Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Modest Proposal To Deal With Our Drug Problem 

I have heard countless times over the years that the violence in Mexico committed by drug gangs and the unceasing flow of drugs across the US/Mexico border is due entirely to the US's inability (Or is it unwillingness?. Ed) to control its domestic demand for illegal drugs such as cocaine in its various forms, heroin and of course, marijuana. Now I see a suggestion by Sen. Hatch (R-UT) that welfare recipients be subjected to drug tests as a condition for receiving benefits. That's not a bad idea, but I don't' think it'll work. I would propose something a bit more drastic, which would be costly in the short run but probably save lots of money in the long run.

First, decriminalize marijuana. It is so prevalent and so easy to grow domestically that I believe it's a fool's errand to try to eradicate its use. Maybe even legalize it, with heavy regulation requiring commercial growers to register with the government, imposing heavy penalties for delivering the weed to minors, and taxing the crap out of it, with equally heavy penalties for failure to register as a grower and for evading the tax.

As to harder drugs, anyone (any adult, that is) who tests positive for heroin, cocaine or any other illegal drug would be institutionalized at once, be given a clean and safe place to sleep, wholesome food in appropriate quantities, and as much of his/her drug of choice (except marijuana) as desired, but with no medical care provided unless, until and so long as the user is enrolled in and actively participating in a detox/rehab program. If the user OD's, well, too bad, but it would be his choice. It makes no sense to me to provide medical care to someone who is killing himself anyway, because it would be a waste of (increasingly) scarce resources, which would be better applied to saving people who are trying to achieve some level of success in bettering themselves and society in general. I figure what the heck, druggies are committing slow suicide anyway and at some point they either have to bring themselves back from the precipice or go over it. All this program would do is to make the choice more immediate and much starker.

The detox/rehab program (which I don't believe would be 100% effective) would be carefully designed using methods that have been empirically proven to give the best results. Upon completion of the rehab program the user would be free to go, but would be monitored periodically for some length of time to ensure against backsliding. Backsliders would go through the whole program again, until either they remained clean or died of an overdose. This whole process would be administered outside of the criminal justice system, and as such would presumably not carry the same stigma as a criminal conviction.

The idea, of course, is to provide the user the choice (rhetorically speaking) between heaven and hell, but it is entirely the user's choice which way to go. The drugs provided to the inmates would come from quantities confiscated by law enforcement and other agencies, and would be purified to ensure they contained no toxic substances other than the drug itself, and diluted to typical street concentration to prevent unintended OD.

I believe this plan would over time drastically reduce the demand for illegal drugs in the US, by either weaning users off their drugs or by letting them die off. Of course, current efforts to interdict drug importation would continue, as would prosecutions of dealers.

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