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From: (Chris Lawrence Amshey)
Newsgroups: alt.drugs,alt.hemp
Subject: An Argument Towards Legalization
Date: 20 Jul 1994 09:17:09 -0400
Message-ID: <>

I wrote this as the final paper for my Drugs & Society course
at the University of Massachussetts at Amherst. I do retain
copyright, but grant limited permission to duplicate this article
for any NON-PROFIT use, including publication. I do ask that
a reasonable attempt be made to notify me if you publish it
in a newsletter or some-such. I do require that you retain my
name and copyright notice in any copy or distribution of this
paper. Any for-profit publications are required to obtain my 
permission before printing.

(c) 1994 Christopher L. Amshey

		An Argument Toward Legalization
                    by Christopher L. Amshey

   Although the legalization argument is not widely supported, I feel
that legalization is probably the best solution to the drug problem
that America faces today. Of course, it can not be as simple as just
legalizing and the social changes that Elliott Currie outlines in his
book _Reckoning_ would probably be a good way to help adjust. As long
as drugs are illegal however, the great profits that can be made by
organized crime and covert operations will remain a temptation. No
amount of social change will remove the underlying reasons that we
have such a great problem. The greed and desire for power that have
plagued drug legislation and the black markets that followed in 
its wake are still there. By legalizing drugs, we effectively cripple
the ability of organized crime or covert agents to use it as a tool
to gain money and power, as well as removing the excuse of drug
laws from those who institute racist policies in the name of a 
"Drug Free Society."

  It has been shown repeatedly, from southeast asia to central
america, agencies in our government use the profits from illegal 
drugs to fund illegal covert operations. Whether or not they are 
merely using the opportunity to increase their power base and
financial security, or actually believe that they are doing the
right thing it is clear that they are operating outside of 
accepted channels. By funding operations that have already been
turned down by congress they are acting as a shadow government,
deciding for the American people things that their representitives
have decided against. While these activities would surely 
not cease due to the loss of drug money, it would make it 
considerably more difficult. Drug money is valuable because
it is easy for a covert agency already practiced at smuggling
information and agents to smuggle a few kilos of cocaine or heroin
here and there. Larger scale operations are riskier, but clearly
have been achieved in the past. The drugs brought in then reach
the organized crime network. At worst, the CIA is selling directly
to US Triad leaders and Mafia lords, and at best selling to 
third parties who turn around and sell to these criminals. It is
theoretically possible that the CIA sells directly to the street
dealers, but I think that such a broad network would be far to
risky when exposure could mean a serious problem. Further, there
is no doubt that we have conspired with organized crime, as in the
case of "Lucky" Luciano [2]. The end result is that it is highly 
probable that the CIA is directly funding organized crime in this country. 
Legalization would drop the market out from under this network.
Admittedly, the CIA would probably find another way of funding themselves,
and organized crime still has prostitution, gambling, and other
illicit activities to rely on. However, at best it would cause
a serious drop in their incomes and effectiveness, and at worst
force them to take up higher risk activities with more chances of
getting caught to make up the difference. One can not, after all,
smuggle an $5000 anti-aircraft missile as easily as a couple kilos
of cocaine; nor can one hide a hundred prostitutes as easily as
one can hide a brick of heroin. This is not to gainsay arguments
for legalization of other victimless crimes, such as prostitution
and gambling; merely to make the observation that most illicit
activities are neither as lucrative nor as easy as dealing in
hard drugs. 

  Legally, the current drug laws have no true basis. An examination
of each campaign finds a multitude of fallacies, both in propoganda
leading to restriction and in the testimony that the laws were based
on. In the case of opiates, the problems cited were patent medicines [3],
which has some validity, and use by Chinese immigrants, which has
no validity: at this time we can safely say it was clearly a racially
motivated assault on an ethnic population that was competing with white
Californians for jobs [4]. The racism inherent in the anti-opiate 
campaign is painfully clear when we see such quotes as "the whites
cannot stand their dirt and the fumes of opium and are compelled to
leave their vicinity," this from a California Senate report of 1877 [4]. 
As far as patent medicines are concerned, truth in advertising 
restrictions, especially with regard to medicine, is much stricter 
today than it was at the turn of the century. Opiate addiction with 
respect to patent medicines is no longer a valid issue. Certainly, 
it would be irresponsible to permit the sale of opiate based medicines
that did not carry a warning that they were physically addictive; it 
would also be irresponsible to allow the advertising of opiates for any
purpose to which they are not suitable. The safeguards for this are already 
in place however. Many medicines carry legal warnings, and an attempt to 
claim that ibuprofen cured cancer would be met quickly with a lawsuit.
The patent medicine industry is dead, and a handful of re-legalized
pharmaceuticals is not going to revive it. 

  The campaign against marijuana was equally racist, and without any
excuse such as patent medicines. The medical uses of marijuana were
well established and accepted up until it became a controlled substance.
Despite its well established usefullness, Harry J. Anslinger, then
Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narctics claimed: "While opium
can be a blessing or a curse, depending on its use, marihuana is only and 
always a scourge which undermines its victims and degrades them
mentally, morally and physically." [5] The Department of the Treasury
(of which the Federal Bureau of Narcotics is a part) received letters
that contained statements such as "I wish I could show you what a
small marijuana cigarette can do to one of our Spanish-speaking 
residents. That's why our problem is so great: the greatest percentage
of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of
whom are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions." [6]
When the movement for legislation reached congress, the Public 
Health Service was not invited, despite the fact that it is probably
the federal division with the most knowledge of the behavior
of drugs. This may be because Dr. Walter L. Treadway, the head of
the Mental Hygiene Division, was on record as stating that marijuana
may be habit forming but was not addictive, and caused no more
"social and moral degradation" or "violence" than alcohol. [6] Congress
took the unsupported word of the head of the Bureau of Narcotics, whose
own position and power were increased immensely by this legislation,
despite the volumes of medical evidence and opinions to the contrary.
The film "Reefer Madness" is tame in comparison to the images that
Mr. Anslinger brought up for people. Mr. Anslinger claims, "A small
dose taken by one subject may bring about intense intoxication, raving
fits, criminal assaults." [5] I suppose that no medical expert would
claim that a psychoactive substance *couldn't* cause these effects, 
since chemistries differ and there are occasional hypersensitive and
alleregic reactions. However, I have neither seen nor has Mr. Anslinger
or his supporters come up with one shred of evidence to support this. 
There are a number of horror stories about homicidal rages and the like,
but last names, court docket numbers, and other useful references are
not included. Dr. Lester Grinspoon is on record both in print and
in speech on the subject of medical uses of marijuana: There are
many valid uses for which marijuana is the only or the best medicine.
In short, there is no confirmable evidence that any of the reasons
cited for outlawing marijuana are true.

  Naturally, drugs are not remaining illegal out of a lack of concern.
Rather, drugs are a foremost issue in today's society. William Bennet,
former drug czar, claims that the 'War on Drugs' can be won. His article
"Should Drugs Be Legalized?" has few facts in it, but a lot of sensational
language. He says that, "Like addicts seeking immediate euphoria, the 
legalizers want peace at any price, even though it means the inevitable
proliferation of a practice that degrades, impoverishes, and kills." This
colorful language is not even remotely supported by fact, in his article
or elsewhere. He states, "Even limited experiments in drug legalization
have shown that when drugs are more widely available, addiction skyrockets."
This may or may not be true, and given the state of today's inner cities
has little bearing on the legality of drugs. AS support, he claims that
"In 1975 Italy liberalized its drug law, and now has one of the highest
heroin-related death rates in Western Europe." This may be true, though
a causal relationship has not been shown, perhaps an assumption of such
a relationship is warranted. What is not mentioned is that drug use
in Italy is marginal compared to the United States. According to self-report
surveys, more than five times as many high school students in the U.S. have
tried cocaine as in Italy. Italy may have a drug problem compared to
the rest of Western Europe, but it pales beside the U.S.  Mr. Bennet
'counters' the argument that government can tax drugs heavily and
still undercut the black market, with the claim that "Criminals could
undercut the official price and still make huge profits." His only 
support for this statement is the rhetorical question, "What alternative
would government have? Cut the price until it was within the lunch-
money budget of the average sixth-grade student?" While the rhetorical
appeal surely brings tears to my eyes as I think of the poor sixth
grade student becoming another victim of the killer weed marihuana, 
the reality is that smuggling is only profitable when prices are
highly inflated. Cocaine was selling for $2.50 an ounce when it
was outlawed [7]. Supposing that today it would retail for perhaps $10 an
ounce on an open market, a ten-fold tax of $100/ounce STILL puts us
more than a $1000 below todays black-market prices of $1200/ounce
cited by Mr. Bennet himself. If that isn't high enough, it can be
raised. There's a lot of room between $10/ounce with no taxes and
the current $1200/ounce value. If you cut the street value in half,
a lot of pilots are going to think twice about risking life and
limb to smuggle cocaine. Mr. Bennet also claims that a black market
will continue to exist for drugs to dangerous to be legalized, such
as PCP. Perhaps this is true, but it seems far more likely that
the draw of any illegal drug would pale if there were legal drugs
with similar effects available. He brings up the example that crack
is being laced with insecticides and animal tranquilizers to heighten
its effect. This seems to me to suggest that a cocaine user would
get safe, clean powder cocaine from a legitimate retailer rather
than possibly dangerously adulterated street 'crack.' The drug
is the same, after all, and if the user really wants 'crack' they
can make it themselves or learn how to freebase. I suspect however,
that just as beer and wine are more popular now than under prohibition
milder forms of the same drug will be more popular under legalization.
Mr. Bennet also claims that a black market will continue to exist
for under-age users, but I say that getting an older brother to
buy for you is not even remotely the same thing as an Uzi-wielding
gang fighting for turf and connections. It would be a problem,
just as underage drinking is a problem, but not of nearly the same
magnitude. Mr. Bennet claims that "Legalization will give us the
worst of both worlds: millions of *new* drug users *and* a thriving
criminal black market." Neither Mr. Bennet, nor any of us can see
the future; however, 'millions' of new users seems extreme. Of course,
Mr. Bennet is failing to distinguish between marijuana, cocaine,
heroin, and any other drug. If you added up all the new users, I suppose
that it might total in the millions. However, 24 million new users,
a rather larger number than I expect to see, is only 10% of our nation's
population. If most of them are using marijuana, I don't see this as
being particularly problematic. Even if they are using the big two,
cocaine and heroin, as long as they are keeping it under control or
seeking help when they find themselves behaving addictively, I don't
see why it should matter if we DO have new drug users. In a circle
of illogic that completely eludes me, Mr. Bennet tells us that many
drug-related felonies are committed by people involved in crime *before*
they started taking drugs. It seems to me that this is precisely the
point that pro-legalization has been arguing: drugs do not cause people
to become criminals. Mr. Bennet claims that "The drugs, so routinely
available in criminal circles, make the criminals more violent and
unpredictable." It is a well documented fact that the #1 drug relating
to violence is alcohol. Mr. Bennet's counter-argument to the argument
that "drug-users only harm themselves" is a series of anecdotes: 36
bullet wounds in a three year old, abandoned babies of cocaine-addicted
mothers, etc, ad nauseum. If drugs were legal, guns would probably
cease to be part of the addict's lifestyle; the easy slaughter that
takes place when millions of dollars of black-market cocaine is involved
would be reduced to the occasional armed robbery of a 'drugs' store,
just as the violence associated with alcohol dealing has gone reduced
greatly with the end of prohibition. What drug-related violence remained
would probably not really be drug-related: The fact that we have people
who are capable of killing innocent people, with no apparent guilt
is an indictment of our society, not the recreational drugs that
some members of it use. Mr. Bennet makes some points, that violence
will not dissapear, that there may still be a black market in 
some drugs that are not legalized, and so on. What he fails completely
to do, is to acknowledge that he has not countered the argument that
_most_ of the black market would dissapear, that the violence associated
with _dealing_ drugs would disappear. He has not even touched on
such issues as being able to seek addiction treatment without having
to go 'cold turkey' (doctors cannot prescribe illegal drugs such as
heroin, and so if you seek help overcoming your addiction you have to
go through immediate and full-force withdrawal.) He has, in fact,
side-stepped the entire issue with colorful rhetoric, culminating
in a comparison of the War on Drugs with World War II. This may move
some, but to me it is just a bad cover for a flawed argument.

  There are many more issues in the legalization debate, but the points
I have chosen are ones that I felt were neglected or were particularly
interesting. Certainly, this article cannot stand entirely on its own.
I have not even touched on the industrial uses of hemp, I have barely
touched on the valid medical uses of many illegal drugs, and have not
even mentioned the huge costs associated with the War on Drugs, both 
financial and in terms of the loss of civil rights. I have not
argued the point, but an assumption I make in my legalization model
is that drug advertising would be restricted at _least_ as much as
cigarette advertising, if not banned altogether. Although it may sound
it at times, I do not mean to argue that our inner-city problems will
be solved with legalization. There is a lot of social change that needs
to be made, but I feel that legalization would bring about a freer, more
open society. Violence and criminal activity will continue as long as
inner city residents feel hopeless and persecuted, and the economics
of our cities is an issue that sorely needs to be redressed. Legalization
is only one step, not a panacea; but I feel that it is an important step. 

*This is not a complete bibliography, as I have incorporated
 material from nearly all the reading I have done on the subject.
 These are footnote references for specific facts that some 
 readers might question and wish to verify for themselves.

[1] PBS Documentary: "Cover Up," 
    "Running Drugs and Secret Wars" by David Truong D.H.
    (Covert Action #28, Summer 1987)
    "Cocaine and the White House Connection" by Murray Waas
    (L.A. Weekly, Sept 30-Oct 6, 1988)
[2] "The Mafia Connection" by Alfred W. McCoy with Cathleen B. Read and 
    Leonard P. Adams II
    (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park
     and Wasyl M. Matveychuk)
[3] "Opium and Cocaine Problems" by Hamilton Wright
    (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park
     and Wasyl M. Matveychuk)
    Original citation: 
    From Hamilton Wright: "Report on the International Opium Commission 
    and the Opium Problem as Seen within the United States and its 
    Possessions," In: "Opium Problems: Message from the President of the
    U.S., Senate Document No. 377, 61st Congress, 2nd Session.
[4] "The Chinese Opium Crusade" by John Helmer.
    (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park
     and Wasyl M. Matveychuk)
    Original citation:
    From John Helmer: _Drugs and Minority Oppression_
[5] "Marijuana Effects on the Individual" by Harry J. Anslinger
    and William F. Thomas.
    (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park
     and Wasyl M. Matveychuk)
    Original citation:
    Pp.20-22 "The Effect on the Individual," from _The Traffic in Narcotics_
    by H. J. Anslinger and William F. Thomas.
[6] "The Mexican Scare" by David F. Musto
    (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park
     and Wasyl M. Matveychuk)    
    Original citation:
    From David F. Musto: _The American Disease, Origins of Narcotics Control_
[7] "The Anti-Cocaine Campaign" by Richard Ashley
    (reprinted in _Culture and Politics of Drugs_ by Peter Park
     and Wasyl M. Matveychuk)    
    Original citation:
    From Richard Ashley: _Cocaine: Its History, Uses and Effects_