Saturday, October 07, 2006

An Ironic Footnote to the Regan Chapter of the War On Drugs.

Another reason to halt the War on Drugs | Samizdata.net: "Another reason to halt the War on Drugs
Johnathan Pearce (London) Health

Scientists have observed that smoking pot may stave off Alzheimer's Disease. Hmm. I am not a medical expert, but this is not the first time that people have claimed medicinal benefits for smoking this substance. There appears to be quite a steady drumbeat of support for the idea that marijuana may beneficial and that some of the scare stories are just that - scares. Of course, there are certain downsides to a 'spot of blow': such as a desire to suddenly consume the entire contents of one's fridge (I speak from
experience over several years' ago).

The War on Drugs is a disaster on many levels. Besides the encouragement to organised crime, the corruption of the legal system, and the obvious assaults on individual liberty, one of the stupidest aspects of said war has been the way in which substances like pot, which might have useful properties in dealing with certain conditions, are ruled off-limits by the law. It is high time ('scuse the pun), that the law was changed.

Remember, when was the last time you heard of a bunch of young British youths getting into a fight because of lighting up a large bong as opposed to being blind drunk?"

Reams of non-hemp-based paper have been expended on this topic from all angles, and yet here I am writing more which I hope to be cited, if I am to be totally honest, in some more of that non-hemp-based paper wastage.

Every law that limits the freedom of people precludes the unexpected, unanticipated rewards to society of that freedom being explored. Therefore, it must be a matter of near-certainty that the observable problems are outweighed by the unpredictable possibility of net benefit.

In the case of the War on Drugs, the problems it creates are far worse than, say, the costs of environmental regulation because there is actual science involved, and that science has the benefit of being hotly contested within and without the EPA. All regulations are subject to revision and review based on real-world effects.

So while it's not an ideal "free market," it's primary motive is to avoid the "tragedy of the commons," not to preclude any particular activity that might USE the commons. It's not at all outside of the realm of possibility that a particular commercial use might actually have the effect of expanding the commons, or reducing the load on the commons while bringing new products to market.

I like to cite Presto-Logs as an example of what can happen when regulations present a creative challenge to industry. Where I grew up, "tepee burners" were ubiquitous as a means of disposing of waste wood chips and sawdust. It was cheap and efficient - and highly polluting.

So they were outlawed, leaving sawmills and plywood plants screaming about these new imposed costs until someone figured out that there were people who would PAY to have this wood waste so they could burn it in individual fireplaces. Processing made it burn cleaner and hotter too, and everyone was overjoyed, not to mention somewhat astonished at such a marvel appearing on their supermarket shelves. Just incidentally, it reduced pressure on forests, because fireplace fuel was being drawn from wood waste, not from fresh-cut logs.

Nobody would have argued that it was reasonable to outlaw logging and wood-processing because of the waste-management issues - and yet that's pretty much what's happening with the War on Drugs.

There is no regulation of the hemp or pot markets. There is only the attempt to stamp them out, for reasons that cannot be rationally addressed. They cannot be rationally addressed because they are fictional, speculative rationalization, not based in any real-world research, experience or application; treated as doctrine instead of as a testable and questionable hypothesis.

Indeed, any amount of research, scientific, cultural or personal will lead a fair-minded individual to come to the conclusion that these laws are both nonsensical and abusive, as well as having a fairly large and negative quantifiable economic impact which would more than offset even the most dreaded outcomes predicted by prohibitionists.

There is another observation about drugs in general that isn't widely known, but which is vital for anyone who needs drugs to know and understand. It is true of all drugs, legal and illegal, taken for whatever reason, licit or illicit.

The effect of a standard dose of a given drug on any given person is highly variable, and there is ultimately only one person qualified to judge the cost/benefit ratio of the use of that drug. This is one of the best arguments I know for decriminalization and against various schemes for forced medication of mental health patients. There is simply no "expert" that can replace the reality of what is a highly personal experience.

I underline this by stating that experienced Mental Health professionals have a first question they ask everyone that is not as rude as it seems. People with mental problems often self-medicate, and what they use is a highly diagnostic pointer. If the diagnosing professionals are honest about it, there is no licit drug as suitable as a pure and certified dosage of the illicit drug would be. For instance, there is currently no drug as effective for dealing with the lows of rapid-cycling manic depressives as crack cocaine, because of the way it quickly stimulates, and clears the system equally quickly. What gives a recreational user a quick high gives a manic-depressive a quick hit of "functional." So a reliable and safe supply of "crack" is pretty important to those who are effectively untreatable with currently available drugs.

But therein lies the rub. It's well established that a high percentage of deaths associated with heroin are attributable to either unpredictable dosage or adulterants to the drug itself. Natural and naturally-derived opiates are actually some of the safest and (more importantly) best-understood drugs we have. There is no good reason for there to be any large percentage of death associated with them, even within the population of chronic "abusers. "

And, as with "abusers" of all drugs, there is a question that should be asked - what would they be like without the drug, and would that be a good thing for themselves or society as a whole?

I'm caught up in this myself, though my vital drug is tobacco. I use a LOT of tobacco, and some would say I abuse it. I know better; while the effects on my health are inarguable, they pale in comparison to the potential risks of being smoke free. I know, I spent two years smoke free, and only realized I was clinically insane when I "lapsed." The percentage of mental health consumers who smoke is over sixty percent, more than three times that of the population as a whole.

Finding myself instantainiously sane, I smoked up very seriously, while in a cold sweat about how close to the edge of madness I had unknowingly wandered. Think about that the next time you feel morally superior about the vices of another. Unless, of course, you are willing to pay the price of their sobriety.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Point taken. I think we're beginning to understand one of our old friends. Almost died of Wegener's Granulomatosis and was told to quit smoking, says she has cut back but can't and won't quit entirely. Questions:

What about the health problems associated with cigarettes?

Have you experimented to see if you get the same beneficial effects smoking tobacco in a pipe? What about a hookah?

Any other thoughts or advice for her?

Jay, Astraea

texlahoma said...

Most people in the mental health field at least "front line" workers smoke a lot of pot. It helps to insulate them from the insanity.

Bob King said...

I'd suggest a water pipe. Pipe tobacco and cigars are another alternative. But the first, most important thing is to kick domestic US cigarettes, which are filled with all kinds of sustaners, flavoring agents, drying agents, coloring agents and other crap.

I suggest hand-rolling, using either an injector, or a good old-fashioned hand-roller. (I suppose I need to do that You Tube demo I've been threatening to do.)

You can by addititve free, and even organicly grown tobacco at any tobacconist, and with a little practice, learn to create better cigarettes than you have ever had before.

One of the dirty little secrets of american cigarettes is that they are wawful, horrible stinky things that no civilized person would smoke if they had a choice. They have a distinctive aroma of burning saltpeter, a substance banned in almost every other country.

So another thing to do is see if you can find a way of ordering Canadian, British or even European cigarettes online.

I did a quick search for "cigarettes online" and was damn near overwhelmed. Check out several, but I include this one because it advertises native-american made, additive-free tobacco cigarettes. That, and perhaps a good cigarette holder with filtration, is half the battle.

Oh... legal notice from the site:

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