I think everyone is familiar with the old expression:
“If you can’t beat them, regulate them to increase tax revenue and reduce government expenditure.”
Fine, that isn’t the expression but you get the point.
Enough foreplay, it’s time for drugs.
I mean time to talk about drugs.
I feel like we’ve reached somewhat of a crossroads as a society with drugs.
Should we legalise them?
Should we make them more taboo?
Both sides will make a good argument, but I’m going to do my best to try to sift through the BS and tell you guys the real story.
To remove my bias completely I’m going to tell you guys about my illustrious history with narcotics and my opinion on them:
-When I wasn’t concussed, I would drink alcohol semi-regularly
-I don’t smoke weed
-I don’t smoke cigarettes
So I guess you could say that I’m a regular bad boy, so hide your daughters and your wives.
Also, I honestly wholeheartedly believe that drugs are the dumbest thing ever.
Having said that, my opinion on the matter is irrelevant because I don’t write based on opinion, I write based on reason.
So the point of this article is not to say drugs are bad or drugs are good. The point of this article is to find the socially optimum way of dealing with drugs.
I’m going to talk about drugs in general then I’m going to talk specifics.
I like drugs:
A lot of people believe that the state has no right to interfere with an individual life by telling what not to do. This was the point made by John Stuart Mill, a British philosopher, who believes that the individual if he wanted to (unless they are children), should be allowed to do whatever he pleases.
I don’t like drugs:
The counter argument to this is that the state is protecting you against yourself. This is why the USA has outlawed sports gambling as well as most drugs. The argument is that if you’re a degenerate because of your crippling vices, you affect society as a whole (like your family). Therefore, it is socially optimum not to treat the individual like he lives in a vacuum and force him to do what is best for society.
I like drugs:
Even though I am not a fan of narcotics, I’m absolutely flabbergasted how alcohol and cigarettes are considered “okay” and other drugs aren’t.
If you strip them down to their basic roots both are examples of what Economists call a “demerit good”.
A demerit good by definition is a good which is over produced and over consumed by the economy, so the government has to come in and regulate the market.
In the market for alcohol and cigarettes the government did that but for cultural reasons when it came to other drugs, they just did away with a legal market and created a black market run by gangs.
Banning a good does not remove the market of said good. It may decrease the market due to the higher cost associated with it but it’s still going to exist and it’s going to be much more dangerous.
I don’t like drugs:
People who are against legalisation might say that drugs should be banned for the damaging effects it has on the body and society as a whole. Just because we legalised, a few does not mean that we should sanction them all.
What I think:
I don’t buy the I don’t like drugs argument because even though drugs are bad, it’s hypocritical to ban less-harmful drugs.
Having said that, I am not of the belief that all drugs should be legal.
I like drugs:
What you think all those raids you see in Narcos are free?
Fighting the war on drugs has an enormous economic cost as well as a social cost associated with it.
The most direct of these costs being the money required to fund the anti-narcotics units both domestically and abroad.
Some Economists believe that by legalising all drugs the US government could increase their annual budgets by 85 billion dollars.
A better example would be Lebanon and their war on hash. Lebanon is known for producing some of the finest hash in the world (hooray?), yet most of it is exported illegally. The government spends 5 to 10 million dollars every year on destroying hash fields. So if the state were to nationalise their industry, they would not only make more money by reducing their budget and increase revenue they might also decrease unemployment within the country which would increase stability.
Also, with all this extra money left over we might even be able to throw away our trash! How exciting!
Although research on this is scarce for obvious reasons, most Economists believe that drugs are an example of an inelastic good. So without beating you guys to death with more economics, that basically means you will make a lot more money if you tax this good.
Another indirect benefit of legalisation would be that governments would save even more money by reducing the prison population among other related drug offences.
This increase in budget can be allocated to help rehabilitate people who are already addicted to drugs.
This is known as the Portuguese model.
In the Portuguese model all drugs have been decriminalised by the state leading to a reduction in drug use by over 50%. People who are drug users are given subsidised housing and they subsidise the workers wages to give employers an incentive to hire them.
I’m not saying that all countries should legalise all drugs (more on that later) but at the very list, it should focus on shift its focus from the supply side (which doesn’t work) to the demand side.
It is nearly impossible to decrease the supply of drugs without reducing the demand. Even if a major drug cartel is taken out, there will always be someone willing to take their place. So regarding the person who is actually taking the drugs, the supply remains unaltered. This is known as the balloon effect.
So countries with big drugs problems such as Peru, Columbia and other South American countries should consider making drugs legal. Even the former President of Mexico has been on record talking about it.
I don’t like drugs:
Drugs are very expensive and basic economics tell us that the more expensive a good is, the less people are going to use it. Although we don’t know the exact relationship due a lack of academic research, it’s still a reasonable assumption to assume that a higher price will lead to a reduction in drug use.
By legalising drugs, the price of all drugs will fall tremendously because the risk associated with cultivating it and selling it have decreased exponentially. So using our above assumption, if drugs are cheaper more people will use them and this might offset the social benefits associated with the increase in the government’s budget.
It’s worth remembering when you take drugs everyone around you affected in some way or another. So an increase in people taking drugs might lead to a chain reaction resulting in an enormous effect on society as a whole.
What I think:
I think a more nuanced approach would be far more appropriate here. Saying that all drugs should be legal is as ignorant as saying all drugs should be illegal.
The way to go about this would be to legalise some softer drugs such as marijuana which have far less social cost and keep harder drugs illegal.
Class B drugs reduce the use of Class A drugs:
Class B drugs are drugs like weed.
Class A drugs are drugs like cocaine.
Research has shown that by legalising all class B drugs people are less likely to use class A drugs, thereby leading to a net overall benefit to society.
For instance in the Netherlands, a smaller proportion of pot smokers have moved on to higher drugs when compared with other countries.
So the social optimum outcome here would be to decrease the use of the harder drugs by increasing the use of the softer drugs.
Also, everything we think we know about addiction is being redefined before our eyes. We used to think that chemical hooks is what caused people to get addicted. However, we are now learning that your social situation is more likely to get you addicted to drugs.
An example of this is that during the Vietnam war about 20% of soldiers were taking heroin. However, when they came back from the war only about 5% of those soldiers continued to take heroin.
If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. When people are isolated and unhappy they are more likely to take drugs. But when they have a real bond with their family and friends they are more likely to be sober.
I like drugs:
So we just spent all, this time, talking about potential revenue for the government if they legalised drugs.
But since drugs are illegal all this money is going to gangs with an enormous social cost.
Illicit drugs are highly profitable industries so gangs fight among themselves to secure the trade for themselves.
This fighting among gangs leads to an increase in the crime rate, which destroys families and livelihoods. This also forces the government to increase the police budget with money that could have otherwise gone to more productive policies such as education (which could later decrease drug use).
If the gang gets big enough, they are very likely to start bribing the police and the judges which would further exacerbate the corruption in most countries.
Furthermore, if ever there was a dispute between the producer and the client the only way they could settle it would be via the use of violence.
If the drug trade were legal, drug dealers would take the biggest hit, reducing crime along with the police budget. In addition to this, if ever a dispute would arise it could be settled in a legal setting which is far less messy.
Some estimates actually show that the war on drugs has actually increased crime in the USA from about 25% to 75%.
Because drugs are illegal the risk associated with transporting them are very high. As a result of this people transport drugs in their most concentrated form. So unless this is later cut with another substance, the drug will lead to more people overdosing.
I don’t like drugs:
When people take drugs, they become more dependent on the substance leading them to become debilitating to the rest of society. This leads to an increase in crime and domestic violence.
Most drugs have a lasting physical effects on the body which can sometimes be irreversible and may sometimes even kill.
Sweden is probably one of the best examples of a country which managed to curtail drug use. The average Swede consumes a third of the European drug average. They place great emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation in conjunction with stringent drug laws.
Drugs are dangerous and that is why they are banned.
What I think:
I would take the Sweden example with a grain of cocaine, I mean salt.
Sweden has a lot of factors which make it far less likely to consume drugs period. For instance, they have a very high GDP per capita as well as low inequality and low corruption. So therefore regardless of their policy on the matter, you would expect Sweden to consume fewer drugs on average than other countries.
But let’s imagine for a second that what I just said above it mute and the reason Sweden has such little drug use is because of its policy.
Sweden’s drug policy focuses on prevention and rehabilitation which is very similar to the Portuguese model and is the polar opposite of what other countries do. Therefore, even tough Sweden is tough on drugs they boast an efficient drug policy.
But, Sweden is in a very privileged position. Peru, for instance, has all the adverse effects of drugs regarding corruption and violence so it is not able to adopt a more demand sided policy. Let’s imagine for a second that Peru nationalised it’s cocaine industry (the world’s biggest), who are they legally allowed to sell it to since cocaine is illegal in almost all countries?
So until every country in the world legalises these hard drugs it is nearly impossible for an individual nation to legalise it because either their supply or demand will be coming from a country where the drug du jour is illegal.
Cleaner drugs are less dangerous drugs:
I like drugs:
A lot of times when people buy drugs such as Ecstasy or MDMA from their dealer they don’t know what they are getting. For instance 4 out of every 10, Ecstasy users tested positive for bath salts among other more dangerous narcotics. Also how many times do we need to see a kid’s life forever altered because he took “bad” ecstasy?
If drugs were made legal, the government could put in place strict quality control measures so that you know what you bought is the drug you want. It also ensures that the drug is a lot cleaner making it far less likely to have an adverse reaction from it.
Also legalising it and instituting a minimum age would allow the government to be actively able to reduce underage consumption of this drug.
Also, another way to reduce the deaths caused by the HIV would be to institute safe heavens where users are given clean syringes to inject themselves with. This would make them less likely to overdose because they are taking a proper amount as well reduce the spread of disease.
Research done on the Portuguese model shows that making the drugs legal does not necessarily lead to an increase in the use of drugs.
I don’t like drugs:
When you make drugs safer and more available people have a greater incentive to take them. When people have a greater incentive to do something, they are more likely to do it (duh). When people do more drugs they are more likely to get addicted to it, thereby debilitating them.
What I think:
Firstly, I do not know how much I buy the theory that making drugs legal would not increase the use of the drug. Even if all drugs were legal tomorrow, the use of cocaine would not increase so dramatically. This is because there is still a strong negative stigma associated with these hard drugs. Therefore, for us to truly see the effects of legalisation, we would have to wait for our zeitgeist to shift and for drugs to be normalised in our society.
With drugs such as heroin, I do think that safe heavens should be readily available because most unbiased research has shown that it does not increase people taking heroin but it does reduce the spread of HIV. A person that does heroin is not going to stop because of the fear of infection and the person trying heroin for the first time isn’t thinking about his future use of the drug.
Switzerland is a prime example of this. After a heroin health crisis, they opened up “heroin maintenance centres” for addicts which provided clean syringes as well as cleaner versions of heroin as well as a place to stay. This lead to people becoming better because they were no longer focused on how they are going to buy drugs but on getting their life together.
With party drugs, this is where things get a bit trickier because regardless of how clean an Ecstasy pill is, it’s still terrible for your body. So it is very tough for a government to give it the green light and legalise something that has a very harmful effect on the body regardless of its purity. But, I would make testing kits readily available for free with instructional tips on how to do the drug.
So now that I am done talking about all the different arguments on drugs. I am going to give you guys my opinion on what I feel most countries drug policy should be.
Legalise the Herb:
As I said previously I do not smoke weed, but my friends that shall remain anonymous smoke a ton of weed every week. So I feel that I have a good enough grasp of what the terrible side effects of marijuana are.
But the main thing it comes down to is that everyone smokes pot. About 44.7% of 12th graders in the USA have reported trying weed. So we might as well try to legalise it to stop kids from using it.
Currently, you need to be at least 21 to buy marijuana in Colorado and I believe that should be the normal age restriction for every country adopting this policy. This is because it is the most effective age regarding restricting the access to underage consumers.
If the age were 18, for instance, a senior in high school would be able to buy weed and they are therefore more likely to sell it or share with younger kids. However, at 21 people’s social group begin to become less compact regarding age and. Therefore, younger people would not have as much access to the controlled substance. But, if the age is over 21 you would start seeing diminishing returns.
So even if you think that people age 18 should be allowed to smoke weed you can’t set the legal age at that point because younger kids will be will able to circumvent the law.
Another reason I think weed should be legalised is to reduce the use of synthetic marijuana. Synthetic marijuana combines everything bad about weed without any of the good aspects. For instance people who smoke this stupid substance have died, regular users have experienced withdrawal symptoms meaning people can get addicted to it and it has none of the health benefits associated with marijuana (more on that later).
So by legalising marijuana you are completely removing this far more dangerous substance from the rest of the world.
Also, believe it or not, marijuana is not a gateway drug, which is in stark contrast to popular belief. Although people who have smoked marijuana are 104% more likely to try cocaine. But it’s worth remembering that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Individuals who try weed are more likely to try cocaine because most people who try cocaine aren’t going to start off with such a hard drug. They are more likely to get their feet wet with weaker substances before moving on to harder stuff. Like I said before, legalising marijuana might make people less likely to try cocaine so the statistic above is very misleading.
As everyone already knows thanks to their stoner friend, weed has a variety of health benefits. Take my case for example, as I’ve said on my podcast I am currently suffering from a concussion. There is currently no treatment for a concussion outside medical marijuana. So if smoking a bit of pot means that I can go back to school I am all for it. Also, this is not to mention how marijuana has helped improve a variety of different ailments. It would also get people off all these powerful opioids which are just synthetic versions of heroin and other drugs.
The last advantage of legalising marijuana would be that we can conduct some academic research done on the effect of marijuana on productivity and society as a whole.
The one problem with weed vs. alcohol is that alcohol cannot be congruent with your daily routine. What I mean by this, is that you can’t get smashed then go to class or you can’t get drunk by yourself (unless you’re an alcoholic). But you can do almost anything when you smoke weed and that’s what makes it so dangerous.
Once it becomes a part of your daily life, it’s hard to separate yourself from it. Even though you won’t be physically craving the drug, you would crave the lifestyle and mood it gives you. So all my friends who smoke weed daily always crave more weed because according to them “it makes everything you do better”.
Weed doesn’t make you more productive, in fact, it makes you far less productive.
There is no doubt in my mind for people in my age group weed is a net negative in every sense of the word. However, society as a whole will benefit.
So that is why I think weed and only weed should be legalised.
But that doesn’t mean we should stick to the status co with our on drugs. We should ditch all the violent policy and use all the policies I highlighted above.
Hope you guys learned a thing or two
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