Legalization is not a stark alternative

December 17, 2012
By

David Frum drinks Kevin Sabet’s kool-aid: David Frum on the Perils of Legalizing Pot

It’s a bizarre article that really demonstrates that Frum (to be most charitable) has done no research on the subject.

For instance, he imagines a legalization world exacerbating class differences, without realizing that it’s the drug war that does exactly that.

It’s baffling to me that people who profess anxiety about the trend to social inequality will so often endorse drug legalization. A world of legal drugs will be a world in which the fates of the top one third of Americans and the lower two thirds will diverge even more than they already do. A world of weaker families, absent parents, and shriveling job opportunities is a world in which more Americans will seek a cheap and easy escape from their depressing reality. Legalized marijuana, like legal tobacco, will become a diversion for those who feel they have the least to lose.

Parents are absent and families are weaker due to the drug war, and it’s not the lure of legal drugs that is the problem, but rather the lure of black market money from prohibition that keeps the cycle of social inequality fueled.

And then he completely endorses Kevin Sabet’s “plan” without realizing that the “third way” isn’t actually a real thing.

“People tend to think if you’re against legalization, you’re in favor of increasing the jail population,” says Kevin Sabet, until recently a senior staffer in the Obama administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. “The reality is, we can reduce marijuana use as well as incarceration rates. They are not mutually exclusive goals. We can do that through smart measures such as brief medical interventions along with more intensive treatment when needed. Our choices are not as stark as advocates would like us to believe.”

Sabet is forming a new group to find a third way between those stark alternatives. He deserves support, because young Americans deserve better than to be led to a future shrouded in a drug-induced haze.

What is this third way and how does it work? Neither Kevin or the ONDCP ever say, other than vague talk about not emphasizing incarceration and increasing treatment. That’s not a way – it’s just putting lipstick on a pig.

How do you even consider a plan for drug policy without discussing the vast majority of drug users who have no problems with their use? There’s nothing in this third way notion that involves no longer arresting these people and ruining their lives — if there was, it would be called legalization.

Legalization is not a stark alternative — it’s an entire spectrum of options, including smart medical interventions for those who have problems with drugs (but without destroying the lives of those who don’t).

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Pete Guither is the editor of drugwarrant.com

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