Something must be done

This piece on the dangers of K2 has clearly indicated to me, as a concerned citizen, that something must be done.

I think it is pretty obvious to everyone what has to be done here … we need to legalise other drugs.

From what I can tell, K2 is inferior to other drugs for the person consuming them, and causes higher externalities than other drugs.  The only reason people are choosing it is because other drugs have been made prohibitively expensive – by being made illegal.

You may say “no no, we should just ban it”.  But isn’t the point that we really have a mental health issue here – people feel that they need to consume something to deal with the inane nature of life.  If we keep banning the things we are consuming, we are just pushing many of these people towards other more harmful forms of consumption/addiction.

I’m not saying don’t help people who are facing these sorts of issues, and become addicted to substances as a way of dealing with things going on in their lives.  What I am saying is that instead of criminalizing it, and making them criminals, we should perhaps look at it as a mental health issue and try to help them.  Pretending we care, then choosing policy actions (criminalization) that actually hurt the individuals involved can’t even be called good intentions – it’s just sort of silly and harmful.

Legalise, tax, use the tax money to pay for treatment and to help fund general mental health work.  At some level we all have mental health issues, just like we all have physical health issues.  Lets destigmatize and actually accept these issues, allow actions that people take when they are trying to cope to be legal, but make sure that as part of our social security net we help people who are really struggling – in the same way we do when someone finds themselves out of work, or injures themselves physically in a work place accident.

  • Not on all fours with your piece, Matt, but I’ll say my piece.

    This whole issue is criminal. Cannabis, the plant, is less harnful than alcohol, it’s first recorded use was 2727 BC, it is impossible to overdose because unlike these dreadful synthetics, its not toxic: indeed, cannabis has documented medininal qualities; its pain relieving powers are uncontroversial, now legalised in 35 US states. I have a friend, 39 years old, being treated for bone cancer, and for whom cannabis has proven the best substance at helping to manage his pain, which is considerable, and yet on top of all his issues, he has to risk criminal posecution to source.

    Inhumane: insane. The fact natural cannabis is not, at the very least, forget deciminalisation, in the pain treating arsenal of every hospital and hospice, is an indictment on our system of social democracy, and every minister who’s held that portfolio. And as for that, on the advent of the current law change, the fact that Minister Dunne is effectively setting the conditions for tortuous animal testing of these dreadful, toxic synthetics, when the plant they are trying to replicate is harmless, has me angry beyond words. He calls himslf a liberal -huh! – democrat: as an animal lover, and freedom lover, I call him a barbaric … as I said, it’s not polite to put it into words.

    • It is nonsensical, and a lot of people think it is nonsensical.

      But a lot of people also don’t like outcomes where people do get addicted. And they refuse to believe the government can’t just magically “stop” people doing bad things. It is this false belief that really leads to this sort of policy, which is disappointing.

      Again, I believe their intentions are good. If we think the policies hurt, we have to convince people why.

  • Agree, except that I’d only tie the proposals together as a policy bundle, not as a dedicated funding stream. Legalise, excise, fund treatment as a policy bundle, but don’t say that the excise is dedicated for harm abatement.

    • This is true – I also thought I was a bit quiet on optimal regulation

  • Matt, I had exactly the same reaction when the stories of the harmfulness of K2 were surfacing. Well, let’s see, we’ve banned a less harmful substance so now people are using a more harmful, legal one. What’s the easiest way to fix this problem?

    • These things are hard, because I do believe the intention of policy makers is inherently good – but as is often the case with treating symptoms rather than causes of problems, this can lead to far worse outcomes.

      My dream is that, by improving communication about costs and benefits, economists can help policy makers come up with well intentioned policy that actually helps those in need – and I am sure that in the Department of Health they have already run a bunch of the numbers, and thought about the concepts in the past.