To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jacob Sullum Makes More Sense than Rob when Trying to Say the Same Thing

Automatic contender for the most understated TtP post title ever. I'm also unsure when Rob started referring to Rob in the 3rd person, but it's too late to stop now. From a Hit&Run [emphasis Rob's] post

Vancouver, which already has "a free needle exchange, a methadone maintenance program, a drug injection site where nurses supervise as heroin addicts shoot up, and a clinical trial testing whether chronic opiate addicts can be helped with prescribed heroin," is now experimenting with "maintenance treatment" for stimulant addicts. But it isn't really "treatment," is it? Or I guess I should say that it's treatment in the same sense that chewing nicotine gum or wearing a nicotine patch is "treatment" for nicotine addiction, even though many smokers use them as long-term substitutes for cigarettes. These smokers are healthier for making the switch, but the "disease" (addiction) remains.

More troubling is the Vancouver model of free needles, free methadone, free heroin, and free amphetamines, all courtesy of the taxpayers. This strikes me as exactly the wrong way to achieve drug policy reform, guaranteed to alienate people who might be willing to let others use drugs but don't want to pick up the tab for it. The message should be freedom coupled with responsibility, not government-subsidized drug addiction.
I guess know some people think the expansion of "treatment programs" like the Vancouver example should be considered victories for drug policy reformers. A step forward in the right direction. I've never felt that way. All one must do is to look at our current policy for a classic example of ignoring the means and focusing instead on the ends. i.e.: Drugs are bad and the cause of much societal disruption. Because of this we as a society must combat drug use and proliferation wherever and however possible. Then we find ourselves gunning down elderly citizens, throwing non-violent drug offenders in prison by the millions and spending billions of tax-payer dollars all in a futile attempt to accomplish what can not be accomplished.

Well that same logic applies to the side who is fighting the status-quo. You can't lose sight of how we should/do reach the desired end to our current War on Drugs. The argument isn't about how to more appropriately (for lack of a better word) treat the drug problem and its supposed victims. Rather it should be how do we effectively limit the harm that government does while trying to help the situation. Milton Friedman would often argue about how the other side needed to have the "right guy" to manage a particular government program for it to be even remotely effective. It's a similar situation with drug policy; no matter if you are advocating drugs to be treated as a criminal problem or a public health problem.

Feel free to discuss.

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