The Drug Enforcement Administration and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have produced a document called “Speak Out Against Drug Legalization.” It demonstrates that the drug warriors, like the Bourbons at their Restoration, have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. A couple of quotes will illustrate.
In opposition to the idea that legalization would help stop the carnage in Mexico, the document says:
• Criminals won’t stop being criminals if we make drugs legal. Individuals who have chosen to pursue a life of crime and violence aren’t likely to change course, get legitimate jobs, and become honest, tax-paying citizens just because we legalize drugs. The individuals and organizations that smuggle drugs don’t do so because they enjoy the challenge of “making a sale.” They sell drugs because that’s what makes them the most money.
• The violence in Mexico is a reflection of a larger battle as to whether Mexico will be governed under the rule of law, or the rule of the gun. We should take steps to reduce the killings by the drug cartels in Mexico and along our Southwest border, but suggesting that legalizing dope is going to make a difference in this effort makes no sense. The fight in Mexico is over money, and not just money generated by drugs, but for any illegal activity where profits can be made.
• Drug-related violence in Mexico is not a fight over market access or distribution chains in the United States, but the result of major Mexican drug trafficking organizations vying for control of both the drug smuggling routes leading into and out of Mexico, and transportation corridors along the border.
That is, handing criminals a multi-billion-dollar market doesn’t do anything to increase their criminal activity. R-i-i-i-i-i-ight. And of course some people are born “criminals,” and the structure of economic opportunity has nothing to do with their choices. Again, r-i-i-i-i-i-ight.
On the medical uses of cannabis, the report says:
• Scientific studies have never established that marijuana can be used safely and effectively for the treatment of any disease or condition.
Of course it’s true that no one has yet submitted to the FDA two well-controlled clinical trials showing that a specific cannabis product grown and blended under Good Manufacturing Practice is safe and effective; otherwise that particular product would be a Schedule II prescription drug. But since the DEA has forbidden anyone interested in carrying on such studies from producing the product that then might be tested, and since the one facility allowed to produce cannabis for research has no interest in developing medical products, it’s not really surprising that those studies haven’t been done. But equally of course there are good studies showing safety and efficacy for, among others, the spasm that accompanies MS, neuropathic pain, and appetite loss.
The report notes that the chief active agent in cannabis, Δ9-THC, is an approved medicine, orally administered, under the trade name Marinol. If Marinol is effective, then high-THC cannabis must be effective. The report doesn’t note that oral administration is a lousy way to take this particular drug, since absorbtion through the gut is slow and unpredictable as to timing and amount, while absorbtion through the lung is quick and reliable, allowing not only speedy relief but also patient titration. Nor does it mention the fact – otherwise beloved of the drug warriors – that a product high in THC and low in (or in this case, entirely lacking) cannabidiol is puts the user at increased risk of dysphoria and panic attacks. The report doesn’t even mention Sativex, the extract of whole cannabis now approved as medicine (in oral-spray form) in Canada and the UK, or the prospect that vaporization can deliver all of the active agents in natural cannabis to the lung without adding the mixture of hot gasses, particulates, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that comes from smoking.
One slightly encouraging feature of the document is the full-throated attack on the currently licit drugs alcohol and nicotine. The report doesn’t quite go so far as proposing to do anything about the problem – for example, by drastically increasing alcohol taxation or banning alcohol sales to people convicted of alcohol-related crimes – perhaps because that might suggest that complete prohibition is not the only approach to controlling drug abuse. But at least it represents progress compared to the old drug-warrior position that legal drugs aren’t really, y’know, drugs.
Footnote If the Tea Partiers and their tame politicians were genuinely against nanny-state big government and for states’ rights, wouldn’t they favor repeal of the Controlled Substances Act? Under the theories they espouse, wouldn’t hey regard it as unconstitutional? Just askin’.