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Late night thoughts about cannabis

I just watched this BBC Horizon programme, about cannabis.

Many who favour the legalisation of cannabis base their case on the claim that cannabis is less harmful than is widely assumed. It is less bad than you think, they say, in fact very good. For me, the case for legalisation does not depend on any claim about riskiness or lack of it, but rather on the idea that individuals should be allowed to decide for themselves about the risks they take, and about how pleasurable the pleasures are that they take these risks to enjoy. Not myself having any plans to take cannabis, I have tended to remain rather ignorant of the details of the riskiness argument, because I just do not think that this is what matters, any more than I favour denationalised washing machine businesses (which I do), because of and following long years spent studying the internal workings of washing machines.

But being a libertarian, I inevitably come across screeds about cannabis, of which this splendid rant (linked to from here yesterday by Johnathan Pearce) is a fine example. Spurred on by this rant, I watch the BBC show. I dozzed off during some of it, but still learned quite a lot. For me, the most interesting bit was about how cannabis contains several different ingredients, rather than just one key ingredient that makes cannabis cannabis, so to speak. There is THC, which stands for … whatever THC stands for. But, there is also CBD, and according to this, lots of others besides, all of which seem to sound like television news organisations. And CBD, unlike THC, is anti-psychotic, according to this bloke that they ended up talking to on the telly, growing masses of cannabis courtesy the government, at an undisclosed location. The harm done by modern drug-dealer type cannabis is that it contains lots of THC, and very little CBD, if any. Interesting. (I seem to recall Dan Ayckroyd getting a stern lecture from a policeman about the evils of THC in Changing Places.)

I do have one prejudice about cannabis, which applies also to alcohol, and also to baked beans and to computer games, and in fact to just about anything, which is that different people react to the same things in often very different ways. This commonplace notion, strongly confirmed by this programme, often seems to be lost on the medical profession, and in particular on the more strident sort of medical amateur. Some people are clearly helped by cannabis, getting, for instance, otherwise unobtainable pain relief from it. (They did some filming in California.) Others get hours of innocent pleasure from it. Others go mad and hear voices, voices that they might in due course have found themselves hearing anyway, but perhaps not.

Judging by the size and splendour and apparent respectability of that huge but secret cannabis farm, it looks like cannabis may soon be legalised, but simultaneously nationalised. A bit like the Church of England with religion. This is the other way to discourage things, when outright banning has failed. As an agnostic about cannabis, I favour outright legalisation on libertarian grounds. As an atheist about religion, I have rather a soft spot for the Church of England.

The bloke doing the programme ended by saying that in his opinion the harm done by cannabis was not its dramatically bad stuff, like turning a few people into psychos, but in the form of all the lethargy it spreads. Because of cannabis, lots of people just loaf about doing very little, giggling inanely, he said. I do not really need the BBC to tell me that.

Besides which, I think the real encouragers of loafing are the Department of Social Security, or whatever they call that this year, and the Inland Revenue (ditto). They pay people to loaf about and do nothing, and fine them for working. If people suffered much more economically for doing nothing than they do now, and made much more dramatic gains from working by keeping almost all (all is my preferred arrangement) that they made, cannabis would not be nearly so popular as an encourager of negativity. It would still be used to achieve other benefits, such as pain relief, and for calming down after a hard day at the office. Just not for making a life spent doing nothing somewhat more pleasurable.

52 comments to Late night thoughts about cannabis

  • Agreed. Plus, in these straitened times, it would be a handy source of tax revenues. I can’t stand the stuff myself, but neither can I see the attraction of collecting stamps or ringing church bells. Each to his own.

  • joel

    I have a question for people who are for drug legalization:

    Which drugs? Do you think all drugs should be legal? That is, freely available without a doctor’s prescription? So, every single chemical substance known, aside from a few highly toxic poisons, should be legal? Why not? How about every single drug yet to be discovered?

    If you are for legalizing some drugs but not others, how do you decide? Who will decide.

    For reasons unknown to me, most advocates of legalization of drugs do not want to experiment. That is, let one large state legalize drugs, and watch what happens. Usually you find out why the drugs were made illegal in the first place.

  • Richard

    Joel:

    You either own yourself, or you don’t. It really is that simple.

  • WRT to the THC vs everything else thing…

    Modern cannabis has more THC than the older stuff (by and large). This is a result of cannabis being illegal. The profit ain’t worth the risk unless you’re providing more “bang for buck”.

    Analogously during US prohibition it was spirits people were smuggling, not beer.

  • Doh! All drugs, Joel. Including the highly toxic poisons. Everything. Simple. No regulatory bodies, no complex decision processes.

    I’d have thought this was glaringly obvious common sense.

  • Andrew

    “Analogously during US prohibition it was spirits people were smuggling, not beer.”

    …and similarly to the drugs war, prohibition resulted in a huge increase in corruption and the death rate from abuse (bare minimum estimate is a quadrupling, from cirrhosis alone). Also, prohibition did nothing to lower consumption (the opposite in fact, it reversed a long term decline), just as hard drug use has absolutely rocketed since the Misuse of Drugs act came into force.

    Frankly, it’s hard to see how our governments could have screwed up more if they’d been trying to.

  • Laird

    During Prohibition, much of the booze was of the homemade variety (of course, plenty was smuggled in from Canada, etc., too), which tended to have a high level of methanol. Lots of people died, went blind, etc., as a result. The same happens today under drug prohibition: much of it contains poisons, adulterants, etc., which make the substances inherently more dangerous than they need to be.

    The case against drug prohibition is so overwhelming, on so many levels, that one has to be willfully ignorant to ignore it.

  • Mole

    There is no “right” solution to this issue. Prohibition involves a lot of evil, mainly from the profits made by the dealers, and the crime that accompanies this.

    Full legalisation involes the evil that many more people may overdose/go mad/become unproductive units in society.

    One of my jobs as a mine medic is to carry out D&A testing, I hate it. However I dont want a person under the influence operating heavy machinery in an already dangerous environment. So I suppose the testing is the lesser of the 2 evils.

    Im genuinely interested in reading peoples opinions on this as my own are not yet set. I dislike drugs/druggies, but also see the damage done by prohibition.

  • RemoWilliams

    The Dan Ackroyd/ Trading Places bit was about PCP, which is an entirely different animal. That shit will seriously drive you psycho.

  • Sunfish

    Joel:
    Total legalization would bother me less than the current state of affairs, although I would like to legalize roadside executions of people who drive with a headful of redneck cocaine and a child in the car.

    And someone is going to have to define what they mean when they say legalization does or does not “work.” Do you mean people stop using the stuff because it’s legal? Or that violent crime associated with the trade in a substance decreases? Because I’m not interested in fighting a civil war like the one kicking off in northern Mexico right now. The one that is directly attributable to US drug policy over the last few decades, and has led to a total breakdown in law and order in much of the country, vigilanteism, open warfare between various factions of the army, and a Mexican Mafia takeover of local governments inside the United States.

    It’s time to either shit, or get off the can. The only way to ‘win’ is to bring in the death penalty for dealers/growers (and possibly users) and repeal the Fourth Amendment. If it were legal for me to execute every non-violent stoner I saw by the side of the road, we could make a dent.

    And what everybody else said about the parallels to the Volstead Act. How often is marijuana sold wet in places where it’s legal? How many people died or went blind from methanol poisoning in their White Lightning last year?

  • guy herbert

    I fell asleep during the programme, too. What struck me before I did so was that the narrator talked about the prehistoric and ancient spread of the drug while still using the phrase “illicit drug”. But it wasn’t in the context he was takling about. Almost nowhere until the 20th century did it occur to people that the government could or should ban drugs. There might have been religious restrictions or prohibitions, professional monopolies and latterly some safety regulations, but in general drugs were just precious commodities like spices were.

    It seems to me that though there were scares before (usually a narrative of foreigners and their filthy ways corrupting our young women), the main occasion of prohibition for cannabis (and all the rest) was the prospect of the FBI and other special agents having nothing to do after the US repealed the Eighteenth Amendment. Thereafter “drugs” became a convenient moral panic whenever one was needed, and the moral panic was globalised as foreign and domestic policy by the Nixon administration’s invention of War on Drugs.

  • guy herbert

    Andrew,

    Frankly, it’s hard to see how our governments could have screwed up more if they’d been trying to.

    “Trying to” is the problem. Passive, reactive, self-limiting government’s not so much of a problem. If it acts as a social janitor, keeping basic infrastructure going with a combination of standard maintenance and unpretentious bodging, then it’s a good thing.

    But if a government is actively trying to do things of its own motion then it is screwing things up, and the harder it tries the more it screws things up. The only exception is the planless killing, maiming and impoverishment of large numbers of people. That governments are really good at.

  • mike

    “Im genuinely interested in reading peoples opinions on this as my own are not yet set. I dislike drugs/druggies, but also see the damage done by prohibition.”

    Perhaps I can help you. I too dislike drugs and druggies (excepting the odd gin & tonic, of course), but please first consider this comment earlier by Richard:

    “You either own yourself, or you don’t. It really is that simple.”

    The choice he puts before you there is fundamental to this entire political debate and a great many others whose basic nature is similar to this one. The idea that you own yourself is derived from the fact that you, and only you, have volitional control over your mind and body. Another person may tell you to do or think any particular thing, but they cannot exercise direct volitional control over either your mind or your body. That can only be done by you and no-one else.

    That is what an individual human being is, and since we individual human beings live in societies, then clearly norms of social behaviour are required if we are to survive. Thus liberty to act as we please so long as we do not prevent others from doing so is the only normative touchstone which does not violate our nature as volitional individuals. This is the ethical basis of a libertarian politics, and it is from this position that all such questions of government policy are viewed.

    So, when you say this:

    “There is no “right” solution to this issue. Prohibition involves a lot of evil, mainly from the profits made by the dealers, and the crime that accompanies this.”

    I respectfully disagree. The evil is not ‘mainly’ from the profits made by dealers or the accompanying crime for those things are merely consequences of the real evil – which is the legal act of prohibition itself. Prohibition is the presumption by some individuals (i.e. those in government and those who support them amongst the voting public) to the ‘moral right’ to violate your nature as a volitional individual.

    Since I don’t much care for drugs or druggies as you say, I choose not to have anything to do with them – and I demand that other people tolerate my choice. However, by reference to that very same tolerance, I am in no position to demand that other people refrain from making a different choice with regard to drugs or druggies simply because I don’t like them. If I want people to tolerate my choices, I must also be prepared to tolerate theirs – unless their choices are by their very nature intolerant.

    Richard said it exactly as it should be said.

  • fjfjfj

    “For reasons unknown to me, most advocates of legalization of drugs do not want to experiment. That is, let one large state legalize drugs, and watch what happens.”

    I for one am thoroughly in favour of Britain legalizing drugs unilaterally.

    “Usually you find out why the drugs were made illegal in the first place.”

    Usually? When has this ever happened?

  • Gabriel

    Here’s my take. Legalization of marijuana is an important step towards state doping of the masses. We’ve already gone part of the way with prozac, ritalin etc. but they don’t have the fun factor of pot. 50 years from now we’ll be hearing about all the crusty religious nutcases who refuse to get somad up like good citizens and that, consequently, the “voluntary option has failed”.

    You may think that paranoid, but that’s what I think and I don’t think at all out of kilter with the general trend of western civilization since 1962 (ish). It’s certainly a lot more plausible than the bizarre concept of “gay marriage” would have seemed in 1950.

  • the last toryboy

    “They pay people for loafing around, and fine them for working”

    Funny, but accurate, stuff. :D

  • Andrew

    “Full legalisation involes the evil that many more people may overdose/go mad/become unproductive units in society.”

    That’s presuming consumption would increase, but drugs are already freely available and easily affordable.

    As for the experimentation some suggest: Portugal essentially decriminalised drug use in 2001 (still civil penalties, but no criminal element now), and hugely successfully so. Drugs deaths more than halfed in the the years afterwards (almost entirely because heroin use dropped sharly), while rates of related diseases like HIV infection also fell significantly.

    You don’t even need to be a libertarian to make these arguments: drugs prohibition is a woeful, backfiring failure. At best it does nothing to limit consumption, while increasing drugs deaths and the associated health side effects. Meanwhile, it also produces massive crime (75% of property crime) and corruption globally. On top of all of this, we have to pay gigantic policing costs.

    As before: it’s near impossible to conceive of a worse policy failure than that we’ve followed over the last 40 years (and particularly the last 25 in the UK). It’s an utter indictment of the failure of the state, and the craven subservience of our politicians to the ignoramus Daily Mail agenda.

  • Jerry

    ‘That’s presuming consumption would increase, but drugs are already freely available and easily affordable.’

    The premise there is ‘all of the people who are going to use drugs are already doing it’ – false !!

    Availability and affordability also come with ‘incarcerationability’ !!!!!!!!!!

    Increase in use – yes – there are a large number of persons who have not tried, pick one or more, marijuana, heroin, crack etc. SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE ILLEGAL AND ONE MIGHT END UP IN JAIL losing job, &/or family &/or ……………

    Legalize everything and you will have, overall, a larger number of ‘users’ who are not really productive because, of the new batch of experimenters, there will be a subset who become hopelessly ‘hooked’ and will ‘drug away’ the rest of their lives.

    This is because, some, not all, will be like alcoholics who simply cannot stop at one or two drinks and will therefore become dependent.

    Now, that being said, is what we live under today worth preventing an additional unknown number of people from becoming addicts ?

    Beats me.

    I don’t nor have I ever used marijuana, or any other ‘illegal’ drug so it really doesn’t affect me directly one way or the other BUT I also don’t want the airliner captain ( train engineer, cab driver ….) climbing into the ‘left seat’ after just finishing his 3rd ‘joint’

  • llamas

    I have actually refined my thinking about this issue, partly at least from being a long-time reader here.

    My opinion, right now, is based on a lesser-of-two-evuils approach, and it is simple:

    Legalize it all. MJ, smack, crank, licky toads, mushrooms, whatever.

    No laws against consenting adults using, whatever they want to use, so long as noone else is placed at risk.

    Now, the caveats.

    Anyone with an ounce of sense knows that some drugs at least can have very, very bad consequences for users. So anyone who supplies drugs to anyone other than a ‘consenting adult’ gets very, very draconian penalties.

    As Zaluchi said

    ‘I don’t want it near schools — I don’t want it sold to children! That’s an infamia!’

    By the same token, there are many things that we don’t want people under the influence of drugs to be doing – driving, doctoring, digging. So, very, very draconian penalties for anyone caught doing any of these things.

    I’m afraid, based on my LEO experience, that I don’t think that this approach will end the ‘War on Drugs” – it will simply refocus it. In many places, simple possession of small amounts of some drugs has been essentially decriminalized anyway, and seldom leads to jail time even if prosecuted. The jails will not empty to nearly-the-extent that many hope for.

    And there is always the question of Unintended Consequences – dope may be made legal, and thus becomecheap, but for many junkies, it effectively already is – since they support their habits by stealing (= free) and drugs are as cheap as they have ever been. Junkies will continue to rob and steal, even when the actual act of possessing and using their dope of choice is no longer illegal. Legalization won’t change that, certainly not for the harder drugs which pretty-much make the serious user a useless drain on society. MJ will, of course, fall to a price near zero, since it grows like a weed and is easy to mass-produce at high quality and effectiveness.

    But it’s still (likely) the lesser of two evils.

    llater,

    llamas

  • RAB

    This is a no brainer.
    Legalise them all.
    See what happens. If it all goes tits up and mayhem and chaos ensues (I seriously doubt it will though) then just criminalise it again.
    I mean, it’s not as if Nulab are strangers to criminalising things is it? They have passed around 1700 laws since 1997, for which there can be terms of imprisonment imposed.

    And perhaps just buying the Afgan opium crop before the Taliban can, might go a long way to pacifying that country, instead of self righteously trying to shut the trade down.
    There is a world shortage of Medicinal Opiates

    What the hell are our Lords and masters thinking?

    No dont bother to reply, I think we know.

  • Andrew

    “Legalize everything and you will have, overall, a larger number of ‘users’ …..”

    That’s a mere supposition, without any evidence to support it. The evidence we do have is that this hasn’t happened in Portugal, or anywhere else de facto decriminalisation has been tried. The evidence the EMCDDA has collated actually suggests the legal position has little to no effect on consumption levels at all.

    As for deterrence, Iran has several million opiate addicts, despite various draconian penalties (including up to execution for mere possession of minimal amounts of heroin, if unlucky).

  • Leaving aside moral issues the practical lunacy of drug laws is shone by the availability of drugs in jails.

    If they can’t control ‘em there how do they expect to do stop someone scoring down the boozer.

  • Joe R.

    Laird: The case against drug prohibition is so overwhelming, on so many levels, that one has to be willfully ignorant to ignore it.

    The most accurate statement in the thread, and damned if people didn’t knock each other over to show up and prove it true.

  • Whilst absolutely supporting full legalization, there were some opther questions in Joel’s original question that deserve some reaction. He asked, in particular “So, every single chemical substance known, aside from a few highly toxic poisons, should be legal? Why not? How about every single drug yet to be discovered?”

    What about every single drug yet to be discovered? You may not know this, but the way it works is that something needs to be scheduled before it is banned(Link). There are backstreet chemists all over the place inventing substances that have similar effects to illicit scheduled drugs but which have not yet been classified. You can buy them over the internet(Link) with no hassle. Who knows what they are – I know I’d rather have MDMA than any “London Underground” equivalent simply because I do know that, whatever the gummint might say about there being “no safe dose” MDMA has been in existence for a hundred years and had various human trials – I don’t know whether the alternative, not yet classified, compounds are Vim and Petrol heated up and stirred with some blackberry juice or something.

    And, others have speculated about whether it would lead to an increase in use, and whether than would be bad, if things were legalized. I tell you what, for me it’s not so much the illegality of it, but the fact that because of that there does not exist a “reputable source”. As “Talk to Frank” points out – the coke on the streets is often 30% coke and 70% who knows what. Supposed E’s often contain absolutely no MDMA at all. Who knows what’s in them.

    All that said, even if it were to result in a rise in use there is no reason to think that that would necessarily be bad. You can live quite reasonably with a heroin habit – even holding down a job and so on – if your supply is safe, regulated and regular. I see no reason why (with obvious exceptions of operating life-threatening equipment under the influence) such people cannot live active, productive lives popping out for their opium cigarette in the same way I do for my nicotine one.

    And still – even if there was a rise and it was seen to be bad, the very fact that it was less of a social taboo because of it not being illegal any more makes it more likely that people would volunteer for help, talk to families about their issues and so on. Eventually I suggest the novelty would wear off. But most of these substances aren’t that bad personally – many have really interesting effects – I can well understand why those nineteenth century poets were inspired and Ketamine is one of the most profoundly mind-expanding experiences I’ve ever had! – though how it can possibly be a class C when cannabis is a Class B now I cannot fathom!.

    Let’s face it, alcohol is a filthy drug (that doesn’t stop me liking it). Nothing else I know can leave you so debillitated the morning after (or, at Christmas, for four days of heartburn after nearly a boittle of AncNoc!) – and with dog breath for your work colleagues to enjoy too! The only reason it is heroin and cannabis and so on that are banned and not alcohol is that they were never controlled by lobbying interests.

    In the end though, as lots of people have said – it comes down to self-ownership, and for me, the added fact that prohibition kills, which makes it immoral and indefensible.

  • Mole

    Thanks for the self ownership concept, it makes a bit more sense when placed in those terms. The way I see it legalise nearly all drugs but have heavy drink driving type sanctions agains irresponsible usage that might affect others.

    In addition I have ofter wondered how many deaths called drug related could be more accurately termed suicide?

  • RAB

    I have lost three close friends to alcohol, one to suicide, but just the one to drugs.

    Well he did a Tim Buckley and had been clean for a while, but got tempted one night down a club, had a line or two, and was found dead in the street, just down the hill from here.
    It’s the white powders that do it folks.
    Speed, Heroin, and coke will see you off,but a bit of Puff wont. Unless a ton of it falls on your head.

    I guess what I’m saying is that so called illegal drugs are demonised, while those that are, in any realistic way, the most damaging, are considered a bit of a laff.

    It’s our Culture Innit!

  • mike

    “The way I see it legalise nearly all drugs but have heavy drink driving type sanctions agains irresponsible usage that might affect others.”

    That’s right – but – there is no good reason why private establishments cannot develop and enforce those sanctions themselves by means of contract. Such sanctions enforced by the State without consent are a violation of self-ownership.

  • llamas

    mike wrote:

    ‘ . . . .there is no good reason why private establishments cannot develop and enforce those sanctions themselves by means of contract. Such sanctions enforced by the State without consent are a violation of self-ownership.’

    Please describe a model whereby private establishments can develop and enforce sanctions on individuals that will prevent (for example) driving under the influence and/or compensate those who suffer loss or injury as a result.

    llater,

    llamas

  • mike

    Employee contract covering travel to and from work as well as travel during work.

    Yes it isn’t comprehensive, but there are limits to the protection from such things as drunk driving afforded by sanctions – whether of State law or private contract.

  • llamas

    Okay, I’ll run with that.

    So the employee has a contractual duty to his employer not to drive to and from work drunk. Fair enough.

    Leaving aside the fact that I, as an employer, probably have absolutely no desire to place such a contractual obligation on my employees – because it lays me bare to a whole raft of liabilities to others if the employee fails in his duty –

    What if he does it anyway? People do do things they have promised not to do.

    He’ll lose his job. Oh my.

    That’s pretty-much the extent of the remedies that I have, as an employer, if the employee fails in his part of the bargain.

    Well, I really don’t see the overwhelming incentive not to drive drunk, there – after all, people drive drunk today, when the penalties may well include jail time and other much-more serious consequences. And you don’t address in any way how you will make whole any person who happens to suffer loss as a result of the drunk’s poor choices.

    This is libertarianism taken to its outer extreme – the idea that any collective restraint or sanction on the individual is illegitimate and that ways must somehow be possible to prevent bad outcomes solely by the use of private means and measures.

    It’s actually pretty silly, anyway – so you try and prevent people from driving drunk by means of private contracts. And when they breach those contracts – who will enforce them for you?

    This concept of ‘self-ownership’ as some sacred and inviolable uber-right is all very well if you choose to live entirely separate from the rest of humanity. But if you choose to live with and interact with other people, then you need to accept that there have to be means to both dissuade and sanction behaviours that harm others. Your right to ‘self-ownership’ ends where my rights begin.

    llater,

    llamas

  • tdh

    There’s an article on stirrings.com titled “I Believe Cocktails Can Save the Economy.” (I liked their tonic water, when it was in bottles, despite that they were inconveniently small.)

    Too bad, for amusement’s sake, there aren’t any hemp manufacturers to make the same claim for rolling joints.

  • Sunfish

    Llamas-
    You don’t get it. He doesn’t owe you anything unless you negotiate a contract with him, to not drive drunk on public streets.

    “So, then, the streets should all be privately-owned.”

    How nice an idea. Let me know when that bears any relation to reality and we’ll continue that tangent then.

    I got a guy for DUID the other night. He wasn’t formally employed. Was his former employer supposed to have a no-DUI policy that would somehow apply to him even though he no longer worked there?

    (And in a hat tip to someone’s point about the imperfect preventative value of criminal laws, his license was already revoked for a previous DUI. But the few weeks he’ll spend in jail are a few weeks that he isn’t on the road. I’ll take what I can get.)

  • Laird

    Sunfish, are you saying that I have to negotiate a private contract with everybody driving on the streets in order to have a claim against someone who drives drunk and thereby injures me? Sorry, that’s completely unworkable, and in any event we have the “implied contract” of the social compact which gives rise to the anti-drunk driving laws. Llamas is correct; not everything can be handled by contract (libertarian absolutists’ arguments to the contrary notwithstanding).

    The principal remedy under contracts is an award of money damages, and some things simply can’t be satisfactorily reduced to monetary calculation (such as life, or the loss of bodily functions, etc.). The risk of such form of harm resulting from drunk driving is too high in relation to any purported loss of the individual’s “freedom to drive drunk”. That is why we have, and must have, such laws, and why there of necessity some irreducable level of government in any society. You of all people should appreciate that.

  • mike

    Yes – people break the DUI laws now all the time, so those laws have really worked haven’t they?

    Like I said – there are limits to what can be done about this sort of problem whether the sanction comes from contract or legislative presumption.

    Look, it’s morning here and I’m getting ready for work now so I’ll answer these charges when I get back. For now I’ll say this: negative externalities ought not to be dealt with by creating institutions from which yet more externalities grow by design.

  • Laird

    So nothing’s perfect — any more blinding flashes of the obvious you’d care to impart? The point remains: not everything can be handled by contract; and monetary damages aren’t adequate in all cases. Some forms of harm simply aren’t compensable and (to the extent possible) must be prevented instead. DUI laws fall into that category. I’m sure they prevent some drunk driving, and not just through incarceration (although that’s am important element). Relying on contracts to do so is completely nonsensical.

  • Sunfish

    Sunfish, are you saying that I have to negotiate a private contract with everybody driving on the streets in order to have a claim against someone who drives drunk and thereby injures me?

    No, I was mocking the guy who said that. I’m a firm believer in stiff criminal penalties for DUI and similar forms of reckless endangerment of others not easily quantified.

    I like the analogy of taking my guns up onto the roof and firing randomly into the air. Statistically, the majority of the rounds will poke holes in someone’s lawn when they come back down, without causing bodily harm or measurable property damage. Just like 19 out of 20 drives taken by drunk drivers don’t result in a crash or an injury.[1] But nobody (sane) would argue that society is out of bounds for penalizing me for doing so.

    [1] Or whatever the ratio is, but 19 for 20 passes the smell test for right now and I need to be getting ready for work.

  • Laird

    Sorry, Sunfish, I thought you were taking issue with Llama’s post and attributing that position to him. I suppose I should have known better. Mea culpa.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    This concept of ‘self-ownership’ as some sacred and inviolable uber-right is all very well if you choose to live entirely separate from the rest of humanity.

    In other words, Llamas, are you saying that you are entitled to force your fellows to live in certain ways in case their behaviours indirectly affect you? That way endless government meddling lies.

    It is certainly true that say, alcholism, drug abuse, and other pathologies have a bad effect on everyone’s lives. Far better therefore that the values of restraint and self-responsibility should be inculcated via incentives and so forth rather than by treating the entire population like 5-year-old children.

    And there are the externalities of banning substances to be considered, such as encouragement of crime gangs, corruption of he police, etc.

  • mike

    Right then – my turn.

    This discussion has mutated somewhat from the original context of Brian Micklethwait’s article, but you will not see me run away from this little scrap. I will make three main points and then deal with the shrapnel. If I may quote the author himself:

    “For me, the case for legalisation does not depend on any claim about riskiness or lack of it, but rather on the idea that individuals should be allowed to decide for themselves about the risks they take, and about how pleasurable the pleasures are that they take these risks to enjoy.”

    Although that remark was made in the particular context of arguments for the legalisation of cannabis, it contains two points that may be abstracted into a larger context (obviously however, this abstraction is entirely mine – not Brian Micklethwait’s – who I suspect would disagree with much of what I want to say).

    First – the discussion is primarily about what reality should be, not what it currently is. Therefore, when the copper among us says this:

    “”So, then, the streets should all be privately-owned.” How nice an idea. Let me know when that bears any relation to reality and we’ll continue that tangent then.”

    I simply close the lid on this off-topic jack-in-the-box. Second, Micklethwait’s remark is about decisions made by individuals. The responses by Llamas and Laird do not originate from this perspective, but from a social perspective – that there is a social problem, in this case DUI, and what the best way to solve it might be. Example:

    “The risk of such form of harm resulting from drunk driving is too high in relation to any purported loss of the individual’s “freedom to drive drunk”. That is why we have, and must have, such laws, and why there of necessity some irreducable level of government in any society.”

    When this archimedean point of view is used, it is easy to arrive at the conclusion that State force is necessary – because the most important thing under consideration, by virtue of the very point of view held, is the ‘social problem’. The point of view itself presupposes the State. Thus the conclusion is unavoidable.

    If such things as DUI are approached from the viewpoint of an individual free from State coercion however, then the picture widens to include many other possibilities. So:

    “And you don’t address in any way how you will make whole any person who happens to suffer loss as a result of the drunk’s poor choices.”

    That’s because I am not setting myself up to represent some ultimate arbiter of justice – unlike the State. More importantly however, the injured party is entitled to seek restitution – or revenge – as they see fit (the choice as to how this is done will have consequences which themselves will lead to further consequences). The possibilities for restitution are NOT confined merely to lynch-mob vigilantism, but may be drawn from the sanctions of voluntary cooperatives to which individuals will desire membership. And before anyone starts bleating at me for concrete examples and to quit ‘airy-fairy balderdash’ – bloody well think about it for yourselves first.

    The third point I want to raise is the one I pointed to earlier this morning: if the only solution to DUI is… the Federal Government… then we’re fucked. Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Yes I am aware you all would like substantially less government – nut its’ very creation would seem to require a substantial bureaucracy. And good luck containing that, you well meaning constitutionalists. Jonathan Pearce is perfectly justified in this remark:

    “In other words, Llamas, are you saying that you are entitled to force your fellows to live in certain ways in case their behaviours indirectly affect you? That way endless government meddling lies.”

    ***

    There is some secondary shrapnel I want to respond to aside from my more general blast above.

    A point raised by Laird to the effect that money awards are not always commensurate in nature to the damage done (e.g. loss of life) is obvious enough – but whoever said that private choices as to means of restitution must always revolve around money? I certainly didn’t say that.

    Llamas says:

    “And when they breach those contracts – who will enforce them for you?”

    You yourself by firing him.

    And:

    “What if he does it anyway? People do do things they have promised not to do. He’ll lose his job. Oh my. That’s pretty-much the extent of the remedies that I have, as an employer, if the employee fails in his part of the bargain.”

    Firing a worker for breaking contract may be the limit of your direct interest in the matter, as the employer (restitution is largely the interest of the injured party – unless of course that happens to also be you!). Of secondary importance: it might be the maximum contractual extent of your possible remedies, but there will also likely be other smaller sanctions which may be appropriate depending on circumstances. Not every case will be the same – some will be far less serious than others and perhaps more numerous.

    “This concept of ‘self-ownership’ as some sacred and inviolable uber-right is all very well if you choose to live entirely separate from the rest of humanity.”

    No you’re wrong – in such a context it would become meaningless. Self-ownership as distinct from what? Being owned by a pile of sticks, a puff of smoke or a cannabis plant? Make sense man.

    Laird himself points out ‘the blindingly obvious':

    “The point remains: not everything can be handled by contract.”

    And, in spite of his imagination, I never claimed that – those are his words.

    It’s now 1.13am here, I work two jobs and I’ll not be saying a damn thing more on this thread until I’ve eaten and slept. Sod you all.

  • Sunfish

    If such things as DUI are approached from the viewpoint of an individual free from State coercion however, then the picture widens to include many other possibilities.

    Like what?

    And before anyone starts bleating at me for concrete examples and to quit ‘airy-fairy balderdash’ – bloody well think about it for yourselves first.

    In case you haven’t noticed, my fellow yanks and I are apparently too damn dull to do that. So the great and wise mike the uncapitalized will need to cough something up.

    A point raised by Laird to the effect that money awards are not always commensurate in nature to the damage done (e.g. loss of life) is obvious enough – but whoever said that private choices as to means of restitution must always revolve around money? I certainly didn’t say that.

    20K people each year in this country would love some non-monetary compensation. Unfortunately, the only way to really make them whole is to stick them in caves and wait a few days, and that’s only worked once in all of human history.

    When you return to Planet Earth, let me know. In the mean time, I’ve got court this afternoon and I want to review the file first. I’ll make sure I win this one for you.

  • Midwesterner

    To address the Llamas, Mike, Laird et al discussion of the basis for intervening proactively in certain forms of substance use including drugs:

    Call this rationalization if you will, but arch-individualist, property rights advocate that I am, I have no problem with drunk/drugged driving laws. In fact I approve of them, if not always the way they are drafted and administered.

    I view the highway system (as distinct from the right-of-way underneath it) to be compatible with the concept of, and convertible to, a private cooperative of those funding it.

    In the township where I live, we the local taxpayers administer our roads in much the way a co-op would and we get highway-fuel tax revenue from the state to assist in upkeep. As ‘owners’ of the township highways, we are entitled to set out how they are used, provided we follow state laws. In a private system, those state laws would take the form of standardized association rules between groups seeking to maintain reciprocity among many highway systems.

    One of the decisions that we local taxpayer/owners agree with is that drunk driving is prohibited. I personally wish they would raise the allowable blood alcohol level and instead drop the ax on repeat violators. Yes I would definitely prefer we change the way we did things to more accurately reflect my libertarian, property-rights values, but I would not significantly change what we do, only how we do it. I think a business running the roads explicitly for the owners in a libertarian society would not do things very much differently. Well, maybe they would have a better record against repeat drunk drivers.

    I think the owners of the highway (in the present system, the taxpayers) morally have the right to regulate use of those highways in their capacity as owners.

    But I keep the highway system distinct from the underlying property. That is a separate matter that can confuse two separate areas of concern. We have on one of our farms, two adjacent parcels, one of which we own the land under the road and have ceded the right-of-way for a road to the township. The other parcel was created at a time when the township was only granted land divisions if the property itself under the road was ceded to the township. The matter of ownership of the property and regulation of the system are two entirely different matters and need to be considered separately.

    That is how the moral/philosophical basis of property rights is not very incompatible with the drunk/drugged driving rules we have now.

    As for the practical justification for the taxpayers/owners preemptively regulating behavior of participants in their transportation system, Sunfish’s sitting on the roof, shooting in the air example demonstrates my reasoning on preventive rules for certain activities. A drunk pedestrian should only be held accountable for actions committed under the influence. Forget the “Drunk” part of “drunk and disorderly”. The disorderly conduct part doesn’t require the drunk part to be a problem. But in the realm of driving or the other activities that Llamas names, it is the likelihood that activity could give rise to a life threatening situation and the impaired person (it’s called ‘impaired’ for a reason) would not be able to respond in a safe manner.

    Some people are happy to gamble with their life by drinking and driving. But they may not gamble with my life on property I own. And if a majority of my co-owners agree, then the gamblers may not do it on the property we co-own. Drunk driving laws do not violate property rights until they try to enforce them on your property when you are only jeopardizing consenting persons.

    I hope that made sense.

  • mike

    “I hope that made sense.”

    Almost entirely – except for this:

    “But I keep the highway system distinct from the underlying property. That is a separate matter that can confuse two separate areas of concern. We have on one of our farms, two adjacent parcels, one of which we own the land under the road and have ceded the right-of-way for a road to the township. The other parcel was created at a time when the township was only granted land divisions if the property itself under the road was ceded to the township. The matter of ownership of the property and regulation of the system are two entirely different matters and need to be considered separately.”

    Perhaps because I’m not familiar with land arrangements in the U.S., I’m having difficulty visualizing the two adjacent parcels of land vis-a-vis the road. Does the road run across both parcels of land, or just one? If both, presumably you may object to the legal difficulty of recovering one of those parcels from the highway system at some future point?

  • Midwesterner

    The parcels are side by side, the road the runs across both of them and probably dates back to the original land grant. They differ only because they were surveyed and recorded at different times and under different rules.

    The issues revolving around acquisition and restrictions on land are very many and very complicated. They are most definitely OT for this thread. But I’ve learned that if I break questions of “how would this work in a private ownership society?” into the smallest units, they become much more soluble and it turns out that they are not at all batshit crazy. It is only when too many issues are lumped into one question that the answers become either silly or scary.

    Again, this is way OT for a thread discussing pot and politics and I only set it aside in my comment as a way of acknowledging that there are some concerns but prohibiting impaired operation of a vehicle is not one of them and is entirely compatible with libertarian principles. Such a prohibition is in fact not something a libertarian society could interfere with if a highway association or home owner association choose to enact them within the terms of their contracts.

    Incidentally, to drift back to Brian’s topic, there was a time 25 or 30 years ago when I was occasionally called on to help track down and bring home a person with an indiscriminate substance consumption problem. I always looked forward to finding him stoned on pot. Like as not I would find him in some friend’s living room at 2AM, watching a test pattern on the TV and listening to the static as the vinyl kept turning with the needle at the middle. Usually some food substance not generally associated with direct consumption was in evidence like flavored gelatin mixes or other food mixes. While he was often difficult to locate, he would always quietly follow me to the car and ride home.

    On the other hand, if alcohol was the drug of choice on an evening, I never had much trouble finding him. Like as not I would hear him a block from the party and find him on the porch roof yelling at passing cars. Getting him into the car and home was . . . interesting.

    I am curious if any past or present cops here have opinions on alcohol versus pot and the potential for user to do damage and cause harm.

  • guy herbert

    Gabriel,

    You may think that paranoid, but that’s what I think and I don’t think at all out of kilter with the general trend of western civilization since 1962 (ish). It’s certainly a lot more plausible than the bizarre concept of “gay marriage” would have seemed in 1950.

    You’re often the one accusing me of paranoia about the security-state, aren’t you? And then you come in with a granddaddy of a conspiracy theory…

    What’s bizarre about the concept of “gay marriage”?

  • Sunfish

    Some day, someone will need to explain about separating ownership of the land from control over who drives on it. That could be fun, but I don’t know if this is the thread for it.

    My own experiences with the loaded: Marijuana makes people stupid but not violent.

    Alcohol, your experiences aren’t far from mine.

    Meth, well, yeah, there’s plenty of that. It also can make people stupid and violent.

    Stolen or diverted prescriptions are usually either narcotic pain pills or ADD drugs. People on the former aren’t violent when high but might be when withdrawl makes them desperate. I don’t see much ADD drug abuse, or I’m not noticing it when I see it.

    We don’t see much cocaine, heroin, or PCP around here. And thank God on that last count.

    HOW A DUI ARREST HAPPENS IN MY STATE:

    I see a car do something that justifies a stop. Generally, this is a moving violation like crossing double yellow lines. I either stop the car or watch it to see what else it does.

    On contact, I observe the driver’s appearance and behavior.

    We go through standardized field sobriety maneuvers. By “standardized,” I mean that NHTSA has established a standard for each of the maneuvers and done research to determine that certain deviations from the standard represent some probability that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or whatever. One evaluates a physiological sign of alcohol and certain other drugs. The other two are tests of a persons ability to divide attention, balance, and remember and follow instructions.

    A person can refuse SFSTs, but that’s not going to magically prevent an arrest. A refusal of SFSTs means that the officer will make his arrest decision based upon his other observations. (Note: there are states where a refusal of roadside SFSTs is itself a violation, but CO is not one of them)

    If a driver is to be arrested, he’s transported to a place where the chemical test can be performed, most commonly the county jail. He’s offered a choice of whichever test methods are available in that area at that time.[1] A breath test showing no impairment will normally result in the driver being released unless there are other reasons (like a bench warrant or other arrestable charges) to hold him. A failure, a refusal, or a test requiring lab processing will result in the driver being booked into the jail.

    He’ll be served with a summons commanding him to appear 30-60 days later to be arraigned. He’ll also be served with a revocation affidavit (for a breath test or refusal, or after lab results come back on the other tests). From the date of service, his license will be revoked seven days later. He can appeal the revocation to DMV during that seven days.

    He’ll be allowed to post bond once he sobers up. If he can’t afford his appearance bond, he goes before a judge to work out an alternate arrangement to allow pre-trial release.[2] By law, this bond hearing appearance must happen in the first regular court day following the arrest.

    From there, the driver can either plead guilty at his arraignment and take the plea deal, or he can plead not guilty, move to have the court suppress whatever evidence, and go to trial.

    I don’t love some of the extremes that DUI enforcement has gone to. There are states where police can argue that “Since the first test was a BrAC of .079 and the second, a half-hour later was .068, we can infer that an hour before the first test the driver was at or above .100.” I don’t like that sort of inference, because there’s no way to be sure. After all, if the driver was drinking up until he was caught, he could have been on the way up and .079 was actually the peak.

    Also, there are states where, if the driver refuses the chemical test, he can be held down and blood forcibly drawn. My state only does that on probable cause and after a fatal or SBI crash. Otherwise, if the driver refuses, then the judge will evaluate whether we had probable cause to compel a test. If we did, then he’ll instruct the jury to consider that the defendant refused to surrender non-testimonial physical evidence[2] and the jury may consider that he did so because the defendant knew he had something to hide.

    At least one (Texas? Land of the 3006 sign, the dry county, and open-carry bans-freest state in the Union my ass!) allows a forced blood draw even in the absence of a crash.

    And I think that fixed “stop-everyone” checkpoints without a specific observation of a specific vehicle are unconstitutional for DUI enforcement. Obviously, many judges disagree.

    [1] This can be breath, blood, or urine. Possibly saliva. If the officer has reason to believe that the impairment comes from drugs other than alcohol, he can insist that the test administered be of a type that will confirm or refute the presence of that drug. In practical terms, this means that a suspected DUID driver will not be allowed to do breath only. Or if the intoxylizer is broken, then the driver needs to select from the other test methods.

    [2] Bail is a Constitutional right, to at least some extent. The amount and conditions, by law, must be no more than what’s reasonable to secure the defendant’s appearance and his good behavior. A “no-bond hold,” meaning that the defendant stays in custody no matter what, is only allowed in a few certain cases where no amount of bond is likely to secure appearance or good behavior.

    [3] BAC/BrAC level is not testimony. It’s non-testimonial evidence, meaning that the Fourth Amendment controls, rather than the Fifth.

  • Interesting article and difference of opinions!

  • great article, thanks for sharing.

    “You either own yourself, or you don’t. It really is that simple.”

    couldn’t agree more. once we are adults we can surely make our own decisions about our own bodies?

  • great article,

    Interesting difference of opinions

  • great article,

    Interesting difference of opinions

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  • Raz

    Nowadays people are synthesizing all these synthetic cannabinoids, so even before weed is legalized people can attain close to the same effects legally.

    There’s actually a surprising amount of legal highs which are exceptionally potent, and there’s no laws against using these.

    http://quitehigh.com(Link)

    This site sells some for good prices, very reasonable $5 flat-rate shipping too, free on orders above $50. not bad if you ask me