What Would Drug Legalization Look Like?

Cocaine-ProblemsSuppose we decriminalized hard drugs — heroin, cocaine, and all the rest? The Indypendent ponders the scenario and how we could make it work:

For heroin, says Eric Sterling, the conundrum is how much use would spread if “the price goes down and the ease of acquisition goes up,” but if a legal scheme set the price too high or made the restrictions too inconvenient, users would go back to the illegal market.

He posits a system in which “addiction management” specialists would supply enough drugs to keep addicts from getting sick, but would not tolerate criminal behavior. Rehab and counseling would be available, and addicts might also be required to work or go to school.

Switzerland, which had close to the highest rate of heroin addiction in Europe in the mid-’90s — with an estimated 30,000 addicts out of about 7 million people — has had some success with heroin maintenance. In 1994, it set up clinics where addicts could shoot up three times a day. By 2007, the number of drug-related deaths had fallen by half, the number of new addicts dropped dramatically, the number of drug-related HIV infections declined, and the open-air drug markets had disappeared, according to a study by Peter Reuter and Robert MacCoun, public-policy professors at the University of Maryland and the University of California at Berkeley respectively.

“Safe injection facilities to use should be part of every public health system,” says Joyce Rivera, executive director of St. Ann’s Harm Reduction Corner in the Bronx. In her experience, heroin users with jobs can manage work and social responsibilities, adapting their drug use “to their available time to self-sedate.”

Cocaine poses the most complex issues. Occasional users can do it relatively safely, but hardcore users often tend toward extreme binges rather than regular-dose addiction. That would make maintenance impractical.

“There is no treatment for crack/cocaine,” says Rivera. “In fact, there is no maintenance other than meds (licit and illicit), acupuncture, or some form of stress reduction to counter the dysphoria associated with over-depletion of dopamine receptors.” But, she adds, “Dysfunctional crack and cocaine use dramatically declined from the ’90s without treatment.”

The British group Transform UK, in its 2009 study “After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation,” suggests trying to move the cocaine market to milder forms such as coca energy drinks and tea.

That’s not necessarily wishful thinking. A general principle of prohibition is that it makes the most potent forms of a drug the most value-for-weight profitable for dealers. For users, that makes it more cost-effective to shoot heroin instead of smoking opium, to smoke crack instead of chewing coca leaves, and to drink whiskey instead of beer.

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  • jchadbou

    I think the entire reason drugs are illegal is cause of racism and cause of the government wanting to keep patent medicines off the shelf.  Legalization is a good idea because of the risks associated with drug possession.

  • jchadbou

    I think the entire reason drugs are illegal is cause of racism and cause of the government wanting to keep patent medicines off the shelf.  Legalization is a good idea because of the risks associated with drug possession.

  • Ricky Jazzercise

    I think it would probably look like Portual, where drugs are already legal.

  • Ricky Jazzercise

    I think it would probably look like Portual, where drugs are already legal.

  • Anonymous

    umm, heroin? You mean like the Vicodan, Percocet, Oxy opium base pills  that the Major drug companies have cornered the market on. I made a t-shirt about this years ago, it said:     Make no mistake… its all heroin! 

    It has all the little pills from all the manufacturers on it:) 

  • hawaiiguy

    umm, heroin? You mean like the Vicodan, Percocet, Oxy opium base pills  that the Major drug companies have cornered the market on. I made a t-shirt about this years ago, it said:     Make no mistake… its all heroin! 

    It has all the little pills from all the manufacturers on it:) 

  • http://twitter.com/jasonpaulhayes jasonpaulhayes

    Prisons would be empty, everyone would be safer on the streets, the country would be more productive, murder rates would go down, the economy would recover, the Banks would take the HIT they deserve, Healthcare reform would actually happen, people would use less drugs, Terrorists and Cartels would loose funding, everything would be better, safer and less expensive, people would CHILL THE FUCK OUT !  

  • jasonpaulhayes

    Prisons would be empty, everyone would be safer on the streets, the country would be more productive, pollution levels would decrease, murder rates would go down, the economy would recover, the Banks would take the HIT they deserve, Healthcare reform would actually happen, people would use less drugs, Terrorists and Cartels would loose funding, everything would be better, safer and less expensive, people would CHILL THE FUCK OUT !

  • MileHIgh420

    What would drug legaliztion look like? Propably a lot like Denver!

  • MileHIgh420

    What would drug legaliztion look like? Propably a lot like Denver!

  • Okarin

    it’d look a viagra commercial as everyone would be happy out of their minds

  • Okarin

    it’d look a viagra commercial as everyone would be happy out of their minds

  • Simiantongue

    You don’t really have to have any imagination, alcohol is a drug. It would like a lot like that.

  • Simiantongue

    You don’t really have to have any imagination, alcohol is a drug. It would like a lot like that.

    • LeahGriffin

      a lot of people i know who abuse alochol do so because it is the legal alternative.  i know i refrain from smoking weed because of the criminal repercussions.  alcohol is legal (and more degenerative health-wise not to mention it evokes my mischievious side…) so i turn to it….

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    > What Would Drug Legalization Look Like?

    It looks a lot like the prescription drug market, only much smaller.  In the Empire of the Good, more people die from prescription drugs than from “illegal” drugs.

    There is no question that decriminalizing drugs reduces drug use. However, the Empire of the Good derives significant profits from the illegal drug trade. It’s a half-trillion dollar market which is dominated by the CIA/Military and the ancillary markets: legal and incarceration, also generate significant revenue for those industries.

    Given the profitability of illegal drugs to the Homeland Gang, it seems unlikely that they will be decriminalized in the Empire of the Good before its fall.

  • BuzzCoastin

    > What Would Drug Legalization Look Like?

    It looks a lot like the prescription drug market, only much smaller.  In the Empire of the Good, more people die from prescription drugs than from “illegal” drugs.

    There is no question that decriminalizing drugs reduces drug use. However, the Empire of the Good derives significant profits from the illegal drug trade. It’s a half-trillion dollar market which is dominated by the CIA/Military and the ancillary markets: legal and incarceration, also generate significant revenue for those industries.

    Given the profitability of illegal drugs to the Homeland Gang, it seems unlikely that they will be decriminalized in the Empire of the Good before its fall.

  • DeepCough

    “If we evolve the idea, the planet could become more compassionate, and something like HEAVEN might dawn. Now I want everyone to take the five dried grams I taped under your chairs.” ~Bill Hicks

  • DeepCough

    “If we evolve the idea, the planet could become more compassionate, and something like HEAVEN might dawn. Now I want everyone to take the five dried grams I taped under your chairs.” ~Bill Hicks

  • LegalizeNow

    All drugs have been legal in Portugal since 2001 and it has worked just fine for them: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html 

    Also, as far as “There is no treatment for crack/cocaine”, one possible thing that can be taken for cocaine abusers: http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/coke/a/bljama040301.htm

    A friend of mine is a recovering crack addict and he said that the treatment center he went to offered him something (can’t remember the name…will ask him and report back) but that it was very expensive and he could not afford it.   

  • LegalizeNow

    All drugs have been legal in Portugal since 2001 and it has worked just fine for them: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html 

    Also, as far as “There is no treatment for crack/cocaine”, one possible thing that can be taken for cocaine abusers: http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/coke/a/bljama040301.htm

    A friend of mine is a recovering crack addict and he said that the treatment center he went to offered him something (can’t remember the name…will ask him and report back) but that it was very expensive and he could not afford it.   

  • Tuna Ghost

    Given that in the US more people die of legal drugs, e.g. prescription painkillers, why would legalizing drugs decrease deaths by drug use?  

  • Tuna Ghost

    Given that in the US more people die of legal drugs, e.g. prescription painkillers, why would legalizing drugs decrease deaths by drug use?  

  • Cheech my Chong

    Considering you can get any “illegal” drug now if you want, I do not see much changing,as far as users go. Maybe all the drug dealers would just become legit and start paying taxes like any other business. Of course, there could also be a million agenda’s, meh.

  • Cheech my Chong

    Considering you can get any “illegal” drug now if you want, I do not see much changing,as far as users go. Maybe all the drug dealers would just become legit and start paying taxes like any other business. Of course, there could also be a million agenda’s, meh.

  • http://twitter.com/consprcy_carrot Conspiracy Carrot

    Heroin could be free and I wouldn’t give a rip. Gotta be the most boring drug ever.

  • Conspiracy Carrot

    Heroin could be free and I wouldn’t give a rip. Gotta be the most boring drug ever.

  • Anonymous

    a lot of people i know who abuse alochol do so because it is the legal alternative.  i know i refrain from smoking weed because of the criminal repercussions.  alcohol is legal (and more degenerative health-wise not to mention it evokes my mischievious side…) so i turn to it….