Drug licensing idea details


in Canada, Economics, Law, Politics, Psychology

I have elaborated a bit on my drug licensing idea:

Drug licenses as an alternative to prohibition

I don’t know how good an idea it really is. As usual, I need people to argue with me.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

souris June 8, 2012 at 8:34 pm

I am sorry; I cannot argue with you, because I think this is brilliant. I had a certain set of ideas about legalizing marijuana under control-of-sale conditions, but this is really much more well-thought-out. Drat you!

kk June 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm

I feel that your arguments would be unconvincing to anyone not already on “your side” in the debate on drug regulation.

“…it can be argued that prohibition is the best policy simply because it does the most to minimize how many people are drug users in total.
This perspective is not supported by examination of the evidence. Even in societies with harsh prohibitions on drug use, drugs are widely available and widely used.”

Those on the prohibition side are likely most concerned with the total number of drug users, disregarding other factors (ie, profitable ventures for criminals, etc). That is, a proposal that would lessen the number of drug users is good; one that does not is bad. You point out that strict prohibition does not accomplish this either. However, consider the flip side: does the formal incorporation of alcohol into the legal and cultural frame of our society not increase its use? Why would formal acceptance of other drugs not accomplish the same?

“Given that tourists from jurisdictions without alcohol licenses would need to acquire them, there would be another opportunity for government revenue to recoup the cost of the licensing system.”

One could plausibly argue that this would have an adverse affect on tourist numbers. Best case scenario where tourism is unaffected, this is assuming that tourists are willing to undergo the hassles of bureaucracy to obtain alcohol.

“At present in North America, those with long histories of problematic behaviour under the influence of alcohol are nonetheless able to acquire the drug freely in unlimited quantities.”

Then there is no difference between an alcoholic unable to legally obtain alcohol and the status quo in which addicts are unable to legally obtain drugs. Thus, your argument against drug prohibition can be used against your own proposal (only the negatives of imprisonment was briefly mentioned). Additionally, alcohol can be produced relatively easily.

You’re arguing for increased regulation of alcohol and the promotion of other drugs also to that status, essentially the devaluation of alcohol and the elevation of other drugs to meet at a legal midpoint. Your proposal could be attacked on the social “movement” of both substances. The main problems I’m seeing:
1. This system seems very costly, even economically detrimental in the case of alcohol. I am not seeing much of an argument or evidence against this.
2. Increased regulation of alcohol is too difficult to enforce and could in some cases produce the same inefficiencies of drug prohibition.
3. Social acceptance is likely to result in greater numbers of drug users.

Tom June 12, 2012 at 7:34 am

“Those on the prohibition side are likely most concerned with the total number of drug users, disregarding other factors (ie, profitable ventures for criminals, etc).”

Including alcohol users? Or do most supporters of modern prohibition see alcohol as not a problem for the state / legal system to handle?

. June 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm

A customer walks into a liquor store, makes a purchase and leaves. Not long after that, the outlet is busted because the customer was a minor acting as an agent for the B.C. government.

This scenario has been playing out in the province for the past two years as part of the Minors as Agents Program, launched in 2010, as a means of ensuring liquor is not sold to underaged customers. Agents, aged 17 and 18, are trained for the effort. The drinking age in B.C. is 19.

But others see the program – touted by the government as one of a kind in Canada – as a means of entrapment.

“I think it’s a bit of overkill,” said John Teti, who owns four private liquor stores in the Vancouver area.

No proprietor, said Mr. Teti, is looking to sell to minors. Proprietors are supposed to ask for ID. He said liquor inspectors have told his stores that they passed the test by rejecting the teenaged agents.

The exasperation with the program comes as the government announced last week that it was tightening measures against those who supply youth with alcohol. Steps include allowing police and liquor inspectors to issue $575 tickets for such action as opposed to the current tactic of handing out court appearance notices for violations.

According to the province, the teen agents went into more than 440 stores between May 2011 and the end of March – the time-frame for which data is available. Fifty eight of the stores sold the liquor to kids, an action that generated a total penalty of $7,500.


. June 14, 2012 at 9:30 am

“People do not know that our modern society in the last few years has become absolutely inflexible on criminal records,” he said. “There are basically two classes of people — those who have been punished for something and those who haven’t.

“And as soon as you’re convicted and not given an absolution, you join a permanent underclass of people without full rights.”


. June 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Guards at the U.S. border have been known to wave a car through their checkpoints for a few thousand dollars, and since 2004, there have been 138 convictions or indictments in corruption investigations involving members of the United States Customs and Border Protection. Paradoxically, one explanation for this state of affairs is the rapid expansion of border forces following the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. In their hurry to fortify the U.S.-Mexico boundary with uniformed personnel, it seems, officials may have made allowances on background checks and screenings. In some instances, job offers have been extended to the immediate relatives of known traffickers.

When corruption fails, there is always violence. During the 12 years that he worked for the cartel, Martínez claims that he did not carry a gun. But Sinaloa has risen to pre-eminence as much through savagery as through savvy. “In illegal markets, the natural tendency is toward monopoly, so they fight each other,” Antonio Mazzitelli, an official with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Mexico City, told me. “How do they fight: Go to court? Offer better prices? No. They use violence.” The primal horror of Mexico’s murder epidemic makes it difficult, perhaps even distasteful, to construe the cartel’s butchery as a rational advancement of coherent business aims. But the reality is that in a multibillion-dollar industry in which there is no recourse to legally enforceable contracts, some degree of violence may be inevitable.


. June 21, 2012 at 11:31 am

Moving cocaine is a capital-intensive business, but the cartel subsidizes these investments with a ready source of easy income: marijuana. Cannabis is often described as the “cash crop” of Mexican cartels because it grows abundantly in the Sierras and requires no processing. But it’s bulkier than cocaine, and smellier, which makes it difficult to conceal. So marijuana tends to cross the border far from official ports of entry. The cartel makes sandbag bridges to ford the Colorado River and sends buggies loaded with weed bouncing over the Imperial Sand Dunes into California. Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the D.E.A., told me a story about the construction of a high-tech fence along a stretch of border in Arizona. “They erect this fence,” he said, “only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they’re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.” He paused and looked at me for a second. “A catapult,” he repeated. “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.”

But the future of the business may be methamphetamine. During the 1990s, when the market for meth exploded in the United States, new regulations made it more difficult to manufacture large quantities of the drug in this country. This presented an opportunity that the Sinaloa quickly exploited. According to Anabel Hernández, author of “Los Señores del Narco,” a book about the cartel, it was one of Chapo’s deputies, a trafficker named Ignacio (Nacho) Coronel, who first spotted the massive potential of methamphetamine. “Nacho was like Steve Jobs,” Hernández told me. “He saw the future.”


. June 21, 2012 at 11:32 am

Nutt has choice words for the alcohol and tobacco industries, who often frame their activity as being supported by responsible choice, and claim that they only want to promote that sort of responsibility. But as Nutt points out, if Britain’s drinkers hewed to the recommended drinking levels, total industry revenue would fall by 40% — and the industry has shown no willingness to regulate super-cheap, high-alcohol booze, nor alcopops aimed at (and advertised to) children and teenagers.

Nutt compares the alcohol industry’s self-regulated responsible drinking campaigns to a campaign that exposed students in East Sussex to factual information about the industry’s corruption of public health messages, its ferocious lobbying efforts, and the cost of drinking to wider society. It turns out that exposing alcohol industry sleaze is vastly more effective at discouraging student drinking than anything sponsored by the industry itself.


NonNomNom July 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm

There is another sense in which marijuana is a safer drug than heroin, cocaine, and the rest of that lot.

Maintaining a serious marijuana habit is something many teenagers can afford. Even with a low-paying job, you can afford marijuana in many places. Drugs like cocaine cost much more in most places, which means addicts are always desperately in need of income unless they are quite wealthy.

. July 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm
. September 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm

“One organization that has been campaigning for many years for [the use of drugs like LSD to treat conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Although MAPS focuses mainly on research into treating conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and cluster headaches, it recognizes the value of psychedelics outside the medical setting. One of its founders, Rick Doblin, has suggested that perhaps the way to make these sorts of drugs available in the future would be to issue a license once someone has participated in a workshop, or perhaps passed a test, to ensure that they know how to use them safely. Licensed users would understand the importance of being in the right frame of mind and environment, and the dangers and risks of a bad trip. Ideas like this are certainly something to consider, given the enormous potential of psychedelics to improve people’s lives.”

Nutt, David. Drugs Without the Hot Air: Minimising the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs. p.262 (paperback)

. September 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Will Harvard drop acid again?
Psychedelic research returns to Crimsonland
By PETER BEBERGAL | June 9, 2008

In a moment of delightful whimsy in the annals of drug history, Albert Hofmann, after purposely ingesting LSD for the first time, rode his bicycle home and experienced all manner of beatific and hellish visions. Hofmann, a chemist with Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland, had recently synthesized the compound lysergic acid diethylamide (a/k/a LSD, or “acid”) from ergot fungus. A few days earlier, on April 16, 1943, Hofmann had accidentally absorbed LSD through his fingertips and began experiencing “an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.” Curious about the rabbit hole into which he had tripped, Hofmann dissolved some of the compound into water and deliberately swallowed a dose before taking his bicycle journey home — and elsewhere.

This experience set the stage for what was to become one of the most profound cultural forces in America, the use — and abuse — of psychedelic drugs. LSD, as well as other hallucinogens, would go on to help shape our ideas of consciousness, religion, and law for decades to come. From Timothy Leary’s proclamation to “Tune in, turn on, drop out,” to the spiritual underpinnings of the New Age movement, psychedelics would prove to be a restless burden for both the drugs’ users and the government that tried to suppress their use.

Hofmann, who died this past April at the age of 102, watched it all play out, horrified by the behavior of both drug users and opponents. He winced as the hippies took LSD with wild abandon, and wrung his hands as the government, here and abroad, criminalized LSD and other psychedelic compounds. But Hofmann also lived long enough to see it all come full circle. By the time he died, legitimate above-ground psychedelic research was alive and well at places like Johns Hopkins and, even more telling, at Harvard University, the latter under the guidance of Dr. John Halpern. Sitting a little to the left and outside of Halpern is Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit research group that, through the support of members and donors, helps fund scientists to do bona fide work with psychedelics in the hopes of legitimizing their therapeutic use. Together, the two men form a kind of psychedelic odd couple: Halpern is young but traditional and cautious, a scientist first and foremost. Doblin is a veteran in this world, a little rougher around the edges, and speaks openly about his own psychedelic adventures and his vision for less drug prohibition.

. August 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Canada’s police chiefs suggest tickets for marijuana possession in lieu of criminal charges


. October 8, 2014 at 10:32 am

10% of Americans have 10 or more alcoholic drinks every day

American booze consumption follows a familiar pattern, with the top ten percent of drinkers accounting for 50 percent of the booze drunk. But the implication is that — despite the “drink responsibly” disclaimers in booze ads — the alcohol industry is only profitable because its best customers are drinking dangerous, life- and family-destroying quantities of booze.

“One consequence is that the heaviest drinkers are of greatly disproportionate importance to the sales and profitability of the alcoholic-beverage industry,” he writes writes. “If the top decile somehow could be induced to curb their consumption level to that of the next lower group (the ninth decile), then total ethanol sales would fall by 60 percent.”

. October 8, 2014 at 10:33 am

Ethanol drinking patterns in the United States

. October 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm
. November 25, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Britain mulls offering Nalmefene to curb nation’s drinking problem

Britain may be turning to pills for help in what would be the most drastic measure yet in the effort to curb this country’s significant drinking problem.

The drug, called Nalmefene (marketed as Selincro) simply takes the fun out of drinking by blocking the area in the brain that registers pleasure derived from it. If dispensed nationally, proponents believe it could save hundreds of lives a year under a proposed, nationally-funded scheme that critics counter would unnecessarily “medicate the middle class.”

After the decision tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of people would qualify for the handout — one pill a day — that targets not the worst alcoholics, but those who drink enough to risk serious health consequences.

Those include women who drink the equivalent of half a bottle of wine a day, and men who drink in excess of three or four pints of beer each day.

And for those people among them who would like to cut back, there is a “frightening lack of provision out there,” says Dr. David Collier, a proponent of the plan who conducted a clinical trial involving 31 patients on the drug at the William Harvey Research Institute of the Barts Queen Mary University.

anon April 4, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question

Marijuana, on the other hand, kills almost no one. The number of deaths attributed to marijuana use is pretty much zero. A study that tracked more than 45,000 Swedes for 15 years found no increase in mortality in those who used marijuana, after controlling for other factors. Another study published in the American Journal of Public Health followed more than 65,000 people in the United States and found that marijuana use had no effect at all on mortality in healthy men and women.

anon April 4, 2015 at 10:15 pm

“And when my oldest child heads off to college in the not-too-distant future, this is what I will think of: Every year more than 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related accidents. About 600,000 are injured while under alcohol’s influence, almost 700,000 are assaulted, and almost 100,000 are sexually assaulted. About 400,000 have unprotected sex, and 100,000 are too drunk to know if they consented. The numbers for pot aren’t even in the same league.”

. May 16, 2015 at 12:12 am
. July 11, 2015 at 5:22 pm

The most effective measure against smoking is taxation. Fiscal engineers need to be careful to set the rate neither so high that it encourages smugglers, nor so low that it fails to deter smokers. The WHO reckons that it should be at least three-quarters of the value of a pack. And, as they raise the tobacco tax, governments need simultaneously to tighten their borders. Britain cut the smugglers’ share of the market from 21% to 9% by sharpening customs operations.

Bans on smoking in public places can have immediate benefits. In eight countries in Europe and the Americas, admissions to hospital for heart disease fell by an average of 17% in the year after the implementation of such a ban. Gruesome public-information campaigns can help. America’s “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign, which showed people crippled by smoking-related diseases, persuaded around 100,000 people to quit. At a cost of $480 per person, it was a good investment: according to a Danish study, the lifetime benefits to men of giving up smoking at 35 are around €25,000 ($27,400), most of that in increased productivity. Costa Rica and the Philippines send aspiring quitters text messages with handy tips on giving up: a trial suggested that doubled quit rates. And electronic cigarettes can help: 7% of British quitters use them.


. January 24, 2016 at 5:50 pm

69% of the alcohol sold in the UK is sold to “harmful,” “hazardous” or “increasing risk” drinkers, accounting for more than 60% of the industry’s revenues. The number of alcohol-related hospitalisations in the UK has doubled in the past ten years, to more than 1m/year.

The highest-risk male drinkers consume a median of 146 units of alcohol/week and their median female counterparts consume 144 units/week. The only way they can afford that much alcohol is by consuming booze that is marketed at £0.15/unit, primarily strong cider sold in three-liter bottles. The alcohol industry has strongly resisted minimum per-unit pricing and claims that the country’s heaviest drinkers are wealthy and not sensitive to price increases.

As former UK drugs czar Prof David Nutt writes in his essential Drugs Without the Hot Air, the UK alcohol industry has insisted that it does everything it can to reduce problem drinking, and that any alcoholism public-health information should be produced by the industry, not by government. In peer-reviewed studies, the industry’s anti-alcoholism campaigns have been effectively useless at reducing problem drinking, while government-run campaigns (especially those that focus on the industry’s reliance on harmful drinking) are extremely effective at reducing consumption to safe levels.


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