automatic spell check, yet."-some drunk

You have no intelligent argument to make so you have to make some kind of big deal about a typo.

I guess when that's all you've got, you better take it eh?

Still waiting for that academic that supports the drug war and is not supported BY the drugwar.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-04-03 12:58:12 PM


If Portugal is so wonderful, will all the druggies in Canada please go there and never come back.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-04-03 1:00:26 PM


We'd rather kick out all the bible thumping, bigoted drunks, and keep Canada to ourselves.

No matter how "stoned" someone gets on pot they are not nearly as annoying, as inebriated, nor as dangerous as an alcohol user who has over indulged.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-04-03 1:06:33 PM


Just one. I would like you to name one academic or expert who supports the drug war. Just one.
Can you (please) provide one instance of each?
Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 12:25:51 PM

Just who qualifies as an expert? Would an expert on electrical engineering who supports the drug war qualify as an expert? Or is an expert someone who has a degree in philosophy?

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-04-03 1:14:19 PM


You have no intelligent argument to make so you have to make some kind of big deal about a typo.

"You know how stupid that sounds, right?" is not an argument either. I traded barb for barb. You're just pissed because I won that round.

I guess when that's all you've got, you better take it eh?

I have something else you don't, Doc—a brain that isn't drug-addled. And that's a whole lot.

Still waiting for that academic that supports the drug war and is not supported BY the drugwar.

What do you mean, you're still waiting? You never asked for one.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 1:43:28 PM


Shane: I would like a policy paper, or an academic paper arguing for the continuation of the drug war. Just one. I would like you to name one academic or expert who supports the drug war. Just one.

Before I give you what you want, P.M., think about this. You have deliberately stacked the deck in your favour. You have specifically stated from whom you want to hear, and it what manner you would like to hear it. Your belief that scholars have all the answers betrays your own bias. The fact that the current generation of scholars used drugs heavily in their youth further muddies the issue, which you also know full well. You also know that most academic papers are hidden behind a wall of paid subscriptions and that only the newsworthy ones or those accessed by activists generally see the light of day, which further stacks the deck. That amounts to intellectual dishonesty, P.M. It also gives more weight to the opinions of people of a certain class, which one would think would be against the libertarian ideal.

In Drug Control Policy, by William O. Walker (that's the name on the book, I swear), under the chapter "Drug Legalization, the Drug War, and Drug Treatment in Historical Perspective," David T. Courtwright argues that a coercive public-health approach to drugs has the best chance of minimizing their damage to society. One passage in particular is damning to the pro-legalization movement: "Forbidding the sale of powerful psychoactive drugs to young people makes social, moral, and political sense. Unfortunately, illicit drug use in this country has been concentrated among the young, that is, among those who are most likely to be made exceptions to the rule of legal sales [italics added]."

In any case, it does not matter, in the end, what the intellectuals want, or the academics want, or the politicians want, or the police want, or even what the courts want. This is a democracy. It matters what the people want. Even if what they want is delayed a generation by having to wait for current judges and policymakers to retire, in the end they will get their wish. To dismiss them as rubes who should know better than to interfere with the social tinkering of their supposed betters is not only anti-democratic, but anti-libertarian.

It is the people you have to convince; it is people the intellectuals have to convince. So far they—and you—are doing a poor job. 61 percent of Americans think dope should remain illegal. The numbers only go up from there when discussing smack and crack.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 2:07:53 PM


"What do you mean, you're still waiting? You never asked for one."-some legal druggie(drunk)


What are you waiting till each person asks you individually? Need more time to Google?

I'm suprised you havn't trotted out Randy White or some propaganda from his group of morons.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-04-03 2:10:58 PM


"Before I give you what you want, P.M., think about this. You have deliberately stacked the deck in your favour. You have specifically stated from whom you want to hear, and it what manner you would like to hear it."

You make too many assumptions, Shane. I gave a class of people from whom to pick. What I'm looking for is an intelligent argument backed by empirical facts. That's all.

"Your belief that scholars have all the answers betrays your own bias."

I don't have this belief. I believe that scholars have a broader base of information from which to make informed judgments. That does not mean they'll always get it right, it just means they're more likely to have the right incentives to do the best they can.

What you did here is identical to me stating, "Your belief that scholars never have any of the answers betrays your own bias." But that's not what you said, and I didn't say what you claim I believe.

"The fact that the current generation of scholars used drugs heavily in their youth further muddies the issue, which you also know full well."

That depends on the scholar. And you knew that.

"You also know that most academic papers are hidden behind a wall of paid subscriptions and that only the newsworthy ones or those accessed by activists generally see the light of day, which further stacks the deck."

I have access through JSTOR and through Ohio Link and several other sources. So if you point me to an article, I can read it.

"That amounts to intellectual dishonesty, P.M. It also gives more weight to the opinions of people of a certain class, which one would think would be against the libertarian ideal."

That's confused. Libertarians are biased in favour of liberty and against the state, they are not, like you seem to be, anti-intellectual.

"In Drug Control Policy, by William O. Walker (that's the name on the book, I swear), under the chapter "Drug Legalization, the Drug War, and Drug Treatment in Historical Perspective," David T. Courtwright argues that a coercive public-health approach to drugs has the best chance of minimizing their damage to society. One passage in particular is damning to the pro-legalization movement: "Forbidding the sale of powerful psychoactive drugs to young people makes social, moral, and political sense. Unfortunately, illicit drug use in this country has been concentrated among the young, that is, among those who are most likely to be made exceptions to the rule of legal sales [italics added]."

Was that really so hard? Did you need to go through all of that bluster to give me this? I'll take a look. Thanks for the heads-up.

As for your opinion about the importance of majoritarianism, I don't share your opinion.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 2:45:51 PM


what are the chances of Canada adopting this Portugese national drug surrender model , that being legalizing all controlled substances act drugs and treating those who get too carried away as sick people?
How about it happening this year? how about next year-
or the year after that ?

- Canada isn;t Portugal
Portugal is Portugal

Tell the Taliban in Afghanistan
to keep on milkin' them poppies-
and tell the Shining Path in S America
to keep an pickin' them coca leaves--
tell all the wipehead pot farmers
to keep on shinin' them lights---

it will all be ok..
just fine for the astute drug bosses
our people using their product die or end up fucked up
but now tat last hey won;t have police records - as if that mattered in the first place
nor will they suffer indignity in prison
so its a great day for toxic humanity
at least the ones who make it

Chances of Canada adopting any of this free range Wioehead approach in a hurry is somewhat remote- unless, of course anyone wants to put $20 on it.. same drill: money/mouth etc

Posted by: 419 | 2009-04-03 3:08:58 PM


You make too many assumptions, Shane. I gave a class of people from whom to pick. What I'm looking for is an intelligent argument backed by empirical facts. That's all.

You "gave a class of people," but yet are "looking only for intelligent arguments." Which is it?

I don't have this belief. I believe that scholars have a broader base of information from which to make informed judgments.

And why should anyone care what you believe? Scholars are famous for cloistered, ivory-tower ideas that would never fly in the real world.

That does not mean they'll always get it right, it just means they're more likely to have the right incentives to do the best they can.

Scholars’ primary incentives are tenure and the recognition of their peers. Neither requires honesty, and depending on the quality of their peers, it doesn’t require sound arguments either. Academic treatises are notoriously difficult reading.

What you did here is identical to me stating, "Your belief that scholars never have any of the answers betrays your own bias." But that's not what you said, and I didn't say what you claim I believe.

I did not require you to produce sources only from non-academic sources, though, did I? This assertion is therefore false.

That depends on the scholar. And you knew that.

Universities are notorious drug dens, and it was, if anything, worse in the 60s, when most of these scholars were undergrads. Yes, some scholars don’t, and haven’t, done drugs. But I venture to say that they used them more than the general population.

I have access through JSTOR and through Ohio Link and several other sources. So if you point me to an article, I can read it.

I can’t. And that’s the point.

That's confused. Libertarians are biased in favour of liberty and against the state, they are not, like you seem to be, anti-intellectual.

My point was you were prepared to accept arguments only from a certain class of people, an overtly elitist approach that subverts libertarian thinking.

Was that really so hard? Did you need to go through all of that bluster to give me this? I'll take a look. Thanks for the heads-up.

It’s not bluster; it’s the truth. Policy is ultimately shaped by the voters, provided they’re sufficiently engaged in the process. Only when the voters sleep do the elitists get to play.

As for your opinion about the importance of majoritarianism, I don't share your opinion.

It’s not opinion. It’s the law.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 4:06:51 PM


"You "gave a class of people," but yet are "looking only for intelligent arguments." Which is it?"

My meaning was obvious -- I mentioned a class of people for the sake of intelligent arguments. The latter is what matters. I explained the heuristic.

"And why should anyone care what you believe?"

You mentioned my beliefs. If you didn't care about them, why did you mention them?

"Scholars are famous for cloistered, ivory-tower ideas that would never fly in the real world."

Amongst anti-intellectuals, yes. They are also known for knowing what they're talking about.

"My point was you were prepared to accept arguments only from a certain class of people, an overtly elitist approach that subverts libertarian thinking."

No. I requested a source based on a heuristic. I am happy to accept intelligent arguments from anyone who has taken a serious look at the issue.

"It’s not opinion. It’s the law."

No it's not. We can't vote on whether or not to enslave you. And what is being debated, Mr. circular argument, is the appropriateness of the current law.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 4:21:52 PM


My meaning was obvious -- I mentioned a class of people for the sake of intelligent arguments. The latter is what matters. I explained the heuristic.

Well, no, it wasn't. You essentially contradicted yourself. And there you go again, pre-vetting arguments before you've even heard them.

You mentioned my beliefs. If you didn't care about them, why did you mention them?

I mentioned them only to state that they weren't relevant.

Amongst anti-intellectuals, yes. They are also known for knowing what they're talking about.

Not among those who actually have to make plans work or face bankruptcy, they're not. You can lump businessmen and blue-collar workers among the anti-intellectuals, if you wish.

No. I requested a source based on a heuristic. I am happy to accept intelligent arguments from anyone who has taken a serious look at the issue.

A heuristic is a speculative formulation to assist in problem-solving. Also known as "seat-of-the-pantsing it." But that is not what you were doing; you were pre-screening.

No it's not. We can't vote on whether or not to enslave you. And what is being debated, Mr. circular argument, is the appropriateness of the current law.

Yes, it is, because the last time I checked the Charter, there was no Constitutionally protected right to get stoned. The Charter sets limits. Restricting access to dangerous psychotropics that in no way impugns a citizen's fundamental freedoms is not a violation of the Charter.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 5:19:53 PM


"Not among those who actually have to make plans work or face bankruptcy, they're not. You can lump businessmen and blue-collar workers among the anti-intellectuals, if you wish."

That's your opinion.

"A heuristic is a speculative formulation to assist in problem-solving. Also known as "seat-of-the-pantsing it." But that is not what you were doing; you were pre-screening."

It's also known as a "rule of thumb," not "seat of the pants"-ing it. Those are two different things.

"Yes, it is, because the last time I checked the Charter, there was no Constitutionally protected right to get stoned. The Charter sets limits. Restricting access to dangerous psychotropics that in no way impugns a citizen's fundamental freedoms is not a violation of the Charter."

You've changed the subject. Please read my response in context.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 5:31:05 PM


That's your opinion.

And that of most non-intellectuals. In fact, the only people I have seen consult scholars on a routine basis are the media.

It's also known as a "rule of thumb," not "seat of the pants"-ing it. Those are two different things.

Rules of thumb suffice when specifics are unavailable. They're a tool of last resort, certainly not Plan "A."

You've changed the subject. Please read my response in context.

No, you changed the subject when you said that we couldn't vote to restore slavery. As the Charter stands, that's true, but it's also tangential to the main point: your opposition to majority rule on this topic would have traction only if the current drug laws violated people's Charter rights. They don't.

Your wheels are coming off, P.M. You're picking meaningless nits instead of getting to the heart of the matter. I did as you asked; I provided you with an academic source. If you troubled to search for all opinions and not just anti-drug-war ones, you'd find many more.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 6:15:28 PM



$ 20= lets bet & settle this debate-- will Canada follow Portugal into the decrim all drugs ring this year ? will any other European nation do the same this year?

$ 20- the price of a small bag of pot or a small case of beer..

Posted by: 419 | 2009-04-03 6:42:02 PM


"And that of most non-intellectuals. In fact, the only people I have seen consult scholars on a routine basis are the media."

So? I thought opinions don't matter. Or is it that one opinion doesn't matter, but then there's a magic number of opinions that somehow collectively matter? Your beliefs are incoherent and silly. Thankfully, no one cares about your opinion. Except for 419. He cares very much.

"Rules of thumb suffice when specifics are unavailable. They're a tool of last resort, certainly not Plan "A.""

False. More often than not, they are the first resort. Check the psychological literature. Or were you making a normative, not descriptive point? If normative, then thank you for offering your opinion.

Also, notice that you changed the subject. This point is only about whether or not "rule of thumb" is the colloquial equivalent of "heuristic" or "seat of the pants"-ing is.

"No, you changed the subject when you said that we couldn't vote to restore slavery. As the Charter stands, that's true, but it's also tangential to the main point: your opposition to majority rule on this topic would have traction only if the current drug laws violated people's Charter rights. They don't."

Don't blame me for your failure to make the relevant distinction.

"Your wheels are coming off, P.M. You're picking meaningless nits instead of getting to the heart of the matter. I did as you asked; I provided you with an academic source. If you troubled to search for all opinions and not just anti-drug-war ones, you'd find many more."

I'm following your lead. Don't get angry when, in response to your picking nits, I respond with the same.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 6:43:04 PM


Obviously "419" obviously has no interest in taking even a cursory glance at the Cato report. They decriminalized, NOT legalized. Trafficking and sale is still very much criminalized, and, according to the 2001 news story, caught users can still be jailed if they fail to obey the program.

I believe Shane Matthews, in that there are many experts that believe drugs must be prohibited, but I'll bet many of those same people would be willing to consider an alternative approach to *how* they are prohibited if the outcome could be less death, disease, and waste of criminal justice resources. That is why the Portugal model is so interesting.

The U.S. policy gives lip service to "drug courts" (forced treatment), but repeated use will often mean a parole violation, with criminal penalties, and either way the drug arrest shows up in background checks, so that follows the arrestee forever. Portugal has basically mandated that their version of forced treatment actually be used most of the time.

Can you take the model and drop it in other countries? Of course not, but it shows decrim doesn't destroy society and has positive effects.

"Needle Park" was not a success, but we need *more* experimentation. If anything, drug policy would be better off localized because *culture* is localized. The UN treaty stifles innovation.

Shane, do you have any links demonstrating how the Netherlands policy is a failure? I can see that some Dutch have a distaste for the coffeeshops, but that's hardly proof of drug policy failure. What if they go away and disease and death go up?

Also, you're right to say that, in general, criminality is a deterent, but remember, most drug users start in the teen years, when rebellion trumps law, especially victimless drug laws.

I believe that when marijuana prohibition falls, the size of the remaining hard drug black will shrink substantially, and as well the need for dangerous drug raids. I make no claims that legalization for adults will reduce teen use, in fact I'd prefer that teens that are going to experiment with drugs use marijuana than prescription opiates.

Posted by: Steve Clay | 2009-04-03 6:53:09 PM


So? I thought opinions don't matter.

Only to the media, whose job is to engage people emotionally. Opinions are great for that.

Or is it that one opinion doesn't matter, but then there's a magic number of opinions that somehow collectively matter? Your beliefs are incoherent and silly.

Logically, they don't matter. Politically, they do. Remember, it is the people, not the intellectuals, that need convincing. And you keep coming up short.

Thankfully, no one cares about your opinion. Except for 419. He cares very much.

Me and the 61 percent of Americans who think pot should stay illegal, among them the Great Black Messiah.

False. More often than not, they are the first resort. Check the psychological literature.

They're not supposed to be the first resort; certainly they don't give the best answers. Why are we talking about psychology?

Also, notice that you changed the subject. This point is only about whether or not "rule of thumb" is the colloquial equivalent of "heuristic" or "seat of the pants"-ing is.

No, you changed the subject. Man, you are all over the map. Do you realize you're spending less and less time arguing over the core subject and instead arguing over meaningless inconsequentia?

Don't blame me for your failure to make the relevant distinction.

Consider your surrender accepted, P.M.

I'm following your lead. Don't get angry when, in response to your picking nits, I respond with the same.

I told you why I don't trust academics. From that one sentiment came all of these meaningless side battles.

Bottom line: It's the people you have to convince, not some morally superior elite. If your line of thinking is inimical to that, I suggest you start pricing real estate in benevolent dictatorships like Singapore.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 7:08:52 PM


Steve,

1. You do realize that "decriminalized" is simply a fiction that requires suspension of disbelief and pretending the real rules don't exist? They can't get drugs legalized, so they set the bar lower and aim for "decriminalization," in the hopes that it will achieve much the same thing. Something is either illegal or it is not. There is no grey area.

2. An alternative to the existing approach would not necessarily be decriminalization, but stepped-up enforcement with tougher sentences for dealers with indefinite drug camp sojourns for users. Part of the problem is how difficult it has become to actually put anyone in jail and keep them there. Contrary to popular belief, the supply of potential criminals is not unlimited.

3. I agree enforced treatment is an essential part of any solution to the current problem. But more people will just keep getting hooked unless it is made more difficult for them to try drugs. Know why there's so much violence in the drug world right now? Because the supply of drugs is actually drying up from enforcement and the punks are fighting over the crumbs that remain.

4. That it can have positive effects. Also, what Portugal has done is not decriminalization as Canadians usually use the term. Here it means that instead of jail time, you get a fine. No enforced treatment. Hell, even those who want to kick the stuff have trouble finding treatment. That's a big reason the problem is so intractable here.

5. Would you be okay with the Lower Mainland's addict population being "localized" in your neighbourhood? Localization is not good; it encourages ghettoization. Look at the Downtown Eastside for a textbook example.

6. It doesn't matter what the academics have decided vis-a-vis Amsterdam, Steve. What the chattering classes think has very little real-world importance. The point is that the people of Holland have decided that their approach was causing more problems than it solved, and acted on that decision.

7. Bring back the strap. Part of the reason teenagers are so out of control is that an overly liberal society has emasculated the disciplinarians. There are virtually no legal means to control rebellious teens apart from juvenile detention. Either of my sons tries drugs and I'll give him twenty lashes of the belt and risk the jail time. And the fact that these pustules specifically target our youth before they have a chance to learn better is all the more reason to stretch their necks on the gallows.

8. On what do you base this belief? Drugs would remain illegal for minors, even as alcohol and cigarettes are now illegal for minors. Unless you can come up with a convincing reason why dope should be legal for teens but not cigarettes and booze?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 7:29:10 PM


"Logically, they don't matter. Politically, they do. Remember, it is the people, not the intellectuals, that need convincing. And you keep coming up short."

So opinions do matter. Let's hope no one notices that you've changed your mind.

"Me and the 61 percent of Americans who think pot should stay illegal, among them the Great Black Messiah."

Interesting that you think citing a poll in the U.S. is somehow relevant to whether or not Canada should change her laws.

"They're not supposed to be the first resort; certainly they don't give the best answers. Why are we talking about psychology?"

"supposed to"? Is that a fact or your opinion?

"No, you changed the subject. Man, you are all over the map. Do you realize you're spending less and less time arguing over the core subject and instead arguing over meaningless inconsequentia?"

I'm only following your lead. It is interesting to see that you think you can come up with rules that everyone has to follow except for you. Some would call that hypocrisy. Luckily, you don't care about opinions, except when you do care about opinions. Like political opinions.

I may be all over the map, but you're not even making contact with the map. You're floating aimlessly in space. Maybe your wipehead friend 419 can help direct you back on track with an incoherent, ungrammatical and misspelt ramble. Maybe both of you will learn about irony in the process.

"Consider your surrender accepted, P.M."

Consider using English, rather than your own language.

"I told you why I don't trust academics. From that one sentiment came all of these meaningless side battles."

No. I explained why I wanted an academic source, and why I generally trust academics. From that one sentiment came all of these meaningless side battles.

"Bottom line: It's the people you have to convince, not some morally superior elite. If your line of thinking is inimical to that, I suggest you start pricing real estate in benevolent dictatorships like Singapore."

Oh. Then I don't have to do anything. Canadians already think the war on drugs should be loosened, and pot should be treated with kid gloves. Why didn't you tell me that all you care about is opinion polls? We could have saved both of us a lot of time.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-04-03 7:35:42 PM


I am not all that interested in analysis of my views by swing by7 on amateurs-=-but do so if you wish..Freedom of speech is as precious as it it can be annoying

if you have $20 to back up your own fantastic insights and plans for a better world , then I am interested in your opinion, valid or not...money talks and if you are not a twenty dollar bill tonight, I am not going to listen too
..You joyless living room national drug policy Czars are all the same-- pretending to be culturally significant -well, maybe-- a big fat maybe-- and here I thought dope was supposed to be all about having fun., holy crap- not with you guys around

yes/no _ Canada will move towards adopting the Portugal decrim model this year.. yes or no ?- simple, pull out your wallet

opinions are great. where's your money to back them up ?

the invisable hand of the marketplace is flipping you the bird

Posted by: 419 | 2009-04-03 7:39:28 PM


Repeat this phrase when you arrive in Portugal.

Olá!. Eu estou aqui apreciar suas drogas.

Hello, I am here to enjoy your drugs.

See what happens.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-04-03 8:02:14 PM


Drugs seem to be an obsession with some at this site. Regardless of one's stand on the issue, it is NOT a priority when it comes to issues. As long as we lack freedom of expression and of the press and private property rights, it is silly to keep harping on the drug issue in my opinion.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-04-03 8:44:50 PM


So opinions do matter. Let's hope no one notices that you've changed your mind.

Opinions win elections, but not debates.

Interesting that you think citing a poll in the U.S. is somehow relevant to whether or not Canada should change her laws.

Unfortunately, it is. Because it is politically and legally problematic to the point of hopelessness to legalize up here while it remains illegal down there, if the objective is to reduce the gang presence. Most gangs produce mainly for export anyway.

"supposed to"? Is that a fact or your opinion?

If you seek the best, most thoroughly reasoned solutions (and I admit, seeking to choose those over the alternative is a judgement call), then you crunch facts instead of reading sheep intestines, even if you consider those sheep generally trustworthy.

I'm only following your lead. It is interesting to see that you think you can come up with rules that everyone has to follow except for you. Some would call that hypocrisy. Luckily, you don't care about opinions, except when you do care about opinions. Like political opinions.

Sure, you're only following my lead; you're chaff in a whirlwind, with no will of your own. You were the one who went all obtuse and starting trotting out obfuscatory bafflegab like "heuristics" to justify your deliberate attempt to pre-screen information. Again: Opinions don't win debates, which is what we are having. Voters' opinions matter (in a democracy) in that they affect policy. The point is that academics' opinions seldom do.

Consider using English, rather than your own language.

Say what, heuristics boy?

No. I explained why I wanted an academic source, and why I generally trust academics. From that one sentiment came all of these meaningless side battles.

Only because you took exception to the fact that neither I nor the general public trust them, labelling us "anti-intellectual." If I didn't know better I'd guess I'd ruffled some feathers.

Oh. Then I don't have to do anything. Canadians already think the war on drugs should be loosened, and pot should be treated with kid gloves. Why didn't you tell me that all you care about is opinion polls? We could have saved both of us a lot of time.

Oh really? Then why have they twice elected a governments that has vowed to tighten pot regulations? Why has the marijuana party failed to obtain even a single seat, especially with its "libertarian" platform? A hasty public-opinion poll proves little.

The people remain unconvinced, in spite of your claims to the contrary. This "support" of yours has failed to produce meaningful and directed action by the elecatorate, as has the arrest and extradition of Marc Emery. The people are not following your lead. You may as well give up, P.M.; you can't be a pied piper until.you learn to play the flute.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 8:54:33 PM


Something is either illegal or it is not. There is no grey area.

There's a big difference between fining speeders/making them attend traffic school and giving them criminal records. Laws may be concrete, but penalties vary drastically within a country as well as the handling of the arrested within the criminal justice system.

stepped-up enforcement with tougher sentences for dealers with indefinite drug camp sojourns for users...

Feel free to try mandatory minimums. We've tried em a few times for marijuana now in the states. They filled jails, that's about it.

I agree enforced treatment is an essential part of any solution

Well, no. I think forced treatment for marijuana addiction, in particular, is a complete waste of resources.

more people will just keep getting hooked unless it is made more difficult for them to try drugs.

So you think there's an endless queue of people just wishing to try heroin if it were only legal?

the supply of drugs is actually drying up

Do you believe that? That's been the mantra of our drug czars for many years.

Here it means that instead of jail time, you get a fine. No enforced treatment. Hell, even those who want to kick the stuff have trouble finding treatment.

Yep, lack of treatment access sucks (if you're talking about highly addictive substances). I think any sane drug policy would require treatment funding and I'd probably start with a hefty alcohol tax. I understand it's way too cheap in the U.S.

Would you be okay with the Lower Mainland's addict population being "localized" in your neighbourhood?

If that were my neighborhood I'd be begging to try any other policy than the one in place. Extreme problems require radical solutions, and our hands are tied by treaties and federal laws written under completely different conditions and assumptions.

the people of Holland have decided that their approach was causing more problems than it solved

I know the hill is steep, I just think it's worth pushing up it. If it makes it worse, they'll vote it out. There's nothing people love more than to limit the rights of others by popular vote. Ask the gays.

Bring back the strap. Part of the reason teenagers are so out of control is that an overly liberal society has emasculated the disciplinarians.

Yeah, a lot of sucky (non) parenting.

why dope should be legal for teens but not cigarettes and booze?

Maybe I wasn't clear. Marijuana should be regulated similarly to alcohol (adults only). I'm 34 and have never been drunk or stoned, and from my perspective there's no moral brick wall between alcohol and pot. In either case I think we need to ban marketing as the U.S. did with tobacco.

Yes, legalized pot will increase the chances of kids having access to it, but that is not a nightmare scenario for me. Kids popping prescription opiates or other stuff the weed dealer offers them, that's a nightmare, and it's what we have now.

Posted by: Steve Clay | 2009-04-03 10:01:18 PM


Steve,

1. Traffic offences and bylaw infractions are special cases, separate from criminal law. And it's pretty tough to criminalize selling something without also criminalizing buying it. We don't think twice about giving prostitutes or their customers criminal records; why the velvet cushion treatment for drug users?

2. Yes it did fill jails...with criminals. The great majority of people charged with possession get no jail time, unless it's something like their fifth offence. Most people in jail for drugs are dealers, not users.

3. The main focus of the Portugal article was their approach to hard drugs, not marijuana.

4. I think more of them would try it if it were more widely available...which it would be if it were legal. It was once, remember? They restricted it for a reason, and it wasn't a government conspiracy.

5. Asking if I believe something isn't refuting it.

6. Alcoholics, by and large, pay for their own rehabilitation. I do not see why they should have to pay for heroin addicts' as well.

7. You like radical solutions? Very well. All dealers and users of illegal drugs shall be punished by immediate execution. The population of drug users would plummet, I promise.

NO policy is so bad that there isn't another that is worse.

8. Well, most people don't feel like pushing up that particular hill. And you won't convince them otherwise by telling them they all suck for disagreeing with you.

9. He that spareth his rod hateth his son. Assholes are created not by (fair) discipline, but by lack of it.

10. You have several times brought your own perspective into the picture, e.g. "I believe," "I think," "from my perspective." That is a statement of opinion, not an argument. And an adults-only law won't stop teenagers from experimenting because they will still be illegal for them to buy...only now they can raid the old man's cannabis cabinet.

You are not the world, Steve.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-04-03 10:56:02 PM


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