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Tennessee’s Meth Problem

heisenbergHere is a letter to the Tennessean in response to their editorial on meth:

Tennessee’s meth problem is directly correlated to the policy of prohibition and the futility of the drug war. Outlawing substances that are in demand creates dangerous black markets controlled by criminals. Disputes are settled with guns rather than by courts, and products are not subject to safety standards and regulations that exist in a legal marketplace.

As we experienced with alcohol prohibition, the law created perverse incentives for people to concoct new, dangerous products themselves — such as poisonous bathtub gin and moonshine. Under today’s prohibition laws the phenomenon comes predominantly in the form of meth or crack. In Amsterdam, citizens have seldom even heard of meth or crack. There is no incentive to concoct hazardous homemade substances since people can simply walk into a store and purchase a product safely and legally – as we do with alcohol now.

Moreover, pushing for certain cold medications to be prescription-only doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the systemic problem with drug prohibition. Take Portugal, for example. In 1999 they decriminalized all drug use in response to a heroin epidemic. Over ten years later, heroin use in Portugal is down over 60% because addicts are treated like patients instead of criminals. The Portuguese government even implemented a clean needle-exchange program for their addicts.

It’s well past time to admit that the drug war is destructive and an absolute failure. Legalizing drugs, like any other consumer good, will eliminate the perverse incentives that brought us meth in the first place.

UPDATE: An edited version of the above was published by The Tennessean: Legalization of drugs would reduce black markets.

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