Libertarians to Oregonians: “Let them make and sell meth.”

Chuck Sheketoff

Earlier this month I pointed out that the Libertarian Party of Oregon thinks the government should not be involved in helping people who are victims of natural disasters. That’s one of their goals in their constant efforts to starve government of the funds needed for public investments for the common good.

Now their colleagues at the self-proclaimed libertarian research group Cascade Policy Institute, chaired by Lake Oswego economist Bill Conerly, think that government should stay out of the business of controlling meth. In a short weekly opinion column, Conerly’s cronies equate control of meth to prohibition (alcohol is as dangerous as meth?), claim that “the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes,” and lament the Legislature’s effort to control the sale of drug products that are used in the manufacturing of meth.

Add all that to Conerly and company’s repeated opposition to efforts to raise adequate funds for state services and their criticism of current funding levels and you realize that they also don’t want government to be involved in prevention and treatment of meth abuse or to adequately help the families and children harmed by meth abuse.

They don’t say specifically how they would address the very real impacts – economic and social – of meth. I guess they want “the market” to handle the issue, and want the market of meth to be free of government intervention, whether that be law enforcement, regulation of the sale of precursor drugs, prevention, treatment, or care for the children abused and neglected by meth addicted parents.

While progressives in Oregon have not spelled out a comprehensive meth strategy of their own – though I do not know who would or should take the lead and do that – Oregon progressives do appear to be in agreement with the law enforcement community and many in the business community that prevention and treatment needs more funding and that steps need to be taken to stem the manufacturing of meth.

Just as Oregonians shouldn’t take the Libertarian Party of Oregon seriously given their bizarre dream that people should fend for themselves in the face of hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, forest fires and other natural disasters, should anyone take the “let them make and sell meth” gang of Bill Conerly and his Cascade crowd seriously?

With Oregon businesses struggling with the meth problem, what do Oregon’s business leaders, Governor and gubernatorial hopefuls think about economist Conerly and his no-government-intervention-in-meth gang’s scheme? Richard, Duncan, Lynn, Ted, Peter, Jason, Ron - care to comment?

  • jim karlock (unverified)

    It's not as if we have a glorious history of controlling drugs. (Recall that the modern drug war was re-started by Nixon. Is he your model?)

    Why not legalize the junk & tax it. Use the tax money for treatment.

    Keep in mind that much crime is drug related to get money to buy highly overpriced drugs. Druggies pay $100 or so for their junk, but if it were legal, the tab would be around $1-5. That is a whole lot less crime to finance their habit. And that is less chance that you or I will become a victim. The price would drop, the incentive to burglarize, steal identities, have shootouts over territory and to line up new users would vanish.

    Booze prohibition gave us corrupt politicians, turf war shootouts and Joe Kennedy.

    I am tired of the shootouts and personal threats from drug users that have to ay high prices because of drug prohibition. Let them kill themselves without shooting up the neighborhood, or threatening me.


  • Mike D (unverified)

    (alcohol is as dangerous as meth?)

    well, duh. I don't think you can dispute that Alcohol-related fatalities are much, much higher than meth ones.

    but of course Sheketoff never really lets facts get in the way of a point he's trying to make.

  • Bruce (unverified)

    Chuck, The fact of the matter is that prohibition has a long history of failure, especially when regulations vary from state to stae. Say Oregon bans a key meth ingredient, like pseudoephedrine. Boom, the demand for meth goes up, and so do prices. As a result meth producers are going to have an incentive to a) find a replacement or b) stock up in states where the ingedient isn't controlled.
    Cascade isn't advocating the use of meth, they simply ask for effective policies. For posting on a website that spends so much time discussing the plight of under privelaged Oregonians, you should understand that a trip to the doctor to get a perscription to alleviate a head cold might prove too costly for a family on a fixed income. Finally, childish name-calling (i.e. "Conerly’s cronies" and "gang of Bill Conerly and his Cascade crowd") never got anyone anywhere. -Bruce

  • Becky (unverified)

    I think people who support Cascade Policy's position on this issue are being either very naive or blindly idealisitc (I hope the reason isn't more sinister than that). Meth is not your typical recreational drug. It's a virtually guaranteed killer. I agree with legalizing a number of drugs (marijuana and so-called magic mushrooms, for example) because they are not terribly addictive and do not tend to cause collateral damage to others. But meth is so completely devastating, not only for users but also for their children, families and society, that we absolutely cannot tolerate it. My home has been burglarized three times by meth users. My vehicle has been broken into twice by them. My brother nearly died from the stuff and only broke free because he was forced to live where he couldn't get it, but not before he alienated most of his friends and everyone in the family but me. My best friend is permanently brain damaged because of it and has been on a long hard road to get free - nearly losing her husband and causing terrible damage to her relationship with her children in the process. My cousin will probably be dead from it soon - at 40 he has nothing and is a walking skeleton, so dishonest and thieving his own mother doesn't let him out of her sight when he comes to visit, which he only does when he needs new socks and shoes or a shower and a meal. People on meth no longer care about others. The person they used to be is gone. They age quickly and the collateral damage they inflict is vast. One really has to wonder whether a group with the sharp minds of those who work at Cascade can really be so naive, or if they have bought into the sinister view that those unfortunate or undeserving people who fall into the meth nightmare deserve to die anyway and should be left to their misery. I wholeheartedly disagree with that notion. The well being of our society is at stake. We cannot allow this plague to go unchecked.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    One of the problems with drug interdiction tactics is that focusing on wiping out a specific drug just makes the dealers/users find another one. Every decade there is a new "drug epidemic". Crack, ecstasy, meth... put the clamps on all of them and something new will pop up.

    The most-addictive drug imaginable can probably be made out of over-the-counter items you can buy at a Rite-Aid (just give the dealers the right incentives and they'll figure out how). In another decade we'll have to outlaw Junior Mints and Liquid Plumber because some blackmarket entrepreneur has figured out a way to turn them into the latest scourge.

    Becky, I'm sorry for your family meth struggles. I have one cousin who suffered brain damage from a meth-induced stroke, another cousin who stole from her own parents and a brother-in-law that had to go to rehab to save his family (all meth users).

    But I don't blame the drug because no one forced them to take it. Each of them had other issues that made them candidates for addiction.

    It's easy to focus on meth horror stories as they are aplenty, however, I have also encountered (far more) people over the years who have used meth recreationally without hurting others.

    Cascade's criticism of meth prohibition is that it doesn't work. Tough to argue with them there. The real question is what can and should be done to ameliorate the social consequences of drug addiction.

  • Becky (unverified)

    Just ran across someone's comments on another web site - I think they explain better than I could the sort of attitude I fear might be behind the advocation of legalized meth:

    "the good thing about meth and drugs in general is natural selection. they weed out societies useless individuals and eventually, (though often not quickly enough) get rid of them. the most annoying thing about these idiots and their selfish addictions is the crimes that goe with the habbit. otherwise, put them all in a compound and give them all the drugs they want...and let them finish what they started."

    I've heard that sentiment expressed many times. I wonder if these people have ever known someone who became entrapped by the stuff. They don't start out being useless, selfish idiots. From what I've seen, they tend to be people who are curious and even somewhat rebellious (a trait that was shared by the major innovators and explorers of history), but who perhaps have self-image problems and like the confidence meth gives them. They don't know at first what will happen to them, and by the time they realize it they're too hooked to stop. We need massive educational efforts in schools - and these efforts should not be watered down by lumping other drugs, such as pot, in with meth. They should be meth-specific. Our kids need to know what this stuff does to real people.

  • djk (unverified)

    Prohibition doesn't work. It never has worked. I see no way it ever will work.

    The problem with prohibition is that it focuses on supply. Drug addiction is entirely a demand-side problem. "Entirely" as in 100% demand-side, 0% supply side. Demand-side problems need demand-side solutions: prevention and treatment, and a broad range of "harm-reduction" measures to reduce the harm addicts cause to themselves and to people around them.

    None of this is solved by cops and prisons. Money spent on trying to shrink or inderdict or disrupt the supply is money wasted. Drug addicts who want drugs will do what they can to get the money to buy the drugs, including breaking into Becky's home and car. Somebody, somewhere will produce the drugs. And people will take great risks and reap huge profits in delivering drugs from the producer to the consumer.

    I have no illusions that legalizing drugs will discourage criminals from committing crime to support their habits. Thieves steal, whether they're feeding a drug problem or not. But turning a $100-a-day black market habit into a $10-a-day legal habit will mean they'll probably steal a lot less.

    We can never get rid of drugs. A "drug-free" society is an impossibility. But we can help persuade people to stay off of them, provide help for people who want to quit, reduce the number of addicts, and reduce the harm caused by addiction.

    I do part ways with the Cascade Policy Institute when it comes to funding social services. It's in all of our interests to keep people off drugs in the first place and help then quit once they've started. Full funding of effective anti-drug, anti-crime, and anti-poverty programs benefits all of us. But I agree that prohibition is worse than useless when it comes to achieving those goals. It's counterproductive.

  • Becky (unverified)

    I recommend all who believe in legalizing drugs look at the US Supreme Court decision from a couple years ago, 44 Liquormart v. Rhode Island. Basically, you cannot entirely ban the advertisement of a legal product to those who might want to buy it, even if children will see that advertisement. Do we want to see advertisements for meth and other drugs? Supposing drug use is purely a user-driven industry today (not likely), what do you suppose will happen if it becomes legal and people can begin to advertise it? There's a good reason companies spend more than $500 billion on marketing and advertising in this country - because it increases sales. Advertising is not occurring in the traditional ways for meth right now, but think about this. A store can count on around half of its sales being generated by word of mouth - in other words, someone told someone else about the store, and that person then went there and made a purchase. Stores get about the same amount of customers from all advertising (which is mostly their on-premise sign) as they do by word of mouth. So I think it makes sense to say that if we have a serious meth problem due to word of mouth "advertising" of it from one friend to another, or from a dealer to a customer, then we can expect things to go terribly awry if it becomes legal and can be advertised. We may not see billboards and TV ads for it (like liquor and cigarette ads have been restricted), but the ads will get out there in other ways - POP displays, for one, and perhaps paid spots in Hollywood movies, like a lot of other products we see in the movies. There are a million creative ways to advertise, and if a product is legal, you have to let people talk about it. To say it's driven by the consumer is terribly naive. People try it because it was brought to their attention, perhaps they felt peer pressure or they were curious, and then they became addicted and no longer had a real choice about being a consumer. When people are fouling their homes and neighborhoods and exposing their children to dangerous chemicals in home meth labs, when people are luring unsophisticated young people into a life of hell, we can't not prosecute. It's not the same thing as alcohol at all. And the desperate people who want meth won't stop burglarizing homes and cars and stealing identities just because the stuff is legal. Making it legal won't make them any more able to hold down a job or be responsible. Using meth opens a bottomless pit of need in a person and they'll do anything to fill it. Have you been close to a user? Do you really know what it's like?

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    If meth were legal but regulated it would soon have all the glamor of methadone. There is no better advertsement against using heroin than spending an hour in the lobby of a methadone clinic.

    Imagine if the easiest way to get meth was to line up with dozens of junkies waiting for their free fix at a public clinic. The government could open a free meth clinic (you can come in for a free fix but you can't leave with any drugs) and broadcast the interactions as a reality show. Pay the junkies $50 to bring in high school mementoes and tell the world about their forgotten dreams.

    Eventually the message gets to kids: take this drug and your prospects of becoming a loser grow exponentially.

    There is no good answer to the problem of drug use. We may have to be satisfied with just educating people on the dangers of use and holding them responsible for their actions.

  • Becky (unverified)

    I don't see where methodone clinics have eliminated heroin use. Those who use methodone are people who are trying to kick a heroin addiction, aren't they? So they're willing to stand in line. I just can't see meth addicts standing in line half a day with other meth addicts waiting for a legal fix when they can continue on with the status quo. Again, I don't see a correlation here that justifies legalization. I do, however, agree that education is probably our best bet. So why is it that our legislature virtually banned what is a very helpful cold medication for all but those with health insurance and the time to go to a doctor, rather than allocating money and starting up a major educational campaign for middle and high schools? They'd rather feel good than re-prioritize spending. Everyone thinks funding for their pet project is more important. Meanwhile, our communities and families are falling apart and children are growing up in unthinkable situations.

  • (Show?)

    Crank freaks won't be a bit interested in a clinic or standing in line or any of that. The draw of crank is the rush. To get the rush, you have to snort, fire, smoke or whatever every half hour or so. Kinda a similar pattern as that exhibiterd by designer beer drinkers. If you want to stay awake or whatever, you can drink a lot of coffee.

    There are lots of dangerous things about using speed over time:

    Child neglect/abuse being the most important to my mind Paranoia from not sleeping Vitamin deficiency (from not eating) Impure Drugs Hepatitis C and HIV from shared needles Heart disease (from flat wearing your body out)

    Und so weiter.


    Still, I'm with the small "L" libertarians like Pancho, Jim, Bruce and the rest. Ultimately, you will not deter anyone bent on self destruction. They will find another avenue.

    As for those who get into it because they are curious, they wouldn't have to wonder about the facts if they could acquire accurate information from Chuck Sheketoff, Nancy Reagan, Bill Bennett and other arbiters of our collective morality and make informed decisions.

    Since everyone from Left to Right is "Shocked to learn" about this stuff, and not one of them ever experimented with drugs not approved by our current social guardians, I have one question:

    How do you know which drugs may be used responsibly by intelligent, and informed people?

    Answer: You don't, because there has yet to be an honest empirically based discussion of the issue.

    I'll be holding my breath.........

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    I am generally libertarian on drug policy, but methamphetamine makes me question my stance. Prohibition raises prices, which leads to addicts committing crimes to pay for drugs, but most drugs to not, themselves, cause criminal behavior. Most drugs lead to passivity. Meth, and to a lesser degree, cocaine, are powerful stimulants that can make users aggressive and paranoid, and therefore dangerous. Now, if illegality were not part of the scenario, these tendencies might be assuaged to some degree, but I'm not sure how much.

    As a matter of practical policy, it would seem rational to end prohibition of less dangerous drugs first. Meth would not be one of those.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    Many people posting here have claimed "prohibition doesn't work." In what way doesn't it work?

    During the era of Prohibition (of alcohol), a substantially smaller percentage of American citizens drank alcohol than during the periods before or after Prohibition.

    Yes, Prohibition gave rise to a criminal class engaged in the manufacture and distribution of alcohol. And typically, this bootleg stuff was really awful. And if we had Prohibition, Oregon wouldn't have a wine industry, which is about the only legal growth industry in the state these days. So I'm not saying prohibition is a good thing. But making a drug illegal and imposing sanctions on people who use the drug does tend to decrease consumption.

  • jim karlock (unverified)

    Can someone tell me the difference, if any, between the methamphetamine we are concerned about today and the drug of the same name that was used to win WWII. Allegidly Ike, Churchill and Hitler all used it to put in long hours. It was reportidly used by pilots to stay awake as recetly as the Gulf war.

    I have noticed it called crystal meth and mentions of the current stuff being water soluable. But is its effect any different than the stuff used in WWII?

    Of course this is only the most recent round of the "this drug is different - it is really dangerous". That is why I am skeptical. (I think we all recall the killer weed - one puff and your life is ruined crap from Rosevelt's time)

    Thanks JK

  • Richard Bolcavitch (unverified)

    It is unfortunate to read some so called progressives justifying the war on drugs. This has occurred for a number of reasons and includes fear of being thought soft on crime, misunderstanding the nature and consequences of prohibition and buying into the anti-drug PR campaign run by the media, government, big pharma, and those who profit under the prohibition and contains both sides such as the DEA which wants to keep its power and dealers who want to keep their high profits.

    Simply put, prohibition creates a black market economy in which the prices of the illegal goods are artificially inflated thus making the market an attractive option for many people which includes criminals as well as those who are not economically fortunate and enter the black market because it offers more money than working at their present job. One of the unfortunate consequences for the later is that they implicitly become criminals because of the state’s anti-drug laws and if caught become socially ostracized because of their crime.

    In his column, Mr. Sheketoff sets up the libertarian party of Oregon as a straw man. I say straw man because the LP has little power in Oregon, while the democrats do have the power to make change at the local and state level and have failed for fear of being called soft on crime. Mr. Sheketoff also appears to ridicule the claim that “the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes,” yet offers no rebuttal. In its place he writes that prohibition critics “don’t say specifically how they would address the very real impacts – economic and social – of meth.” But there are a number of solutions being offered and include harm reduction. For a sample of what this is, I refer you to this web site:

    To be fair to Mr. Sheketoff he does offer that “prevention and treatment needs more funding.” Yet one of the problems with so called moral panics like the meth scare is that punitive treatments are included in with the prevention and treatment solutions.

    As the harm reduction site says:

    “No matter how many laws we pass or how many prisons we build, no matter how many dedicated police officers and brave DEA agents seek to enforce those laws and fill those prisons, drug abuse is not a law enforcement problem susceptible to a law enforcement solution. It is a public health problem that will only be addressed - addressed, not eliminated - with a public health approach. The Harm Reduction Project, bravely hosted in Salt Lake City this past week by Mayor Rocky Anderson, is in the enlightened public health model of dealing with drug abuse and addiction. Harm Reduction abandons the pipe dream of a world without drugs and concentrates instead on educating people on how to avoid drugs, how to avoid overdosing on drugs and what to do if someone has overdosed. The idea is not to judge or punish, just to save lives.”

    While it is unfortunate that some people will become addicted to meth, punishment is not the answer to a social problem. I am an adult and should be able to alter my consciousness as I see fit and it should not be your concern if I do not hurt you or your property.

    While I readily agree that those who harm other people or their property should be prosecuted if found guilty, those who freely ingest drugs should not be treated as criminals because they favor marijuana, meth, or LSD rather than beer or cigarettes.

    On the current meth moral panic –

    For the liberty on altering one’s one consciousness - Keeping Freedom in Mind The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) is a network of scholars elaborating the law, policy and ethics of freedom of thought. Our mission is to develop social policies that will preserve and enhance freedom of thought into the 21st century.

    Two well written and scholarly books on the ‘drug problem.’

    Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice by Craig Reinarman (Editor), Harry Gene Levine (Editor).

    Legalize This!: The Case for Decriminalizing Drugs by Douglas Husak

    Sincerely, Richard Bolcavitch

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)


    I do wish I could write that well. Can I take your words and post them on my site?

    I keep thinking that treatment providers, from an economist's perspective, just want a captive market. They want to join political forces with the jailer lobby the lawyer lobby, etc.

    It is like the insurance lobby that forces poor folks to have insurance that is sufficient to cover the expensive toys (gas hog SUVs) that their more affluent (and more politically connected) progressive neighbors choose to steer down the road. If I were an insurance salesman how might I capitalize on such a captive market?

    Linking crime to the market for goods and services, and to the need for ever more public servants to meet that need, is just . . . well, progressive . . . progressively authoritarian (without distinction between the left or right or R's or D's).

    Forget the individual "liberty" angle for a moment and consider it as just plain economically inefficient.

  • Becky (unverified)

    Richard -

    You write, "I am an adult and should be able to alter my consciousness as I see fit and it should not be your concern if I do not hurt you or your property." I agree with this statement. The problem is that meth inherently causes harm to others - it is unavoidable. Its creation causes devastating pollution. And the fact is that meth users, who prior to use were generally upstanding citizens who didn't commit crimes, become theives, aggressors, and child abusers.

    Certainly, one approach worth talking about would be to hold people accountable for the results of their usage, rather than for the usage itself. In other words, if someone is a "casual" user and doesn't cause anyone problems - doesn't drive under the influence, steal, or harm anyone - then leave them alone (and in fact, they probably are left alone in every way except for their vulnerability to arrest during the purchasing process). But the instant their decision to alter their mind harms someone else, we should prosecute them. We say that we do that, but based on my experience there is little funding to pay for police to deal with such wide-spread criminal activity (neglected children, polluted houses, and theft) or jail facilities to house these people. I strongly believe we also need more funding for treatment, though it is a rare tweaker who can get and stay clean.

    The problem is that everything about this costs the public, who did not make a choice to take meth, a hell of a lot of money and those who made the choice never can pay the cost. NOT doing anything about the problem also costs the public a hell of a lot of money - emergency room treatments, foster care for neglected and abused children, clean up of meth houses, and constant petty crime. It's very easy to talk about giving people choice, but when their choices mean they can walk away with several thousands of dollars of my stuff and they never get caught, their choice has become my problem. When my neice's father can't hold down a job, and I for the good of someone I love need to provide financial help to ensure the child has the basics, it has become my problem. When a 12-year-old meth user who gets it from his parents tries to get my 10-year-old and 12-year-old sons to try it while they're playing in a park, it has become my problem. When my elderly grandmother provides housing and food to her grandson, who then robs her of grocery money so he can buy meth, it becomes my problem. When my father is dying of cancer and my meth-addicted brother who lives with him won't help with basic care of the home and I have to buy groceries for the household, it has become my problem. When I am forced to take in my meth-addicted best friend's daughter for a year because she has so little respect left for her mother that she won't obey her anymore, it has become my problem. These are all true examples of how meth has affected me - someone who never chose to use meth. I'm just one person. There are millions of meth addicts out there causing tremendous damage to society. And you really believe it is their problem and not ours?

    Pardon me, but when all of society is being forced to bear the burdens and costs of the choices of others, doesn't it become our business to do something about it? Not doing anything to stop meth use is Libertarian, not Progressive. I thought progressives were a new, more solution-oriented movement within the Democratic party. I would expect progressives to approach this problem with both mercy for the individual and concern for the community as a whole.

    The lame argument that because it is cheaper people won't have to steal to buy it really gets me. I have been much more traumatized by the non-theft human impacts of this drug on family and friends than I have been by the loss of things, which were covered by insurance and more of a pain in the butt than a devastating loss. But even further, I have never known a meth user who didn't eventually become unable to hold down a job unless they got clean, and even then they were so diminished mentally and emotionally that they could not earn a good living that would both provide the basics of life and support even a legal drug habit.

    I think it's time to stop thinking idealistically on this one and start thinking about reality. Meth is not pot.

  • Karynn (unverified)

    Actually, the statistical evidence indicates that most of the decline in alcohol consumption occurred in the decade before Prohibition - probably as a result of the success of Temperance movement in changing public attitudes around alcohol. By 1923, just three years into the "noble experiment," per capita consumption of alcohol had had climbed back to a higher level than it had been in 1918, three years before Prohibition.

    Moreover, during the 13 year period before the 21st Amendment, Americans drank less wine and beer, and more hard liquor. Why? Probably for the same reason we have abundant opportunities to purchase crack cocaine on the corner in Old Town, but zero chance of scoring a bag of coca tea. Conerly's claim that prohibition leads to the increased availablity of more potent forms of a banned substance is borne out by the facts.

    Unfortunately, arguments that rely on pointing out the documented practical failures of drug prohibition are ultimately just as ineffective as those that depend upon common sense econonomics or even our supposedly inviolable American values of liberty and self-determination. Facts, bottom lines and appeals to notions of freedom are no match for hysterical assertions that a given substance must be banned for the sake of our children.

    I suspect drug reformers will achieve limited success until they acknowlege this and begin to educate parents about the very real ways in which drug prohibition puts children in harm's way. And we'll probably have to wait for progressives to get the picture because, let's face it, most people are going to have a hard time believing that Libertarians give a hoot about the welfare of anyone's kids but their own.

    The resources mentioned by Mr. Bolcavitch are a good place to get started, particularly Crack in America, the first chapter of which can be read online here.

    And Becky, you are just going to have to try to believe that even people who have good values, and who have witnessed first hand the horrors of drug addiction, and who have been victims of drug related crime, and who think methamphetamine is a very dangerous drug, have informed opinions different than your own. And even if they have bad values and have never been affected by addiction, personal experience does not (or should not) necessarily trump reason.

  • Richard Bolcavitch (unverified)

    Ron – Thanks for your kind words and feel free to post mine on your site.

    Becky – You wrote:

    “The problem is that meth inherently causes harm to others - it is unavoidable. Its creation causes devastating pollution. And the fact is that meth users, who prior to use were generally upstanding citizens who didn't commit crimes, become theives, aggressors, and child abusers. “

    This is a provocative statement and I’d like to read your source that caused you to write this since you seem to be saying all meth use leads people to commit criminal acts (outside of the use itself).

    I think part of the problem with drug prohibition is that buyers can’t be guaranteed of the quality of their purchases. So if you are looking to buy anything from ecstasy to methamphetamine, you have no idea about its quality. A few years back, the Portland media was focused on ecstasy use and if I recall correctly it was reported that someone died while taking it. But the problem with how drug related deaths are reported is that at times readers do not know if the death was due to drug adulteration, poly-drug use or other factors. So if someone dies from ecstasy I have no idea of the quality of the drug that was used or if others factors were at play.

    I have no idea what the public cost of meth drug use is but I would hazard to guess that some of this is due to its illegal status. To expand on what I said above, many people who manufacture drugs such as meth are not chemists so the quality of the drug varies considerably. One of the benefits of drug legalization would be that users would be able make quality purchases.

    A drug does not have to be illegal for its use to be borne by the public. For example, according to the Center for Disease Control:

    “Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and produces substantial health-related economic costs to society…during 1995–1999, smoking caused approximately 440,000 premature deaths in the United States annually and approximately $157 billion in annual health-related economic losses.” (page 4)

    The same could be said for alcohol consumption:

    “In 2000, there were approximately 85,000 deaths attributable to either excessive or risky drinking in the U.S., making alcohol the third leading actual cause of death (Mokdad, 2004).”

    Some people commit crimes after drinking alcohol and if those who commit these crimes are caught most often they are prosecuted. But unlike illegal drug users, people who simply drink alcohol are not incarcerated for their consumption. That of course is another problem with prohibition; it makes criminals out of people who wish to consume these drugs and makes no distinction between the user and the possible uses and outcomes which can include something benign (relaxation) or malevolent (assault).


  • Becky (unverified)

    I wasn't going to write any more about this, but since you asked, Richard, here goes.

    First, my source. My source is not only my own extensive experience with friends and family, but also my husband's experience as a manager of both an RV park and a manufactured housing community, both places which tend attract some transient residents, including a fair number of, shall we say, difficult people. He has seen on a daily basis the kind of trouble that meth users cause and the rapid deterioration of their lives - beautiful young women turning into old hags in 4-5 years, people living in unimaginable filth and poverty, repeated crazy domestic disturbances, and even OD deaths, for example. I also read a lot of news reports about it (such as the Oregonian's recent series), have visited the "Faces of Meth" Web site, and watched numerous documentaries on the subject in which current and former meth users talk about their experiences and regrets. They all tell the same story I have personally observed. Those who use it regularly become someone different and their lives are quickly destroyed, as are the lives of those who love them. They no longer have empathy. They become dishonest, paranoid, and terribly unhealthy, and often they become thieves.

    That you would mention quality of the product really amazes me. How can you talk quality with a garbage drug like meth? Have you seen the list of ingredients and processing chemicals involved? There is no such thing as quality here. It is not the same thing as buying heroin or cocaine or even ecstacy. It's really in a category by itself. Outside of this drug, I feel as you do about the drug war. Meth is really different. You bring up cigarettes and alcohol. Again, they're more along the lines of other traditional recreational drugs. In those cases, I agree that only the impacts on others should be regulated. As for unavoidable damaged caused by meth, the creation of cigarettes, cocaine, alcohol, pot, etc. does not damage the environment, but the creation of meth always does.

    I recently went down to Tijuana after not having been there in about 20 years and was shocked to see how it has deteriorated. I am told by a good friend who used to live there that the meth epidemic has destroyed the place. I'm sure that isn't the only contributing factor, but the difference was stark. I think about the fact that most of our meth is coming from Mexico, and am sickened at the environmental and social impacts that must be hitting that country.

    I really don't know what else to say about this and I really do understand your arguments because, as I said, I agree with them. My point is that I don't believe they apply in the case of meth. I have informed myself on this issue. I'm not a "hysterical" puritan anti-recreational substance person. I have chosen not to use drugs because I value my health and my mind, but that's my choice and I have close friends who I love who have made different choices about drugs. I have never been bothered by a cocaine user, a pot smoker, a heroin addict, a crank head, or someone using LSD. Nobody on ecstacy or mushrooms has ever harmed me, either. But meth has affected me in many ways. It has caused collateral damage on such an enormous scale that it really is in a class by itself. If you disagree, I can only hope that you are disagreeing based on your personal experience and knowledge of the situation specific to meth, and not based on an ideology that was created prior to the current epidemic.

  • Richard Bolcavitch (unverified)

    Hi Becky

    Thanks for your response but I’m not sure it answered my question. I have no doubt that ‘some’ people who use meth can cause harm to others but I doubt that ‘all’ who use it commit crimes and harm others. What I think you’re saying is if that I use meth I ‘will’ commit a crime outside of the use itself. I don’t think that is the case.

    Your stories about meth abuse and its consequences are compelling. But the trouble with creating a drug policy around them is that there is counter evidence one can tell about meth drug busts gone wrong, people who were wrongly arrested and jailed, or an innocent caught in a gun crossfire during a bust.

    You seem to be conflicted about drug laws, how they apply to meth use, and are not sure if jailing users is the answer. I think that jailing users is not the answer and that is why I gave the url for the harm reduction project - their Salt Lake Tribune Editorial is worth reading – and their links page has considerable information about other organizations that think there is a better way than jailing users.

    You wrote:

    “That you would mention quality of the product really amazes me. How can you talk quality with a garbage drug like meth? Have you seen the list of ingredients and processing chemicals involved? There is no such thing as quality here.”

    I think someone already mentioned that meth (methamphetamine) was first synthesized in 1919.

    “Methamphetamine is legally marketed in the United States under the trade name Desoxyn, manufactured by Abbott Laboratories. Generic formulations of the drug are also available.”

    “Desoxyn® CII is a pharmaceutical form of methamphetamine hydrochloride (also known as desoxyephedrine, hence the name "Desoxyn"), indicated for treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), narcolepsy, and exogenous obesity. Desoxyn is a Schedule II medication under the U.S. DEA Schedule system, and is a member of the amphetamine class of stimulants.”

    I and people I know have personally experienced methamphetamine and its offshoots and I know it can be a dangerous experience for some. But laws which call for imprisonment should not be made from personal tragic experiences or stories since often those are the worst case scenarios.

    Sending someone to jail is one of the worst things the government can do. So if the state wants to jail meth users, it must make a better case than it already has which is “meth use is bad, send all users to jail.”



  • Richard Bolcavitch (unverified)

    BEHIND BARS Let those dopers be A former police chief wants to end a losing war by legalizing pot, coke, meth and other drugs By Norm Stamper Norm Stamper is the former chief of the Seattle Police Department. He is the author of "Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing" (Nation Books, 2005).

    October 16, 2005

    SOMETIMES PEOPLE in law enforcement will hear it whispered that I'm a former cop who favors decriminalization of marijuana laws, and they'll approach me the way they might a traitor or snitch. So let me set the record straight.

    Yes, I was a cop for 34 years, the last six of which I spent as chief of Seattle's police department.

    But no, I don't favor decriminalization. I favor legalization, and not just of pot but of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth, psychotropics, mushrooms and LSD.

    Decriminalization, as my colleagues in the drug reform movement hasten to inform me, takes the crime out of using drugs but continues to classify possession and use as a public offense, punishable by fines.

    I've never understood why adults shouldn't enjoy the same right to use verboten drugs as they have to suck on a Marlboro or knock back a scotch and water.

    Prohibition of alcohol fell flat on its face. The prohibition of other drugs rests on an equally wobbly foundation. Not until we choose to frame responsible drug use — not an oxymoron in my dictionary — as a civil liberty will we be able to recognize the abuse of drugs, including alcohol, for what it is: a medical, not a criminal, matter.

    As a cop, I bore witness to the multiple lunacies of the "war on drugs." Lasting far longer than any other of our national conflicts, the drug war has been prosecuted with equal vigor by Republican and Democratic administrations, with one president after another — Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush — delivering sanctimonious sermons, squandering vast sums of taxpayer money and cheerleading law enforcers from the safety of the sidelines.

    It's not a stretch to conclude that our draconian approach to drug use is the most injurious domestic policy since slavery. Want to cut back on prison overcrowding and save a bundle on the construction of new facilities? Open the doors, let the nonviolent drug offenders go. The huge increases in federal and state prison populations during the 1980s and '90s (from 139 per 100,000 residents in 1980 to 482 per 100,000 in 2003) were mainly for drug convictions. In 1980, 580,900 Americans were arrested on drug charges. By 2003, that figure had ballooned to 1,678,200. We're making more arrests for drug offenses than for murder, manslaughter, forcible rape and aggravated assault combined. Feel safer?

    I've witnessed the devastating effects of open-air drug markets in residential neighborhoods: children recruited as runners, mules and lookouts; drug dealers and innocent citizens shot dead in firefights between rival traffickers bent on protecting or expanding their markets; dedicated narcotics officers tortured and killed in the line of duty; prisons filled with nonviolent drug offenders; and drug-related foreign policies that foster political instability, wreak health and environmental disasters, and make life even tougher for indigenous subsistence farmers in places such as Latin America and Afghanistan. All because we like our drugs — and can't have them without breaking the law.

    As an illicit commodity, drugs cost and generate extravagant sums of (laundered, untaxed) money, a powerful magnet for character-challenged police officers.

    Although small in numbers of offenders, there isn't a major police force — the Los Angeles Police Department included — that has escaped the problem: cops, sworn to uphold the law, seizing and converting drugs to their own use, planting dope on suspects, robbing and extorting pushers, taking up dealing themselves, intimidating or murdering witnesses.

    In declaring a war on drugs, we've declared war on our fellow citizens. War requires "hostiles" — enemies we can demonize, fear and loathe. This unfortunate categorization of millions of our citizens justifies treating them as dope fiends, evil-doers, less than human. That grants political license to ban the exchange or purchase of clean needles or to withhold methadone from heroin addicts motivated to kick the addiction.

    President Bush has even said no to medical marijuana. Why would he want to "coddle" the enemy? Even if the enemy is a suffering AIDS or cancer patient for whom marijuana promises palliative, if not therapeutic, powers.

    As a nation, we're long overdue for a soul-searching, coldly analytical look at both the "drug scene" and the drug war. Such candor would reveal the futility of our current policies, exposing the embarrassingly meager return on our massive enforcement investment (about $69 billion a year, according to Jack Cole, founder and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

    How would "regulated legalization" work? It would: 1) Permit private companies to compete for licenses to cultivate, harvest, manufacture, package and peddle drugs.

    2) Create a new federal regulatory agency (with no apologies to libertarians or paleo-conservatives).

    3) Set and enforce standards of sanitation, potency and purity.

    4) Ban advertising.

    5) Impose (with congressional approval) taxes, fees and fines to be used for drug-abuse prevention and treatment and to cover the costs of administering the new regulatory agency.

    6) Police the industry much as alcoholic beverage control agencies keep a watch on bars and liquor stores at the state level. Such reforms would in no way excuse drug users who commit crimes: driving while impaired, providing drugs to minors, stealing an iPod or a Lexus, assaulting one's spouse, abusing one's child. The message is simple. Get loaded, commit a crime, do the time.

    These reforms would yield major reductions in a host of predatory street crimes, a disproportionate number of which are committed by users who resort to stealing in order to support their habit or addiction.

    Regulated legalization would soon dry up most stockpiles of currently illicit drugs — substances of uneven, often questionable quality (including "bunk," i.e., fakes such as oregano, gypsum, baking powder or even poisons passed off as the genuine article). It would extract from today's drug dealing the obscene profits that attract the needy and the greedy and fuel armed violence. And it would put most of those certifiably frightening crystal meth labs out of business once and for all.

    Combined with treatment, education and other public health programs for drug abusers, regulated legalization would make your city or town an infinitely healthier place to live and raise a family.

    It would make being a cop a much safer occupation, and it would lead to greater police accountability and improved morale and job satisfaction.

    But wouldn't regulated legalization lead to more users and, more to the point, drug abusers? Probably, though no one knows for sure — our leaders are too timid even to broach the subject in polite circles, much less to experiment with new policy models. My own prediction? We'd see modest increases in use, negligible increases in abuse.

    The demand for illicit drugs is as strong as the nation's thirst for bootleg booze during Prohibition. It's a demand that simply will not dwindle or dry up. Whether to find God, heighten sexual arousal, relieve physical pain, drown one's sorrows or simply feel good, people throughout the millenniums have turned to mood- and mind-altering substances.

    They're not about to stop, no matter what their government says or does. It's time to accept drug use as a right of adult Americans, treat drug abuse as a public health problem and end the madness of an unwinnable war.,0,3428942.story?track=hpmostemailedlink

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