Monday, April 20, 2009

The "Harmless" Social Harm

Today being a day celebrated at college campuses across this country, I thought I would briefly discuss the political status of the War on Drugs and its implications in libertarian/conservative thought. A few thoughts up front:

1) It amazes me that some of the same people that use pot most frequently also stage boycotts for sweat shops and the like. If they would do just a little research, they would realize that the drug trade (yes marijuana is part of the "drug trade") involves more humanitarian harms that that Adidas soccer ball that costs $35. Wars are fought over this stuff. So while pot may make you feel happy and turn the Home Shopping Network into Comedy Central, there is about a 50% chance you are hurting people with every purchase. Legalization within the United States would have a marginal effect on this.

2) Pot is currently against the law. Whatever your beliefs on the subject, there is not much of a difference (in the eyes of the law) between you smoking pot and the guy down the street shooting coke. You do it because you feel good. Don't look down on him.

3) I absolutely believe that if our current legislature had grown up alcoholics instead of hippies, alcohol would be illegal and not marijuana. Politicians passed these laws to distance themselves from their past.

Now, I believe the War on Drugs is a failure. Drug laws are written with racial undertones (crack/power cocaine discrepanies being the most glaring of examples) and putting addicts in jail does nothing but put them through professional criminal training. I believe the populace gains some unexplainable pleasure from seeing addicts put in jail instead of into treatment. I think our society is above this, but yet it continues. Pot smokers, being of the same legal status as coke users, and working off of the same motivations for using, SHOULD be up in arms to free their brothers in chemistry, but they're not. Instead they are using their political capital for THEIR brand of drug to be legal. Pot users already have minimal penalties for being caught (with such laws rarely being enforced), but yet want THEIR drug made legal so it would be easier to purchase.

True libertarian thought would not split the baby here. Either all in or all out. Either we let people put whatever they want into their bodies or nothing. I can't say I subscribe 100% to this, especially in an age of social programs that would foster a drug culture in a very unproductive way. Currently these social programs are cut off if drug use is established.

My solution: Become a society of treatment over imprisonment. Drug users, alcoholics, chronic gamblers, etc. all need treatment, not jail time. I'd suggest that those who want the legalization of THEIR drug instead seek out the legalization of ALL drugs and at least stay intellectually honest. They would then have to address the consequences of what that would mean.


  1. Very good piece. Very good logic, very well written. I got nothin' bad to say here.

  2. I feel a budding friendship coming on...

  3. I'm confused as to how drugs are a social harm. It seems to me that the only bad effects of the drug trade are because drugs are illegal. Can you elaborate?

  4. First, I think you completely missed the point of my post. Quote: "I believe the war on drugs is a failure." The reason drugs are harmful are due to the socio-economic consequences of their illegality! Is that it? No. Anyone who thinks self-medication, the ingestion of smoke, or amateur brain chemistry is a good idea deserves the proven degenerative effects that will result from such use. But the SOCIAL HARM is primarily from the illegality, with some caveats.

    Under the construct of "if drugs are to be legalized, all drugs should be legalized" I think there are obvious social harms implicit in drug use.
    1) We've already seen the consequences of tobacco/alcohol use on our insurance industry. Imagine what large scale self-medication would create in terms of costs.
    2) Just as with tobacco and alcohol, the legalization of drugs would concentrate usage with the lowest classes further stratifying the distance between rich and poor.
    3) Drug use would still be a viable grounds for hiring/firing and create a new category of unemployed (especially in light of addictive qualities amonst some drugs).

    Don't fall for the easy argument of "If my drug use is not harmful to my life, it won't be harmful if it was legalized for everyone." That plain doesn't work. That's like saying "If I can smoke a couple cigarettes on the weekend and not get hooked, cigarettes in general are no big deal." Loosen up the self-centered reflex, think socially, and I think the problems will be apparent.

  5. The title of your post is “The ‘Harmless’ Social Harm”. Just because I ask you to clarify does not mean that I have missed the point of anything.

    Furthermore, you seem to be all over the place here. Here are some more quotes from you:

    “The reason drugs are harmful are due to the socio-economic consequences of their illegality! Is that it? No.”

    OK, so I guess that means that potential social/economic harm from drugs is not derived from their legal status according to you.

    But then…

    “But the SOCIAL HARM is primarily from the illegality, with some caveats.”

    I think you still need to get your head around this issue.

  6. When you ask someone to clarify, it means you don't understand, unless you are asking for clarification as a passive-agressive attack of the argument. I presumed it was the latter. Either way, I tried to "clarify", but appeared to have failed horribly. Then again, if you are just out to attack the argument there is no amount of clarification that will do. Basically: shit or get off the pot. If you disagree, give me an argument. Don't ask to clarify.

    Now, maybe we just aren't understanding each other here. I've read your follow-up comment twice and it seems to answer its own questions. Both of the sentences you cite say the same thing (almost exactly the same thing), yet you seem to put them in conflict with one another. I am again tempted to believe you just don't understand or don't want to understand what I'm saying.

    I will break my earlier response down:
    1) My original post was that drug laws, not drugs, are the greatest social harm.
    2) However, I went on to say that even if drugs were made legal, there would still be residual harmful effects from the legality.

    I used modifiers like "primarily" intentionally. They were not word-long typos. Also 'Harmless' was tongue in cheek since pot is always portrayed as being a harmless drug (hence "harmless" is in quotes).

    Now I ask you, dear anonymous reader, (I'm pretty sure I know who you are based on the tone and measure of your anger) to present some ideas of your own.


  8. Further "clarification", when I said "Is that it? No" I was saying "Is illegallity the only social harm derivative from drugs? No." I think that may have been another sticking point.

    I'm trying to get across to your reader, I really am.

  9. I really don’t think that you are trying to get across to your readers. Who automatically assumes that an inquiry for clarification is a passive aggressive attack? How can I “shit or get off the pot” as you so eloquently put it if I have no idea what you are even talking about and you start getting defensive when I ask for a simple clarification? When you need to fire off three responses to my last comment, it is clear that you are getting emotionally rattled. At this point, you have succeeded in turning me completely off of this discussion. Congratulations.

  10. The real shame is that whatever point you were trying to make will forever be a mystery.