The extreme of Legalization

Kevin Sabet, Patrick Kennedy and Project SAM have been trying to convince the public that there’s a false dichotomy pitting the “simplistic” options of incarceration vs. legalization, when, in fact, there should be some kind of moderate third way between those.

They act like “legalization” is the scary extreme point of chaos and anarchy at the far end of the spectrum (See Zelazny’s “Amber” series “The Courts of Chaos”).

Well, I thought it would be a good idea to see if any other human endeavors were “legal,” and, if so, how that worked. Was it simply a structure-less free-for-all, or was it more complicated? Since marijuana is so desperately dangerous (or rather, is desperately claimed to be dangerous by some), I thought it would really be interesting if I could not only find a legal activity, but one that had some dangers of its own.

I actually found eight substances or activities that are already legal (and there may be more)! That’s right, they’re actually legal and there’s been no attempt to find a third way between legalization and incarceration with them. Yet it turns out that, despite some very real (and not overhyped) dangers, there’s a wide range of regulatory options that are used for these within a non-chaotic, non-anarchic legalization system.

Gasoline. Status: legal. Controls: anyone may purchase and posses; strict regulations on manufacturing, storage and transport. Dangers: Very poisonous (even the fumes) and exposure can cause death; highly inflammatory and can be used as a dangerous weapon.

Aspirin. Status: legal. Controls: anyone may purchase over-the-counter and possess; manufacture and labelling regulations. Dangers: Can lead to internal bleeding, stomach ulcers, kidney disfunction, and death.

Sex. Status: legal. Controls: age and relational limits and cultural restrictions. Dangers: addiction; heartbreak that can lead to suicide; sexually transmitted diseases; children.

Strawberries. Status: legal. Controls: anyone may grow, purchase, or posses; agricultural regulations. Dangers: can cause allergic reaction in some people, leading to life-threatening conditions.

Bungee jumping. Status: legal. Controls: varies by state, including equipment safety regulations and licensing. Dangers: gravity.

Home ownership. Status: legal. Controls: anyone may own a home; detailed building, utility, and zoning regulations; heavily taxed (yet somehow does not result in significant black market). Dangers: termites, freeloading relatives, a lifetime of debt.

Convertibles. Status: legal (despite providing no practical advantage over hard-top cars, while presenting increased dangers). Controls: same as other cars. Dangers: Bugs in your teeth, getting nearly decapitated by your scarf (see Isadora Duncan).

Blog reading. Status: legal. Controls: none. Dangers: can lead to being informed and angry about the state of things.

You may be able to come up with more.

So it turns out that there are quite a number of things that are legal, and that legalization is not some kind of extreme option, but rather an entire range of human experiences, with a variety of options of regulating, controlling, and organizing.

Not only that, but it turns out the so-called “third way” — a means of providing help to those who need it — is actually better able to be realized within the extraordinary range of options that is legalization.

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