Drug policy: midterm exam


1. Pigouvian Tax
2. Imperfect Self-Command
3. Positive/Negative Feedback
4. Dynamic Concentration
5. Price-Elasticity of Demand


1. Select one currently illicit drug and list two advantages and two disadvantages of legalizing it. Also, list two decisions (in terms of regulations, restrictions, taxation, etc.) that would have to be made concerning the post-legalization policy towards that drug.
2. What factors determine the total social harm done by a drug? Name a policy intervention aimed at each factor.
3. How does the phenomenon of replacement make drug law enforcement different from enforcement of laws against theft and assault?
4. According to David Kennedy, what additional steps (beyond dynamic concentration) are necessary to the successful execution of a Drug Market Intervention?
5. John Stuart Mill wrote, “The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” Explain the application of this idea to drug policy, and identify two characteristics of the use of psychoactives that might make the application of Mill’s principle problematic.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Drug policy: midterm exam”

  1. 1. MDMA. Legalization would be a disadvantage to black marketeers who manufacture and sell it, and a disadvantage for pharmaceutical companies who manufacture and sell anti-depressants. Legalization would allow for quality control and therapeutic use. Two decisions that would need to be made with respect to legalizing MDMA are whether or not purchasing MDMA should require a prescription and whether or not MDMA should be tax exempt.

    2. Do you want all of the factors that determine social harm, or just a few? I will assume only a few.

    Set and setting. Number of consumers. Typical dose. LD-50. Tolerance. Withdrawal. Reinforcement. Criminogenic properties. "Name a policy intervention aimed at each factor." Funding for education and research.

    3. By "the phenomenon of replacement," are you referring to the speed at which vacancies in illicit drug distribution networks created by
    law enforcement efforts are filled? Or perhaps the "balloon" effect," in which new sources and trade routes are established when sources
    and trade routes are impaired by law enforcement? Or how consumers find substitutes when their drug of choice is made scarce by law

    Assuming the first, the destabilization of distribution networks by law enforcement fosters systemic violence. (Werb D [et al.] 2010).

    4. Intelligence must be gathered on networks of individuals involved in the drug market. Police and community engagement must be established.

    5, (a) Some believe that "addiction" is a loss of free will. (b) Some believe that intoxication is a loss of free will.

    Mill's libertarian philosophy has also been expressed as "no victim, no crime." Some argue that drug use is not a "victimless crime" insofar as harming oneself can cause harm to those around you; friends, family, dependents, employers and co-workers and society at large.

    Some subscribe to what Jacob Sullum calls "voodoo pharmacology," Republican presidential contender Steve Forbes summed it up, "[Drugs] destroy the body, enslave the soul, and take away people's freedom to think and choose for themselves."

    Gabor Maté argues that most chronic drug consumption is self-medication of emotional and psychological problems such as ADHD and PTSD, typically stemming from childhood trauma. In other words, free will is lost long before the drug is consumed, or it never had a chance to arise.

    Nora Volkow wrote: "To explain the devastating changes in behavior of a person who is addicted, such that even the most severe threat of punishment is insufficient to keep them from taking drugs-where they are willing to give up everything they care for in order to take a drug-it is not enough to say that addiction is a chronic brain disease. What we mean by that is something very specific and profound: that because of drug use, a person's brain is no longer able to produce something needed for our functioning and that healthy people take for granted, free will."

    Of course, this assumes free will, and it raises some interesting questions.

    If a woman can become so drunk that she can not give sexual consent, should a criminal be able to use the "intoxication defense" to reduce a charge of murder to manslaughter?

    If people under the influence of drugs are automatons, who lack free will and culpability, should bars and nightclubs refuse to release their patrons until they sober up?

    If a cannabis consumer develops a "substance use disorder," have they lost their free will and, if so, should they lose their civil rights?

    Should the overweight be coerced into weight loss and fitness programs for their own good?

    Does Mill's principle apply in a country with public health funding, such as Canada?

    It turns out that psychiatric medications affect our moral judgements. See "Your Inner Angel and Devil Can Be Influenced by Psychiatric Meds:
    By tweaking brain chemistry, a number of common drugs can alter moral decision-making," By Diana Kwon, Scientific American, March 1, 2016

    Gut flora, sleep deprivation, diet, genetics, weight, age, gender, sexual orientation, birth order, emotion, love, religion, etc. also play a role in our decision making. People become obsessive and compulsive about all sorts of behaviors aside from consuming drugs. Determining who has free will and who does not is tricky. Peter Singer argues that our primate cousins deserve civil rights. Christians deny that other primates have souls. I am not sure how they feel about extinct hominids, like Neanderthals.

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