Patterico's Pontifications

3/15/2008

Jack Dunphy on Nullification and the Drug War

Filed under: Crime,General — Patterico @ 7:43 pm



Jack Dunphy in Pajamas Media, writing about The Wire, jury nullification, and the drug war:

Some addicts can and do clean up, but will legalization make honest citizens out of drug dealers willing to kill over control of a street corner?

The argument for drug legalization is a rational one, but it is not one that I, after more than twenty years as a cop in Los Angeles, can endorse. Watching Bubbles [an addict on the series The Wire] struggle with his demons over these last five years, I was often reminded of a heroin addict I arrested years ago. As I was about to close the cell door on him, I asked him if he thought heroin should be legalized.

“No way,” he said.

I asked him why not.

“If you legalize it,” he said, “pretty soon everybody will be like me.”

The piece gives away the ending of The Wire, a show I haven’t seen, so I admit I let my eyes run over the piece, trying to overlook any passage that looked like it might give anything away. Be warned.

66 Responses to “Jack Dunphy on Nullification and the Drug War”

  1. “If you legalize it,” he said, “pretty soon everybody will be like me.

    Well, not everybody.

    I had already made some comments regarding addiction in an earlier thread on jury nullification, but I’ll restate my position a little more clearly: Proponents of drug legalization and juries who nullify drug cases do victims of the disease of addiction no favors.

    Believe it or not, there are people who don’t experiment with illicit drugs, just because they are illicit: remove that prohibition and people susceptible to addiction who wouldn’t have been exposed to it otherwise will be. (Not to mention averting the fortunately rare idiosyncratic reaction to some drugs that leave people institutionalized after a single use.)

    Secondly, there is no such thing as a “victimless” drug crime. People argue that marijuana peddling isn’t the same as dealing crack: BZZZZTTTT!!! Wrong answer, pal. For an addict, who is a victim of a chronic, progressive, and ultimately fatal disease, you’ve just pushed the little indicator on the progression timer that much closer to the mark that says “Death.”

    Well, you say, shouldn’t people be able to control what they put into their own bodies? Well, DUH!! The problem is, for an addict, it’s not something they have a choice about!

    As I said above, legalize heroin, and not everybody will become an addict: opiate addiction rate is about 11%, where opiates are the “drug of choice.” However, a person’s ‘addiction timer’ (if you will) is started and runs during their use of opiates, even if their “drug of choice” is ultimately something else.

    Admittedly, addiction only affects a portion of the population. But there ain’t no way to tell beforehand who that’s gonna be.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  2. Almost invariably, supporters of the drug war cite to the potential consequences of legalization. Only rarely do they cite to the actual consequences of criminalization. (To his credit, Dunphy at least mentions them in passing.)

    Also, it’s probably true that, for some, the illegality of drugs is the decisive factor in preventing their use. But it seems unlikely that the law explains the choices of most. The criminal statutes notwithstanding, who among us wouldn’t use drugs if he really wanted to? Our decision to abstain is informed by other, more personal considerations. So, no — “everybody” would not end up like Dunphy’s heroin addict. (As with most sweeping claims, that one lacks any basis in fact or reason.)

    As for nullification, twice in my 43 years have I been called for jury duty by the felony courts of Harris County. Twice was the defendant up on drug war charges. Twice did I tell the prosecutor that, if seated, I was a certain vote to acquit. Twice was I dismissed.

    Paul S. (289d5e)

  3. So a television “victim” is now to be considered the norm for what ifs applied to the real world?

    Or a member of the almost undetectable percentage of real problem users of drugs? Thats bright.

    Then to jump instantly to the horrors of Heroin Addiction as an example of a prop? The man has little decency.

    Some addicts can and do clean up, but will legalization make honest citizens out of drug dealers willing to kill over control of a street corner?

    Try to focus here, the above mentioned group called “addicts”, compromise a fractional element of the general population using “hard core” drugs! I’d almost bet we lose more people in Iraq daily then to even hard core drug abuse in this nation, I for one daaum sure know we lose more in auto fatalities each day.

    The next group you mention “drug dealers” would mostly disappear, as the state would take over the role, and tax the dickens out of the “Allowed Sin” to become legal. Street corner dealers and fast gun tactics disappear. REMOVE the allure to riches and what might happen?

    EXACTLY WHAT WAS DEMONSTRATED With Booze!

    Remember that Jack? We ended up with the Kennedy thugs, killing at will and being sentenced to life in the senate!

    That one worked out well didn’t it? I will add the reminder that that one was created with an amendment to the constitution or the US! Has the illegal status of many drugs undergone such a test?

    Please name me one of the current illegal substances on the current list, that was determined to be “just plain wrong” by the citizens of this country.

    The argument for drug legalization is a rational one,

    Such begins and ends all you said as reasonable and science founded! All the rest is designed to defend the entire “war on drugs”, which is a more than dismal failure by any measure you desire to use. It’s cost well exceeding any observable measure as well. By billions of dollars and many lost lives each and every year it continues!

    Oh and just to clear the air here. I don’t use any of them, though I was hospitalized and given a button, which I requested they not do. Contents, a street illegal drug!

    Despite Tobacco use being proven to contribute to health challenges, folks still use tobacco products, but today, govts profit as much as the creators of such products. Not to mention the attorneys that are well funded by the actions of many others in the club. Booze is no different either. Legal, taxed and much harm can be attributed to the use.

    We’ve endless stories from those that have battled the throes of dependency on legal and illegal substances. The detailed reasons they choose to dive personally into the depths, and swam back into a real life. Such is not going to change! EVER. Legal or illegal does not matter, sans the single element that would lose income from such.

    That element is the Legal industry! Which you are a part of right?

    So one must ask the critical question of you, is your discussion one of but continued hyperbole designed to insure continued employment, or one of real concern for the citizens that actually pay your salary desires for a free nation?

    CA BTW, has all but totally legalized, or rather, removed for most penalties for possession of weed! Allows/endorses medical uses for such Yet still allows the feds to bust state sanctioned growers and prescribed users. What gives with that?

    Such a quandary to be in eh? All those fed dollars to feed the anti drug world that the state actually endorses. Actually all that money goes into buying toys for balled headed cops on roids that can’t wait to pop a cap on the very persons paying their wages. Most with a HS education at best. Not to mention the politicos desiring to posses your properties for some potential personal profit.

    I was once used as a tool, by a friend and trusted fellow, I stood up in front of 2000 folks and expressed my outrage on a problem that was not even real for him. Needless to say, I got educated, and swore to never have a repeat. I’ve not had one since in 15 yrs.

    Today Jack you are a tool!

    Though you do have much good company.

    TC (1cf350)

  4. What a silly statement. Alcohol is legal. Is everyone an alcoholic?

    Kevin (3efe14)

  5. Weed is all but legal. Is everyone a pothead?

    Kevin (3efe14)

  6. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard Dunphy tell the story of “Bubbles”. One wonders if he relies on heroin addicts to decide his other political positions as well.

    “No way,” said Bubbles. “If you cut the capital gains tax rate, the resulting flight of capital from tax-free municipal bonds to the equities markets will result in a nationwide credit crunch for cities and jeopardize much-needed infrastructure improvements.”

    It ought to amaze me that a person as evidently clear-headed as Dunphy is taken in by that sort of nonsense, that he fails to see that a heroin addict has every reason to convince himself that his situation is not his fault, that he was just unlucky, and there but for the grace of Government goes everybody else. It further ought to amaze me that Dunphy doesn’t even consider that a heroin addict — a criminal — might be telling him — a police offier — what he wants to hear. But it doesn’t. Long ago I learned that the drug war makes fools out of otherwise intelligent people and clouds their judgment to the point that they explicitly reject rationality.

    “The argument for drug legalization is a rational one.” Indeed. And the arguments for continued prohibition are irrational ones. Every last one of them. There is no argument for continuing the absolutely insane drug policy we have which an intelligent, logical person couldn’t explode to splinters in minutes.

    Voice of Reason (ea3ea4)

  7. Paul #2:

    Only rarely do they cite to the actual consequences of criminalization.

    The single most important “consequence” of criminalization for a drug user is that it represents a chance for treatment, or at intervention.

    One more time: Addiction is a chronic, progessive, and ultimately fatal disease of the limbic system. It involves physiological changes of the brain, some of which are the same as those that occur in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease (ie, neuronal demyelinization), widespread neurotransmitter dysfunction~in particular dopamine/dopamine2 disregulation, although a host of others are also disrupted. Because addiction affects the limbic system, the precognitive, primitive part of the brain that regulates survival, the addicted brain is fooled into believing that the “drug of choice” is as necessary for survival, and an addict has no more choice about taking it than they do about breathing.

    it’s probably true that, for some, the illegality of drugs is the decisive factor …[snip]… — “everybody” would not end up like Dunphy’s heroin addict. (As with most sweeping claims, that one lacks any basis in fact or reason.)

    As I noted in my first comment above, opiate addiction affects “only” about 11% of the population (although it’s difficult to imagine a more effective ‘gateway’ route to other addictions because of the extremely disruptive influence of opiates on neurotransmitters) so you are correct in noting that Dunphy’s arrestee’s comment was wrong: but addiction is a very subjective disease as well, and it certainly would feel like it to him that nobody wouild be able to recover from what he was going through. Even though his fact and reason were distorted by disease, his evaluation that others shouldn’t have to go through what he was enduring because of misguided attempts at legalization was spot on. One of the effects of chronic dopamine/serotonin disregulation is dystopia, that is, a chemically induced “living hell” that occurs because the brain is constantly discombobulated in its neurotransmitter cycles~and to save just one person from that is sufficient reason to me for maintain the illegality of those drugs.

    As to jury nullification, you do nobody any favors by letting people with addiction skate by: they can’t control their behavior in active addiction, but they have to be held accountable for their behavior in order to address the addiction. And let me make this clear: there are only two kinds of people who show up in court on drug charges. Addicts, who aren’t in control of the behavior; and criminal scum who prey on those with a fatal disease. Period. One of the working definitions of addiction is “repeated negative consequences without a concommitant change in behavior.” What that means is, “normal” people, ie, people without the disease of addiction, might get caught once on a misdemeanor and never do it again, but an addict can’t control that…and if it’s a non-addicted repeat offender, then its just scum that gets off on preying on the helpless, no different than burglars who target old folks or other disadvantaged victims.

    I don’t know what the total percentage of the population that would be subject to addiction is if the entire population was to experiment with all drugs across the board. The three classes most often subject to addiction are nicotine (40% of the population susceptible), alcohol (15%), and opiates (11%). Nicotine is curious because its not nearly as stong a psychoactive as the others~ie, it doesn’t completely “break” the production of dopamine2 like alcohol and opiates. (Dopamine2 is the neurotransmitter that tells normal people “Okay, that’s enough of that.” whether it be food or heroin. Addicts no longer produce dopamine2, ever.) Alcohol has a long history intertwined in our cultures, and as the Prohibition experiment shows, would be difficult to eradicate from our society. And medicine would have been, and would be, much more barbaric without opiates. But you’d have a difficult time convincing me that legalizing drugs whose ultimate effect is to condemn a significant fraction of the population to a living hell with no other redeeming value than reducing incarceration rates is worthwhile. (Most other addictive drugs also hover about the 10% susceptibility rate, and that seems a significant number to me when talking about people.)

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  8. EW1(SG): “Victimless crime” is a legal term, not a moral or descriptive term. It means that there is no complaining victim in the crime. The junkie voluntarily buys drugs from a seller, who also voluntaritly sells the drugs. In comparison, a mugger robs a pedestrian. The pedestrian can become a “complaining victim”. He can go to the police and make a report of a crime. It is rare (if ever) for a buyer or seller in a drug crime to turn themselves in as a complaining victim.

    Victimless crime has nothing to do with the harm people can do to themselves or others through their drug use. This false use of the term “victimless crime” is wrong at best and dishonest usually.

    Jabba The Tutt (7ee3ab)

  9. And let me make this clear: there are only two kinds of people who show up in court on drug charges. Addicts, who aren’t in control of the behavior; and criminal scum who prey on those with a fatal disease. Period.

    So which camp does a casual pot user fall into?

    Pablo (99243e)

  10. #3 TC: No, TC, you aren’t a tool. But you are a fool.

    Or a member of the almost undetectable percentage of real problem users of drugs? Thats bright.

    As I noted above, I don’t consider numbers like 1 in 10 an insignificant amount when talking about consigning people to hell.

    At least when you send them to prison, they have a chance at learning to manage their disease.

    I’d almost bet we lose more people in Iraq daily then to even hard core drug abuse in this nation, I for one daaum sure know we lose more in auto fatalities each day.

    Good thing you’d only “almost” make that wager, since you would be orders of magnitude incorrect. And since addiction is involved in a large proportion of auto fatalities, I don’t understand why you think you don’t have to count them.

    Oh and just to clear the air here. I don’t use any of them, though I was hospitalized and given a button, which I requested they not do. Contents, a street illegal drug!

    Congratulations, you happen to be one of the majority of people who doesn’t suffer a chronic, progressive, life threatening illness! Moron.

    TC, you continue to pile inaccuracies on top of ill-founded opinions.

    The detailed reasons they choose to dive personally into the depths, and swam back into a real life. Such is not going to change! EVER.

    Hopefully cures for addiction will appear over the horizon sooner than later, but like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, it isn’t exactly a simple problem. Then again, we haven’t exactly solved cancer either, but I don’t think we can just “give up” on it.

    That element is the Legal industry! Which you are a part of right?

    So one must ask the critical question of you, is your discussion one of but continued hyperbole designed to insure continued employment, or one of real concern for the citizens that actually pay your salary desires for a free nation?

    Er, no, I’m not.

    #4 & 5, Kevin:

    What a silly statement. Alcohol is legal. Is everyone an alcoholic?
    Weed is all but legal. Is everyone a pothead?

    Uh, no. As mentioned above, alcoholism affects about 15% of the population. Marijuana addiction affects about 18%.

    #6 VoR:

    …that he fails to see that a heroin addict has every reason to convince himself that his situation is not his fault, that he was just unlucky,

    In a certain sense, your statement is truer than you know. A heroin addict is just unlucky in that they are susceptible to a disease that others are immune to. Further, heroin addicts (actually, all addicts) are incapable of reason: addiction short circuits the cognitive portion of the brain, making them incapable of many higher cognitive processes.

    You might consider changing your nic to something else when voicing statements that have no basis in reality.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  11. So one must ask the critical question of you, is your discussion one of but continued hyperbole designed to insure continued employment, or one of real concern for the citizens that actually pay your salary desires for a free nation?

    That is a bullet to the heart. The drug warriors are just as addicted to the war as those they are fighting against. As long as there is an “Insane War on Some Drugs” (IWOSD™), there will be “legal addicts”, dependent upon taxpayer funding, and fear mongering designed to scare the crap out of the populace that the “new” and “legal” addicts are going to run around like zombies, bite the “pure and chaste”, turing them into fellow blood suckers.

    Horatio (55069c)

  12. #8 Jabba The Tutt:

    This false use of the term “victimless crime” is wrong at best and dishonest usually.

    I am aware of its provenance as a term of art, but false use of the term “victimless crime” is wrong at best and dishonest always when describing drug crimes.

    #9 Pablo:

    So which camp does a casual pot user fall into?

    Addiction results in repeated negative consequences to the user that they are unable avoid. So if the pot user is continually facing legal charges, then that’s almost always addiction. Marijuana has a higher addiction rate (at around 18%) than is generally believed. If they really are just casual users, and got caught up once in the legal system, then they will take the appropriate steps to preclude recurrence~they’ll grow up and stop using.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  13. #11 Horatio: Wow. It’s difficult to imagine a greater misunderstanding of addiction packed into a paragraph than that.

    Is it really that difficult to understand that incarceration for an addict means a chance at survival? As our understanding of addiction grows, ideally we’ll be able to implement more effective treatment, both in and out of the legal system~but in the meantime, getting somebody off the streets and under supervision may be their ONLY chance at survival.

    And yes, people in active addiction do act rather vampire like~which is why addicts are taught in treatment to avoid people, places and things that are use triggers.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  14. Wow. It’s difficult to imagine a greater misunderstanding of addiction packed into a paragraph than that.

    This has nothing to do with addiction. This has to do with who owns one’s body – the individual or the state. The only thing that should be criminalized is behavior that uses force or fraud to achieve one’s goals.

    If I am addicted to a drug or certain behavior, then it’s a problem I can choose to deal with or not. If I can’t choose, I can ask for help from family or friends, or organizations that have expertise in the given addiction.

    If I rob a store, or assault someone, or engage in activities that fraudulently gets something for me, then – and only then – do I commit a crime. The act of taking drugs, while destructive for some, is my business – not the state’s

    Your advocacy of the state using it’s monopoly on the use of force to stop someone from harming themselves – as you define it – is an assault on individual rights and an addictive abuse of state power.

    Horatio (55069c)

  15. One other thing while I’m thinking about it. I’m not real crazy about this from Dunphy:

    Some addicts can and do clean up,

    Addicts don’t “clean up.” They either learn to manage their disease on a daily basis, like severe diabetics do, or they die from it (or its consequences).

    Unfortunately, current treatment for addiction has a dismal success rate.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  16. EW1(SG)–you’re missing Pablo’s point, I think. The only negative consequence of the casual pot users use is arrest and appearance in court. IOW, if marijuana were not illegal, the casual pot user would have no negative consequences to deal with.

    Your argument boils down to this: that for the sake of preventing an indeterminate number of people–a statistically significant number, but one that is not large in comparison to the general population (I would guess from your comments you are thinking of a number in the 15-20 percent range, comparable to what you assert is the addiction rate for marijuana–even though your definition of addiction would grossly inflate the number of addicts compared to the usual definition)–we are justified in inflicting on the general population, and on inner cities in particular all the negatives that result from the WOD.
    No one is saying that drug dealers are nice guys, and would open up little storefronts the day drugs are legalized. Some of them would doubtless find other criminal ways of making a living. But some others would find that crime no longer pays enough, and go looking for legal ways of making a living. And the youths who now look up to these people, and want to emulate them, would no longer have them as role models.

    And addicts make a choice to start using a drug. It’s not like someone comes along and forces heroin into their bodies against their will. And they choose to stay addicts because the obstacles to going clean seem too much to them. Addiction is not really a disease. It’s a state of being the addict chooses to be in. A wrong choice, and one made under the influence of the drug, but still a freely will choice.

    kishnevi (3cf898)

  17. If it is leagal, the government will have to give it away or make the price very low.

    As a trade off, we should give away free dope and end welfare. Hey, you hungry, have some cocaine.

    Alta Bob (13384e)

  18. There is no argument for continuing the absolutely insane drug policy we have which an intelligent, logical person couldn’t explode to splinters in minutes.

    Legalization means more users and more addicts?

    Legalization means more children using drugs like crack and PCP?

    If you legalize, but regulate and tax, there will still be a black market?

    Just off the top of my head. Now EXPLODE MY ARGUMENTS TO SPLINTERS!!!!

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  19. #16 Horatio:

    This has nothing to do with addiction.

    On the contrary, it has everything to do with addiction. If it didn’t, illegal use would dry up and we wouldn’t be discussing it at all.

    If I am addicted to a drug or certain behavior, then it’s a problem I can choose to deal with or not.

    Uhm, no, you can’t. Which is an effect of the disease.

    If I can’t choose, I can ask for help from family or friends, or organizations that have expertise in the given addiction.

    Unfortunately, because of the way the disease attacks the brain, such an occurrence is very, very rare. In fact, it’s rare that family or friends can understand and deal with the disease enough to get the patient into treatment.

    If I rob a store, or assault someone, or engage in activities that fraudulently gets something for me, then – and only then – do I commit a crime. The act of taking drugs, while destructive for some, is my business – not the state’s

    Because addiction is a chronic, progressive disease, it is also a disease of not “yet,” as in, I haven’t robbed a bank yet, or I haven’t beaten my wife and children yet. So its really just a matter of it not being the state’s business – yet. And in case you hadn’t noticed, we have public health departments~who deal with things like innoculation standards for schools, pandemics, epidemics, STD’s, and whatnot. Since a fairly significant portion of the population is susceptible to addiction, what portion of the population do you think has to be affected before its a public health issue-that is, the business of the state?

    Your advocacy of the state using it’s monopoly on the use of force to stop someone from harming themselves – as you define it – is an assault on individual rights and an addictive abuse of state power.

    It isn’t “as I define it.” Addiction is a disease, with marked physiological changes that can be tested for and measured. As I noted above, there are only two reasons that people become repeat drug offenders in the legal system: either they are an addict, or they are a criminal who preys on those with a debilitating, life threatening disease. Now, in a perfect world, we could devote all the resources necessary to treating that significant portion of our population affected by addiction~but it ain’t a perfect world.

    Its also unfortunate that because the disease attacks the limbic system, the brain’s survival mechanisms are confused; often to the point an addict will indulge in illegal behaviors (those ones involving force and fraud you mentioned above) while in active addiction. Since one of the prerequisites for effective treatment of addiction is holding the addict responsible for their actions (even if they had no control of them at the time), then jail is just as good a place as any, and it has the advantage of already being established in our culture.

    Ideally, as knowledge about the disease of addiction becomes more widely disseminated, jails and prisons will becomre more effective at treating it. But in the meantime, they represent a chance for the addict that returning them to the street does not. This isn’t about

    an assault on individual rights and an addictive abuse of state power,

    its about recognizing that as ugly as it seems, the way we do things now is better than pie in the sky alternatives.

    And the more you understand addiction, the closer we get to real solutions rather than trivial discussions about the abuse of state power rights and the rights of terminally ill people that are unable to exercise them.

    Actually, it sounds an awful lot like arguing that Alzheimers patients should be allowed to play in traffic on the freeway.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  20. Horatio,

    Tell me precisely what you would do. What drugs would you legalize? What regulations and taxes would you impose?

    If you have the guts to do that, we’ll take a look at your proposal and the effect it might have.

    Most smug drug war opponents don’t want to give specifics, though. They just want to say that what we’re doing now is wrong, without offering an alternative.

    Sorry, can’t take that seriously.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  21. EW1(SG) at 3:

    Even if we accept the disease theory of addiction, it does not follow that the drug war is the cure.

    Every drug user is not an addict. And with your singular focus on the addict, you fail to account for the externalized costs of the drug war, i.e. the costs paid by those who aren’t party to the transaction. The drug war costs the taxpayer billions in outlays, and billions more in lost revenue (The math suggests that just by ending the drug war, we could afford private health insurance for the millions of Americans who have no coverage).

    But there’s more: the drug war has a corrupting influence on law enforcement, and therefore diminishes respect for the rule of law; it is responsible for the deaths of a small but important number of innocent bystanders who were shot to death by the police, or whose homes were wrongly identified and whose children were terrorized; it has produced a large and growing list of exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, while augmenting the militarization of civilian law enforcement; it induces criminality (e.g., property theft) by artificially inflating the price of drugs above their true market value; it undermines the war on Islamofascist terrorism, and may in part finance that terrorism; it destabilizes the governments of our allies; it has given us a country with a higher rate of incarceration than any nation in the world; and it has a undeniable disparate racial impact, which, in view of our country’s history, is at least suspect.

    Despite these costs, among others, prohibition will not forestall the open-air drug markets that launch everyday at dusk here in inner-city Houston, or in other communities. Indeed, the drug war contributes to the profitability of these markets. The drug war does not work.

    The great irony here is that supporters of the drug war suffer from the very disability they ascribe to the addict: repeatedly engaging in wildly destructive behavior, getting the same result every time but expecting a different one.

    Paul S. (289d5e)

  22. Legalization means more users and more addicts?

    Just another theory based on Stats, which all know can be designed to tell a tall tale.

    Legalization means more children using drugs like crack and PCP?

    Really? This factoid was pulled from which dark place? Or might it be based upon an ever expanding population and therefore could always be considered correct? But lets just sum it up, “It’s for the Chilren”!!!

    If you legalize, but regulate and tax, there will still be a black market?

    Something the legal industry should actually prays continues to happen, so 40% of them can retain employment, suck the fed teet and get even more kool army toys in the process!

    Black Markets exist only when govt creates too high a burden on consumers. Ask Canada about smokes and how well their exorbitant taxes on tobacco went over.

    But catching “black market” guys is a whole lot tougher than bustin doors down in the middle of the night based on ZERO investigation aint it?

    Tell ya what Patt, lets put the entire issue on a National Ballot this Nov.

    or

    maybe

    Discuss the issue in real terms and acknowledge that those professing a change are maybe tired of digging graves and funding prisons for persons that are NOT a real threat to this society, who may also be tired of the endless stories of street thuggery associated with currently illegal drugs.

    Break out the discussion into each drug out there. We are so used to using a single term and making weed equal to heroin that the mind is instantly mortified into paralysis and can no longer tolerate actual thought.

    BOOM :)

    TC (1cf350)

  23. #16 kishnevi:

    –you’re missing Pablo’s point, I think.

    Not at all. A “casual pot user,” someone who is not an addict, might end up in court on a minor possession charge for example, but will actively prevent that from happening again by not using pot again, even though the consequences are relatively trivial. An addict won’t, and will repeatedly suffer the same consequences without a concommitant change in behavior.

    even though your definition of addiction would grossly inflate the number of addicts compared to the usual definition)

    Those numbers represent what portion of the population is susceptible to addiction, based on current research, so in that sense don’t represent the number of current addicts. Some specific population groups approach those numbers. And I have no idea what you think the usual definition of addiction is. Its a disease, like cancer, either you have it, or you don’t.

    –we are justified in inflicting on the general population, and on inner cities in particular all the negatives that result from the WOD.

    Nope. You’re missing the point. It isn’t the “general population” that gets caught up in the legal system~a genuinely recreational user stops using when confronted with the legal consequences; so the repeat offenders are either addicts or those who prey on them. Again, since effective treatment begins with holding an addict accountable for their behavior, jail & prison are start in that direction, even if nasty and seemingly inhumane. To my mind, condemning them to die on the streets isn’t better.

    In a sense, you are right when you say

    Some of them would doubtless find other criminal ways of making a living.

    The nonaddicts in the drug trade will certainly find another criminal enterprise. But many of those involved at all levels of the drug trade are themselves addicts, so all legalization does is hasten the progression of their disease, and force them to find another way to support their addiction. Now, I got to tell you: an addict’s brain isn’t wired quite right. All of their higher functions, like their conscience, are short circuited~so they aren’t going to look for “legal.” They are going to look for what feeds the addiction.

    Whoops. I had only scanned this paragraph of yours:

    And addicts make a choice to start using a drug. It’s not like someone comes along and forces heroin into their bodies against their will. And they choose to stay addicts because the obstacles to going clean seem too much to them. Addiction is not really a disease. It’s a state of being the addict chooses to be in. A wrong choice, and one made under the influence of the drug, but still a freely will choice.

    so I missed this colossal mountain of misinformation:

    Addiction is not really a disease.

    One more time, addiction is a disease of the limbic system, and while addicts are usually specific to their “drug of choice,” ultimately all addicts suffer from a dysfunction of the dopamine/dopamine2 neurotransmitter cycle between the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area. As a disease of the brain, addiction results in profound behavioral changes in the victim, that with proper training the victim might, only just might, learn to manage in the control of a chronic, progressive, and ultimately fatal disease.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  24. #21 Paul:

    Even if we accept the disease theory of addiction,

    As long as you continue to believe that, you will never be of any use in promulgating a “cure.”

    The great irony here is that supporters of the drug war suffer from the very disability they ascribe to the addict: repeatedly engaging in wildly destructive behavior, getting the same result every time but expecting a different one.

    I am not a “supporter of the drug war.” I’m just saying that you are trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. The tools that we have in place are marginally effective: but certainly more effective than just ignoring the problem. Until we find more efficacious treatments, we are better off fighting an epidemic that results in profound personality changes where it presents: and all too often, that is the street or the courtroom.

    And yes, we are making progress in understanding the etiology of the disease, even though we’re a long way from a “cure.”

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  25. TC, in a recent thread, a drug war opponent (I can’t find the comment) said to me that of course drug war opponents recognize that legalization would mean more usage. Yet you call that: “Just another theory based on Stats, which all know can be designed to tell a tall tale.”

    Thanks for making it clear that some drug war opponents don’t even recognize the obvious reality that legalization would mean more usage.

    Feel free to answer the question I put to Horatio. What, specifically, would you do? What drugs would you legalize? Would you have regulation? Taxes?

    It will be interesting to see if you answer these questions head-on. I have a very hard time getting drug war opponents to answer it.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  26. Oh, bother.

    Discuss the issue in real terms and acknowledge that those professing a change are maybe tired of digging graves and funding prisons for persons that are NOT a real threat to this society, who may also be tired of the endless stories of street thuggery associated with currently illegal drugs.

    Break out the discussion into each drug out there. We are so used to using a single term and making weed equal to heroin that the mind is instantly mortified into paralysis and can no longer tolerate actual thought.

    Addicts are and will continue to be a threat to society. Not an existential threat: but because an addict’s brain is controlled by the changes there, they are, or will ultimately be unable to distinguish right from wrong. And so will continue to constitute a threat to anyone around them or who stands in the way of their disease.

    Sorry, you don’t get to pick and choose which drugs affect addiction. Now, while a marijuana addict typically isn’t as aggressive as a crack addict, giving a crack addict marijuana causes the disease to progress just the same way crack does.

    Remember, addiction is a chronic, progressive, and ultimately fatal disease.

    Those of you arguing for legalization don’t really understand that you are arguing that we should turn our backs on a significant portion of the population who suffers a health problem. Incarceration may not be the best tool for treatment, but we have it as a tool and sometimes it works.

    Better than the alternative, which so far is … uh, well?

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  27. EW1(SG):

    I think you overstate the effect that drugs have on people’s ability to determine their actions and distinguish right from wrong. If one signed on to your beliefs, almost no addict committing crimes while high would be legally responsible for those crimes. This is not the case.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  28. Tell ya what Patt, lets put the entire issue on a National Ballot this Nov.

    I think you vastly inflate the number of “legalize it” folks that exist in this country. That and stoners don’t typically vote.

    Taltos (4dc0e8)

  29. Patterico at 25:

    Forgive the interruption, but I’m happy to answer your questions head-on.

    I would legalize every drug subject to the Controlled Substances Act (see 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq.) and its state law equivalents. I would pardon, or otherwise expunge the record of, all persons who are now, or who ever have been, incarcerated for no reason but a drug war conviction, however small or large their number.

    I would withdraw the United States from the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and other related treaties.

    I would direct the United States Armed Forces, and other agencies of the federal government, to stand down from their efforts to eradicate the cultivation, manufacture and distribution of drugs within the sovereign jurisdiction of other countries. To the degree that our forces have no other mission in those countries, I would withdraw them.

    I would terminate all drug war-related foreign aid.

    I would reduce the size and cost of federal and state agencies, including the judiciary and its appendages, to the degree that their budgets and staffing levels reflect prosecution of the drug war.

    I would leave the states at liberty to adopt drug-related tax and regulatory schemes similar to the ones they now impose on the manufacture, sale, possession, use and transport of alcohol, and to use a portion of their new revenue to treat chemical dependency as a public health crisis, and not as an occasion to buy tasers and battering rams, or to build more depots of gang recruitment and male rape. (You may wish to consult EW1(SG) for his thoughts, but I incline to the view that such acts are not therapeutic.)

    In sum, I would end the drug war.

    These answers will leave you unmoved, and perhaps alarmed, I’m sure. But I trust you have now found the direct and specific answers you sought.

    Paul S. (289d5e)

  30. EW1(SG)–I don’t accept your thesis that addiction is a disease. And having been addicted to a drug, I know the effects by my own experience. I chose to partake, and in the end I chose to stop. The way to end addiction is to give the addict the motivation and willpower to stop. Criminalizing the addictive substance does not do it. At best, it can catalyze the decision to stop; but it’s a decision freely chosen. And there are better ways to catalyze the decision, ways that are less destructive to the surrounding community and that don’t lead the abridgment or abandonment of the freedom of everyone else.

    Come to think of it, gambling is addictive. (I’ve know a few gambling addicts.) Does the sight of poker chips or slot machines somehow suppress dopamine?

    As for our esteemed host’s challenge:
    Feel free to answer the question I put to Horatio. What, specifically, would you do? What drugs would you legalize? Would you have regulation? Taxes?

    1) Legalize all of them.
    2) Probably a scheme such as we have for alcohol and cigarettes, mainly for the purpose of ensuring that minors can’t obtain them. I do agree that kids can not make the appropriate decisions about drugs, and it’s appropriate to limit their access to it, just as we do for the legal drugs.
    3) Legalization would still leave on the books DUI/DWI laws, etc. So the drug user would be free to use or abuse, but be punished when his use causes harm to others.
    4) Prohibit drug users from getting welfare. That would, hopefully, keep the rest of us from subsidizing those who do get addicted.

    kishnevi (d50358)

  31. #27 Patterico:

    I think you overstate the effect that drugs have on people’s ability to determine their actions and distinguish right from wrong.

    To understand an addict’s behavior, you need to realize that their brain is short circuited.

    Crucial to understanding this is understanding what part of the brain is affected: the part that maintains survival mechanisms like the four F’s: Feeding, Fight or Flight, and Reproduction. People can hold their breath, and with training, some can for a remarkably long time. But eventually, the brain stem takes over and causes you to breathe…even if not in your best interest at the time, say underwater or in a poisonous atmosphere.

    In an addict’s brain, the survival/pleasure center is tampered with by the drug of choice causing the brain stem to add the drug of choice to the list of things necessary for survival. Depending on the stage of the disease or how strong the initial reaction to the drug of choice, the drive for the drug can displace the need to eat, the need for sex, or even the need for survival itself.

    (Be aware that I am using “drug of choice” here in its treatment sense: addicts are specific to a drug of choice, although some cross addictions occur. For example, alcoholics would pick up a shot of scotch in preference to a line of coke, but alcohol/opiate cross addiction is pretty common.)

    For most addicts, there is not only a progression of the physical effects of the disease, but also a social degradation as well: a heroin addict who starts out as a wealthy trader on Wall Street has a ways to go before they need to indulge in street crime to feed their addiction~but untreated, they will get there.

    In order to effectively cope with the disease, an addict needs to make some pretty serious changes in their behavior~one of which is self honesty. So, while an addict may not be in control of their actions in a physiological sense, they can’t evade responsibility for their actions in active addiction either. In that sense, there isn’t any conflict with whether or not they are “legally” responsible.

    Let’s face it, as an addict, I’m much more concerned with effective treatment than I am pie-in-the-sky states rights arguments or whatever. Incarceration bay be brutal, but its a brutal disease, and even a slim chance is better than none. Like my buddy B. says, two years nine months in a fed pen for bank robbery while armed might not be a vacation, but it got his disease under control, and for that, we’re grateful.

    Oh, and

    If one signed on to your beliefs,

    It’s not my beliefs, but the current state of addiction research & treatment. Is it gospel? Dunno, but it works.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  32. In the early 20th-Century, it was determined by the political/legal class, that alchohol adiction was a serious problem in America, and the only way to deal with it was to pass a Constitutional Amendment to ban its’ production, sale, and use. Why is this not the correct route to control the addiction of a significant portion of the populace to various chemical compounds?

    If we still believed/observed a Federalist concept of the Constitution, we would either pass another Volstedt Act, or allow the various States to conduct programs on their own to deal with this problem. If “X” state wanted to de-criminalize drug manufacturing/sale/use, so be it – it would be their problem.

    But, as we know, Congress is completely unable to leave problems alone to solve themselves. They have it in their DNA to intervene, inevitably making things worse.

    If you want to make a molehill into a mountain, introduce a bill in Congress to regulate molehills.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  33. It is popular to refer to alcohol Prohibition of the ’20’s and ’30’s as an example of the failure of prohibiting a substance.

    However, the facts are more complex. While there was a rise in organized crime as a result of Prohibition, interesting general crime dropped in the aftermath of Prohibition. Further, per capita alcohol consumption dropped dramatically as a result of Prohibition and even after Prohibition was repealed, per capita alcohol consumption in America has not returned to pre-Prohibition levels.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  34. per capita consumption…
    Perhaps some of that comsumption recovery lag-time was due to something mysteriously referred to as the “Great Depression”!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  35. SPQR:

    However, the facts are more complex.

    LOL! Ain’t it the truth!

    Alcohol in particular poses a conundrum: its historically intertwined in our cultures, our religious beliefs, and our collective psyche in a way that other addictive psychoactive drugs are not.

    And again, medicine would be far more barbaric than it is without opiates (and, for that matter, cocaine).

    Even so, as a society, we recognize limits to the responsible consumption of alcohol, we recognize that opiates and cocaine don’t have any real utility outside hospital.

    I don’t understand where arguing for the legalization of addictive psychoactives that have no use at all except enslaving and preying on that class of people susceptible to the disease of addiction has a moral basis.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  36. EW1 at 34:

    I don’t understand where arguing for the legalization of addictive psychoactives that have no use at all except enslaving and preying on that class of people susceptible to the disease of addiction has a moral basis.

    That statement includes many planted axioms, including this one: The drug war prevents the enslaving of people susceptible to addiction. Manifestly, it does not.

    I submit that only rarely does criminal law restrain behavior. (For more, see Spitzer, Eliot, et al.) More often, it simply provides notice of punishable conduct.

    I put it to you: Why do we center-right types usually support gun rights? Is it because we expect the law to spare us from the violence of others? No, of course not; the law does no such thing, and we know it. The policeman usually arrives after the fact — that is, after the law has been ignored — and then only to file a report and call the coroner. If you want to prevent an act of violence, you must rely upon your own skill and resources.

    If I’m right about the practical object of the law, then I can ask: What conduct should the law punish? And why would I want to punish an addict, especially if, as you suggest, he’s diseased?

    Paul S. (289d5e)

  37. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, Paul, the law restrains behavior often. I can think of at least a score people who are alive because its illegal for me to kill them.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  38. I agree it’s hard to draw meaningful legal distinctions for banning some products and not others. Nevertheless, the law has clearly affected my family’s behavior: We parents never used illegal products because we feared it would keep us out of law school or passing the bar, and our kids haven’t done anything illegal (including underage drinking) because it presented them with legal and parental threats.

    Absent these laws, I know I would have tried drugs and I would not have been so insistent that our kids’ abstain from alcohol until age 21. Given that our families have ancestors with addiction problems, we might have been responsible for a few more addicts if not for these laws.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  39. Not at all. A “casual pot user,” someone who is not an addict, might end up in court on a minor possession charge for example, but will actively prevent that from happening again by not using pot again, even though the consequences are relatively trivial. An addict won’t, and will repeatedly suffer the same consequences without a concommitant change in behavior.

    No, that doesn’t follow. A speeder will show up in court and face relatively trivial consequences. Then he’ll go out and speed some more. That doesn’t make him addicted to speeding. It simply makes him insufficiently impressed with the force of law against that crime to stop doing it. And maybe he’ll buy a radar detector to reduce his odds of getting caught. The pot user may make some analagous changes to prevent future arrests, and may end up getting arrested again anyway.

    I’d like to see the research behind the 18% marijuana addiction rate. My experience with people who smoke pot reveals nothing of the sort and I’ve known more than a few.

    To understand an addict’s behavior, you need to realize that their brain is short circuited.

    I’ve seen that in alcoholics, and I’ve seen it in speed freaks and crackheads. I’ve never seen it in pot smokers.

    Pablo (99243e)

  40. Paul,

    I think SPQR is correct in stating that the law restrains behavior more often than you credit it for doing. In that sense, the continued illegality of addictive psychoactive drugs spares many people the agony of addictive disease simply because they aren’t exposed to the risk.

    And, so long as you persist in evaluating “the drug war” (not my words, btw) in terms of individual rights, you will continually be blind to the devastating effects of addiction as a public health problem.

    Let’s focus for a moment solely on a legal addictive psychoactive drug: alcohol. The negative consequences for a DUI have become much greater just in the last few decades: so much so that states use the panoply of consequences likely to befall a first time offender as part of their prevention oriented advertising campaigns. If a person is stopped for a second DUI, let alone more, chances are extremely high that you are dealing with an addict. Are you now going to argue that we are interfering with that person’s right by restricting their freedom to drive? Such a case might be made, but only at the expense of the rest of society’s right to be safe from harm caused by a drunk on the roads.

    Nobody sets as goal in their childhood growing up to be an addict. No amount of “skill and resources” is currently capable of preventing addiction~a few are susceptible, while, fortunately, most are not. And there is no way to determine who is who beforehand. In the case of alcohol, its unlikely and ultimately undesireable from a cultural perspective to outlaw its use. We just have to deal with that specific addiction as it comes.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that just because we can’t prevent alcoholism that we open the flood gates to every addictive psychoactive drug. That hardly solves the problem of alcoholism, but only introduces the problem of other drug specific addictions.

    I’m not at all sure what you mean by

    the practical object of the law?

    My argument is simply that the way we deal with drug cases now is actually more beneficial than you realize, or what you propose.

    And why would I want to punish an addict, especially if, as you suggest, he’s diseased?

    It’s difficult to explain to someone who isn’t an addict what a horrible affliction it is. And if you look back up the thread, you’ll note that I haven’t suggested incarceration as punishment at all. The current practical effect of the law is that addicts are subject to an intervention of some sort. And also from a practical standpoint, the only repeat offenders are either addicts or those who prey on them. For the addict, it presents an opportunity to deal with their disease. Most addicts enter recovery only when the circumstance of their disease is more uncomfortable than the disease itself. Because of that, you have a better chance of recovery when an addict is faced with dire consequences.

    Let me reiterate: except for the occasional moron, the only repeat offenders are addicts. So letting them “skate” isn’t in their best interest, nor is it about their rights because they’re in a state where they are unable to exercise their rights anyway.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  41. Totally anecdotal, Pablo, but I saw and lived with brain-addled pot smokers when I was in college. I guess they functioned well enough since they graduated, but they were unable to stop smoking pot for even one day. In addition, it directly led to one death from an OD.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  42. Pablo #39:

    It simply makes him insufficiently impressed with the force of law against that crime to stop doing it.

    I suppose that’s quite probably true if it occurs in a jurisdiction where it’s suffieciently decriminalized, and there are no other attendent social consequences like loss of job, disinheritance or whatever.

    I’ve never seen it in pot smokers.

    Well, Pablo, I suspect you just haven’t been hanging around the wrong people enough! 😉 More seriously, the 18% number is cribbed from a lecture on addiction as a disease of the limbic system given by the medical director of a highly respected (and highly successful, as such things go) drug treatment center here in the East. It also represents a percentage of the population susceptible to marijuana addiction, not necessarily what the general marijuana addiction is. I suspect there is a lot more cross addiction with marijuana, similar to nicotine, than most other drugs~so in most cases you see its likely that the other drug predominates the marijuana addiction. Although he did also say that don’t recover as much cognitive function during post-acute withdrawal as other addicts do.

    And it isn’t pretty~long time marijuana addicts are pretty much just like alcoholic wet brainers, there isn’t much left.

    And don’t forget. There are some psychoactives whose effects aren’t as pronounced as others. What makes marijuana and nicotine dangerous for an addict is that they cause dopamine/dopamine2/serotonin disregulation~stimulating an addict to pick up the drug of choice.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  43. What, specifically, would you do? What drugs would you legalize? Would you have regulation? Taxes?

    1) Legalize all of them.

    I agree. However, given the clear and present danger meth labs have to neighbors, if someone wants to have one, it would have to be in an area zoned for such a facility

    2) Probably a scheme such as we have for alcohol and cigarettes, mainly for the purpose of ensuring that minors can’t obtain them. I do agree that kids can not make the appropriate decisions about drugs, and it’s appropriate to limit their access to it, just as we do for the legal drugs.

    I agree here too

    3) Legalization would still leave on the books DUI/DWI laws, etc. So the drug user would be free to use or abuse, but be punished when his use causes harm to others.

    Now behavior is being addressed

    4) Prohibit drug users from getting welfare. That would, hopefully, keep the rest of us from subsidizing those who do get addicted.

    We part company here as I would abolish welfare, but hey, 3/4 ‘s not bad

    Horatio (55069c)

  44. Patt–

    When are you going to answer the question I’ve asked every time this issue comes up – what percentage of your office’s resources are spend directly or indirectly on the WoD?

    This includes all investigations, denials to prosecute after investigations, prosecutions, plea bargains, appeals, etc…

    Horatio (55069c)

  45. Does history matter in this discussion, the Chinese had a significant drug problem, and they chose not to legalize it; they ended up with some
    pretty harsh methods. The French in charge of Indochina tried to use revenue from opium for tax purposes in the 19th century it didn’t take. The British due to their experience in both China and India, had a significant opium problem and they have never seriously contemplated
    legalization. And this at a time, when Victorian
    sense of self restraint; would ameliorate the impact. The fact that Baltimore, with its hellish panoply of problems would think this would solve anything is ludicrous. That doesn’t stop the writers of the Wire; Lehane, Pelecanos, Price, & co; from giving that advice in this monthes Atlantic.

    narciso (c36902)

  46. There is a part of me that wonders if the small-time dealer wouldn’t get a better deal out of the system than the small-time user (who would have no one to squeal on.)

    Addicted to nicotine for a long time (before I started smoking, probably) and finally managed to dump it. I’ve known too many users and too many abusers; the WoD is not really helping them.

    I will agree that “something has to be done”, but the current WoD isn’t it.

    I think it was the Donald Scott case that tipped me over the edge on this. There’s a part of the WoD that’s about government agency greed (land grabs?! cash charged with a crime?! juvenile informants?!) and it’s time to end it. If needed, it can be started again, better.

    htom (412a17)

  47. #30 kishnevi:

    Whoops, missed that one.

    I don’t accept your thesis that addiction is a disease. And having been addicted to a drug, I know the effects by my own experience.

    And I suppose cancer and diabetes mellitus aren’t diseases either. And no, you haven’t been addicted to a drug.

    There is a world of difference between a physical dependence (as often happens with patients treated with narcotics for pain) and addiction. Physical dependence on opiates is quite common, having an occurence rate of nearly 100% in people having to take opiates for 4 weeks or more. But, as I noted above, the susceptibility rate for opiate addiction is only about 11%, so most people are quite capable of weathering withdrawal and going on about their lives. (Yeah, its a pain in the ass~I’ve been through opiate withdrawal 25~30? times in the last eight years, sometimes lasting several weeks at a time. But I’m not an opiate addict, even though they exacerbate my underlying addiction.)

    and that don’t lead the abridgment or abandonment of the freedom of everyone else.

    And that is the crux, you’re mistaken belief that current drug laws affect the freedom of “everyone else.” I think it very rare that those affected aren’t addicts or those who prey on them.

    Come to think of it, gambling is addictive. (I’ve know a few gambling addicts.) Does the sight of poker chips or slot machines somehow suppress dopamine?

    Addiction (at least in its early stages) doesn’t “suppress” dopamine (although it most certainly does in later stages of the disease). And yes, some activities, like gambling, engaged in by some people causes dopamine disregulation just like it does in other specific addictions. So much so that “the sight of poker chips or slot machines” causes measurable changes in brain activity indistiguishable from those caused by other sources of addiction.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  48. #46 htom: There are certainly abuses in the so-called “war on drugs,” and I don’t think there is any single area as prone to abuse as property seizures (real or personal). So there are certainly areas that need change, rethinking, or recision.

    But we do addicts no favors by failing to hold them accountable.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  49. Totally anecdotal, Pablo, but I saw and lived with brain-addled pot smokers when I was in college.

    I’ve known my share of those too. Some folks are brain addled without any help. My experience with them is that they’re not just smoking pot, they’re filling their lives with all manner of useless/destructive pursuits.

    I guess they functioned well enough since they graduated, but they were unable to stop smoking pot for even one day.

    Unable or unwilling? I can’t say I’ve ever known anyone that couldn’t stop smoking pot, though I’ve known many who have curbed their usage due to the onset of responsibilities that precluded being a full time pothead. And many others who simply grew out of it, or walked away from it after suffering legal consequences.

    In addition, it directly led to one death from an OD.

    From marijuana or another substance?

    Pablo (99243e)

  50. Pablo,

    All I can tell you is that they weren’t brain-addled or druggies when they got to college but by Christmas they were daily users. It looked to me like they couldn’t quit and, in a couple of years, all their free time revolved around pot.

    Maybe they thought they could quit at any time and maybe they could. I know one who did quit. His OD occurred after an evening of liquor and pot and he didn’t wake up.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  51. EW1(SG) at 40:

    … so long as you persist in evaluating “the drug war” (not my words, btw) in terms of individual rights, you will continually be blind to the devastating effects of addiction as a public health problem.

    Under no fair read of my comments have I evaluated the drug war either exclusively or even chiefly in terms of individual rights. I’ve evaluated it mostly in terms of its externalized costs, which you nowhere address. For you, it’s apparently all about the putative needs of the addict. It’s almost as if no one else exists. Among other things, our society declines even private health insurance to millions, ostensibly because we cannot afford it. And yet we spend billions, and forgo billions more, to prosecute a never-ending, crime-inducing, drug lord-enriching “war” — one that the principles of economics say cannot be won.

    Or, to put it another way: Is there no limit to what the state may do, or no cost the state should forbear, to save the addict? Why not ramp up the drug war? Why not authorize the police to enter our homes randomly and without warrant, to then and there apply the baton to the skulls of the guilty (or even the surly)? Seriously, why not? If drug control is our goal, such tactics might well be efficacious.

    I’ll tell you why not: Some costs we simply will not externalize, no matter the goal. Some lines we will not cross — not all at once anyway — even in pursuit of the demon drug. In my judgment, we have gone too far already. But like the frog who’s been brought to a slow boil, we’ve acclimated to the heat.

    Finally, I put it to you and others: Left to its present trajectory, what will the drug war look like twenty years from now? Do you think the government of Mexico can even hold up that long? And if not, what are the implications for the United States? Will we have to garrison troops among our own people?

    Washington Post, today:

    More than 20,000 Mexican troops and federal police are engaged in a multi-front war with the private armies of rival drug lords, a conflict that is being waged most fiercely along the 2,000-mile length of the U.S.-Mexico border. The proximity of the violence has drawn in the Bush administration, which has proposed a $500 million annual aid package to help President Felipe Calderon combat what a Government Accountability Office report estimates is Mexico’s $23 billion a year drug trade.

    A total of more than 4,800 Mexicans were slain in 2006 and 2007, making the murder rate in each of those years twice that of 2005. Law enforcement officials and journalists, politicians and peasants have been gunned down in the wave of violence, which includes mass executions, such as the killings of five people whose bodies were found on a ranch outside Tijuana this month.

    Like the increasing number of Mexicans heading over the border in fear, the violence itself is spilling into the United States, where a Border Patrol agent was recently killed while trying to stop suspected traffickers.

    The drug war will end, because it must. By 2017, only nine years from now, federal entitlement spending will threaten us all with confiscatory tax rates. (Medicare spending alone will require a tax increase equal to 25% of payroll.) In an effort to remain solvent, we will take a meat cleaver to public spending, while searching desperately for new sources of revenue. Anything come to mind?

    Drug warriors, bag ’em while you can.

    Paul S. (289d5e)

  52. Paul S., you bring up some interesting points, one of which cries out:
    How long could the United States condone a “Colombia” situation on our southern border, for that seems to be where Mexico is headed?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  53. Paul #50~

    Under no fair read of my comments have I evaluated the drug war either exclusively or even chiefly in terms of individual rights.

    In a thread whose subject is “Jack Dunphy in Pajamas Media, writing about The Wire, jury nullification, and the drug war” I find it difficult to read comments like

    … Only rarely do they cite to the actual consequences of criminalization. …

    and

    As for nullification, twice in my 43 years have I been called for jury duty by the felony courts of Harris County. Twice was the defendant up on drug war charges. Twice did I tell the prosecutor that, if seated, I was a certain vote to acquit.

    and come to the conclusion that you are discussing the externalized costs of the drug war. Which are indeed a different discussion.

    First of all, legalizing addictive psychoactives that are not currently legal will not result in a drop in crime. It will, in fact, go up. And it will go up because the number of addicts will increase, and the progression and severity of their disease will be worsened. Addicts are NOT rational actors.

    There is a great deal of merit in curbing expenditures, particularly in foreign countries, that have little or nothing to do with curbing criminal activity, or activity that doesn’t disturb our sovereignty. But I also don’t see how that is related to jury nullification, either.

    And nowhere have I stated that some crazy ass war on drugs be conducted on behalf of addicts: I’ve only pointed out that legalization of possession and sale of addictive psychoactives doesn’t do anybody any good~least of all the addicts. Jury nullification in those cases is in fact likely to do more harm than good…in spite of all the B movies that portray penal facilities as “depots of gang recruitment and male rape,” it’s not as common as commonly believed. Again, not saying they equate to a paid vacation in the Islands, but they are surprisingly effective in the treatment of addiction. (After all, a surprising number of criminals in penal institutions are … just criminals. Not addicts.)

    In case you hadn’t noticed, tax rates are already confiscatory. And it ain’t the so-called war on drugs that caused that. Entitlement spending in particular needs to be curbed, again and if only to focus on its aid in combatting addiction. But there are plenty of other reasons as well.

    Also, I’m not exactly sure why you believe we deny private health insurance to millions, last time I checked, I don’t think anybody could stop you buying your own. But if your only beef is the “externalized” costs of the war on drugs when you announce yourself as a proponent of jury nullification during voir dire in preparation to hear a drug case, I sure as hell don’t understand how that’s going to help mitigate those costs.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  54. Paul S., kishnevi, and Horatio,

    Thanks for answering the questions.

    So all three of you would legalize crack and PCP, among other drugs.

    You realize that would increase usage of those drugs, right?

    You realize that some of the most horrific murders I have heard about in my 10-year career as a prosecutor have been committed by people on PCP or crack, right? I’m talking people who kill other people and eat their organs; people who peel off the victim’s skin thinking they’re cleaning fish; that sort of thing.

    All I’m suggesting is that there are some very real costs to the approach you advocate. Maybe the benefits outweigh the costs; I’m not convinced. But anyone who thinks it’s a real easy issue just doesn’t know all the facts.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  55. Patterico at 54:

    I myself do not think it’s an easy issue, at least not in the way you seem to suggest. But I have to wonder: Do you hear yourself?

    You write:

    You realize that some of the most horrific murders I have heard about in my 10-year career as a prosecutor have been committed by people on PCP or crack, right?

    Was that the same PCP and crack now prohibited by law? Are we to understand that the drug war did not prevent the horrific murders to which you refer? And isn’t murder itself a crime, independent of the controlled substances statute?

    Or, to put it another way: How did the drug war help the victims of those crimes?

    If you want to say that drugs are potentially dangerous, you’ll get no argument from me. After all, most of us don’t use drugs for a reason, yes? But it isn’t because the law keeps them beyond our reach. I live in inner-city Houston, where it’s now a little after midnight. If I got up from this chair and walked down one block to the intersection of Crack and Whore, I could buy anything I wanted, I’m sure. Those characters run an open-air drug market. Occasionally, HPD raids them, producing an hours-long interruption in commerce. But inevitably, the regional distribution center dispatches new sales clerks. With billions at stake, it amazing how determined people can be. (In any other setting, we refer to this behavior as the law of supply and demand, and we recognize its power.)

    I hear you when you say that drug abuse is dangerous. Do you hear me when I say that prohibition is not the solution? Do you hear yourself?

    Paul S. (289d5e)

  56. Uh, Paul. I hear myself fine. And what I hear myself saying is, increased usage of drugs like PCP and crack would be bad. I argue that by looking at what PCP and crack already does, when it’s illegal.

    Let’s say you proposed to legalize murder. I say: that would increase the number of murders, and murder is bad, because I have seen murders and they are bad.

    Your response would be: DO YOU HEAR YOURSELF?!?!? IS THIS THE SAME MURDER THAT IS NOW PROHIBITED BY LAW?!?!?!

    Uh, yes. It is. And I’m saying you would get MORE if we legalized it.

    So your big trump card, that WE ALREADY HAVE BAD THINGS HAPPENING FROM DRUGS EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE LEGAL!!!!1!11!!!1!, is something that a) I understand and b) does not refute my argument in the slightest.

    And yes, I hear you when you say that prohibition is not the solution. You might even be right; like I say, it’s not an easy issue.

    But please, argue the matter using logic and rationality.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  57. Patterico,

    Once the cap lock comes out, that’s usually a sign things have hit the wall. So I’ll make this my last comment. Besides, it’s late and I have to get up in the morning.

    Neither one of us can know whether or to what degree drug use would increase if drugs were legal, though at least some increase seems likely. So we have to weigh the risk of a marginal increase in drug use (and the costs associated with it) against what we know to be the costs of prohibition. The costs of prohibition are very high indeed, or at least they are in my judgment. If the drug war has failed — and it has — to prevent, say, 90% of all likely drug use, holding off the other 10% is not worth it.

    Your analogy between the legalization of murder and the legalization of drugs is unpersuasive. I suspect that most of us would support the continued prohibition of murder regardless of the costs of enforcement, and even if it could be shown that the prohibition itself was only rarely effective. Why? Because murder is conduct that we wish to punish, even if we cannot prevent it.

    My “trump card” is not that “we already have bad things happening from drugs even though drugs are illegal.” My trump card is this: Quite apart from the drug war, the bad things are themselves illegal. Are PCP-using killers not prosecuted for murder in Los Angeles? Aren’t murders prosecuted whether or not they were on drugs?

    Unless they are stand-alone drug war charges — and I, for one, do not wish to punish people whose only offense is the possession or use of a controlled substance — then you get nothing from the drug war not elsewhere available to you in criminal law. And you get that nothing at a very high price.

    Paul S. (289d5e)

  58. Paul S. #57: I don’t like the phrase “war on drugs” (or “drug war,” depending on context, I suppose). I think it idiotic, and I think a lot of ludicrous political posturing and public expenditure is performed to garner some ill defined “law & order” vote.

    But I also don’t think that decriminalization and/or legalization of drug use/possession/sales will accomplish what you think it will. Drug abuse is already an enormous public health issue: with a large number of associated costs that are definable and measurable. Those costs range from lost productivity in the workplace, to increased legal drug costs, increases in emergency room care expenditures, increased spending in legal costs for divorces & restraining orders…its difficult to imagine some facet of life where drug abuse hasn’t somehow increased the cost of living associated with it. What I hear you saying is that you propose to increase those costs by cutting expenditures in an area that’s unpopular with a relatively small group.

    You also argue that any increase in drug use due to legalization would be marginal, and I think you are just plain wrong there. I think drug use would increase much more than you expect. Obviously, some people who wouldn’t have otherwise used at all, will. Usage will also increase among people who currently use. Addiction is a disease of exposure, you can’t get it unless you’re exposed to your “drug of choice” (although you can certainly set the physiological changes in motion by using a different addictive psychoactive than your specific “drug of choice.”), so addiction will increase.

    And I don’t think the costs of prohibition (of those drugs with no socially redeeming value like PCP, crack, and a host of others) are near as high as you make out, particularly in comparison to the existing costs and your proposed increase in the cost of drug usage. There are some costs that I don’t think we should be paying in the prohibition department that we already are, and that should be repealed. As I already mentioned, I have a difficult time finding that passage in the Constitution that permits the seizure of real and personal property by an enforcement agency without a court proceeding.

    However, I find your contention that

    Unless they are stand-alone drug war charges — …you get nothing from the drug war not elsewhere available to you in criminal law … at a very high price.

    unpersuasive. Possession, use and sales do not happen in a vacuum, and there is no such thing as a victimless drug crime. At some point along the line, there are victims, including you, even if its not immediately evident to you.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  59. Ewwww, seems to be addicted to the term ” Adicted”!

    A term that is as easy today as racist or bigot, sorta flows off the lips, or keyboard after awhile without effort of any kind. Not to mention actual thought of what the meaning of such a words are.

    My addictions;
    Car exhaust
    second hand smoke
    first hand smoke
    smog in any form
    pussy
    sunshine
    moon rises
    beaches
    nice ladies
    driving
    boating
    fishing
    atv’s
    mountains
    valleys
    green grass
    snow covered mountains
    oh and Red Rock for sure! (I’ve a major problem with red rock)!
    The entire mess of Eliot Mess!
    The entire mess of Mike Nifong!!!!
    Better the mess the Legal industry seems to be creating for themselves daily, that only hard digging by non LI insiders seems to be capable of opening the wounds for the crusader club members, (usually out of a personal desire of some sort, probably profit), will then EXPOSE one of their own and offer a sacrifice now and again. I will openly admit that is a drug I can’t live without!
    Cold beer! I know it’s terrible.

    I’ll just end this addiction thing of mine here as the list could go on for a very long time!

    I’m a phuking addict!

    Diseased to the point I’m sure that congress included such to the ADA Act right? Oh they did not, OOPS, my bad.

    Patt, Horatio asked a VERY VALID question of you in #44.

    Patt, your system has had 80 phukin years to accomplish something, it has TOTALLY FAILED!!!!!

    Many of the drugs you and others scream about would not even exist had this nation NOT created the WOD! Pushing its nanny state, actually the self preservation of their department, aka Ness, upon the population. Violent rape has steadily gone down since porn has become available on the net. Steadily gone down!

    So you have a failed experiment with booze.

    You have a failed experiment with porn.

    You have a failed WOD, and will continue to make the same mistakes over and over and over again until the citizens have had enough, and that is one tea party I want to but hear about, but I’ll be grinnin from ear to ear when it happens.

    When you have a program that fails for 80 years, don’t you might think possibly a different approach might be attempted?

    Paul and others have answered your direct question to me far better than I could today. But really, YOUR endorsed system has failed for almost a full century! FAILED! Failed in it’s goals, failed in it’s process, failed the very citizens it was intended to protect, FAILED! Failed, FAILED! It is a totally worthless attempt to control the stuff one person desires to use as an escape from this world for a time. To help them cope with pain and personal challenges. FAILED!

    What is it that the supporters of the WOD can’t seem to actually admit, that they have failed, on all fronts! FAILED, PHUKED up, my gawd write the stop loss order already! Get the phuk over it and move the hell on! YOU did not create it, you were indoctrinated into it! That is all, same as your belief in God and Global Warming! It’s a phuking religion!

    Did Dahlmer do crack? how about Bundy?, oh that’s right he drank beer and after gutting his victims filled the cavity with empty cans. (yeah how do I know that)!? You once again fall back on the same old propaganda you are used to using. CITE your claims for us!

    But you won’t, as it’s very possible you can’t, because it was nothing but rumor in the DA’s office, talk of the day, if you will.

    Point being is you can’t legislate BROAD sweeping laws to control the few real freaks among us! It’s never worked in the past and will not stop such in the future and has not altered the occurrences of such within our own time either. Face it bad people will use the system against us. Imagine murdering what, 72 people in the Soviet Union? and he almost got away with it! How? Because he used the system and worked in the cracks, cracks that exist in all systems. BTW murder seems to be against the law about anywhere right?

    BTW the WOD was not legislated; it was created by unelected bureaucrats! Yes there has been some legislation since, but I’d bet 99% of it based upon claims of the afore mentioned.

    “All I’m suggesting is that there are some very real costs to the approach you advocate. Maybe the benefits outweigh the costs; I’m not convinced. But anyone who thinks it’s a real easy issue just doesn’t know all the facts.”

    Patt we almost know the costs of perusing this senseless war on Iraq, err drugs. YOUR system has proven itself a failure for nearly a century. In fact under YOUR system we have seen availability, quality of product, and cost rise, usage/demand must be in there as well. How about looking at an alternate solution? Should I mention the number of persons we as a nation are spending 75k a year on just to keep behind bars? Simply because they happen to enjoy use of an illegal product.

    Crack, PCP? Meth would not exist today if pot was legal. WOULD not really exist! Such was made popular by the already incarcerated gang members! (History Channel, Gangland).

    I will say this once again; YOUR system has failed on every front available, time to try something else.

    Such is just my observations and opinions, and like belly buttons, there are allot of them around.

    UPDATE, as it seems I take too long to write responses.

    PCP, that is the stuff the 15 yrs ago was dusted on weed to really provide some sorta kick? Do folks now, like get it straight? Crack is a less expensive cocaine? Smoked in a pipe? (really I do not know, worse yet I don’t care). Why? Because it’s represents a micro percentage point on the scale of illegal drug use in the nation. That means It’s not worth the effort to attempt to stop them.

    Patt said; “And yes, I hear you when you say that prohibition is not the solution…..”

    History sorta provides us with a guide.

    EWWW says; “What I hear you saying is that you propose to increase those costs by cutting expenditures in an area that’s unpopular with a relatively small group.”

    So the majority of Americans desire to have their home invaded in the middle of the night by jack booted cops? And are happy to have such happen? Take that one to a vote.

    EWWWW, who vaguely sounds like sgt ToOShey friend of patts operating under a different handle. And I really could care less!

    Well you really have little understanding of your fellow homo sapiens.

    EOL, “via TRON the movie.

    TC (1cf350)

  60. ” Crack is a less expensive cocaine? Smoked in a pipe? (really I do not know, worse yet I dont care). Why? Because its represents a micro percentage point on the scale of illegal drug use in the nation.”

    I’m sorry. I really didn’t realize the depth of your ignorance on this subject.

    Crack is not just less expensive. It’s much more potent and addictive. And, my friend, in Los Angeles it is anything but a “micro percentage point on the scale of illegal drug use” — it’s *everywhere*.

    “CITE your claims for us!
    But you won’t, as it’s very possible you can’t, because it was nothing but rumor in the DA’s office, talk of the day, if you will.”

    I won’t. I personally handled a case where the defendant stabbed a woman while high on PCP. He was having a “whack attack” and had no discernable motive for the killing. Minutes after the killing he seemed to have no idea he’d done it.

    In preparation for that trial, I met with a D.A. who tried a murder case where the defendant was high on PCP and ate the victim’s organs. I read a book by a respected expert (whom the defense planned to call) detailing numerous unbelievably atrocious crimes committed by people high on (and hallucinating from) PCP and crack, among other dangerous drugs.

    Ask any D.A. with some cases under their belt and you’ll get a similar response.

    You have a lot to learn. I don’t really care if you smoke your precious pot. But there are some scary drugs out there.

    Patterico (fc4da4)

  61. “Crack, PCP? Meth would not exist today if pot was legal.”

    Oh, my God. You are living in a fantasy world.

    Patterico (b6e653)

  62. Marijuana will cause a dissociative state, too. It depends on the potency. The word “assassin” is from “hasheesheen” meaning hashish-eater. There are also modern stories from time to time about ganja smokers in Jamaica going on machete-wielding rampages. (And I am fairly confident that that’s what really happened in a death penalty case I assisted on.)

    *transliteration from Arabic

    nk (8a8387)

  63. I have a couple of comments, then a question, and then a few more comments, for the folks who want to legalize “all” drugs:

    1. If drugs are legalized, more people will use drugs. (I base this on NUMEROUS conversations with co-workers who said that they would resume smoking pot if our company were to drop its drug-testing policy.)

    2. A certain percentage of “new” drug users – How many? 5 percent? 25 percent? 50 percent? I have no idea – will be irresponsible. For example, they will get high and then, with their reflexes impaired, get behind the wheel of an automobile, thus putting innocent lives in jeopardy.

    With this in mind, I’d like to know how many innocent lives y’all are willing to sacrifice for your right to get high legally?

    A caveat: obviously, many people in this country are irresponsible users of alcohol. They get drunk, get behind the wheel, and cause the deaths of thousands of people each and every year.

    However, as y’all are so quick to point, prohibition didn’t work, so that cat is already out of the bag.

    I question the wisdom of letting a whole herd of cats out of the bag by legalizing all drug use, thus inviting potentially irresponsible behavior by thousands (if not millions) of people who otherwise would not be drug users if not for the present “stigmas” (legal and otherwise) that our culture attaches to drug use.

    So, I repeat the question: what is the “acceptable” number of innocent lives that y’all are willing to sacrifice on an annual basis in exchange for your right to get high legally?

    Bubba Maximus (0ce2db)

  64. Legalization means more users and more addicts?

    Probably, though I tend to think that most of the increase would be among casual users. Hard core addicts are the hardest to deter, so the smart money says 99.99% them are addicts already.

    Legalization means more children using drugs like crack and PCP?

    Possible, but unlikely. The main reason the CIA created crack in the first place was so that black people could afford it. If cocaine were available at market prices, that niche would never have existed to begin with.

    I’ll grant you that legalizing both drugs today would not have the effect of uninventing crack, and that some would still use it. To get an idea of how big that “some” is, compare the percentages of filthy rich coke users today to the percentages of equally rich crack users who could afford all the coke they wanted, but choose crack instead.

    PCP is a whole ‘nother matter. I think a decent case can be made for prohibiting the few drugs that can naturally cause people to flip out and become violent, along with drugs that are more likely to be slipped to others than used on oneself (e.g., GHB).

    If you legalize, but regulate and tax, there will still be a black market?

    Only if we were dumb enough to tax the drugs at such an insanely high rate as to push their licit prices into the same price range as they now enjoy on the illicit market. Applying ordinary “sin” taxes to now-illegal drugs won’t do that, any more than today’s excise taxes on alcohol keep the Prohibition-era mob afloat.

    Xrlq (b71926)

  65. I know of a country under embargo which kept its economy afloat by bootlegging untaxed cigarettes.

    nk (34c5da)

  66. Xrlq #64:

    Probably, though I tend to think that most of the increase would be among casual users. Hard core addicts are the hardest to deter, so the smart money says 99.99% them are addicts already.

    A decade or so ago, I might well have advanced arguments made by Paul S. and others about legalization, but my experiences in the meantime have led me to rethink that.

    The smart money says, if you legalize the use of drugs for recreation, you’re going to end up with many more addicts, not just a few. Addiction is a disease of exposure. And addicts are usually very specific to a particular drug. Imagine, if you will, that each of us has a timer (like an egg timer) in our brain that measures our exposure to addictive psychoactive drugs. That timer is very different, and very individual, but when it goes off, that person has been exposed enough to develop addiction, and there is no resetting the timer! (That timer can be set in motion, if not actually activated, in a susceptible person’s brain, by the use of drugs other than that person’s specific “drug of choice.”)

    As Bubba Maximus points out

    …obviously, many people in this country are irresponsible users of alcohol. They get drunk, get behind the wheel, and cause the deaths of thousands of people each and every year.

    However, as y’all are so quick to point, prohibition didn’t work, so that cat is already out of the bag.

    and I’ve already noted, alcohol occupies a unique place in our culture and our history. But drugs like crack and PCP have no such tradition nor socially redeeming virtues that are going to enshrine them in our collective conscious like alcohol. Nor do any of the other illicit drugs (peyote fan claims not withstanding). We already have enormous social costs in attempting to deal with alcohol addiction alone, are we willing to open the flood gates for more and various addictions, some of them even worse in their association with violence than alcohol?

    Treating drug addiction effectively is a hugely expensive affair, and I think addiction is vastly underreported or correctly identified. Part of the problem in identification is the disease itself~addicts are unable to self-identify because the disease is telling them at the very deepest levels of their being that they aren’t sick! Currently there isn’t any quick and easy test to determine addiction either: oh, you can draw a blood sample or a breathalyzer for an alcohol level, but that isn’t an indicator of alcoholism. Right now, the only definitive testing I’m aware of is some pretty sophisticated brain imaging that is hugely expensive and not currently suited for diagnostics, let alone routine screening. As to expense of treatment, a month’s treatment at a reputable treatment center runs anywhere from around $5K to $50K, with the more effective clinics being at the upper end of the scale. And even their success rates aren’t all that encouraging if you are the one with the disease.

    In contrast, a prison bed is much less expensive (on average) and it wouldn’t really take a whole lot to make them much more effective than they currently are at assisting in the treatment of addiction. Just a greater awareness among the professionals that come into contact with likely addicts would help: LE officers, legal professionals in the judicial system, and … believe it or not, health care professionals. (I was stunned to learn last year that less than 6% of the doctors in this country have any training in the identification and treatment of addiction.) Right now, we do a pretty good job of passing the buck~the public sees it as a criminal problem, libertarians see it as a civil rights problem, law enforcement sees it as a resource allocation problem (and frequently a community relations nightmare), and drug treatment professionals see it as a depressingly large and intractable public health problem. It is, unfortunately, all of these things (and probably a few more as well).

    I know TC and Paul S. are tired of my musing about addiction in this thread~my apologies for using this forum to gather some of my thoughts together. For prosecutors and defenders out there, make sure that on top of anything else for first time DUIs they do a number of AA meetings; for first time possession send them to NA instead. (That is, in addition to whatever else your jurisdiction mandates.) And for a second timer~you can just about be damn certain you have an addict on your hands.

    In the meantime, I’ll be spending the evening with a room full of them who are convinced that they aren’t “sick,” and with a little luck, I might get through to one or two of them this month. Its difficult to teach ’em when its the disease talking and when they need to listen to somebody else.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)


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