Thanks to 'Stranger Here Myself' who left a comment on my recent post, in which he asks some intelligent questions.
1. What do you envisage being the legal minimum age for the purchase and use of narcotics? Will it be a single minimum age for all narcotics (including heroin) or do you intend imposing different minimum ages for different drugs (i.e. one minimum age for marijuana and a different one for crack)?In general, people use the word "narcotic" to mean any psychoactive substance taken recreationally which is currently illegal. Pot and Crack have nothing in common, except their legal status. In general, though the age of majority, 18 makes sense. Clearly some narcotics do more harm than others, but as I approach this from a libertarian viewpoint, there comes a point where society considers everyone an adult. It would be difficult to restrict legal products to anyone older. Clearly the legalisation of Heroin, which causes major social and personal problems is going to be politically harder than Marijuana, and may be available through the health care system to addicts rather than as a recreational product. This would be vastly preferable to a criminal supply chain.
2. What enforcement mechanisms do you intend to ensure your laws regarding minimum age are adhered to? What penalties do you anticipate being levelled at those violating your laws?Similar to those covering alcohol and tobacco for narcotics. Supply to minors would be an offense, but, again, as a libertarian, I'd tend to allow supervised use in the home, like the law surrounding alcohol. Clearly with Heroin administered through the health care system would be subject to a different regime. Are you really, honestly fussed if someone smokes a spliff with their 16 year old child?
3. What do you believe the minimum levels of narcotic presence should be for driving under the influence? Currently police can test drivers for alcohol use with minimal inconvenience but the basic test for 'drug driving' is crude physical co-ordination tests. Are you comfortable with police conducting random tests as they currently do for alcohol--cars lined up as drivers wait their turn to walk up and down lines, stand on one leg, etc.? Drivers required to provide urine samples because a police officer spots a pack of '20 Hash' on the dashboard?The only coherent argument against legalisation is one which almost never gets an airing. There is no effective roadside test for 'drug driving'. The development of one is probably necessary to allow legalisation. Work would need to be done on the level of impairment. It's unlikely that small levels of cocaine are more dangerous than fatigue, for example to a driver. Pot does impair reactions, but also tends to make people drive slower. Legalisation would encourage research into narcotic's effects with a view to safe use, rather than brute detection. How long before you're unimpared after smoking pot. Difficult to know. It would be easier were such things legal.
This is certainly a problem for proponents of legalisation, but I doubt it is beyond the wit of humankind to come up with a solution.
4. What about exporting narcotics? Are you going to prohibit that? If not, how do you think the rest of the world--Europe, the U.S., etc.--will react to your country cultivating and manufacturing narcotics and supplying it to their countries' criminals? Would you risk your libertarian utopia being deemed a pariah 'narco-state' by the international community and subject to sanctions? Your libertarian government being terminated by American, French, Russian and/or Chinese special forces to the relief of the remainder of the civilised world?
The UN convention on narcotics is probably the biggest over-reaction in history. More energy has been put into stopping people getting high than was put into ending the slave-trade or child prostitution. I suspect were a major trading nation, and member of the Security Council, Britain for example, were we to unilaterally legalise drugs, an awful lot of other countries would breath a sigh of relief and follow suit. Who really gives a shit what a totalitarian regime like China's thinks?
5. If you are going to prohibit the export of narcotics, how will you enforce that prohibition? Are you satisfied that the present effort at (unsuccessfully) stopping the import of drugs would have to remain in place--prosecuted with greater vigour, even--but now aimed at stopping the export? What penalties would you deem sufficient to deter and punish those exporting a substance that is otherwise legal to purchase, sell, cultivate and manufacture?
I would like to see a regulated trade. Like that in Alcohol.
6. Are you not perturbed at the idea of narcotics--from marijuana to heroin--being advertised in a manner similar to alcohol? That similar adverts--many amusing and clever--could be aimed at promoting the sale and use of narcotics? ('Time for a sharp exit--time for a cool, sharp crack'; 'I bet he smokes skunk', etc.) Just as one now has '3-for-2' and 'buy A and get B free' deals, are you okay with sellers endeavouring to expand their market? That we might see signs in shops offering to the effect of 'Buy one sachet of heroin and get a rock of crack cocaine absolutely free'?Tobacco advertising is banned. Alcohol advertising is strictly regulated. Legal recreational drugs including cocaine or Marijuana need not be any different.
7. Are you content with manufacturers, just as they now expend effort to retain and expand their current markets by producing ever-better computer games, MP3-players, etc. with which people enjoy themselves, applying the same effort to create ever-better varieties of recreational pharmaceuticals?One of the principal benefits of legalisation would be a supply chain where quality, particularly of Cocaine or MDMA, would be up to pharmaceutical standards. Mixers would be biochemically inert. Brands would be known and trusted for safety. Diageo, for example does not kill people with wood alcohol. Bootleggers during the prohibition era were not so fastidious.
8. Finally: assuming that you are serious about 'libertarianism' and would like to spread the philosophy outside of bourgeois liberal circles, do you really believe that drug-legalisation is the platform on which to do so? Do you really think those making up the majority in this country--the cleaners, bus drivers, plumbers, infantry soldiers, etc. (the ones with real jobs)--give a flying damn about legalising drugs? When they look around for someone with answers--to the daily crime, to why their country has turned its back on them--and they see you lined up next to the criminal-friendly Guardianista brigade--will they flock to your side?I am serious about libertarianism. But I accept that it is a marginal political view point. The Guardianistas are every bit as authoritarian as their Daily Mail reading Nemesis. The legalisation of pot in particular seems to be strongest supported in Conservative circles: It's been the Daily Telegraph, Spectator and Economist view for a long time. This is a question for a politician, which I am not.
All I am doing is looking at the 'War on Drugs' and seeing the horror, murder, death, crime and ruined lives it has caused out of all proportion to the harm (which I am not denying, by the way) of widespread drug use, and saying "there must be a better way". A third of Americans in Gaol are there for crimes which ONLY involve drugs - no violence, theft or even victims, just supply or possession. Is that really the best use of scarce law-enforcement resources?
People like to get high, drunk, stoned, or otherwise alter their mental state. In final analysis, there have been 40 years of the "war on Drugs" at the end of which drugs, Pot, Cocaine and MDMA from different sources are available freely to whoever wants them. Shortages - it's apparently nigh on impossible to get LSD these days - are due to changing fashions, not success in policing. Problems caused by "drugs" are difficult to tease apart from the problems caused by ever more draconian law enforcement. Locking a person up for posession or small-time supply effectivly ends that person's life on the right side of the law. It's time to admit that Drug supply cannot, in a free society, be interdicted. So stop trying and find another, less painful way to mitigate harms, and take the most profitable business the world has ever devised out of the hands of criminals.
I hope this answers your questions.