Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Thinking Policeman

Lex Ferenda has a post opposing drug legalization on The Thinking Policeman blog.

Now, I love The Thinking Policeman. It is a team blog with several different authors and frequent guest posts. I like its variety, its philosophical approach and its British perspective. Several months ago, the original author of the blog was kind enough to publish a guest post that I wrote. And a recent post inspired me to order a book from, and I almost never do things like that. (The book is titled Criminal Investigative Failures, if you're interested.)

Here are a couple of general comments for Lex:

1) Do you have any evidence or statistics to back up your claims, or are you simply making broad generalizations?

2) Regarding your comment, "There is no overarching strategy and solution to the problem just disparate suggestions based mainly around the contention that the current strategy does not work." The issue of regulation is difficult as it would vary depending on the province and country. However, Transform just launched a free book on how to regulate drugs. It's called After the War on Drugs: Blueprints for Regulation.

3) Are you going to begin lobbying for the prohibition of alcohol and tobacco? This is the natural extension of the argument you are making.

4) Organized crime might divert into child pornography or human trafficking if drugs became legal and regulated. However, public support for kiddie porn is substantially less than the public support for marijuana. Also, there would be far more police resources to tackle child porn if there was no War on Drugs.

5) You say the government is going to give away free drugs, and in the same paragraph suggest that drug dealers will lower their prices to create a price war and bankrupt the government. How can the drug dealers lower their prices below "free"? Also, who says that legal, regulated markets will result in free drugs issued by the government? And, even if that does happen, a cost-benefit analysis might show that money is saved in the long run through lower HIV infection rates, less property crime, etc.

6) No one is suggesting drugs will disappear. It is the prohibitionists who believe that drug use can be eliminated. The anti-prohibitionists recognize that drugs have been used by societies for thousands of years, and will remain part of our society in the future. We want to minimize the harm caused by the prohibition of drugs, such as gang violence over control of the black market.

7) You suggest that "Dealers should be hunted down, imprisoned for a long time and every penny they own seized." Jail does not deter a drug dealer. He has already chosen a job that comes with the occupational hazard of being murdered, execution style. Also, it is important to note this has been tried already in the United States. The tough justice approach worked so well they now have the highest incarceration rate in the world. They have more black men incarcerated per capita than South Africa during apartheid. Various states are going bankrupt because their prisons are bursting at the seams. Their drug use rates, incarcerations rates, overdose deaths, HIV infections and crime rates are all higher than the European countries that use a "soft" approach to drugs.

8) Regarding decriminalization in Portugal, you state that "All Portugal has achieved is a reduction in drug usage to a similar level to the rest of Europe." So if this can be achieved without a criminal justice approach, why should countries spend money on judges, police, lawyers and jails if they don't have to?

If you have any thoughts for Lex you can leave him a comment on his blog. But please be civil about it!


  1. Great responses David. I particularly like points 3 and 7. I'd add to point 7 that drug dealers on the street often do not stop selling drugs simply because they go to jail. The drug trade inside prison walls is just as voracious and enduring as that on the streets.

    So not only does jail fail to deter a drug dealer from street dealing; it doesn't even temporarily stop his drug dealing business while he's incarcerated.

  2. It is very important to add to point #7 that when one drug dealer or cartel gets arrested, this has no effect on the market because it creates a vacuum for another dealer/cartel to move in to supply the demand, so in time the situation goes back to where it was before the arrest.

  3. You need to fix the link to: 'After the War on Drugs: Blueprints for Regulation', should try:

    Also I didn't see the point made that with drug legalization and regulation, perhaps it would be harder to obtain drugs and there would be less desire to obtain them, since drug dealers do not check ID. Where I grew up it was much easier to get drugs then get alcohol. Also quality control would be another benifit provided by regulation.



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