One more drug-legalization debate [UPDATED]

Noon eastern (9 am Pacific) Friday. Me v. someone from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

I’ll be on CNN at 9 or 9:15 am Pacific time (noon Eastern) tomorrow (Friday).

I’ll be debating someone from Law Enforcement Officers Against Prohibition. Jim Clancy will be the anchor. CNN, given the importance and complexity of the topic, has assigned us a full eight minutes.

The nice thing about debating the “anti-prohibitionists” is that their arguments haven’t changed at all since about 1982, when they were still calling themselves “legalizers.” I might as well have a set of my opponent’s talking points to work from.

He will:

1. Assert that prohibition results in violent drug markets that wouldn’t exist under legalization. (True.)

2. Point out that Mexico and Afghanistan are suffering badly from the drug war, in ways that threaten U.S. national security. (True.)

3. Claim that since “anyone who wants drugs can get drugs now,” legalization wouldn’t increase consumption, or that if it did increase consumption it wouldn’t increase abuse. (Ludicrously false, as the example of alcohol illustrates.)

4. Claim that legalization would reduce access for kids by limiting the supply to legal an therefore regulated channels. (Ludicrously false, as the example of alcohol illustrates.)

5. Refuse to specify the set of taxes and regulations that ought to replace prohibition.

Of course, he will have the huge polemical advantage of being able to attack current drug policies, which are, in all conscience, pretty damned dumb. I will have to respond that there are lots of changes short of legalization that would redue the impact of the drug wars without greatly expanding consumption.

And, for the first time ever, I will have some actual hope that some of those changes will be made over the next few years.

Anyway, if you enjoy this particular form of Kabuki, you’re welcome to tune in. CNN has promised to send me a link to the clip on the CNN website, which I will post here for those who have better things to do at that time.

Update My apologies! Turns out this was on “CNN International” rather than CNN. A friend in Vienna saw it, but a bunch of other people wasted their time looking for it. I’m still hoping to get a link I can point to.

It went exactly as predicted. Jack Cole from LEAP asserted that legaling drugs would reduce drug consumption, and the moderator didn’t laugh out loud. When I pointed out that there were better ways of enforcing the drug laws than the current practices, he refused to engage, simply saying that since forty years of the drug war hadn’t solved the problem it was time to try something else.

That’s a familiar line of argument, an instance of what might be called the “Syllogism in Modus Yes Minister:”

1. We must do something.

2. This is something.

3. Therefore, we must do this.

Again, my apologies if I sent you off on a wild-goose chase. As it happens, you didn’t miss much.

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: