Hot Commenter Trashed in the Dallas Morning News

Frequent HoT commenter (and high school student) Nigel Watt recently had an LTE published (registration required) in the Dallas Morning News about the drug war:

If drugs were just legal

There’s an easy solution to the violence on both sides of the river caused by the Zetas and other drug cartels, a solution that would also save hundreds of millions, if not billions, of taxpayer dollars: legalize drugs.

A little thought and common sense is all it takes to realize that drugs only lead to violence because of their illegality: There are no Colombian coffee cartels or Chilean copper cartels, because cartels are not a viable business model for trading a legal product.

Nigel Watt, president, Highland Park High School Libertarians, Dallas

The response:

Legal drugs? Nonsense

Re: “If drugs were just legal,” by Nigel Watt, Saturday Letters.

This laughable letter makes the simplistic argument that since drug violence is caused by drugs’ illegality, if we would use a little thought and common sense, we would legalize all of them and therefore rid ourselves of the violence and millions of tax dollars spent curtailing drug-related crime and its related issues.

What about the health care burdens of rampant drug use? What about the effects on families and teens who are already more susceptible to trying new things? Overdoses? Car wrecks, shootings and assaults caused by people who were high?

It’s not too difficult to foresee the potentially disastrous effects of legalizing drugs. It just takes a little thought and common sense.

Jared Ambra, Cedar Hill

Mr. Ambra, I’ve got a few questions for you. Why not outlaw alcohol, as the healthcare costs associated with that substance are considerably higher than that of other controlled substances? While we’re at it, we should outlaw prescription pain medications, as they “cause” the same problems. Let’s see, overuse of antibiotics leads to new strains of micro-organisms with resistance to the medications — let’s outlaw antibiotics, too. Perhaps we should also look at Big Macs and pizza, as America’s eating habits certainly contribute to our overall healthcare costs.

If you are concerned about the susceptibility to “trying new things”, we should clearly outlaw teen-aged drivers. We should also outlaw dating, by your standards. Better outlaw all sex, if this line of reasoning is to be applied. This would have to include a complete masturbation prohibition, as it is the obvious “gateway drug” to more dangerous sexual relationships.

Wanna stop car wrecks? Outlaw cars. People will still break legs falling off horses, so we better outlaw them, too. Let’s outlaw guns — that will stop the shootings. Just look at the crime rate in DC for evidence. Let’s outlaw assaults, too. I forgot, with the exception of certain police departments, assault is already illegal.

Bad things happen, no matter how the law reads. There have always been, and always will be, addicts. The same applies to those who commit assault and murder. The solution is obvious: End the prohibition and re-establish a society where people are responsible for their own actions.

Alternately, we could return to the relative safety of the dark ages, where life was hard and cruel and the average life span was in the low 30s. The ultimate irony is if we lived as they did during the dark ages, there’d likely be no prohibition of drugs.

20 Comments
  1. Since the DMN says they’ll only publish one person’s letters every 30 days (though Michelle Shingal doesn’t think this is true), my response was confined to my website. I know of one other response to his letter, by Suzanne Wills, part of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas (dpft.org):
    “Jared Ambra (“Legal drugs? Nonsense,” 3/15/06) bases his conclusion on a false assumption. There is no evidence that legalizing all drugs would lead to a sharp increase in drug use. On the contrary, the only drug that has shown a marked decrease in use during the drug war is tobacco. It has always been legal in this country. The FDA is even precluded from regulating it.

    In January, 2004 the United Kingdom decriminalized marijuana use. By September, 2005, regular use was down slightly, mostly among those aged 11 to 15.

    The Dutch have the most famously different drug laws from ours. They use marijuana at less than half the U.S. rate. The average age of first use of marijuana in (continued)

  2. The Netherlands is 20. In the United States, it is 16. The rate of heroin addiction in The Netherlands is less than one-third the U.S. rate.

    While drug prohibition does little to deter drug use, it insures the continuation of a business that funnels $12 billion per week (a UN estimate) to thugs who operate without regulation and use violence and corruption as ordinary business practices.

    Suzanne Wills
    Drug Policy Forum of Texas”

  3. Countering this mass ignorance is going to be a hell of a task. Hey Nigel, are you coming to the Free State?

  4. Well, I do for a month every summer. Going to Cornell for college – New York, yes, but it’s got a fairly sizable Libertarian group. Badnarik spoke there last year.

  5. You probably know Marielle and Curry. Manuel Lora from LRC fame will be moving there shortly too.

    I don’t know if you have heard my show, but we’d love to get it on up there. Perhaps you could suggest that your fellow libertarians call the local talk radio stations up there and ask for Free Talk Live? Here is the station contact info:

    http://bbs.freetalklive.com/index.php?topic=5016.0

  6. I don’t go up there (I assume you mean NH) for anything politics-related…I go there to go to a classical chamber music thing outside of Keene.

  7. There is only one country in the world where adult citizens can legally use, possess and grow small quantities of marijuana–The Czech Republic. (In the Netherlands, marijuana is quasi-legal – not officially legal.)

    The Czech overall drug arrest rate is 1 per 100,000 population. The United States’ overall drug arrest rate is 585 per 100,000 population.

    The Czech robbery rate is 2 per 100,000 population. The United States’ robbery rate is 145.9 per 100,000 population, according to the FBI.

    According to our drug war cheerleaders, tolerant marijuana laws cause people to use other, much more dangerous drugs, like meth and heroin.

    Obviously, this doesn’t happen in the Czech Republic. Why not?

    Could it be that when people can legally obtain marijuana at an affordable price, they tend not to use or desire any other recreational drugs?

    Could it be that marijuana legalization actually creates a roadblock to hard drug use – not a gateway?

  8. You know, a random thought just kicked into my head reading this. (This is an unrefined one unfortunately).

    How many times have we all heard the following: “There ought to be a law […]”?

    I’m not so certain that everything backing the ‘war on drugs’ is simple ignorance over emotional reasoning.

    The answer to that kind of thinking is to respond in kind. Appeal to their emotions. Agree with them.

    There *ought* to be laws governing the use of drugs.
    There *ought* to be laws governing the use of drugs *THAT WORK.*

    Legalization and regulation of usage & product has been tried and proven abroad as far more effective — and safer — than what we now are doing.

    Once again, just a thought.

    Ian.

  9. To prove that I’m a nerdy libertarian, the person (Jared) responding to Nigel’s letter committed a classic straw man logical fallacy. He said, “What about the health care burdens of rampant drug use? What about the effects on families and teens who are already more susceptible to trying new things?”

    From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man), we see that one of the ways to commit a straw man is:

    “Present a misrepresentation of the opponent’s position, refute it, and pretend that the opponent’s actual position has been refuted.”

    Not only did Jared misrepresent Nigel’s argument, he then had the audacity to satirize Nigel’s verbiage as if he had won the argument. “It’s not too difficult to foresee the potentially disastrous effects of legalizing drugs. It just takes a little thought and common sense.”

  10. “[E]stablish a society where people are responsible for their own actions.”

    This is where the solution can be found. ‘Responsibility’ also covers any medical costs incurred from the use of drugs as well as any property damage that may result from being stoned out of your gourd. Society must not be forced to fund an individual’s drug rehabilitation program or cover his cost when he drives through the side of a fully loaded school bus.

    It’s fine to say, “Legalize drugs.” What I’m against is leaving society on the financial hook for irresponsible behavior. It’s a known fact that drugs ruin lives. That destruction should be confined to those parties involved–not the whole of society. In my opinion, it’s got to be all… or nothing.

  11. It’s a known fact that drugs ruin lives. /blockquote>

    Perhaps you might have spoken more accurately with:

    It is a known fact that some people allow drugs to ruin their lives.

  12. For a long time, I’ve agreed that ending the war on drugs by legalizing them would be a prudent action. However, what one mostly hears when legaization is proposed, are the emotional panic responses on the potential disastrous results. Can anybody recommend a published, cogent, detailed, prescription of how legalization would best be managed (from a libertarian perspective)? I’d just like to be better armed when arguing with the Jared Ambra’s of the world. Thanks.

  13. James; I am by no means an expert on the subject. That being said; try looking up statistics and history for New Amsterdam. That may not be a direct address to your question, but it’s a tool none the less.

    The point there is simple: They panic by stating how much worse things would be — god forbid — if drugs were legal. You respond by pointing out a place where they are *and* the usage levels are lower… without any “drive by shootings.”

    Material history and comparisons work wonders for the disarming of irrational people in all but the minds of others similarly irrational.

    Reason Isn’t Dead.

    Ian.

  14. It’s a known fact that drugs ruin lives.

    So does fire.

    Both also save lives.

    Both can also be used recreationally.

    Both can also provide various levels of discomfort up to and including death.

    Imagine a “war on fire” that outlaws fireplaces, pictures of fires, lightning, possession of more than one stick at a time, flintstones, matches, lighters, charcoal, lighting fluid, natural gas, electricity, and all starts starting with the sun.

    Then you get something just as ridiculous as the “war on drugs” is.

  15. There is a new response in the DMN on the drug issue. Our Highland Park buddy has people talking. Good job Nigel!

    Drug war losers

    Re: “Legal drugs? Nonsense,” Wednesday Letters to the Editor.

    Jared Ambra suggests that legalizing street drugs, which compete directly with legal drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, prescription pills and methadone, would have disastrous effects on society. All of these drugs have a negative impact on society. Alcohol has done tremendous damage. Why pick on some drugs and not all drugs? Because big business can’t compete with street drugs, since demand for illegal drugs has never faltered. If you look at the statistics since we declared war on drugs, the people on drugs have been winning. We can stay the course on our illogical war on drugs and keep defense lawyers happy, but if we don’t change our approach, we w

  16. the war on drug is still operating because war is know for the economical boom it creates…united states can not survive without a war…when was your country never at war? since the 40’s i don’t see a period where you guys didn’t have soldiers shooting at other on a big scale…JFK didn’t want the war and he got shot, that was a warning…the united states are doomed, unless they open their mind to something else than money…

  17. Seem’s Nigel’s been busy getting letters published. Here’s another from Monday’s Dallas News:

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/letters/stories/DN-monletters_0612edi.ART.State.Edition1.e2d19a9.html

    I’ve already received a few complaints from Libertarians who tend to nitpic everything (like the definition of Republic). I’m just glad Nigel’s getting the Libertarian Name out their.

    Now if only I could get the Dallas folks to update their website:
    http://lpdallas.org/

    Two HoT contributors live in Collin county (next to Dallas County). Perhaps one of them could help make it happen.

    –Wes Benedict
    wesbenedictforlnc.blogspot.com
    512-442-4910

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