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12/13/2010

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Vivian Darkbloom

Although I agree with Posner that attempts to estimate savings and increased tax revenues from the legalization of "mind altering drugs" should be taken with a grain of salt, here's one aspect of that estimate process I think he's got at least partially wrong (and potentially Miron, although I have not reviewed his study). He asserts that "drug gangsters do not pay income taxes on their income from criminal activity." Although the income tax code states that taxable income is "from any source derived", and this includes income from illegal activities, I suspect Posner is correct that most income from such activities is not directly reported.

However, drug gangsters and other criminals who derive money (mostly cash) from their illegal activities face a very practical problem as to how to re-cycle these profits back into the legitimate economy so as to be able to more freely spend that money (what good are these profits if you can't spend them?). Many large-scale criminals seem to do that by inflating business receipts from legitimate businesses by use of their illegally gotten gains. To the extent this happens, such profits actually do get taxed, albeit indirectly.

And, legitimizing the drug trade would raise all sort of interesting tax problems as the US and Mexican tax authorities negotiate how to divvy up these enormous revenues. I can imagine there would be some very interesting "advance pricing agreements" (APA's) under which the IRS agrees to a correct "transfer price" between, say, a Mexican producer and an American distributor.

Tom Meadowcroft

Prohibiting a substance whose only direct harm is to the user is toxic to out democracy. The corrupting effect of drug money on law enforcement and politicians is toxic to our democracy (and many other countries). The high rate of incarceration of drug users and sellers (especially black men) is toxic to our democracy. The public health problem of drug addiction is a serious problem, but not injurious to the country and its institutions, as probition continues to be.

The economics are a secondary concern. Legalization is the only moral and ethical solution to the problem of drugs.

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Jamison Davies

This new Lancet study suggests a starting point for estimating the social and physical harms of drugs: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2810%2961462-6/abstract. Of course, a lot of the data about social harm is based on the legality of the drug in the first place, but the astronomically high social costs of alcohol may indicate that legalization is not the panacea a lot of people (myself included) thought it might be. It is, at the very least, useful for combating the incorrect and biased presumptions about the harmfulness of various drugs. For example, most people believe that hallucinogens are particularly dangerous, when in fact they are probably the least dangerous of all illicit (and less dangerous than many licit) drugs.

Dennis Tuchler

Legalization would also reduce the income to various police departments derived from seizure of the assets of suspected drug dealers. The benefit, of course, is the increase in rectitude among police departments.

Caleb

In determining the activity level increase in drug use from prohibition to legalization, I think you need to take into account the nature of each drug and its potential consumers' relative marginal susceptibility to social as opposed to legal sanctions. I doubt they are the same for every drug.

For example, most marginal potential consumers of marijuana are more likely deterred from consuming it by the existing legal sanctions (which are significant), as opposed to the existing social sanctions (which are appreciable, but not severe). You could safely predict a significant rise in marijuana use following legalization. In contrast, current marginal potential users of methamphetamine are probably just as deterred by strong social sanctions as the existing legal ones. Thus, legalization of methamphetamine probably would not lead to as great a proportional activity level increase as legalization of marijuana.

Addiction and elasticity are factors as well, especially in determining overall social costs. I assume that market controls would arise to force users to internalize worst of the external social costs of drug consumption. (More rigorous workplace drug tests, recalculation of insurance risk pools, ect.) However, more addictive substances make demand more inelastic. Thus, market mechanisms which attempt to force internalization of the costs of consuming very addictive substances will have much lower marginal benefits than those which address the consumption of less addictive substances. Market internalization forcing expenditures would weigh against the overall cost-saving benefits the authors contemplate.

Where a particular drug demonstrates confluence of weak social sanctions for consumption and highly addictive properties, I would agree that the social costs of legalization might outweigh the costs of enforcement.

Scott

I find it very unlikely that taxes on drugs could be collected without enormous additional expenditures. Suppliers of currently-illegal drugs have established a robust infrastructure to get their products to market while avoiding capture and prosecution. I see no reason why they would not continue to use this infrastructure to avoid paying taxes as well.

Mark

Shouldn't the cost to the federal, state, and local governments to set up, staff, maintain, and enforce a regulatory system for these newly legal ingestible products also be included in the analysis? And also the cost to the supply chain to comply and report compliance? And the cost for resolving enforcement actions over compliance?

windriven

Dr. Posner, I am surprised that you allowed yourself to be sucked into this logical fallacy: "but tax revenues per sale would fall because the tax rate would be based on the sale price." Why would you presume that tax rate would be based on sale price?

The tax rates on cigarettes and gasoline are independent of the retail price. Further, one would not suppose federal and state authorities to view legalization as an opportunity to discount drugs to users. One might more rationally expect the government to levy taxes to bring the retail cost of drugs in line with the pre-legalization price. In fact it is not unduly cynical to presume that the government would force the price higher to encourage a continuation of illicit drug sales thereby providing a pretext for continued funding of DEA and other drug-fighting agencies.

A case could certainly be made against legalization but I don't think its fulcrum would be insufficient taxation.

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For example, most marginal potential consumers of marijuana are more likely deterred from consuming it by the existing legal sanctions (which are significant), as opposed to the existing social sanctions (which are appreciable, but not severe). You could safely predict a significant rise in marijuana use following legalization. In contrast, current marginal potential users of methamphetamine are probably just as deterred by strong social sanctions as the existing legal ones. Thus, legalization of methamphetamine probably would not lead to as great a proportional activity level increase as legalization of marijuana. http://www.nikeshoes-zone.com/

T.D.

"Most important, the authors also do not consider the possible social benefits of prohibition."

Similarly Mr. Posner seems to assign zero value to freedom. Yes, freedom to consume mind altering drugs as well as enjoy and live with the consequences. All freedoms come at some cost.

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I wish everyone here in the first Merry Christmas!

E. Scrooge

Bah, humbug.

Anon

While there may be a "social costs" associated with the abuse of "mind altering" drugs, there is also a massive social benefit in their intelligent and appropriate use (other than the ones mentioned by Posner).

It is fairly common knowledge that a huge percentage of the creativity of America's behemoth entertainment industry is drug fueled. From Jimmy Hendrix to John Cage to Hip-Hop, Jazz, Contemporary, and even Country Music, marijuana, LSD, and other psychedelic drugs have been drivers of creativity for decades.

In the movie industry- from performers to directors to costume and set designers and special effects artists - the "mind alteration" associated with psychedelic use has led to wondrous creations. The same is true in technology design, multi-media, advertising, literature, and many other disciplines.

Since the loudly psychedelic 60's, drugs that increase creativity, intelligence (yes, intelligence), and innovative problem solving have been quietly working their magic in the psyches of America's creative class. The computer you are reading on and the software you are using (to say nothing of the graphics you see every day online) were likely inspired by some psychedelic use. Same for the seamless and elegant interface on your PDA or GPS.

The positive social effects of psychedelics are everywhere in society, but due to prohibition, they are seldom credited with their remarkable service. Yes, they can be abused, as can all powerful substances. But their judicious use - like judicious use of caffeine, prescription drugs, or even alcohol - can have enormous social benefits.

Are there similar arguments to be made for non-mind altering drugs like heroine and cocaine? Maybe. It is well known that the courage and confidence required to be a Wall Street high roller are often backed up by cocaine use. Does having a loaded, "superman" class of traders help the economy overall? I'm not sure, but it's possible- just as having Air Force pilots take low-dose Methamphetamines can give them a competitive edge when flying sorties. Whether the short term performance boost is outweighed by the long term health risks is something that those individuals (and the military) will have to decide for themselves. But to say that there is no social benefit at all - even in the short term - is clearly inaccurate.

In the arts, cocaine is definitely a social lubricant, giving a glamorous and sexy sheen to one of the world's most powerful industries. And let's not kid ourselves, that glossy, dangerous sheen translates into big bucks for the industry and especially its magazine/tabloid sycophants. Ugly or not, there is an undeniable economic benefit here as well, which translates (through voyeurism) to social benefits (even if I, myself, don't choose to partake).

And artistically, to cite one example, the Emmy Award winning series The West Wing was written almost entirely on crack cocaine, as the creator Aaron Sorkin freely admits. Social benefit worth the cost? I think he would say so. And as a fan of the show, I agree.

The greatest tragedy of prohibition has been that good information - including the dangers, but also the immense benefits - about these substances has been almost entirely underground. The fact that Posner ignores (or is ignorant of) the tangible benefits of judicious psychedelic use shows how far away such knowledge is from the mainstream. But I can guarantee that the technological wonder world we live in would not exist in anything like the form it does without the quiet mind openings afforded by psychedelic drugs.

This should be part of the discussion, not simply the taddle-tale childishness of the belief that drugs have only negative social consequences. In an open society, good information can flourish, and people can make informed and intelligent choices. In a prohibitive one, we are just stumbling around in the dark, and this kind of ignorance runs wild- without anybody even noticing.

(Note: This month Andrew Sullivan released a compilation from his blog readers entitled "The Cannabis Closet." I have only read snippets from the online posts upon which the book is based, but based on those, I can say this will be an important work for illuminating the social benefits of marijuana use by ordinary people.
You can get it here for under $6.00: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1832173

Fwiw I don't work for Sullivan, but I support his work in encouraging sane, open discussion about the benefits of the use of "mind altering" drugs.)

Vivian Darkbloom

Anon,

You are making a fairly big assumption that the creative persons you cite owe their creativeness to mind altering drugs. It could be that creative persons are drawn to drugs and that those drugs actually inhibit their creativity rather than enhance it. Coleridge allegedly wrote Kubla Khan after smoking opium, but his other poetry was pretty good, too. I think the overused phrase floating around is "causation versus correlation".

Chris

I am for legalizing drugs but only so long as the government does not tax them. There is something terrible and immoral about the government encouraging and benefiting from such behavior. When I was in college I worked at a store in a crumby neighborhood with a lottery machine and I watched poor people throw their money away on the lottery day in and day out. These people would have been doing this or something similar anyway even without the state lottery, but still the government should not be in the vice business and by taxing it, they would be in that business.

DemocracyAtWork

It is a good thing though that the public is trying to take control of Aaron Sorkin’s life and get him to give up drugs, so that he can produce even better TV Series. Such a brilliant mind as Mr. Sorkin’s is too valuable to society to be allowed to work at anything but it’s full potential.
So yes! Let’s make Sorkin give up drugs so we can have even better TV Series. Power to the people!

Anon

Dear Vivian. Thank you for underscoring my point about public ignorance about drugs due to prohibition. Not to be mean, but from your post it's clear that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Comparing opium to psychedelics is like comparing a guy with a pitchfork to the Stuxnet virus. They are orders of magnitude removed from one another.

But you'll never know that so long as both substances are just lumped together as "drugs"- and "bad drugs" at that. And that is a direct product of prohibition.

Not that I would endorse doing anything illegal, but try dropping 500 micrograms of LSD and call me in the morning. Then tell me what you think. Opiates (like Opium) are basically sedatives, and while they can inspire the imagination somewhat, they reveal nothing like the indescribable wonders one experiences with LSD or other serious psychedelics. No-Thing.

Bur right now our debate is just silly because most of the people who have any kind of real and teachable experiences with these substances are all in"the closet" or operating in an underground world.

Anyone who has any experience with these powerful drugs knows that there is a huge differnence between the two Vivian mentioned. But again, the debate itself is crippled by prohibition.

As for her point that artists are naturally attracted to these substances, that is hard to deny. But no artist who has worked with psychedelics will tell you they were more creative/imaginative before they took them than afterwards. Look at the life work of Alex Grey and you can see the unbelievable development that coincided with his LSD work. (And if someone responds that there are no scientific studies to prove this, I would say Bring Them On! But you can't because of prohibition.)

But it's also not just artists. I guarantee that the majority of real innovators in the great technological/engineering juggernaut of silicon valley are well informed by their psychedelic experiences. Hell, I'd be willing to bet that the folks who developed Suxtnet were too. These are unsubstantiable claims, and I won't pretend otherwise, but it's akin to just "knowing" when somebody is having really good sex. If you've been there, you know.

I would be much more interested in people's objections and opinions on this subject if they'd "been there" too. I would be wholly uninterested in a 17th century New England pilgrim's description of the Grand Canyon. To paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, they didn't know what they didn't know. And that is how Vivian sounds in this discussion. I don't blame her, of course. . .as I said, the ignorance is forced upon us by the law. A tragedy for many- including those who get swept away by the "magic" of psychedelics and are unable to find the proper support to return.


As for DemocracyAtWork, I'm assuming he was kidding. Studio 60, charming as it was, was no West Wing. You could still hear Sorkin's voice throughout, but the relentless pacing (Cocaine's hallmark) was notably absent. For some, that may be preferable - and I have never used cocaine - but as someone with a fast and agile mind, I miss the "rush" that Sorkin channeled for us all with his magnum opus.


I'd like to underscore that I'm not trying to be vindictive in this post. I'm just trying to draw attention to the incredible limits imposed on the very debate itself by prohibition.

I was at a party in New York the other night and when I mentioned to a friend that there are dozens - if not hundreds - of varieties of marijuana, she was gobsmacked. I went on to say that not all pot makes you "stupid" and sluggish but that there were pots that make you energized and clear as a bell- with scores of variation in between. Again, she could barely believe it. Because prohibition limited the debate and her experience.

Those of us who have lived in California and availed ourselves of the marijuana laws there learn quickly that the stereotypes about marijuana - and marijuana users - are utter nonsense. We are able to have that conversation because prohibition is somewhat scaled back in that state. Back in New York, however, we are swimming in ignorance- not a boon for an open society and an outright handicap for rational intellectual discussion.

I believe these are important points, and I appreciate those of you who took the time to read and respond.

Jack

Whew! Quite a variation in how "the government" of our democratic nation is viewed!

Tom seems close to right in my opinion:

"Prohibiting a substance whose only direct harm is to the user is toxic to out democracy. The corrupting effect of drug money on law enforcement and politicians is toxic to our democracy (and many other countries). The high rate of incarceration of drug users and sellers (especially black men) is toxic to our democracy. The public health problem of drug addiction is a serious problem, but not injurious to the country and its institutions, as probition continues to be.

The economics are a secondary concern. Legalization is the only moral and ethical solution to the problem of drugs.

jj.. For MJ........ but probably not in the case of "harder" and more destructive drugs

Dennis sez:

"Legalization would also reduce the income to various police departments derived from seizure of the assets of suspected drug dealers. The benefit, of course, is the increase in rectitude among police departments."

jj.... Dennis WHOA!! The expansion of seizure and forfeiture laws (RICCO) under Nixon from their traditional use ONLY in customs and tariffs where "flight risk" of foreign shippers was a problem, IS a hugely corrosive change in what SHOULD have been thrown out by the SC LONG ago. These "laws" exist in a quasi-criminal fantasy land where DUE Process and having one's day in court is completely side-stepped. During the "law 'n order" frenzy of the Nixon era RICCO was "only to target drug king pins" and huge sums of currency that were viewed as contraband, but today seizure has grown like a cancer to include the cars of "drunk drivers" or even those used to "solicit" a prostitute. If interested take a look at FEAR.org for a quick look at the massive injustices wrought under forfeiture "laws".

Scott: "I see no reason why they would not continue to use this infrastructure to avoid paying taxes as well."

jj....... I don't know the price of MJ or other drugs we might consider decriminalizing, but I'm sure the street price of MJ is on the order of 100 times that of a legally grown crop. As others have suggested a substantial tax could be imposed to defray some of the drug problem costs w/o coming close to pricing the legal product high enough to make an attractive margin for tax cheaters. But! like if there were some cheating the benefits would accrue to small time tax cheats rather than massive drug cartels who benefit from the very high price created by OUR effort to staunch the flow.

Chris sez: "I am for legalizing drugs but only so long as the government does not tax them. There is something terrible and immoral about the government encouraging and benefiting from such behavior. When I was in college I worked at a store in a crumby neighborhood with a lottery machine and I watched poor people throw their money away on the lottery day in and day out. These people would have been doing this or something similar anyway even without the state lottery, but still the government should not be in the vice business and by taxing it, they would be in that business."

jj......... I'm with you on creeping (flooding!) expansion of gambling in general and especially that of using "school funding" and other good works as leverage. The returns from these schemes are small and as you see it does not "increase biz" but takes money from many who can't afford it. But don't you think, as Mark suggests, user fees such as taxes on cigs and alcohol are different? They'll likely never pay for the entire negative aspects but surely it's better than paying it out of the general fund?


Vivian Darkbloom

Dear Anon,

Thank you for the rather extended response to my earlier post. Despite the lengthy discourse on the benefits of mind-altering drugs, you somehow forgot to address the issue I had originally raised.

As far as opiates are concerned, you're the expert, but I had always been under the impression that heroin fell under the general category of opiates. Since you cited Jimi Hendrix as one whose creativity was allegedly fuelled by drugs, you are undoubtedly aware that he occasionally took an interest in heroin, in addition to the "mind altering" drugs you cite. So, to get back to my original point, which you have not answered, is how do you know that, say, for Hendrix, it was the LSD and not the heroin (or neither of them)? Or, are you relying on that well known and very reliable authority called "fairly common knowledge", as your original post suggests? Nothing against Hendrix, of course, or any of the other creative geniuses you cite, but I can't help but wonder, if mind altering drugs would be the *sine qua non* for creativity, how could such creative figures as Bach or Beethoven or Shakespeare or indeed Vladimir Nabokov have possibly created what they did without the assistance of some mind-alerting substance?

As an aside, and just out of curiousity, did you write that while under the influence?

Peace.

Viv

citizen1

This "debate" is a reflection upon the state of our supposed "free society." In other places, e.g. the Netherlands, in which they have taken a different approach to this perceived "problem" the outcome most certainly seems to be favorable to the perpetual "war" which has trampled upon individual rights and assisted in fostering the police state which currently exists. As a 62 year old, I find it extremely offensive that other human beings are constantly attempting to exercise control over my conduct. If I smoke a marijuana cigarette in my home while watching television, how is that adversely affecting society? Certainly the effects of eating hot dogs or bacon or ingesting large quantities of hard liquor would have a far more deleterious effect upon my health. Reefer madness? The madness is in the authoritarianism which exists in this society and it most certainly appears that it may be irreversible. Frankly, the unibomber's manifesto displayed far more intellect and rational thought than these posts.

citizen1

So, now that I have enjoyed another "joint", my mind is clear. I recall during my law school days a certain student who regularly imbibed. It was his contention that he would not otherwise have tolerated the drone of the narcissistic old men in suits and ties who appeared before him each day. Most of the other students relied upon alcohol. After graduating with honors, he immediately moved to California where he was very successful. I suppose it could be argued his success was the result of smoking marijuana. So, for Mr.Posner, let us posit that high heeled shoes cause many injuries to women and the costs of treatment of their injuries exceeds any benefit that society derives from such "dangerous" shoes. Should society be permitted to outlaw high heeled shoes? The "economic" analysis of a matter of personal freedom betrays a mind which is freakishly authoritarian. You need a joint. What harm could it do at your age? Are you afraid of government? Why? Think about it. There is "madness" in your arguments and our society, but it is certainly not "reefer madness."

Jack

Citizen1 -- Alaska's "Ravin" decision of 25 years back sided with your right to privacy in your castle trumping that of state interest in the case of personal use qties of MJ.

But as Posner points out the case for harder and more addictive drugs is more problematic. He sums up the dilemma thoughtfully:

"But cocaine, especially the crack form, along with heroin, ecstasy, LSD, methamphetamines, and perhaps others, may induce behavioral changes that cause social damage. Most leaders of black communities believe that rampant drug usage is highly destructive to their communities, and not only because of the gang activity that prohibition induces. Drug gangs would disappear with legalization and that would reduce the violence in those communities, but the effect might be more than offset by the effects of greater drug use."

Ha! counselor! Perhaps you misunderstand Posner, and underestimate the "costs" of banning high heels? How some chics look in heels and a skirt offering little weather protection? W/o the click-clacking they could slip by entirely unnoticed??

For a judge with the unenviable task of complying with inhumane prison terms under "mandatory minimums" he comes about as close to agreeing with you on MJ as his position would allow.

"It would a step in the right direction if the Justice Department would take the position that it will not enforce a federal drug law in any state that repeals its parallel prohibition of that drug; that way we might obtain experimental evidence of the social costs of illegal drugs."

But ha! In a nation that has taken a dozen years to "consider" the "costs" of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" position of our military (that itself was merely attaching a name to what has been the policy for ..... centuries?) I doubt there's any concern about moving too fast in any direction!

Joshua

"Concern with the huge budget deficits of our federal, state, and local governments may gain the authors a more sympathetic reading than advocacy of repealing the drug laws usually does. From a budgetary standpoint, the authors are estimating an annual savings of almost $90 billion. But without an estimate of the social costs of increased drug usage, the path to repeal is blocked. It would a step in the right direction if the Justice Department would take the position that it will not enforce a federal drug law in any state that repeals its parallel prohibition of that drug; that way we might obtain experimental evidence of the social costs of illegal drugs." - thought-provoking and worrying!

This is Joshua from Israeli Uncensored News

Anon

Lol. . .ha, Vivian, no I did not write that "under the influence," though I may have been a little bit sleepy.

I did attempt to answer your question, but in a way that might not have made sense. Actually, I had originally written "do yourself a favor and drop 500 micrograms of LSD and call me in the morning," but I thought that a bit rude so I tweaked it a bit. But the fact remains that if you took 500 micrograms of LSD you would know the answer to your question (and for scientific purposes, you could probably spend a night smoking opium to compare). And unfortunately, there's not really another way to show you.

I am actually not an expert on opiates, though I have read a lot about them and have had some minimal experience- enough to show me that they are a completely different animal than psychedelics. And while I know that Hendrix used heroine (though I have not) and that in fact it was a heroine overdose that eventually killed him, I am not relying on "fairly common knowledge" to determine that LSD would have had more of a pronounced effect on his creativity than heroine. Like I said before, the proof is in the pudding.

In my earlier comment, I referenced the Stuxnet virus, thinking in particular about this post from FrumForum:
http://www.frumforum.com/how-stuxnet-crippled-irans-reactors

In it, the author describes the evolutionary shift in technology that Stuxnet represented in terms it would have been almost impossible for anyone to have conceived of before its invention. He compares it to a fleet of F-15's entering a WWI battlefield. This is the kind of thinking that LSD engenders in the psyche. There is really nothing to compare it to, no precedent, nothing. And if you ever decide to try it, you will no doubt smile when you recall this conversation.

Again, the tragedy is that there is so little available debate here because these substances are illegal, and therefore any serious scientific inquiry is as well.

As for Bach, Beethoven, and co. I never said LSD was a sine qua non of creativity. But it does give a kind of "evolutionary" leap that tends to skip steps- think of Sgt. Pepper vs. I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Or The Matrix vs. any of Fellini's most outrageous films. They are categorically different works of art, and LSD was instrumental in making those leaps.

Bach's music was very much connected with his religious life, obviously, and I would say it is certainly possible to access divine states through contemplation and meditation. Mozart, for example was quite open about his ability to channel music, saying that he simply saw the music written out in his mind and then played it or wrote it down. Quentin Tarantino describes a similar process in his dialogue writing, and Alex Grey does with his painting. This is fairly common amongst artists, whether they have used psychedelics or not.

But Bach's music, brilliant as it was, descended pretty logically from Buxtehude's and was not revolutionary so much as it was nearly "perfect." But his tonal language had not reached the perfection of the Classical period and the sonata form, though those forms evolved linearly out of Bach's music. But they weren't really "leaps" the way Stuxnet or the Matrix were. Beethoven as well took the forms of his day and applied his acerbic wit and powerful genius to them. But he made few evolutionary leaps so much as expansions on the existing techniques, even in the late quartets or the 9th symphony (where his deafness might have led to a more personal connection to the divine).

I will not dispute the genius of any of these great masters, but there is something just *different* about LSD. Think of the complexity and multilayered quality of even some of the simplest synthesizer music and compare it to Schubert - or even Buddy Holly. They almost come from different dimensions. Compare Alex Grey to Leonardo or even Monet and you're getting a sense that he's seeing levels of reality invisible to his predecessors.

Yes, I can not give you a scientific study explaining the connection between LSD and creativity. If we lived in an era that was without prohibition, I likely could. In the mean time, one can stand on the sidelines and pose needling Socratic questions, or one can stand in the center and simply know.

But for those of us who have been there, like I said before, people who try to discuss/analyze the experience from without just seem silly. I honestly hope someday you'll be able to stand in the middle of the experience and say the same thing (though I hope you do so intelligently, safely, and with pristine quality materials).

In any event, I still hold by my thesis that there are enormous cultural gains - still mostly hidden - to psychedelic use and likely to cocaine and even heroine use as well. That these are not part of this discussion is a sign of how little the public really understands about these drugs and how strong the biases of prohibition (and the portrayal of drugs in the media) really are.

An open society should embrace the danger inherent in all freedom to reap the rewards that greater risks have to offer. Thousands of Americans have reaped the rewards of psychedelic use and have quietly spread their bounty throughout the society. Others have certainly fallen to the dangers and lost life or sanity in the pursuit of that risk. The same is true for the early aviation industry and for the present day motorcar industry. It is true for space exploration and the settling of the west, building the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Hoover Dam. It's even true for the internet, which has served many but abetted in killing many others as well. And it is certainly true for the stock market and for free enterprise. But in all of these endeavors, we understand and accept the risks involved because they all eventually serve the greater good. Why not with psychedelics?

In the generations of drug prohibition in this country, we have compressed and solidified the ignorance about the boons and dangers of these substances. In these comments I am just trying to address how woefully ignorant the conflation of all of these illegal substances into the term "drugs" really is. There is much to learn from them and about them, and that is very hard to do while they remain illegal. This should be part of the debate.

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