What if all drugs were totally legal?

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/07/21/what-if-all-drugs-were-totally.html

Then I’d be high as fuck.


From the podcast:

“In most states though, marijuana is still illegal, as is cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and a whole bunch of other drugs that I don’t need to list for you here but that you are probably familiar with.”

Methamphetamine is totally legal and can be prescribed for ADHD, narcolepsy, and weight loss. It’s just that it’s Schedule II and considered a last resort therapy for all of these indications.

I’m glad they make the distinction between legalization and decriminalization but scheduling is not a footnote in these discussions.


There’d be no more black market for drugs and the cartels would have to find other means of generating revenue?


Those other means are already well-known. Bootleggers may be gone, but the Gambino family survives.


Gangsters would need to update their resumes and start looking for regular jobs, and people struggling with substance abuse would have one less stigma standing in the way of getting support and help. Dangerous substances, popular only because they’re more readily obtainable, would be replaced by older, safer, previously illegal substances. If it’s anything like weed in Colorado, there’d be less urgency in obtaining, having around, or using substances generally, as it’s no longer such a big deal.

Popular music would probably become a lot more interesting… :slight_smile:


Most drugs, by far, ARE totally legal. The list of scheduled substances in the US and most other countries is fairly small. Then there’s the greater proportion of substances controlled through prescriptions. Then there’s “everything else”, which is the largest category, which usually cannot be sold as drugs for regulatory purposes.

The basis for drug hysteria/war is not how harmful a given drug may be, but rather how popular it is. This can be seen time and again where the DEA doesn’t care if a few people use some new designer molecule, or ancient witch-doctor herb - until it becomes popular enough to develop a reputation in the media. Why? It’s not as if popularity made the substance more or less harmful than it was already. And IIRC it was Jerry Garcia who lucidly asked why it is that if the government complains about how dangerous drugs are, that they don’t create more fun drugs which are safe? Because (surprise) it functions more as a pretext for trying to control people.

My perspective on it is that all drugs and medicines should be regulated only for purity. Do away with the business of medical establishment and snake oil claims of efficacy. Do your own homework, and use what you need. Just like buying reagent chemicals from a lab supply company - they don’t tell you what you should use them for, or make bizarre claims. They tell you what exactly it is that you would be buying. What is the size and weight? How concentrated is it? What other inert ingredients are there? Seems exceedingly easy to me.


If “all drugs” were “totally legal,” then every single aspect of the debate over the question “should drug X be legal” would instantaneously be mapped onto the corresponding point on the plane of “is X a drug?”

I’m not kidding. Suddenly people would be talking about how crystal meth isn’t really a drug but alcohol is. Also trepanning, automatic weapons, commercially traded human organs for transplant, and Sharia law. The very meaning of the term drug would stretch and deform until it better suited the things we have been freaking out about and will continue to freak out about regardless of hypotheticals like this.

I’m not opposed to legalization in principle. It seems like the time has come for at least some drugs, and maybe more I’m just not hep enough to know about. But stupid complicated problems like “what should we do with all drugs?” have stupid complicated solutions (if they have any at all). The best that waving a magic wand at them will do is create different problems.

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Well, a bunch of small towns in the southern states would be in even more trouble.


I’m high right now.


Many good points in your post here. People seem to forget that any drug is, by default, legal under U.S. law unless scheduled or otherwise forbidden.

For the sake of public safety, it’d be nice if all drugs were regulated for purity. Limiting regulation to just purity, however, would be fatally counterproductive to ensuring public safety. Lithium, for example, is a great med but has a very narrow therapeutic index. Unless you want to see renal disease and/or failure skyrocket overnight, the safeguards of clinical trials and close medical supervision are necessary for the sake of those taking it.


Yeah, but the violence from the prohibition days is gone. The street level crime was greatly reduced, as no one is dying in the street for moonshine that might make you blind. I don’t think ever street gang is going to be able to diversify into racketeering and gambling, etc.

What would happen if drugs were legal?

Tax revenue would be a huge shot in the arm. This could be used to create education avenues, as well as treatment clinics for people wanting to get off of shit. I imagine the “safer” stuff would be used a lot more. As long as purity and dosing is monitored, ODs would go way down. The taboo of drugs would go away and some people wouldn’t get sucked in as part of rebelling.

Research into recreational drugs by pharmaceutical companies would mean more, cheaper, safer drugs. And we could see if some of the overlooked drugs that have been branded as bad might have medical uses. And that extra money would fund research into other, less lucrative but life saving drugs.

The police would have to find a new reason to curtail your civil liberties. Jails would have more room for violent offenders. Reduced burden on the courts system means justice might be served on a regular bases. A drug charge would no longer be a permanent barrier to a good job and a productive life.

Honestly, I am failing at finding one reason not to. I concede some people would still be HURT by abusers, but that is already happening. Legalizing would hopefully make support and help for these people even easier, like alcohol addiction centers.


The reason not to is, the minute anybody suggests legalization or even liberalization of the law, “Why do you want our children addicted to heroin? Why?” Scaremongers always win.


I quoted Mark Thomas saying the same thing earlier this year.

He said that about 15-20 years ago now. It’s depressing how little we have moved since then, at least in Britain.


I’d rather see oxycodone on Schedule III than see heroin on Schedule II. Heroin really is one of the worst opioids in terms of toxicity and addictive potential. Compared in terms of mass equivalence, yes, it’s stronger than morphine. However, compared in terms of therapeutic equivalence (that is, the amount of each required to achieve the same level of pain relief) morphine is far superior because it causes less respiratory depression than heroin and thus poses less risk of hypoxia.

The therapeutic equivalent of fentanyl poses comparatively less risk than heroin while being far stronger in terms of mass equivalence. The problem with fentanyl is its insanely narrow therapeutic index, as doses are most concisely expressed in _micro_grams.


It’s about harm reduction. Overall, prohibition creates more problems than it resolves. Sure, there would be new a different problems but the known problems of prohibition are that it is ineffective, incarcerates large portions of the population adding to the downward progression of minority classes, creates violent criminal organizations, loses everyone much needed tax revenue, and stigmatizes treatment for addiction. Weigh that against a small percentage of the population forming a harmful addiction and on balance total decriminalization makes sense.


Your sugar amped ADHD house wreckers need to chill the fuck out.

Also, its a fun game the whole family can enjoy.


Same here. My kids would have to raise themselves.

Plus, I think I would stop going to bars or at least never order anything other than unopened cans and bottles of beer (or wine).

A bunch of people would die. Mostly, people who were going to kill themselves through their own stupidity anyway, or who were going to be killed through the stupidity of others anyway. But also, some “innocent” victims.

Of course, not legalizing drugs has also caused huge numbers of unintended and regrettable deaths, and will continue to do so as long as drugs are illegal.

The difference is eventually the numbers settle down; after a single generation, the rate of avoidable carnage from legalized access to alcohol became lower than the carnage from prohibition and its side effects. But initially, there would be regrettable deaths as things shook out.


And that initial phase will be greatly protracted if there isn’t a concurrent overhaul in accessibility to and quality of mental health care (here in the States, at least). There cannot be any responsible drug legalization without ensuring that those most prone to self-medicating using drugs with high addiction potential are able to address and treat/resolve their psychological problems.

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