Rule #1 of Drug Legalization is Don't Talk About Drug Legalization

Pete Guither calls our attention to this remarkable statement from drug policy academic Mark Kleiman:
But there are things we can do about drug policy that would reduce the number of people in prison, and the extent of drug abuse and drug related crime. Legalization isn't one of them because there's not public support for it. And if we acknowledge the fact that, from the point of view of the majority of the population it's a loser, um, then it's not as if we can talk them out of that, so I think the legalization debate is mostly a distraction from doing the real work of fixing our drug policies.
Kleiman has long positioned himself as somewhat of a centrist in the drug policy debate, finding fault on both sides of the fence and calling for reform while dismissing legalization as unrealistic and irresponsible. To that end, the above quote may be his most perplexing to date.

Along these same lines, I once attended a discussion of Peter Reuter and David Boyum's book An Analytic Assessment of U.S. Drug Policy, in which the authors admitted ignoring the legalization option in their analysis. Boyum claimed that there was no legitimate political support for ending the drug war and that he and Reuter had therefore confined themselves to recommendations that they thought were politically viable.

It is just depressing to witness academics confining the discussion of complex issues within the parameters of pre-existing public opinion. What's the point of possessing vast knowledge of any subject if one chooses to then limit themselves to the preferred policy prescriptions of all the people who don't know what the hell they're talking about?

Plainly, the whole don't-talk-about-drug-legalization argument as stated above has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of drug legalization. Taken at face value, these pleading solicitations for us to shut up carry with them the salient implication that if drug legalization were politically viable, then it would be a perfectly sensible thing to discuss.

Ironically, drug legalization could become politically viable overnight if not for the multitudes of influential people who continue to oppose it largely because it lacks political viability.
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I think there is a tendency for many people to play the role of the centrist; nobody wants to be seen as either a puritan or a "user" which, unfortunately, is exactly what happens when you even discuss the topic.


Re: Centrist schmentrist.

Those individuals who would like to see legalizers "dummy up" about legalization forget that the legislations which "created drug crime" were a plague on our laws and the citizens those laws are supposed to "serve and protect." Regardless of the political system involved, lawmakers were misled; some through good intentions, some deliberately so and others were deliberately misleading utilizing innuendo and perjury. We can now see the results of such lawmaking.
Need reasons to go to war? Trump up a "Big Lie" or two to provide the rationale for going to war. Make up bigger lies to conceal the ugliness of war and the necessity for all types of prohibitions. Those who don't want to hear the legalization arguments are embarassed by it because they tolerate the dishonesty and dishonour lawmaking perverted creates in our societies.

stand in the middle of the road and you're road kill

sicntired People can make up all kinds of scenarios in which disaster will come if we legalise drugs.I spent 38 years of my life in and out of prison for nothing more than possessing narcotics.I recently acquired a serious spinal infection that was anti-biotic resistant and bone eating.I do not recommend it but the chronic pain has made me a legal opiate user and I've been in no trouble since.Three years of being crime free after a 38 year criminal history.If other addicts were given the same option or legal heroin I'm sure they are as capable of surviving as I have.Drugs,even heroin,can be distributed by physicians with very little or no downside.I can and i'm as dope simple as anyone you'll meet.

44% in Nevada, 41% in Colorado in 2006 referendums

for legalizing cannabis. And it really seemed like the biggest problem a fair number of opponents had was the conflict it would set up with the federal jihad against weed. His comment is more applicable to other illegal drugs I think. It seems clear to me that if any drug prohibitions are lifted, it will begin with cannabis. When the dire predictions of the marijuana haters don't at all come true that should further undermine their credibility regarding other drugs as well, but that will all take time. Prescriptions for addicts as a crime fighting tactic is a more practical goal than outright legalization of any hard drugs at this time. If the behavior of addicts no longer needing to pay black market prices was much improved, it would be further evidence that prohibition is a bigger problem than the drugs themselves. Excessive talk about legalizing hard drugs, when it is not on the horizon, might be counterproductive at this point, providing a convenient demagogic diversion for marijuana haters. Perhaps I'm being too timid but I think I'm being very realistic about dealing with an American public that is very, very cranky on the subject of drugs. Maybe it's all that covering up of their guilty conscience over how many people they've been crucifying, directly and indirectly, with their damn jihad.

prescriptons for illegal drugs?

Drugs that are illegal cannot be regulated. Until then, we leave them in the hands of the dealers, who don't card. And it is "for the children?" It is easier for kids to get drugs than it is for them to get alcohol or cigarettes! The present system offers no remedy at all, at decreasing the availability of illegal drugs to children.. Put one dealer in jail and there will always be another to replace him. But jihad was a great term to use for this war on the American public! The drug war does have more religiuos over-tones than it does a scientific basis.

influential people

They will not allow drug policy reform to become a topic for discussion even if, they have had drug problems involving members of their own family. The influential people can pay for attorneys and hush money to protect their family from the front lines and the press. They can afford the best care for friends and family, This allows them to go along with law enforcement and present themselves as model citizens . The more money a family has, the more likely drugs, prescription or otherwise, will become a family issue, including alcohol.

"Reality-based community"

It's funny he considers himself part of the "Reality-Based Community" while ignoring so much of it. Like he doesn't mention anything at all about the progress this country has made in greatly reducing tobacco use and how eliminating much of the cigarette marketing and replacing it with public health ads has played a big role in that reduction. I also thought it ridiculously utopian his comment that coercive treatment would remove the best customers from drug dealers; therefore, there will no longer be a need to arrest dealers because there will be very little profit potential in drug dealing.

Legalization Support

"...the progress this country has made in greatly reducing tobacco use and how eliminating much of the cigarette marketing and replacing it with public health ads has played a big role in that reduction."

Putting aside the fact that the public majority opposes legalization due to prohibitionists dominating the publics' knowledge on the subject, what we need is:

Legalization supported by an effective system of abuse prevention and treatment.

The abuse prevention layer of that system these days, while improving on the tobacco front, is still fairly worthless when compared to what it should be.

Abuse prevention should be a very prominent, perpetually-evolving educational campaign that basically teaches every citizen:

1. how to identify and resolve abnormal stress in their lives.
2. to avoid generally heavily addictive substances.
3. proper usage guidelines for non-heavily addictive substances.

This is a system that should be implemented now to deal with the likes of alcohol and tobacco abuse.

The legalization movement needs to basically stop ignoring substance abuse as a problem and firmly embrace resolving that problem. Such embracing improves our credibility and public relations from the majority perspective.

Reducing alcohol and tobacco abuse via this system sets the stage for proper legalization.

On top of that

"The abuse prevention layer of that system these days, while improving on the tobacco front, is still fairly worthless when compared to what it should be."

I agree there is definitely room for improvement in how we can better regulate alcohol and tobacco, e.g. stopping the convenience store model of tobacco/alcohol sales and promoting alcohol products during sports games and other tv shows that kids watch. Basically, we need to clean up what we have because the only reference for legalization regulation that people currently have is the alcohol and tobacco models.

Alcohol and Netherlands Model

I would never use the US alcohol, California, Netherlands model to promote substance regulation reform. It's too easy for policy wonks to define you and take apart the system model you support. You merely need to have goals that are realistic (e.g. removing drug dealers from schools) that most people agree with and show how prohibition enforcement has failed in achieving each of those goals and the weaknesses that lead to such failure.

the way to reduce abuse

is to stop having drug addicts and gangsters sell drugs. It is in their interests to sell to all comers without regulated limits.

Put into place a public health based dispensary system for potentially addictive substances that can identify problematic use BEFORE it negatively impacts family, friends and community.

We do not need to be responsible for the unresolved contradictions in alcohol and tobacco regulation. They are minor in comparison to the major crime and disease problems caused by the lack of regulation of the intoxicant drug markets.

"Glen Hanson, acting director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a federal agency, said..."

Since access to beer and cigarettes is restricted at the retail stage, Hanson said, youths have significant hurdles to obtaining them."
As far as marijuana is concerned, there is not any control there," he said.  "If you want it, you can get it.  That is not good news." Aug 2002, Boston Globe (MA)

Show the American people that it is their own best interests to end the war on drugs and they will abandon it. Tell people how democratic institutions of regulation and licensing will put more restrictions in between children and drugs that the gangster enabling authoritarian prohibition does today.

Regulated and licensed members of the community will sell drugs more responsibly than drug addicts and gangsters do it today.

Regulated and licensed members of the community will not divert billions of dollars a year to crime and terrorism as addicts and gangsters do today.

Prohibition is a license for the violent anarchy of gangsters and addicts. Regulation is a license for social responsibility in a democracy.

Police and prisons have failed to reduce drug abuse and crime. Doctors and hospitals can address the problems of addiction that are not today addressed by police and prisons. And do it more cheaply.

Drug WarRant's picture


I'm assuming abonia abonia is the new anonymous. Either that, or an oddly schizophrenic individual.

Thanks Pete

We fixed it. Hope the infection doesn't spread to your site...

Not Quiet On Any Front

Speaking truth to power about legalization is one of the many fronts in the battles that challenge the odd situation where bureaucrats run con-games as insidiously bent on destruction as that emerging every day from America’s drug war.

A simple little thing like truth from the opposition lets bureaucrats know that the political problems involved in reform are equally understood, and that reformers have the drug warrior culture under a microscope, regardless.

Passive resistance alone will always prevail. Religious heresy always survives grandiose persecutions, while seemingly drawing more and more energy from the individual persecutions as it proceeds. Adding free speech and dissent usually ratchets up the fear factor for some, while speeding up the final acceptance of the heretic as part of the self-blessed status quo.

Isolation and rapid termination of the drug war virus is inevitable. A bonus this time around would be the development of some kind of social vaccine; one that in some future scenario stops witch hunts like the current drug war from just popping up again in some mutated form.

Politicians may wish to be on the winner’s side—the non-prohibition side—in the drug war. Otherwise, it’s now very likely that politicians who feel a need to block or hinder drug law reform by dishing up lies, idiot propaganda, and violations of the Hatch Act, may someday need to publicly purge themselves in some mea culpa, the way Gov. George Wallace did with African Americans and Sen. Jesse Helms did with AIDS victims.


Drug war = CONTROL WAR

Klieman will have to fall on one side of the fence or the other. A continuation of "the middle" leads to nowhere. This "drug" war thing, is really a "controlled" substances thing. CONTROL, is what it IS all about. Otherwise it would be about REGULATION. Regulated substances, does'nt that sound better? And there is plenty of money to be made in regulating. Of course, regulation will cut away the enforcement/incarceration industrie$ take , but real freedom is not free.

The more voices heard to legalize the better

William Aiken

If Kleiman wants to censor himself and avoid the issues surrounding legalization. That's up to him. But who is he to dictate how the discussion should be argued. With groups like LEAP and the Drug Policy Alliance publishing letters and articles on legalization. The taboo effect is slowly wearing off. An Obama Presidency compared to 8 years of Bush would be a huge leap forward. For one, he would be sensitive to the racial disparity of the drug war and all of the injustices that go with it. In the big picture, the presidential pendelum swings back and forth. The potential progress reformers might make under Obama will no doubt be challenged by the next conserative Republican.


"Ironically, drug legalization could become politically viable overnight if not for the multitudes of influential people who continue to oppose it largely because it lacks political viability."

This would not be the case but for the fact of all of the short term memory problems among some pot reformers.

Last summer, after citing a litany of social problems they believe are caused by the war on drugs the Mayors passed a resolution that made this bold assertion: "NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the United States Conference of Mayors believes the war on drugs has failed..."

The Conference of Mayors is the largest group of local ELECTED executives in the nation opposing the war on drugs. they represent the social interests of a vast majority of urban America.

the following was spoken on the floor of the United States House of Representatives in December by REPUBLICAN Dana Rohrabacher on the 75th anniversary of the end of the alcohol prohibition.

"Why did America reject the prohibition of alcoholic beverages? Well, when government attempts to control the peaceful behavior of its citizens, it often sets in motion forces that are more dangerous than the social evil that they are trying to control. Today's war on drugs is perhaps an example.

The war on drugs has resulted in a multimillion dollar network of violent organized crime. The war on drugs has created the deaths by drive-by shootings and turf wars among gangs in our cities. The war on drugs has overcrowded our prisons. More than half of Federal prison space is occupied by nonviolent drug users. The war on drugs has corrupted our police and crowded our courts. We apparently did not learn the lesson of the prohibition of alcoholic beverages."

There is legislation to reform elements of the drug war in at least four states right now. Many states are looking at alternatives to the expensive incarceration modal and simply need the encouragement of reformers writing letters to them and to the media reminding them of these elected Americans who have come out against the war on drugs.

For the first time all of the Democratic presidential candidates have moderated their drug war stances in some way. This is a direct response to two things.

1. All of the American drug war reformers who have abandoned the Democrats for third parties and Nader Independent groups that all oppose the war on drugs.

2. All of the reformers who have been confronting these candidates on the campaign trail.

The Democrats need us. They are starting to see that they need us. We are their winning margin and they know it.

Instead of bemoaning all of the myopia and in so doing reaffirming it I prefer to look at the growing accumulation of successes and use them to reach as far as possible for everything we can get going forward. Allowing your detractors to define you is suicide. Political suicide.

As much as I like what Pete has been doing there are people on his threads who are defeatists and that, I fear, is infecting Pete.

A Left Independent As long as I do not allow myself to be defined by the limits imposed by my enemy my possibilities are limitless.

This is a load of crap

Polls show that a majority of Canadians support legalization. The American polls are much more controlled, and police have been known to use fake polls as an investigative tactic. For the ones with university educations, whose social interactions are limited to others of the same kind, the myth of majority support for prohibition is very strong.
If they're given a clear question in a binding federal referendum, the vast majority of Americans and Canadians would vote yes to legalizing in a landslide. But we're not given that option, and a series of sick media games are being played to keep people believing that their neighbors are their enemy when in reality our only real enemy is government.

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