The Smart Course or the Stupid One: Why Legalizing Drugs Now is Just Common Sense

Sharon June 30th, 2009

Every once in a while someone tells me about a plan they’ve read that allows them to make 50,000 dollars an acre or something like it.  They are excited, and don’t understand why more farmers don’t do this.  My standing observation is that I can think of only a couple of crops that will make you that much money direct off the field, and these days, people send helicopters around to look for those crops and burn your fields, so I don’t recommend it.  Occasionally they protest they will make that amount with a crop they will process for added value.  I then have to inform them that no, one cannot offer boutique moonshine or organic, biodynamic local heroin under the current laws, and jam will not make them that kind of money.

Now let me be absolutely clear – I stand firmly on the side of drug legalization.  I say this not so much because I want to take drugs – my nine consecutive years of pregnancy and nursing ended only recently, and so I’m quite out of the habit of indulging in anything other than the occasional beer or glass of wine, but because I think the drug war is, well, stupid. 

Once upon a time, in my misspent youth, I did some casual drug use, some of it legal, some of it illegal.  During a brief period in my 20s I drank too much, smoked tobacco, smoked pot, and used drugs occasionally.  I rather enjoyed it until I experienced my first hangover and then, mostly stopped, the price not being worth the pleasure.  I am rather typical of most people who use these drugs, in that I used them, sometimes to excess, but never became addicted.  Most casual drug users (except casual tobacco users) don’t get addicted.  There are manifestly some people who should avoid all drugs, legal and illegal, because of a tendency to become addicted.  Other people should simply because they don’t tolerate them well – all the drugs my husband has ever used have simply made him nauseous, so he doesn’t use them, barring a little beer. 

In a perfect world, there would be no addictive substances, no destructive substances, and we’d have no real urge to take poisons.  But manifestly we do have such an urge – some of the come by prescription, others are legal but regulated, some legal and unregulated (think white sugar), and some are illegal.  The major difference between them is the cultural assumptions we have about them – not their toxicity, not their harmfulness, and frankly, not their availability.

The war on drugs has not successfully kept people from doing drugs.  My own plan, when my children are old enough to experiment with drugs, is to give them this lecture, at least in regards to pot.  “Ok guys, here’s the truth.  Your father smoked pot a few times.  Your mother smoked pot.  Most of your grandparents smoked pot, some of them quite extensively.   Your great-grandmother Inge smoked pot (ok, once, with her daughter, and would I have liked to have been a fly on the wall for that event ;-) ).  Do you really want  to do something so old-fashioned?” ;-)   Let us note that pot was illegal in all of these cases, and even Grandma could get it. 

My own husband and I, never being much in the way of drug seeking for ourselves, both saw all the coke, LSD, meth and other drugs we could ever want lying around.  No one seemed to have much trouble getting it – in fact, at college, it was harder to get beer sometimes – the liquor stores actually checked ID.  Were I to want any of these things today, I know precisely where to get them, in extraordinarily large quantities.  Many of them aren’t even very expensive – I like good gin in my very occasional G & Ts, and a bottle would cost me more than more meth, coke or pot than I’d ever want to use (ok, more meth or coke than I’d ever want would be any quantity over 0).

Nor have the drug laws successfully prevented people from growing said drugs – we’ve been completely ineffective at stopping the Afghan opium trade, although we’ve poisoned and impoverished some already impoverished farmers as a moral lesson of some sort.  We certainly feel entitled to bomb and poison Columbian fields, and to subsidize repressive regimes and wars in the interest of making a teeny, tiny rise in the price of coke. 

Periodically low flying helicopters travel over the dairy farms and vegetable fields of my region. We always wave to them.  This is, of course, a good use of our remaining energy and money – G-d forbid that the pot sold at my local university should enrich some local farmer rather than coming from some other state or nation. Of course, I’m sure the students at my husband’s university never, ever use drugs.

 Much better the farmer should obey the law, sell out and let people build McMansions on their land, as one my neighbors did.  Now there are 10 McMansions, all but two of which have turned over several times, two of which are in foreclosure. Had the price of dairy and apples not tanked, and pot been illegal, we’d have a nice chunk of farmland producing something rather useful – now we’ve got 10 houses on 5 acre lots that produce mostly lawnmower emissions and foreclosure notices. 

George Monbiot wisely (as usual) gets to the heart of the matter – we are slowly starting to recognize what is self-evident, that the drug war is inane and a waste of energy, money and resources we cannot afford.  He writes:

“It  looked like the first drop of rain in the desert of drugs policy. Last week Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the UN office on drugs and crime, said what millions of liberal-minded people have been waiting to hear. “Law enforcement should shift its focus from drug users to drug traffickers … people who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution.” Drug production should remain illegal, possession and use should be decriminalised. Guardian readers toasted him with bumpers of peppermint tea, and, perhaps, a celebratory spliff. I didn’t.

I believe that informed adults should be allowed to inflict whatever suffering they wish – on themselves. But we are not entitled to harm other people. I know people who drink fair-trade tea and coffee, shop locally and take cocaine at parties. They are revolting hypocrites.

Every year cocaine causes some 20,000 deaths in Colombia and displaces several hundred thousand people  from their homes. Children are blown up by landmines; indigenous people are enslaved; villagers are tortured and killed; rainforests are razed. You’d cause less human suffering if instead of discreetly retiring to the toilet at a media drinks party, you went into the street and mugged someone. But the counter-cultural association appears to insulate people from ethical questions. If commissioning murder, torture, slavery, civil war, corruption and deforestation is not a crime, what is?”

I’m right with Monbiot – rich assholes and casual users should be jailed, if anyone is going to be punished.  Drug production, sales and use should either be illegal, universally punished, or legal – across the board.  Screwing farmers and addicts and looking the other way for some folks and not for others is immoral – and yes, this would have included me.  Oddly, I was never caught using drugs.  But then again, I was a white girl attending universities, not subject to DWB traffic stops.  The one occasion when I could have gotten in trouble, a friend of mine was rather publically high and carrying.  The university cop that stopped us simply confiscated the substance and sent us on our way (oddly, the confiscation never appeared in the University police blotter…I wonder what happened to the little baggie in question…hmmmm ;-) )  On the other hand, since there was marajuana growing outside a university building (I shall not name it in case students have continue this tradition) and quite a few students, faculty and administrators walked the path alongside which it grew daily, perhaps this was unstated policy.

Which of course brings us to the gist of the matter – there’s no freakin’ way we can afford to have a consistent drug illegality, or a moral drug policy of any kind.  California is about to start releasing its prisoners because it can’t afford to feed and house them.  It can’t afford its helicopters either.  And California is only leading the way – none of us can afford our insane drug policies which are energy and cost intensive.  In fact, we can’t even afford our *immoral* double-standard drug policies anymore.

Moreover, while eventually prices will come down because of market flooding, legalization is the answer to much of our difficulties – tax revenues from pot alone would exceed California’s budget shortfall.  The combination of freeing California drug offenders and legalizing pot would essentially fix California’s present crisis.  The high initial price of drugs would be an excellent transition crop for small farmers, attempting to make a living as we shift away from industrial agriculture.

Now I have a great deal of sympathy for those who have been hurt by drugs, and I don’t like excessive drug use.  I don’t like it when the drug is legal – two of my grandparents spent their last years hooked up to oxygen tanks, gasping with emphysema, even though both of them had stopped smoking more than 20 years before.  I don’t like it when the drugs are illegal.  But I think we can safely say that the illegality of drugs has done little discourage their use.  What it has done is mean that their safety cannot be regulated, the drug trade is rife with violence, farmers cannot grow even non-drug crops like hemp, much less the drugs themselves, and drugs are not taxed. 

Now Monbiot conceeds, and so do I, that drug trade legalization would collapse the price of drugs in the poor world, costing farmers, and creating more drug addicts there.  This is true – at the same time, it would also reduce warfare and violence in the poor world.  We do not know how the cost benefit analysis would actually come out – would it be better or worse for poor farmers to actually be able to take cocaine rather than sending their daughters to swallow cocaine-filled condoms and fly to the US?  Neither is a good, but for once I’m on the side of the free-marketeers, because if nothing else, it creates the possibility that fair trade organic heroin, coke and pot might actually support some people sustainably.

Monbiot claims we have two ethical choices – universal prosecution of casual offenders and producers, or universal legalization.  I’d argue that we only have one choice, because neither the US nor the UK can afford to keep up the fake war on drugs – the profits are too small, the energy costs too great – at every level from military interventions to drug interdiction, to the stupid helicopters to the court costs and prison costs, there is no meaningful way for a poorer, energy depleted society to prohibit drugs – even a rich, energy rich society can’t do it effectively, as we slide down the slope, we can’t do it at all.

 Drugs are going to be legal, or effectively legal in time – and a damned good thing too for a host of reasons.  First of all, it will be good for farmers – marajuana and hemp are good rotational crops in much of the US.  Small farmers, developing new markets need high value crops – opium used to grow widely in the US, and could again.  Moreover, local communities are going to need these medicinal crops – that is, we’re going to need the painkillers and anti-nauseal, anti-glaucoma qualities of pot and opiates.  And yes, legalization is going to hurt some people – some people will become addicted, some people will die.  It is also going to help some people – some people will not be impoverished, some people will not suffer.

The only choice is legalization – the question is when.  We can do it one of two ways – the smart one or the stupid one.  We can overthrow the drug laws largely and enmasse, creating new tax revenues, new sources of profit.  We can ground the helicopters and stop the drug wars, and let out the non-violent drug offenders, and have money enough to insulate and buy open land for public agriculture and build local renewable energy systems.  We can stop wasting our time keeping some toxic drugs legal and others not, and concentrate on the very real work of descent.  Or we can keep the drug laws going as long as possible, and take our revenues out of the social safety nets that protect children, the poor, the elderly and the disabled. We can leave poor non-white guys who carried an ounce of marajuana in prison until the last possible minute, and instead sell off our public inheritance and waste the last few years we have to adjust to the future. 

Me, I’m just crazy enough to prefer “not stupid” as a strategy all around.  Maybe especially here.

38 Responses to “The Smart Course or the Stupid One: Why Legalizing Drugs Now is Just Common Sense”

  1. Nettle says:

    I could kiss you for this post.

  2. Amen! I agree with you wholeheartedly. What a colossal and illogical waste of our nation’s resources the “war on drugs” has been.

  3. A recent UN funded study by the Beckley Foundation did not deal with all drugs but did show that the least amount of damage to individuals and society would be by legalizing Cannabis. They also showed that tobacco and alchohol did more physical damage than pot did, making the justification for its prohibition suspect.

    At this time 30% of U.S. citizens have used pot, 44% in Canada(apparently we are the most liberal users). It’s simply impossible to outlaw a behaviour that is this accepted, like prohibition it simply enriches gangs and deprives the public of access to a safe product(both its quality and dealing with vendors), and the gov of needed revenue

    Bare minimun legalize pot/and its derivatives hash and oil, test it, control access to minors, and tax it then use the profits to treat(not hound) the users of more damaging drugs.

  4. Brad K. says:

    I lived in California from ’84 to ’89, and watched some of the legalization campaigns.

    I think the one statistic that stayed the most clearly in my mind, is that there were some 20,000 industrial uses for the hemp plant when pot was made illegal – and all those jobs were pushed overseas.

    I am not sure legalizing drugs, or drugs and prostitution, would significantly reduce crimes or criminal violence – but I doubt it would hurt.

    I can just see the wailing and gnashing of teeth, when they announce moving the DEA under the IRS. *shudder*

  5. brwer says:

    This kind of thinking is absurd……making a drug legal will only multiply its use….thus causing much more damage than it is now.The resources are not being wasted….this isn’t just an issue of legality…morality comes into play here as well…with no morals where would the world be…..frankly it would be total and complete chaos, full of “freedoms” that actually would harm the populace more than it would do good.The laws on drugs are based off of a moral principal…as the constitution of the united states is based on moral principals. one cannot just throw out morals because they are inconvenient. That is madness!And just because something is accepted doesn’t make it morally correct.People should want what is best for their children….not most convenient. I promise if illegal drugs are legalized….less resources may be used but…….it will tear our nation apart from the inside out.

  6. Sarah says:

    brwer — what moral principle are you referring to, specifically? Nobody is going to hold you down and force you to smoke pot. I’d be in favor of outlawing smoking anything in a public area, but that’s just because it makes me not be able to breathe. Are you against people using mind-altering substances? If so, are you opposed to alcohol? You can create all sorts of fascinating mind-altering effects just by not sleeping for long enough; people will find a way to do possibly-ill-advised things to their heads regardless of how many methods you outlaw..

  7. MEA says:


    Don’t you think the US is pretty much torn apart as it is?

  8. brwer says:

    Would you say it is moral to commit suicide?This is what is being done..slowly but sureleyThe point is not that it will completely stop them….but it will hinder its usage to some point….drug busts are made constantly…now not many major ones but still people are getting busted everyday for this stuff…i would say that that is doing some good. The less people who fry their brains the better. Yes i think they have a right to make the choice. But the law is a little more of a help for the person to do the right thing.An incentive to get them to think about what they are doing before they do it.It is another form of consequences…like the frying of braincells that goes with it. Yes I am opposed to alcohol and other mind altering substances…alcohol is even worse than drugs when abused….again people have a right to choose but the laws and restrictions regarding alcohol are very wise. And yes people will always find a way to to fry their brains…but why help them kill themselves?

  9. brwer says:


    Yes i do believe the U.S. is falling apart at the seems….it is on the edge of a cliff…unsteady and starting to fall….are u saying we shouldn’t just push it over and be done with it? Or rather should we try and get its feet steady again and save it from the fall?

  10. Brandi says:

    I love this post! My dad used to say, “Legalize ‘em and tax the hell out of ‘em”, and this was in the ’80′s. I have tons of addiction in my family and legal or not, makes no difference. If we legalize drugs and tax them we could put all the money toward public drug treatment centers. Places anyone could go to get off drugs if they choose to do so (and many will choose to do so). A private center costs upwards of $30,000 in my area – really. So rich kids can get off drugs, the others have to wait for a “bed” in a public facility – good luck, hope you don’t die waiting. Its disgusting!

    I’m glad others are initiating this conversation – it’s about time…

  11. MEA says:

    I agree it’s falling to bits (along with the rest of the world). At some points, at least parts of it will become stable again (unless we suddenly break from the established pattern).

    While I want to mitigate what suffering I can, and hope to see things move in a positive direction, I, like Sharon, don’t see much point in the war on drugs as it is currently fought. You could look at countries like the UK and the Netherlands and their programs of register users to see how likely it is that legalization will cause the number of users to soar.

  12. MEA says:

    Oh, forget to say, it’s long past saving.

  13. brwer says:


    So you legalize it and tax it heavily… would what good would it do to tax them when they wouldn’t buy it publicly because of the tax?they know where to get it illegally, that means tax free. If they can legally get it but have to pay an insane amount….they would probably continue to get it from normal dealers who dnt charge tax….so in essence they would be skipping out on the tax

  14. brwer says:


    Yes the number of users will not grow as much…you are correct on that….but the people who use them would use them so much more….which in turn would cause people to harm others because they wouldn’t know what they were doing while they were high.

  15. villabolo says:

    Sharon, there is a psychoactive drug, derived from the root bark of an African plant, called Ibogaine. One time administration of this drug under physicians care, is known to interrupt cravings for mostly all addictions including heroin. Depending on the person and the addiction they could stay clean for months before needing a second reduced dose of Ibogaine.

    Taking Ibogaine, again under physicians care, gives you a trip where you see your life in flashbacks and usually in uncomplimentary self denigrating terms. You then wake up with a total lack of desire for the addictive drugs or alcohol you’ve been taking as well as insight on your inner psyche which helps you stay off the drugs in the long run. Ibogaine is not addictive.

    Such a treatment (which is as close to anything as a cure) would surpass anything available today for addicts. Unfortunately Ibogaine is illegal in the USA although there are treatment centers in Mexico and Canada. For more information do a wiki or see


  16. Leigh says:

    Nuance is mostly what we’ve lost in this “war.” People throughout the world have used drugs in various ceremonies. Which means they were used occasionally and for specific purposes. Even beer used to be psychotropic, until the Church intervened and required brewers to use hops, a natural estrogen.

    Plants — any plant — can be used for good or ill. Look at corn. When it’s used as a sweetener or as a feed for cattle, which weren’t meant to eat grains, it’s being used for ill. Anything that becomes an addiction, whether pot or shopping, it’s the user who needs healing, probably emotional, but also physiological. I don’t see that as a moral issue, except that there’s so little we do as a society to foster good emotional or physiological health.

    If there’s any moral issue here, it’s the use of defoliants on land and people, whether in rural America, parks or on the land of Colombians. That affects everyone by killing off other species and polluting the land and water. For that reason alone, we need to end this “war.”

  17. Whereaway says:


    A couple of points.

    First, I don’t buy your assertion that keeping drugs illegal is a ‘moral’ position. It’s an arrogant one, that denies people agency and responsibility.

    As for your assertion that legalizing drugs would tear this nation apart. The US has a higher percentage of its population in prison than the USSR did in the 60′s and 70′s. One of the significant characteristics of this country is that we are a nation of prisons. We spend vast sums of government money support incarceration as an industry, and many of the folks who oppose legalization are those who profit from the prison industry. We also fuel vast amounts of violence based on drug profits in our inner cities, on our southern border, and in the drug producing nations. The war on drugs is a factor in what’s tearing this nation apart – it’s time to try something different.

    That doesn’t mean I think drugs can’t be harmful. 20 some-odd years ago, I faced a choice between giving up my addictions to intoxicants (both legal and illegal) or giving up everything else that mattered to me – my family, my sense of my self as a growing human being. I gave up my addictions. ‘Legality’ and the threat of external consequences had nothing to do with that decision.


  18. Ann says:

    I’m a bit afraid to post this, but I will post, in honor of those more courageous than I. I think, if you tally the $, you’ll find that the US government and corporations make more money on drug trafficking than they spend on the “war on drugs.” Britain, also. Google Michael Ruppert. He’s been through hell with it. And you can find out from history books that both countries have used drugs to colonize and to keep populations under domination. Britain colonized both India and China with them. The US force-fed them in the 1920′s to Harlem residents in NYC, and in the 1960′s and 70′s to protesters. The jist of this is, good luck legalizing it. There is too much money being made by it by those in power. Maybe they look stupid, but they aren’t. They put on that face to keep us at bay. Hard to believe that some people can be so evil.

  19. roge5 says:

    When you look at who will lose money when drugs are legalized (which they should be) you begin to understand why it is not likely to happen any time soon.

    Big time crime – political contributions – you get the picture.

  20. Lydia says:

    My guess would be that Brwer has never smoked pot or used other drugs. Hard line anti-druggers usually have never used. :o )

    The first order of deciding how to live one’s life is the ask if it does anyone else harm. If not, then, there should be no law against it. Prohibition of any kind-like prostitution, drugs, etc, has always proved to be ineffective and always will be. Morality has zero to do with it, other than the people professing to be on the moral high ground want to force others to their way of living.

    This is all about follow the dollar, just like everything else. The government does not want Native Americans to be able to grow hemp. Too much competition, and they might become self sustaining. But gambling is ok because they make a killing off that. Want some really interesting information on drugs? -goggle “The Pharmacratic Inquisition”.
    That will bow your mind-pun intended. :0)

  21. Bucky says:


    “If they can legally get it but have to pay an insane amount….they would probably continue to get it from normal dealers who dnt charge tax….so in essence they would be skipping out on the tax”

    How right you are.

    If we make pot legal, people aren’t going to go to the store for a dime bag. They are going to continue to patronize their pushers so they don’t have to pay that nasty tax to the government.

    That is why my friends and I are meeting at the local speakeasy tonight. We could go to a bar where it was all legal. But that would mean paying taxes!

    Screw that.

    Only an idiot doesn’t know that after the repeal of prohibition the illegal trade in booze just got bigger because people wanted to avoid a few cents in taxes.

    What dumbasses those people are.

  22. MEA says:

    Watched Reefer Madness much?

    I’ve actually never used illegal drugs, but based on my experience, more drug use in an individual does not alway lead to more family and other problems.

  23. gregorywade says:

    Boy you blather on! That one might take away a point–which one I couldn’t guess–is beyond me. Here’s my point: taxation and regulation of cannabis will not eliminate the criminal element, as taxation and regulation INCREASES the price. As you write, the prices at Medicinal Dispensaries that pay sales tax are higher than informal co-ops.

    Have you grown high-quality cannabis? I doubt law-abiding farmers have either. So its presumptuous to assert “Farmers” could benefit, while a population of experienced growers already exist and already benefit. I assure you: a decentralized network of growers utilizing horticultural techniques will out compete agricultural techniques in an environment of scarcity–particularly in terms of quality.

    The production and distribution networks are resilient precisely because of the Drug War. The Drug War is an economic war; taxation and regulation merely another tactic.

  24. The profit margin on pot is so high that the government can tax it and still undercut criminals.

    While I don’t use drugs I would rather pay the tax and know I’m getting tested weed that is unadulterated and does not support violence, just like I’d buy Canadian diamonds over blood diamonds. Like I buy fair trade coffee, ethical chocolate and when I can non sweat shop clothes.

    As a Canadian who has much higher tax rates than Americans I can tell you almost no one buys moonshine or goes to speak easys it just does not happen. But then again we have 44% of the country that has smoked pot and yet our violence rate is marginal compared to you. You guys are a totally different mindset who are apparently more lawless and will do things just to spite the government where we generally do not.

  25. Sharon says:

    Let’s see – is the majority of American liquor sold legally, or by moonshiners…hmmmm…. let me think. Oh, wait, it is a massive source of state revenue. While some tobacco addicts definitely will go to native reservations or smuggle cigs in from over the border to avoid taxes, when was the last time you ran into a Canadian teenager shot down in tobacco drug war? And the majority of American cigarettes are bought legally and taxed. So in order to believe the claim that drug use would result in just as much mayhem, we have to believe that other drugs are completely unlike regulated drugs. Hmmmm….


  26. Anonymous says:

    There are tons of drugs out there, whether it be caffeine, pot, or meth. The problem with this whole topic is that you have to look at the subjects in question. Is it the drug or the user that is the problem? Obviously, abuse comes from the user, not the drug.

    In this lovely US of A, I find it difficult to imagine what legalizing drugs would cause . . . likely more crime and medical conditions. We are a country of excess, where a good percentage of humans have very low amounts of self control. Look at the obesity rates versus the rest of the world-ridiculous!

    I have seen my share of druggies, enough to know that giving them free access to more, more, more would devistate everything around them. Ever see someone with meth mouth? I have. Disgusting. You don’t think we’d have tons of meth addicts flocking to the doctors because of this drugs obvious, extreme side affects? Well, fucking duh. Yeah let’s legalize it. Very smart.

  27. Brad K. says:

    @ brwer, preteen sex is illegal, but mathematics isn’t. Which gets abused more?

    Seriously, morals and ethics have always been outside the provenance of government. Various faiths, service organizations, strong families – remember EST? – role models and communities abound with opportunities to guide and maintain people on a peaceful and secure path through life.

    For those exposed to, and affected by, moral and ethical communities and practices, recreational drugs won’t be an issue. For others – I doubt it will be much of an issue. People intent on criminal violence and aggression are already about as drug-affected as if recreational drugs became legal.

    I actually think that legalizing drugs will draw some abusers back closer to a right way of living, some few of them.

    And consider that declaring recreational, currently illegal drugs to be “legal” is not the same thing as being available over the counter, or by prescription, or under laws and distribution similar to liquor or tobacco or gunpowder. (Maybe they will move the DEA under the ATF – wouldn’t that be a hoot?)

    Current federal law permits the head of every household to brew 200 gallons of beer or wine per year, without report or permit or restriction, strictly for household use. Try to sell any, or distill any, and you get into BATFE territory, and need those permits and licenses. I would easily see hemp and pot treated as beer and wine, with a family permitted to grow their own, but not trade any without permits and licenses. Opium, hash, meth, LSD, etc. should be handled more like distilled spirits, or maybe Viagra (buy it from Canada or get a prescription).

    I doubt, even legal, meth or many other drugs would become available without some age check and likely other controls as well.

    The difference would be that the cost to the user would be funding Walgreen’s instead of those pesky drug cartels. And California could save the cost in dollars and lives of their annual Campaign Against Marijuana Producers.

    The ethics and morals of using drugs are important topics. I just don’t see that legalizing drugs will affect ethics and morals of users, abusers, or those around those that use.

  28. virginia says:

    Interestingly, the most recent Mother Jones magazine is quite edifying on the topic of the failed War on Drugs. Article for recommended reading: “Who Are the Cartels in Your Neighborhood”. Pretty appalling, to learn that several drug cartels — spectacularly violent folks — are quite comfortable doing business locally in almost every state, making gobs of money, and have infiltrated both the US Customs Service and the Mexican military.

  29. Wendy says:

    In the 1980s when I was in college, one of Kentucky’s gubnatorial candidates ran on the platform of legalizing marijuana. I voted for him – not because I wanted a little legal smoke. I was married with children and a full-time college student with a full-time job. I didn’t have time to indulge in recreational drug use. But I voted for him, because where I grew up in southeastern Kentucky, there were three ways to support one’s family – the coal mines, welfare, or illegally. Most people I knew worked in the coal mines until they got laid off (which happened all too often), or until they got too hurt to work, and then, they drew welfare.

    Kentucky’s top legal cash crop in those days was tobacco, but it was a hard business, and confined to the central and northern counties. A tobacco farmer once told me that too much land, and one guy couldn’t work it alone, which cut his profits, and too little land, and the farmer couldn’t make enough for it to be profitable. It was a precarious balance.

    Kentucky’s top cash crop was marijuana, and it could be grown just about anywere, including next to railroad beds. I think if the people in the mountains could legally grow and sell a cash crop, like marijuana, maybe they could lift themselves out of poverty … a little.

    Non-recreational marijuana is appropriate for a number of applications, including fuel. Considering that we’re in the midst of what might become a serious energy crisis in the not too distant future, it would seem prudent to be looking at some non-food, plant-based fuel alternatives, like cannibis.

    One last point: the appalachian mountain region of southeastern Kentucky is one of the poorest places in this country. Ten of the 100 poorest counties in the US are in Kentucky. The mountain soils aren’t good for growing much for money, but they can grow cannibis there, because it’s not as picky as, say, corn. Legalizing marijuana as a fuel crop would do a great deal to help folks in southeastern Kentucky who’ve gotten nothing but a raw deal for far too long.

    And FYI: many of the counties in southeastern KY are “dry”, which means selling alcohol is prohibited, which means any alcohol procured in that area is bought from bootleggers. Anybody – ANY-BODY can get alcohol from a bootlegger. They don’t ask for ID, and most of the kids I knew, knew where to get it, and did. Alcoholism was rampant there, too, and folks weren’t drinking moonshine. They were drinking Micheloeb light, Boone’s Farm, and Seagram’s Seven. To believe that making it legal would have encouraged more drinking is ridiculous, because making it illegal did nothing but allow it to be easily accessible to underage drinkers.

  30. Mihai says:

    I sometimes fantasize about a “million drugee march” on DC. Come as you are – no weird costumes, strange music or glowstick athletics, unless that truly represents your everyday self. Show everyone what responsible durgees look like. No, I’m not trying to simply dismiss as irresponsible those for whom drug use is entangled with addiction, mental illness and violence. There will always be problems and people who need help, whether drugs are legal, prohibited or absent. I think the anti-drug folks can only see their own moral outrage and point to the superficial problems. Maybe it would help move the dialogue in a more useful direction if we, the occasional, reasonable, safe or has-been experimenters weren’t so good at hiding. Thanks Sharon, for “coming out”. ☺

    Drugs have been a part of the human experience as far back as there are any records. Early cave paintings are thought to have been influenced by non-ordinary mental states, likely precipitated by ritual, sensory deprivation or psychedelic plants and fungi. We seek to temporarily alter our internal workings for the experiences and insights it provides. And we always will, by drugs or other means.

    Government’s role should be to inform people of the very real risks of doing drugs. I’m sure a flood of aficionados will inform as to the benefits. Government should set minimum standards of quality for substances sold and should punish those who do harm to others with or while on drugs. Responsible, safe and peaceful use should be legal.

    The compound DMT is illegal. It took researchers many years to obtain permission for a small human study, which discovered that DMT is present in our brains in very small amounts and is a neurotransmitter. So there, you’re brain’s illegal, for now.

  31. K.B. says:

    Great article.

    I have never partaken of an illegal drug in my life. And I think they should be legalized.

    Think about this:

    My niece and nephews (being underage) cannot get tobacco or alcohol, since it is openly sold, regulated and taxed.

    Illegal drugs are as easy for them to get as water from the high school drinking fountain.

    The “war” on drugs has done nothing except fill up prisons.

    Then again, I advocate a return to personal responsibility in many things, instead of waiting on the government to “solve” the crisis du jour.

  32. vera says:

    Drugs are illegal because they make a cheap easy to produce substance very expensive, and very very profitable… for some.

    The naive moralists have been manipulated into keeping it going, just as they were manipulated into the Prohibition once.

    Those of you who think the drug war does something beneficial, do us all a favor. Do something, er, community-minded, eh? Educate yourselves. Follow the money. Follow the violence and corruption. Consider the ghastliness these policies have caused around the globe. Study the way the British turned the opium trade around by making it illegal way back when! Than come here and tell us what you found.

    Sharon, you are giving me some hope maybe the the Drug War will collapse for economic reasons… But illegal drugs being one of the three biggest trade items (along with oil and weapons)… maybe not.

  33. DeeDee says:

    I have to say this, too: I work in the court system, and we are overwhelmed with stupid, waste-of-time cases with users stopped by the police in questionable circumstances. Usually, these people are poor, unemployed, and not white. The state I work in is running out of money (not California) and is busy cutting back on services for indigent defense, alternative programs other than prisons (Boot Camp, diversion centers, drug treatment centers, even classes for probationers), and has laid off all the senior judges who were a valve to let off some of the pressure on an already massively overburdened system. The only free drug treatment programs now available are in jail. Oh, and the jails are now serving only two meals a day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I could list many more evidences of the ongoing failure of the system, and not just in relation to drugs.

    I personally feel that legalization is going to happen in a few years whether we like it or not; the system is too heavy to stand on its weak little legs now. I am watching it happen. The police are ineffectual now — but it depends where you live whether you will realize it’s happening. Where I lived until recently (out of the urban environment now, thank Goddess), the police car was there in two minutes to clear out the “threat” of my driveway being blocked, and I witnessed a helicopter chase with S.W.A.T. team van and was on the street when a panicked teen stumbled out of hiding in the neighbor’s bushes and the policewoman I was talking to drew her weapon — I found out later three juveniles had been spray-painting the side of the local strip mall. Where my black friend lives, her car has been stolen three times in recent months, and her calls to the police are met with total indifference and she is given a phone number to call and *leave a message* with the details of her V.I.N. number and such. There was a gun fight in her apartment complex, out by the dumpsters, and the police showed up to knock loudly on doors almost 2 hours later when everyone had gone back to sleep.

    Trust me when I say we do not have time, money, or energy for a war on drugs. I’m with Sharon, the way we are handling this is completely stupid, not to mention racist and unequally punitive.

  34. Brandi says:

    I guess I should reply to the taxing drugs thing. Here’s my thought – pot is a weed, super cheap, even with an amazing amount of taxes added to it, it would still be cheaper than buying it illegally. California (I think the Berkely area) has pot dispensaries, much visited. Even casual users (mind you, they did have to get a dr’s perscription) use them. Other currently illegal drugs are super cheap to produce so the same deal would apply. The money that is used to purchase expensive illegal drugs buys all the items confiscated in drug busts – ie mansions, cadillacs ect…

    I agree with the person who said it is easier for her neices and nephews to get illegal drugs than cigarettes or beer. Therefore, the war on drugs is not only unproductive but actually counter-productive. By the way, I have never partaken of an illegal substance in my life, have never tried a cigarette and did not touch a drink until I was 21, I’m a Christian, I don’t believe in it. Still, illegal just has not worked, why not try another approach? I hate it when people get so rigid and closed minded.

  35. Claire says:

    I tend to agree with Sharon that the energy cost of the current so-called “war on drugs” is too high to be continued for much longer. Decriminalizing drugs would, potentially, free up some needed resources for other problems – if in fact we were smart enough to use those resources in wise ways. I’m not much for regulation because regulations end up benefiting corporations more than actual human beings.

    I also think it’s quite hypocritical to maintain different classes of substances that can be used to alter mood. Why should alcohol and tobacco be legal once you are over a certain age and as long as you follow various laws relating to their use, while pot is illegal? I’d say that just about everyone who is a baby boomer or younger, and a not-small number of those older, has used it at some point. It’s probably the least-respected law in the country as a result, because the vast majority of people know from personal experience that pot need not be used addictively (though it is so used by some). And people like me, who haven’t used it, know enough people who have to know the same thing.

    Having said that, we are missing something deeper – why do people use substances addictively, in a way which may seem to be enjoyable at first but actually harms them and other people? Answer this, and find a way to help people find out for themselves that addictive behavior ends up making their lives worse rather than better, and we won’t need laws, taxes, or anything else to keep drug use at a low, tolerable, nonharmful level (but then if few people are using drugs addictively, farmers or enterprising synthetic chemists won’t make much profit on them, so I guess part of Sharon’s idea wouldn’t work out).

    Just to make a partial stab at an answer to why people use drugs addictively, it’s a feedback problem in part. The immediate result of a drug is mood gets altered in a desired way. The undesirable results – hangover, reduced kick requiring increased use, need for money one doesn’t have to buy more, poorer health as a result of use or the consequences of use – are all much delayed compared to the immediate mood change, and therefore not really connected to the drug use. Are there ways to make consequences more immediate? I don’t know.

    Just for the record, TV is terribly addictive, and probably more harmful to all of us than any of the drugs so far mentioned. Yet it’s the last thing anyone ever mentions in these discussions. I can no longer use it, and I really wish more people would refuse to use it. But it’s a feedback problem again.

  36. Lori says:

    “Hard line anti-druggers usually have never used. :o )”

    Hogwash. I am completely against legalizing drugs, but when I was a teenager, I did smoke pot. But when I did, I was a teenager, with no real responsibilities to anyone other than myself.

    I now work in child protection, and have a caseload of families where the state has taken custody of the children and removed them from the home due to severe neglect, or physical or sexual abuse. The abuse or neglect is obviously extremely damaging to children, but so is the removal and resultant foster care.

    The point I want to make is that of all the children on my caseload over the last 5 years, I could easily state that in at least 80% of them, substance abuse was involved. Why in hell would we want to legalize something that has such a damaging effect on little ones that cannot protect themselves from what their parents do?

    Keep in mind that when we legalize something, we are essentially saying, “this is something that as a society we are either willing to accept or at least too apathetic to fight.” Why is it ok to accept the damage these drugs do to our children?

    Sharon, I normally agree with you on most issues. Not this one. :)

  37. Skippy says:

    @ Lori–so please tell us: when you boldly state that ” [in] 80% [of cases], substance abuse was involved” exactly which substances are you speaking of? Because I would like to boldly state that those substances are most likely ones that are ALREADY legalized–alcohol and prescription drugs.

    So, the real issue for you is not about legalization–it’s about treatment of drug abuse (that to you, undoubtedly leads to other abuses) regardless of drug type.

  38. Sharon says:

    Lori, my Mom worked for DSS (CPS in MA) for years, and we had foster kids. I know what you are talking about. I also know that the war on drugs didn’t prevent them from getting the drugs, or affording the drugs or using the drugs. I also know that some of the substances were legal. The problem you are discussing is a real one, but illegality has not worked to prevent this.


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