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« Interview with BBC World Service "Newshour" on 10/05 | Main | "Paramilitaries may have entered Mexico's drug wars." »

October 06, 2011


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Hilarious! He even used the phrase "count those costs" trying to argue against marijuana legalization. And he never once mentions the costs of prohibition:

What does the history of drug usage vs. the history of alcohol usage have to do with whether or not it is a legitimate role of government to make either of them illegal? His entire response to your question was a red herring. This is not a legitimate function of government. Period. It never has been and it never will be. All other arguments are arguments for societal intervention against the use of drugs, NOT government intervention. As a society, we have lost all recognition of the distinction between the two, much to our detriment.

It's also very interesting that he argues that a lack of a consistent history of the use of drugs other than alcohol within society is a reason other drugs should be illegal. Then he completely fails to mention that as a reason that usage may not spike after legalization. Cherrypicking at its finest.

Why in the hell would "our" health care costs go up? If you use drugs, "your" health care costs may go up. Unless you assume socialized medicine, which apparently he is, your health care costs only potentially go up if you use drugs. That is an entirely personal decision, with, OMG, personal consequences. If you eat too many frech fries, your health care costs go up too. Does he advocate making french fries illegal? Has anyone calculated the addiction index of french fries?

Thanks for the interview. There are quite a number of problems with what Kevin Sabet has to say, but I'll try to hit a few of them.

1. Regarding advertising and the bulk of the product being used by a tiny percentage of users. That's really a misdirection argument in that, with any substance, those who abuse the substance really don't need advertising to get them to abuse it (whether it's alcohol now, or other drugs in the future). Those who abuse rarely do so because of a catchy ad (or even, for that matter, legality). Advertising is about getting people to switch brands or getting people to start using. It really is disingenuous for him to claim that the advertising industry will insure that we have a lot of heavy drug users -- those prone to it are probably heavy users under prohibition.

And the complete lack of imagination on the part of prohibitionists regarding any kind of regime other than mass advertised free-market drugs is astonishing. There are academics actually thinking about this subject, but they're not in the U.S.

And maybe I'm old, but I remember state liquor stores, so clearly there is a way within a capitalistic society to regulate without either abandoning all controls on one side or ceding them all to criminals on the other side.

2. Kevin claims that we can't compare alcohol prohibition to drug prohibition because they're two different substances. That makes little sense because the costs are related to prohibition, demand, and supply, not the substance.

On the other hand, he is perfectly happy to equate alcohol with drugs when it comes to costs and he talks about all the law enforcement costs related to alcohol, saying we don't dare try that with currently illicit drugs. However in this argument, the differences between drugs are acute and relevant. Marijuana doesn't cause violent behavior. Alcohol does. This isn't opinion, it's fact.

3. Kevin's point about young people and marijuana is a good one. We shouldn't be encouraging young people to smoke. Perhaps an age limit? Oh, that's right. We don't have any control over it so we can't set an age limit.

4. The point about marijuana being the largest reason for treatment is also really disingenuous. Kevin knows full well that the reason for that is because of criminal justice referrals - it has nothing to do with whether it is more addictive or problematic. The way he says it is a purposeful attempt to deceive, which I consider a lie.

5. Note the quick slide out of the next lie... "100s of thousands of people a year are admitted to the ER due to marijuana use... or related to marijuana use, I should say." Again, he knows full well that these admissions may have nothing to do with marijuana, but rather that marijuana is mentioned in the course of the interview. But he's fully prepared to push the lie, even though he switched to the "technically true" version of the lie.

6. Number of people in prison or jail for marijuana use is a trivial number, according to Kevin. Yes, he notes that almost a million were arrested but that most of them got off with only the equivalent of a parking ticket. Doesn't that sound sweet. What about the jobs they lost due to the arrest and the overnight in jail? Or the student loans they lost (or getting kicked out of college)? Being arrested for a drug violation is not a trivial matter, whether or not you end up in jail. And if you grow some plants, you'll probably be spending years in prison and maybe lose your home.

7. Regarding the use of the term "drug war." He may not like the term, and the Drug Czar may not like the term. But for the people who have had their homes invaded by dozens of men in military gear using military transport and busting down their doors and killing their dogs (and sometimes their children), and it's not Mexican DTOs doing it but rather our own DEA looking for 2 ounces of pot, I think they can be forgiven for thinking that they're in a war.

Ending the war on drugs will help remove two terrorist organizations from the world,,the DEA and the cartels.

Both are willing to kill innocent people to reach their goals,,spend billions of dollars like it was water,,and neither is for the "good" of the people,,but furthering their own agenda is their only achievable goal.

The ONDCP and our congress fully realize that no punishment will ever make people not want to feel good and that morality cannot be legislated
but it is similar to drinking from a spitoon,,once you start,it is hard to stop.

What amazes me is that America has bought into the propaganda these "drug warriors" have crammed down it's throat for 40 years.

Example: 376,000 people checked into emergency rooms and it was marijuana related.

Truth: 376,000 people checked into emergency rooms and listed marijuana on the "recently used drugs" questionon the admittance report.

During the same period of time,,7.2 million people listed alcohol on the same question.

Wake up America,,you are being played.

After 40 years of spectacularly failing to create a drug-free world, prohibitionists have settled for claiming that their policies help to keep drug abuse lower than it otherwise would be. This is true if, like Kevin, one pretends that alcohol is not a drug.

Under the prevailing system, alcohol is universally legal for adults, while all other recreational drugs are prohibited. The overwhelming majority of the population either uses in moderation or abstains. A minority abuses alcohol, and an even smaller minority abuses illicit drugs.

In order for overall levels of drug abuse to rise after legalization, people who currently abuse neither alcohol nor illicit drugs would have to start doing so. Does Mr. Sabet seriously believe that teetotalers would start dabbling in cocaine and heroin if only it were legal?

Legalization would undoubtedly cause a shift in patterns of drug consumption as some users began substituting newly legal drugs for alcohol. However, there is no logical reason to expect substantial changes in the overall level of drug consumption.

"However, Dr Sabet makes a compelling case for why drugs like marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin should remain illegal,"

In order for such an argument to be compelling there would have to be evidence that that the harm of prohibition & drugs is somehow less than the harm of drugs.

There is no such evidence. Prohibition doesn't lessen the harms of drugs - witness the many people still harmed by drugs. It creates many new harms, both directly (fines, prison/jail sentences, etc) and indirectly (impure drugs, funding of actual criminals, etc).

"why current drug policies - although not perfect by any means - are keeping illegal drug use in America down in a way that ending drug prohibition could not."

Since prohibition creates "illegal" drug use, and the end of prohibition would eliminate all such "illegal" drug use - that is wholly incorrect.

The WOD has failed - 100%. Before the WOD one could not go into small town America and obtain cocaine and heroin in the local high school. Now you can. Cocaine used to be a rich man's drug - yet now it is popular amongst the poor as well. These hard drugs are everywhere. People from all classes use those drugs and marijuana. Very few are caught. None are stopped by the WOD.

I strongly encourage all those for the legalization of drugs to look at the example that the historical record provides of a country where drug use was legal, in 19th Century China. Was China a better place because of legalized drug trade? Do we wish to repeat these experiences in the USA?

If marijuana is legalized, who will control the production, distribution and sale? Who else is better positioned to do this than that fine upstanding responsible corporate citizen lovingly referred to as 'Big Tobacco' today? I encourage everyone to get ahead of the curve and buy stock in their favorite tobacco company and wait for the out-sized profits to roll in once marijuana is legalized. I have.

Kevin is a sensible voice in this discussion.

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