Is greed the real villain in the war on drugs?

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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16 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Why is this coming to a head *NOW*?

    I have a handful of theories…

    1) Police have started arresting and charging Middle Class people the way they used to charge Lower Class people.

    2) Medicinal Marijuana was always winked at and, when it came to people with “legit” treatments like AIDS weight loss or chemotherapy/radiation smoking it, the cops didn’t care… until Raich v. Ashcroft pushed the issue and made it so that winking at it was no longer an option.

    3) The advent of marijuana dispensaries has resulted in the number of folks who know someone who smokes skyrocket. (This is the weakest of the three theories, I think.)

    Of course, no matter when it happened we’d be able to ask “why is it happening now?” but it seems like this has exploded in the last decade. This was about as unthinkable as gay marriage in 1988. What happened?Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Jaybird says:

      I second all of this, especially your first point.

      I would add: the percentage of people raised in the 80s and 90s that tried pot in their youth is significantly higher than in decades prior, so even if they are not users as adults they are less likely to buy the “it will lead to crack addiction and armed robbery” kind of arguments.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to RTod says:

        the percentage of people raised in the 80s and 90s that tried pot in their youth is significantly higher

        Do we have numbers for this? I’d be fascinated to see them. I would have thought that the numbers would have started climbing with the advent of Sargent Pepper’s to level off in the 70’s to drop in the 80’s (what with DARE and all) to only start climbing again in the 90’s…

        But I’m basing that theory on little, if anything.Report

        • Avatar RTod in reply to Jaybird says:

          I have no numbers. But I do know that in my high school (80s) everyone tried pot at least once, as it was considered no big deal. When sheriffs came across kids toking at the park they just confiscated and sent people on their way.

          I could be wrong, but my understanding is that in the 70s, 60s and 50s none of these things were the case.

          I grew up in an upper-middle class pasty white neighborhood, but I don’t know anyone my age that isn’t upfront about having at least tried pot once in their life. I don’t know of anyone my parent’s age that admits to it, other than some recently as they’ve dealt with cancer.

          So again, no numbers, but I feel I am on pretty solid ground.Report

          • Avatar Jonathan in reply to RTod says:

            A few years ago, my best friend was home from university. In a casual conversation, his mother happened to mention that she wondered what it was like to smoke pot.

            His response: “Well…”

            Within minutes, she wondered no more.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

          I don’t know of data from the 60s and 70s, though I’m sure it’s out there. Here’s the data for the last ~20 years for high school students:

          http://www.scribd.com/doc/49264657/EF11B27

          Sorry the link is messy.Report

  2. Avatar Brandon says:

    What happened is the internet. There aren’t more people smoking now, but people are more open about it because they see that others like them, whether they are young or old, rich or poor, professionals or baristas, are also smoking. The stigma is disappearing, and people who aren’t invested in the drug war are beginning to question the worth and morality of the drug war. So those who stand to lose from the ending of prohibition are becoming more desperate, vicious and brazen in their efforts to retain the status quo. And some idiots, like Ed Vulliamy, see the attention that prohibition is now receiving and use it to try to score points against their favorite boogeyman.Report

  3. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    People respond to incentives. This is true in any system, whether free-market, black-market mixed economy, or command.

    Short of altering human nature, this isn’t going to change.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    If anything, legalization is going to happen because of greedy capitalism, at least on the part of Our Benevolent Leaders who see all those potential millions of dollars in tax revenues from pot sales.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

      I know this will sound terribly pedantic, but while politicians in that case would be following incentives (maximize their own budgets and/or power), they wouldn’t be capitalists. Being a capitalist entails at least some element of risk, not just waiting around to rake cash off the already successful.Report

      • Avatar NoPublic in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Or fobbing off the risk onto the unwary or the general public. But that doesn’t stop everyone from calling our current batch of plutocrats capitalists.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to NoPublic says:

          By the way, that means risking money. People who, say, invest years of their lives gaining expertise in something they hope will be valuable apparently don’t count.Report

          • Avatar NoPublic in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Nobody who isn’t rich counts.
            If you didn’t win, you don’t count.
            That’s the American Way.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            No, it simply means that the word “capitalist” is not the one we use for them. Depending on context, “grad student” or “professional” seem to apply. And if they are worthless, then I’m worthless too.

            It’s probably way, way too late for me to suggest that you knock the chip off your shoulder. But I’ll do it anyway, because I just can’t make myself believe that even you think I’m as evil as all that.Report

  5. Avatar Chris says:

    Greed is certainly responsible for the drug wars in Mexico, as the bulk of the fighting is between rival drug cartels over trade routes. This, I take it, is what the author was talking about.

    At this point, legalization so that supply can be regulated is just about the only way to stop that drug war. The Mexican army and police can’t do it, and won’t be in a position to in our lifetimes, otherwise. A “smoke local” movement might help, though ;).Report

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