Controlled substances

But of course, they are not. Illegal drugs kill people, finance gangsters and terrorists, and bring down governments. But "controlled"? Not even close.

Why? A simple economic analysis shows the fundamentals. Fierce inelastic demand, diverse sources world wide, and limited trade routes. Hey presto, the trade routes are amazingly profitable and impossible to close down. That same economic analysis shows the key to control: usurp the trade routes and become the supplier.

That's right, set up official suppliers. Regulated legalization.

It has happened before, with prohibition and alcohol. It worked.

If addiction is going to be an engine of power, why leave it to the scum of the world to profit by it? Why have our soldiers killed over drug profits in Afghanistan, or drug financed arms used to subjugate a country like Burma, or drug corruption tearing at our neighbors in Mexico or Columbia, or our police and civilians killed over drugs in our cities?

It is not as if the "war on drugs" has any success to recommend it. Time to get real.

Addiction is a medical problem. Becoming a regulated supply does not mean encouraging addiction. You can regulate it in ways that help addicts to get control of themselves or even eventually recover. Require supervision by a doctor. Monitor the amount used. Require education - hey, you can't buy that junk until you pass the test where at least you anwer 20 questions about how it can kill you.

Ah, you say, but if it is regulated then that means the addicts will still go to the gangsters to get it. True, to some extent. Some folks will need more than the regulations allow, more than a doctor is willing to sign up to watch. They'll trade with friends who fake addiction, and they'll trade with criminals with alternate supplies. Yes. And some of those addicts are going to die using stuff they bought from "official" suppliers. But since we accept that hundreds of thousands of people already die from alcohol and tobacco every year (many many times more than are likely to die from "hard" drugs) it looks like this is part of freedom we can get used to.

It will not be worse than the situation today. It might be a little more visible, but if done right you balance the legality of the supply with the access to and education about treatment, and the number of addicts is no worse. Certainly the number of addicts reduced to ruin and crime to support their habit should be much less.

The essential thing is that the regulated channels must sell cheap. You pass the test, you got the signature from your doctor, you take your quarterly physical and listen to the lectures - whatever - but at the end of the day when you put down your money on the counter it costs peanuts. The major drugs - heroin, cocaine, marijuana - they are after all agricultural products. Cigarette prices with taxes thrown in are a good model of the costs to the addict.

Gangsters just can't compete. There is no margin in it. You can't finance terrorism or buy major armaments or corrupt governments on tobacco money. You can't even buy bling to live the city life as a dealer. Government regulated supply should explicitly, unmistakeably aim to sell low. Instead of a war on drugs, this is using monopoly economics to price the gangsters out of business. If the regulated supply is cheap, even the trickle of backstreet sales to folks who for some reason do not want to join the regulated system will have prices kept down to some ratio of the legal price. Done right, that means there just is not enough money to support criminals.

Wouldn't it be nice to see the Taliban's control over Afghan poppy farmers wither away? And Columbian and Mexican cartels collapse? And our cities have their biggest source of crime cleaned up without a shot needing to be fired or an extra jail built?

It makes a lot more sense than anything we are doing today.

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