Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« Congressman Ron Paul on The Daily Show | Main | Happy Blasphemy Day »

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reassessing the war on drugs: Patrick Basham

While a policy analyst with the Fraser Institute, Patrick Basham presented the following speech at a conference in Edmonton in 2000 entitled “Reassessing the War on Drugs." Basham’s remarks are part of a growing body of intellectual work opposing the war on drugs from a conservative perspective.

Basham’s remarks provide one of the best and most concise analysis of the failure of the war on drugs I have read. While Basham’s remarks are a decade old, the pending extradition of libertarian publisher and activist Marc Emery to the U.S. on charges related to selling marijuana seeds makes his insights timely for conservative readers.

Below is an excerpt from Basham’s speech, which you can read in its entirety here:

In 1998, BC's chief coroner, Larry Campbell, recently issued this rhetorical challenge: "It's time someone stepped forward and said the war on drugs is lost." Commencing with conferences held in Vancouver and in Toronto in 1998, at The Fraser Institute we've stepped forward and said exactly that: the War on Drugs is lost.

Why is the “War on Drugs” such a failure? In my view, drug prohibition has all the characteristics of numerous other well-intentioned, yet expensive, counterproductive, Big Government programs that have outlived any possible usefulness. Why? Because the drug war reflects our failure to learn from history. Because it causes crime. Because it corrupts police officers. Because it violates civil liberties and individual rights. Because it throws good money after bad. And because it weakens -- at times, even destroys -- families, neighbourhoods, and communities.

Canadian governments -- federal and provincial -- have seldom given serious thought to drug policy, preferring instead to follow whatever variation on failure is being proposed during the latest 'crisis.' It's my contention that such conventional thinking has only served to empower organized crime, corrupt governments, distort the marketplace, hinder health care, and feed into an ever-growing law enforcement and penal industry. In sum, common sense and experience have been ignored, folly has been repeated, and the War on Drugs has become a war on reason, itself.

All of the evidence -- academic, scientific, and anecdotal -- confirms that most of the serious problems we associate with illegal drug use are caused directly or indirectly not by drug use, itself, but by drug prohibition. It's only by separating drug use from drug prohibition -- something that prohibitionists carefully don't do -- that one is able to assess whether or not the harmful side effects of prohibition overwhelm the benefits of alleged lower drug consumption and the resulting lower social costs.

American economist Thomas Sowell has suggested that "Crusades are judged by how good they make the crusaders feel, but policies are judged by their consequences." I agree. In that vein, through a series of observations about the health, legal, economic, and philosophical issues at stake here, I wish to outline for you my objections to the continuation of the drug war.

Continue reading “Reassessing the war on drugs” here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on September 30, 2009 | Permalink

Comments

Great read. Bookmarked that one.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2009-09-30 4:21:30 PM


"only by separating drug use from drug prohibition -- something that prohibitionists carefully don't do"

How very true ...

Posted by: Charles | 2009-10-01 5:25:04 AM


Nothing that hasn't been said before. And, predictably, nothing to explain why the war on crime, which also has all the negative attributes mentioned, is still okay. Libertarian attempts to fill this logic gap with nebulous concepts like "natural law" are not convincing, and I've certainly never heard any of these actual "experts" put forth such a notion.

I expect we'll see a dreary parade of these threads until Marc Emery is whisked off to Leavenworth; as if the dynamic changes completely every time an opinion piece parroting the same old, same old manages to reach the papers. What with all the real liberties Canadians (and Americans) are losing, it certainly seems questionable that the Western Standard should choose this, an artificial "right" protected neither by Charter, nor common law, nor tradition, as their favourite liberty to fight for.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-10-01 6:30:40 AM


It is by tradition, don't kid yourself shane. Its been used for recreation for 5000 years. It is also argued that many of the anointing oils Jesus used were actually cannabis tincture. There is also reference of a "fragrant reed". Hmm.. fragrant = smelly... Reed = stalked plant. Could easily be cannabis.

Posted by: Baker | 2009-10-01 7:52:23 AM


Oh yea, its also said that Siddhartha Gautama also ate only cannabis for a year or so before he finally became enlightened and became Buddha... Need any more tradition Shane? or will you finally stop trying to play the cards I've taken from your hands.

Oh yea, also under the tradition headline. Christmas as we know it is an adoption of a old Siberian mushroom fertility cult practices. Ever notice the Aminitia Musculara in old christmas cards and the such? That's because shaman of the tribe would go out and collect these mushrooms that grow only under pine trees(christmas presents). They then hang them in the tree to dry (Christmas ordainment). Then when the end of the year came around the shaman would take his summers harvest to the people of his village for their traditional "christmas" ceremony. This being winter and snow thick, he had to enter through the alternate entrance of the hut, the "chimney" in the top.

Posted by: Baker | 2009-10-01 8:04:05 AM


It is a lie that Siddhartha Gautama used "cannabis" in order to become Buddha. No proof at all. More plausible is that he used hemp as paper, but not as a narcotic. It makes sense for the druggies to find some sort of authority to justify themselves. In their drug-fuelled world, things like facts do not matter.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-10-01 8:29:03 AM


"It is a lie that Siddhartha Gautama used "cannabis" in order to become Buddha. No proof at all. More plausible is that he used hemp as paper, but not as a narcotic. It makes sense for the druggies to find some sort of authority to justify themselves. In their drug-fuelled world, things like facts do not matter."

Did i ever say it was used as a "narcotic" no lol. He at leaves like salad, seeds as well. And there's also no proof to the contrary. I wrote "its also SAID".

Posted by: Baker | 2009-10-01 8:40:05 AM


It is by tradition, don't kid yourself shane. Its been used for recreation for 5000 years.

In India maybe; not here. Before the 1930s most North Americans and Europeans had never even heard of marijuana. Hemp was something you made ropes with. If it was as integral a component of human culture as you describe, it should be easy to find cultural references to it through the ages. But that is almost impossible.

It is also argued that many of the anointing oils Jesus used were actually cannabis tincture.

Argued, and debunked. The "fragrant cane" used in the anointing oils of the ancient Jews was calamus, not cannabis. Calamus also came from India, and was used as a base for expensive perfumes. A far likelier candidate for a holy oil than a weed with a legendary stink.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-10-01 9:19:34 AM


P.S. It used to be a cultural fixture in medieval India that wives be burned alive upon their husbands' funeral pyres. Should we import that tradition, too?

You don't get to sift every era from every culture in history to try to prove a traditional European cultural justification for the liberty of smoking weed, Baker. It is not a protected freedom, or even a surviving tradition, dating to early modern, medieval, or even ancient Europe. If the best you can do is "it is said," you may as well throw in the towel, before you're laughed off this blog.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-10-01 9:24:34 AM


Alchohol, coffee, cigarettes are all more addictive than Mj and they are all legal.
http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/28

I know that some consider Mj a hallucinogen. But wait look at one of the effects of detoxing from alcohol. http://www.shesinrecovery.com/withdrawal/alcohol.html .
If "it makes you hallucinate" is a reason that something should be illegal then alcohol should be on that list as well. And I think (only had out of date articles) the herb Salvia is still legal in Canada as well and it is a known hallucinogen.

Fat people and smokers are known to die sooner than others, both still legal. So objections can't be raised that smoking Mj should be illegal because it is bad for you.

It stinks is another good one that I have heard. Sounds like a great reason to make something illegal. Just because a person dislikes the smell of something we should make it illegal? Just because something has a strong or conspicuous odour does not justify making it illegal. Use curry for example. Just because it has a distinct odour. One that I could probably smell someone cooking with a block away and that is a smell not culturally common in N. A should we make it illegal? I may dislike it, you may dislike it, maybe 90% of people dislike it but does that give us the right to make it illegal?

There is also some studies that are showing a link between people predisposed to mental illness smoking mj and increased side effects. Like most things there are studies on either side of that argument. "However, it is not yet clear whether marijuana is being used in an attempt to self-medicate an already present but otherwise untreated mental health problem, or whether marijuana use leads to mental disorders (or both)." http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/pot/f/mjp_faq18.htm

So it is less dangerous, some people dislike the smell, it is less addictive than other legal substances, there have been some reports of hallucinations (I have not personally seen any studies to this affect) like side effects of other legal drugs, and a very small percentage of people predisposed to mental illness may be at increase risk by using it. The reasons for making it illegal all sound logical to me.

Posted by: Bret | 2009-10-01 3:22:27 PM


Alchohol, coffee, cigarettes are all more addictive than Mj and they are all legal.

But none is a psychotropic hallucinogen and all are far more predictable in their effects and detox rates. Two of the three do not even impair your senses, coordination, or cognition.

I know that some consider Mj a hallucinogen. But wait look at one of the effects of detoxing from alcohol.

But we're not talking about detoxing from alcohol, are we? People with the DTs are typically too sick to even consider driving.

And I think (only had out of date articles) the herb Salvia is still legal in Canada as well and it is a known hallucinogen.

So are morning-glory seeds, if you eat 300 or so. Also, there are over 900 species in the genus Salvia (otherwise known as the mint family), so could you be a bit more specific, please?

Fat people and smokers are known to die sooner than others, both still legal.

But also save the system money by crapping out early, either before retirement or soon after. Also, tobacco and doughnuts are not psychotropic hallucinogens.

So objections can't be raised that smoking Mj should be illegal because it is bad for you.

No, they can't. But they can be raised because smoking dope is bad for other people.

It stinks is another good one that I have heard. Sounds like a great reason to make something illegal. Just because a person dislikes the smell of something we should make it illegal?

EVERYONE except potheads hate the smell of marijuana, Bret. Get over it, already. And yes, we have the right to make illegal ANYTHING that is not protected by codified legal freedoms.

There is also some studies that are showing a link between people predisposed to mental illness smoking mj and increased side effects. Like most things there are studies on either side of that argument.

There are usually studies to support both sides of any argument, Bret. That statement, taken by itself, is meaningless. The issue is whether the pros of widespread marijuana use outweigh the cons. They don't.

Honestly, Bret, you're just complaining about the same things you've complained about before. Give us something new, would you?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-10-01 4:12:27 PM


More predictable in their detox rates. Yes alcohol is considered to be a way more severe detox than mj which has not been proven to even be physically addictive.

You consider anything that can cause a person to have hallucinations very bad and it should be illegal. By your logic alcohol should then be illegal. So hallucinations would only be bad if they are driving? It is illegal to drive impaired by anything so I am not sure what your point is.

Salvia divinorum I believe.Lack of sleep also causes hallucinations. So are all of these other known hallucinogens illegal? If hallucinations are the reason you repeatedly throw out why Mj should be illegal then why not? Or is it just because Mj is popular and you don't like it?

So because they save the system money its ok?? But because some person somewhere may have hallucinated from smoking pot but is not dead thats worse? So known, proven killers should be a persons choice but smoking Mj should be illegal? Wow.

How is someone smoking Mj bad for anyone? The only thing that makes smoking Mj bad is the laws that force the growing, distribution and sale into criminal hands. Now that alcohol prohibition is over how much of that enterprise is in criminal hands?

Glad you speak for everyone Shane. Also just because we have the "right" does not make it "right".

Exactly what I was trying to point out. For every obscure study that you bring out to show the cons of Mj I can show you 10 that show the pros. But there will always be more studies. It is obvious that the current "war on drugs" is not working so maybe a new plan is in order. The definition of insane is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Yes I complain about the same things. You keep writing the same old stuff so I simply respond. If you don't like it don't respond.

But just so I am clear here.
1) You agree that Mj is the least addictive substance below coffee, tobacco and alcohol.

2)You feel that because it causes hallucinations that it should be illegal while other known hallucinogens such as lack of sleep, alcohol detox and other herbs are fine.

3)You feel that even though fat people and smokers die years sooner the products these people use are fine but Mj is not.

4) You feel that because Mj has a distinct odour that you and some others do not like it should be illegal.

5) You believe that because a minute percentage of people with a predisposition for mental illness may encounter negative effects from smoking Mj it should be illegal for everyone.

Posted by: Bret | 2009-10-01 8:02:12 PM


More predictable in their detox rates. Yes alcohol is considered to be a way more severe detox than mj which has not been proven to even be physically addictive.

By “detox” I mean “the sobering-up process,” not “breaking an addiction.” You can predict how soon a person will be sober based on their body weight and amount drunk. There’s even a chart. No such chart exists for marijuana, and because it’s fat soluble, there likely can’t be one.

You consider anything that can cause a person to have hallucinations very bad and it should be illegal. By your logic alcohol should then be illegal. So hallucinations would only be bad if they are driving? It is illegal to drive impaired by anything so I am not sure what your point is.

Another retread. Alcohol does not cause hallucinations. Alcohol withdrawal does, but someone with the DT’s is generally in no condition to even contemplate driving.

Salvia divinorum I believe.

You believe? There are NINE HUNDRED SPECIES. Let us know when you’re sure.

Lack of sleep also causes hallucinations.

Sometimes. Unfortunately, you can’t force a person with insomnia to sleep.

So are all of these other known hallucinogens illegal?

“All of these others”? You’ve named two, one of which you can’t name and the other of which is not realistic.

If hallucinations are the reason you repeatedly throw out why Mj should be illegal then why not? Or is it just because Mj is popular and you don’t like it?

It’s not the ONLY reason it should be illegal, but it’s a contributing factor. But let me turn the tables on you—why should it be legal?

So because they save the system money its ok??

Because they save the system money, and don’t put anyone else at risk, what they do is none of your business.

But because some person somewhere may have hallucinated from smoking pot but is not dead thats worse?

People who are hallucinating from pot, but not dead, can get behind the wheel of a car. And pot, unlike alcohol, can continue to impair your ability to drive for up to 24 hours, not counting rebound highs.

So known, proven killers should be a persons choice but smoking Mj should be illegal?

Salvia is a known, proven killer?

How is someone smoking Mj bad for anyone?

Retread. Asked and answered.

The only thing that makes smoking Mj bad is the laws that force the growing, distribution and sale into criminal hands.

That’s your slant on it. Mine differs.

Now that alcohol prohibition is over how much of that enterprise is in criminal hands?

You could make the same argument for any restricted product, including weapons of mass destruction. The fact that there will always be a black market for something does not, in itself, justify legalizing it.

Glad you speak for everyone Shane. Also just because we have the “right” does not make it “right”.

Don’t make it wrong either. Next.

For every obscure study that you bring out to show the cons of Mj I can show you 10 that show the pros.

The cons of marijuana have been known for decades—look what it did to the baby boomers, and for that matter the smokers on this forum—and researchers have recently discovered the possibility of more. All these miracle cures attributed to marijuana have only started popping up in the last ten years or so—at precisely the time when the baby boomers who smoked in their youth began moving into society’s most senior leadership positions. Meanwhile, the cancer and Alzheimer’s rates continue to climb, in spite of the number of people who have been “protecting” themselves by smoking pot.

But there will always be more studies. It is obvious that the current “war on drugs” is not working so maybe a new plan is in order.

No, it isn’t obvious. Because the addiction rate today is half the rate in 1900.

The definition of insane is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

No, the definition of insane is the inability to care for one’s self or carry out one’s social duties.

Yes I complain about the same things. You keep writing the same old stuff so I simply respond. If you don’t like it don’t respond.

I thought the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” What’s the matter, tough guy? Can you not take your own advice?

But just so I am clear here. 1) You agree that Mj is the least addictive substance below coffee, tobacco and alcohol.

If you agree that marijuana is a psychotropic hallucinogen with an unpredictable detox rate, prone to rebound highs, and a gateway, for whatever reason, to harder drugs.

2) You feel that because it causes hallucinations that it should be illegal while other known hallucinogens such as lack of sleep, alcohol detox and other herbs are fine.

An act, or lack of it, is not a hallucinogen. And hallucinations are but one of several reasons why marijuana should not be considered as harmless as soda pop.

3)You feel that even though fat people and smokers die years sooner the products these people use are fine but Mj is not.

Those products do not put other people at risk. I don’t care if a drug user dies in the street. I just don’t want him stinking it up, peeing in the corner, cracking into cars, or driving stoned—acts that put others at risk. Unlike drinking coffee and eating doughnuts. Alcohol is borderline, but the fact that it can be (and usually is) consumed without getting drunk, does not make the neighbourhood smell like freshly killed skunk, is already tightly regulated, and has a predictable detox rate make it a better bet than dope (assuming consumption at equal rates).

4) You feel that because Mj has a distinct odour that you and some others do not like it should be illegal.

Quit waffling. The only people who like the smell of pot is potheads. Everybody else hates it. This isn’t the smell of a curry cooking. It’s the smell of kicking a skunk. You’re not going to win this point no matter how you try.

You believe that because a minute percentage of people with a predisposition for mental illness may encounter negative effects from smoking Mj it should be illegal for everyone.

Again, a contributory factor, one of many. Your problem is you look at each factor separately instead of in summation, focussing like a laser on the one or two bad points of the other "drugs" while glossing over the many problems with dope and struggling to put forward some good points. Your standard for dope and the others is wildly different. You're not looking objectively at the facts so you can draw a conclusion from them; you're looking for justification for a decision you've already made on ideological grounds. It colours your whole outlook. You even rationalize funding criminal gangster organizations, blaming the lawman for pot smokers' lawlessness. There is no argument you would buy, because your mind is already made up, and you have invested emotionally, philosophically, and politically in the decision. It's not just a conclusion you drew. It's part of who you are. Your entire identity. That's why you'll never be able to let it go.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-10-01 9:28:10 PM


So because there is no chart to measure detox rates it should be illegal? It is illegal to drive while impaired by anything, period. Just because the substance is illegal does not mean people are not driving impaired now and the legality of the drug wouldn't change that just like alcohol.

Retread is right. So hallucinations are only a factor in making a substance illegal if they can drive? Which by the way even NIDA does not list hallucinations as a side effect on the pages I looked at.

I agree you can't force them to sleep. But according to you hallucinations are bad if they are able to drive. So there has to be something we can make illegal. How about if they drive while impaired on lack of sleep or Mj then thats illegal?

So by that same token smoking mj has no proven health detriments ( at least none worse than alcohol, tobacco, caffeine) and it effects no one else so it should be none of your business.

Shane people that are extremely intoxicated from alcohol can also get behind the wheel of a car. Just because a person under the influence of a substance can break some law should not affect the legality of the substance. If it did alcohol would also be illegal.

By known proven killers being legal I meant tobacco, alcohol, fat people etc. These are a matter of choice for people while a relatively benign Mj is illegal.

The addiction rate in 1900 could have been higher (can I see the link please) because cocaine was in coca cola, opiates were in over the counter elixers etc. There was no education on them, no studies on the effects, no controls at all. Also Mj is not physically addictive.

Your comparing the black market for Mj to Nuclear weapons? Come on. If there was no black market for Mj the potential for crime, death and all the other bad things tied to Mj would be gone. Exactly the opposite for nuclear weapons.

What exactly are the cons of Mj? Are these cons worse than legal substances like alcohol or tobacco? Does it kill people? No.
Show me the studies that tie the Alzheimer's rate or cancer rates to Mj. Glad you were able to figure it out while every other scientist in the world links it to chemicals or doesn't know why the rates are increasing.

So the definition of insane is not caring for yourself or carry out social duties. WTF? So every fat person is insane? Every smoker is insane? As for the social duties part Wow.

1) Yes Mj does temporarily affect receptors in the brain. Much like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine etc. You have already stated previously that smoking mj does not cause people to use hard drugs. The same links can be made between hard drug users and alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, bubble gum etc.

2) So hallucinations aren't bad now? But other legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco should be considered as harmless as soda pop?

3) Don't put others at risk? What about the fat truck driver that has diabetes and goes into shock while driving his 18 wheeler down the street? You make broad generalizations or pick some random phenomena that affects a minute percentage of those that smoke mj so there is my random phenomena on how fat people can affect others. How many people were killed by drunk drivers last year? The year before? 20 years ago? Just because someone could commit a crime under the influence of a substance is not reason to make it illegal or bye bye booze.

4) Smell. Your personal preference. We have already went over the chemical composition comparing it to a skunks smell. Please show me the study or any kind of reliable information about how everyone in the world except people that have smoked pot hate it. I know it isn't the smell of curry cooking but the comparison is similar. You can smell curry cooking from a long way away, lots of jokes about how bad it stinks, some people dislike the smell, people that use it still can smell like it after etc.

I would buy a logical argument that shows the effects of legalizing Mj would be worse than what is happening now, That Mj is worse than other substances that are currently legal etc.

In the vast majority of cases smoking Mj affects no one else, kind of like people drinking alcohol, people being fat, or smoking. This seems to be your only argument and you just make general accusations and then move on. You have proven nothing other than you have a lot of time on your hands and you personally dislike Mj.

Posted by: Bret | 2009-10-06 12:31:43 PM



The comments to this entry are closed.