January 18, 2004

Practical Libertarian Drug Policy: Overview

In crafting a societal drug policy, it's useful to start from the ground up because so many false steps and missteps are out there confusing the basic issues. Society, in the collective, has an interest in respect for the law, sober people, safe streets, and medical doctors being able to use the full toolkit of modern pharmaceuticals to heal the sick. Nobody, from the left to the right, from the authoritarians to the libertarians will have a beef with that. How we get there from where we are is an important question, something that I would hope the 2004 presidential candidates take some time to seriously address

None of these three goods are being well accomplished by our current drug policy system. The cat and mouse game of drug users and policemen are a constant acid drip on the rule of law. Lock 'em up policies are popular but often lead to individual injustice and the willingness of police to overlook simple possession and use charges in exchange for enrolling people as informants is a form of legalized blackmail that is very widespread.

Sobriety at the point of a gun is also quite elusive. A campaign against heroin will drive usage down, but you will very often see drug usage go up for other drugs. And when the campaign is over, usage eventually goes back up as drug use fashions vary with the times.

Illegal drugs also make for very unsafe streets. In poorer neighborhoods, drug dealers are often a part of the economic elite. But this is an elite without access to the courts so they take their commercial disputes to the streets with baseball bats, stabbings, and shootings. All too often the bullets go too far or not far enough and innocents suffer.

Finally, and most poignantly, illegalizing pleasure giving drugs has led to deep suspicion over research projects that make use of these same chemicals. Cocaine, which is a great topical anesthetic, marijuana which is a fantastic appetite generator, are both examples of legitimate medical uses which are held back by the current legal climate. Proper pain treatment in general is often viewed as a risky business. If you provide too much, you could end up on the wrong end of a subpoena and have your career ruined.

Libertarians, in theory, would like the end of the War on Drugs just as, in theory the Republican party wants an end to legal abortion and in theory, the Democrat party would like to create a steeply graduated income tax at a high rate. But how does a practical Libertarian actually solve the general societal goals better than current policy in a way that immediately improves the situation in a step by step way?

That's a question for another post.

Posted by TMLutas at January 18, 2004 06:44 PM