The world of no good

wanna have a fun life, travel, and see different cultures.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Drug Laws...hmm

There is only one tenet I strongly adhere to when thinking about laws - they should be evidence-based, i.e., based on rational reasons not on ethical ones.

It's time we realised our sense of ethics is just something we have been given thru an evolutionary process - a process that is remarkable in and of itself, but none-the-less susceptible to stark imperfections. The oft quoted reference of the human eye should suffice as an example - it works decently within its limits, but no self-respecting engineer would have designed it as it. Furthermore, we know we can't trust it always (visual illusions), and that it is not good enough for modern visual pursuits, astronomers and biologists depend on more sophisticated equipment than human eyes. Similarly, there is simply no reason to expect that our sense of ethics can reliably guide us thru life living in a modern society as interconnected and heterogeneous as ours, especially because, at best, the evolutionary process that helped shape or ethics was targeting our ancestors who lived in very small and reasonably homogenous societies, with very different societal concerns than our own.

The fight on drugs through laws banning use/distribution have been, by all the actual evidence available, very damaging to societies. Maybe, it is time to leave our ethics behind and ask the real question, what is the end goal? Is it to say that drugs are "bad"? Or is it to decrease actual drug use or drug-related crime? If the end goal is the former, a law serves the purpose. If the end goal is the latter, drug laws have not only failed, they have actually worsened the scene.

Here's a nice discussion from Ed Brayton, from the Dispatches from the Culture Wars, on the issue:

This report from the Washington City Paper could have been written about any large city in the country.

But even with a high arrest rate, some people in D.C. can probably safely get high without worrying that the cops are coming. Those people are white people. In 2007, 91 percent of those arrested for marijuana were black. In a city whose population demographics are steadily evening out, that’s odd. In fact, adjusting for population, African Americans are eight times as likely to be arrested for weed as white smokers are.

This is true nationwide, and not just with marijuana but with other illegal drugs as well. Black people use drugs in about the same proportion as their percentage of the population yet they are a staggeringly high percentage of the arrests made for possession and use. This graphic says it all:

Just one more reason, on top of all the others, to end the drug war. And this is important too — it simply doesn’t stop drug use.

Still, D.C. isn’t exactly Amsterdam: More per capita marijuana arrests are made in the District than in any other jurisdiction in the country, according to a recent analysis of MPD and FBI data by Shenandoah University criminal justice professor Jon Gettman, the former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Pot arrests have been rising steadily every year since at least 2003, mirroring a national trend that began in the 1990s. And they didn’t really work. “We doubled marijuana arrests and it had no effect on the number of users,” Gettman says.

And that’s just pot. Such laws are even less effective in preventing use of drugs that are truly addictive.


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