Drug Law

Massachusetts Drug Decriminalization Has No Effect on Schools

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So say some Massachusetts school officials--the same ones who say
decriminalization "sends a terrible message to kids." The story by John
Hilliard is here (via the Agitator).

This
really is no surprise, but it's important for a few reasons.
Prohibitionists seem to care more about "the message" than about actual
drug use and drug harms. For too many, it's a moral issue and not a
policy issue.

I like to ask those who support the war on drugs if they would support legalization if legalization
and regulation decreased drug use. I'd say close to half say "no."
Better, they tell me, to keep drugs illegal regardless of drug usage
rates. Sometimes increased drug use and overdose deaths can be useful,
some drug-warriors even say, for having people overdose in the ghetto
sends a powerful “message” to others.

Hmmmmmmm. This sort of ends the debate. So it’s not about drugs. It’s about morals and the power and symbolism of the law.

Prohibition
is about a conservative world view that sees drugs as evil. And evil
needs to be outlawed. Prohibition is about big-government telling
people what to do and how to live their lives.

Take Harry Asslinger (oops, honest typo but much too good to delete)--I mean Harry Anslinger. He was very happy, after failing to maintain alcohol Prohibition, to raise the false alarm about marijuana.

Perhaps Anslinger’s greatest accomplishment was to push marijuana from
a fringe drug into the mainstream. That's what happens when you call it
the evil weed and highlight the moral turpitude of minorities,
immigrants, Catholics, liberals, and other city folk who, like
Anslinger believed, were destroying the moral fiber of America.

Whatever. Good or bad, those cool cats sure knew how to party!

In
my mind, the debate on drug decriminalization comes down to one main
issue: in an era of legal and regulated drugs, would drug use increase
or decrease? Of course we can't be sure because we haven't tried it.
But the evidence strongly suggests the use would not go up and might go
down.

System of liberalization and/or decriminalization result
in no increase in drug use. Marijuana usage rates in the Netherlands
(where it is publicly sold and legally consumed) are lower than in the U.S. Decriminalization in Portugal has also been a success.

How
does this work? Lot's of reasons. Forbidden fruit. Distrust of
authority. And consider what Diego Gambetta recently pointed out to me:
there’s a lot more pressure in social situations to conform and partake
in illegal activities than for comparably legal activities.

If
a joint is being passed around, you’re expected, especially in young
crowds, to smoke a little. This serves two functions beyond social
bonding.

1) It shows you're not a cop.

2) You can’t blackmail anybody with your knowledge of illegal behavior since you're guilty too.

There’s
a lot more pressure (especially for teenagers) to smoke a joint being
passed around than to smoke an offered cigarette. These days
cigarettes, regulated and taxed, aren’t even being offered much.

Marijuana
decriminalization in Massachusetts has not resulting in a bunch of
school kids suddenly discovering the drug and firing up. Hell, the
first time I ever saw marijuana was in school, watching a drug deal go
down in the bathroom (regulated drugs aren’t sold in school bathrooms).
And the best anti-drug lesson I ever got was from the guy who sat
behind me in first-period German class. He would also come in late,
stoned, and reeking of (tobacco) cigarettes. He never learned any
German. But then neither did I.

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