Last week Obama recognized legalization as a legitimate topic for debate, but said that he was not, personally, in favor of legalization. Today Gil Kerlikowske (Director of White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, aka ‘drug czar’ ) has written a comment piece in the Huffington Post, elaborating on this position.  He concludes:

Despite recent calls to do so, legalizing drugs is not the answer. Our opposition to legalization is not born out of a culture-war or drug-war mentality. It is born out of the recognition that our drug problem is a major public health threat, and that drug addiction is a preventable and treatable disease. Already drug use — legal and illegal — is the source of too many of our Nation’s problems. Why would we implement policies that would make these problems worse?

This type of argument is the one most likely to leave pro-reform campaigners in the Munch Scream Pose.  I’m not too hot with my logical argument terminology, but I think this is what is called a logical fallacy. The argument is based on the assumption that keeping drugs illegal makes the problems of drug use better.  The alternative, legalization, is assumed to make the problems of drug use worse.

Where I struggle is that there are SO MANY things wrong with this assumption, that it’s difficult to know where to begin.  Do you start with the harms from illegal drug use, or the harms of the illegal drug trade? Do you try to challenge the idea that the law actually stops people from taking drugs?  Or talk of the human rights and civil liberties that have been eroded by the drugs war? Or do you just bang your head against the wall repeatedly, while whimpering softly?

Also, where are you supposed to direct your hopefully rationally presented howls of frustration and despair?  My guerrilla approach is targeted mostly against unsuspecting individuals at parties. I have written to MPs, and responded to the Drugs Strategy Consultation, but it pretty much feels that I might as well have just howled at the moon.  One of the reasons I’m so admiring of the campaign movement is their tireless patience in having these discussions again, and again, and again.  The zen, step-by-step, one day at a time approach adopted by legislative reformers, such as those in the Virginia chapter of SSDP is inspirational.

Hopefully people will engage in this ‘debate’, with facts, and reasoned assumptions based on evidence.  I wish I wasn’t so cynically despairing, but I doubt it.

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