Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why Legalizing Heroin and Cocaine is More Urgent than Legalizing Marijuana

A surprisingly charitable Grey Lady piece on little-l libertarianism is making the rounds today (h/t The Jacket). #tlot

One passage in particular stood out on a quick scan. Here she be:
Virtually all libertarians enthusiastically favor marijuana legalization, but they become more subdued when the subject turns to cocaine and heroin.
Using the lower-case 'l', denoting the transformational demiurge rather than the big-L political party-cum-advocacy think-tank scene allows me the luxury of counting myself among this number. As such, I roundly and enthusiastically count myself as an exception to this sentiment. Here's why.

The least compelling argument in favor of why voters now favor marijuana legalization in greater numbers is self-interest. Public opinion surveys show again and again that voters almost never (with the emphasis on the "almost") support policies that are only in their narrow self-interest. There's something about voting that telescopes morality, cranks up the dial on civic-mindedness, if you will. Since I spend so much time in the General Social Survey, my prior belief is that some (but not much) of the support for weed legalization is because respondents want to get high without being harassed by the cops, some (but not much) support is from careful reasoning from first principles, and the remainder (probably most) is from relatively unreflective group bias (the elephant following the herd, if you're a fan of Kahneman). Part of the reason for my belief comes from the pro-legalization rhetoric I hear from time to time, especially the (true) claim that weed simply isn't as harmful as, say, alcohol.

From a public health perspective, this is precisely why marijuana should be a low priority in the push for legalization.

Harmful recreational drugs, particularly those that can be easily modified with adulterants are subject to greater relative efficiency gains by moving from black markets with no tort law (or yes, even prior restraint regulation) protection for reasons I illustrated here. Above-board heroin retailers with reputations to protect will be much less likely to dilute their product and will have proper market and legal incentives to accurately label product potency. Junkies will be more likely to seek medical attention in the event of an overdose. And perhaps anti-drug propaganda will stop being so obtusely and irrationally one-sided (a boy can hope, anyway).

Taking drugs is bad, mmm-kay? Taking drugs of unknown potency paid for with cash that remits to violent criminal organizations is far worse. Marijuana is just a plant, man. It is far more imperative to legalize hard drugs first. Non-euvoluntarity is the fig leaf under which violence, oppression, and terror swell*.

*nod to M.G. for the bon mot.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, but the costs of prohibition are far higher for marijuana. I don't think many libertarians are in favor of any sort of drug prohibition, it's just that marijuana legalization would be both highly beneficial and relatively easy to do. Once marijuana is legal and nothing bad happens, people will be more open to legalizing, or at least decriminializing the other drugs.


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?