Thursday, May 03, 2007

Anti-drug laws make drugs more potent.

Drug Warriors are harping about the increased strength of marijuana. The government’s National Institute for Drug Abuse (shouldn’t that be “against”?) says that the average levels of THC, the ingredient in pot that makes people high, has increased in recent years.

Here is their problem. Multiple millions of adults have smoked pot in their lifetime. And while they may not be thrilled that their adolescent children are doing so they aren’t in the panic mode that the government tries to encourage. So they must find a reason to panic adults who themselves have used pot. The higher potency is the hook.

One of the venal bureaucrats in the agency, John Walters, claims that today’s pot “has more harmful effects on users. This report underscores that we are no longer talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s -- this is Pot 2.0.”

Why is this the case? Well, in the article cited above they claim it’s the market’s fault. But there is no legal market in pot only a very distorted market riddled with massive and severe state intervention. Could that intervention be distorting incentives?

Consider the rise of “light” beers and cigarettes with less “tar and nicotine” in them. Why have those drugs, and they are drugs no matter how many Congressmen use them, decreased in potency but pot has increased? A major reason is that they are illegal. Here is why.

The United States government grabs people who smoke pot. It punishes them. It imprisons them next to rapists and killers. It treats these people like vicious, violent criminals when most of them are no such thing. Most are merely doing with pot what the Drug Warriors do with a gin and tonic, a whiskey sour or a beer. Now how nasty these Drug Warriors get depends on the weight of the pot. If you have X grams you are a criminal but if you have X+ grams then you are a major dealer subject to years, sometimes decades, in prison.

But pot smokers are not seeking quantity at all. They want to get a buzz just like the booze hounds in D.C. If the potency of the pot increases then the users can get the same high as before but with less legal risk. Penalties based on the weight of the pot encourages people to use more potent versions of the drug in order to reduce the harm done to them by the Drug Warriors.

Basically a smaller amount of pot gives the same high as before. That makes it easier to hide the stuff, something US citizens find necessary due to the law. Since the product has to be smuggled around the country the more potent the contents the more compact the quantity and the easier it is to avoid armed and dangerous Drug Warriors. Let us be clear on this. Drug prohibition creates incentives to increase the potency of drugs.

I’m not an advocate of drug use, legal or illegal. But I am an advocate of harm reduction. There is no sane reason to make matters worse.