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No for Teens..! seems there is lot of discussion is going on here and it was an interesting read. nice written but i do not agree with above comments. thanks for putting the article here.

Vivian Darkbloom

Dear Anon,

I thought you were the expert, but you've disappointed me on two scores. First, with respect to opiates, you've misspelled heroin (three times) as heroine (or is that some sort of drug slangy thing?) Secondly, Jimi Hendrix did not die of a heroin overdose. As the coroner rather artfully put it, he "drowned in his own gastric juices". Those juices apparently contained quite a bit of red wine and possibly some sleeping pills as well. http://woodstockhendrix.gobot.com/about.html

Nevertheless, for the rest, I'd have to admit that your posts are enjoyable and otherwise pretty articulate and so the drugs don't seem to have done any irreparable harm (yet). As for myself, don't assume that I haven't tried, but I've always thought that best question is whether you would recommend it to your kids. I say no, mainly because for a lot of folks these hobbies tend to turn into professions.

Of course, whether it is good policy to criminalize usage is quite a different issue. For what it's worth, I'm against throwing you in jail.


Anon: Good points. It's likely as premature to ascribe positive benefits to LSD as it is to denounce it as a threat to the individual and society.

I thought Wiki did a fairly objective summary of what is known:


It looks as though the US and UN gave LSD its Schedule I status out of scientific ignorance laced with a fear of Leary, Ram Dass and the world wide criminalization taking place in 1971, Woodstock with a dash or more of Nixon's "law 'n order" frenzy.

Viv: I too am tempted to use the "my son" test, but life really doesn't work that way does it? Wiki concludes there may be some not well proven benefits along with equally unproven risks. From that vantage point what is the state's interest if one son opts for an "acid trip" while his brothers engage in extreme skiing, motor sports or goes crabbing in the Bering Sea? Ha! The last two may be the more "acceptable" as there's "money to be made" and the plates of upscale diners to be filled.

We need to do more work in this area as there are bound to be more drugs -- including all those goodies Big Pharma spends billions advertising, that like alcohol or even tobacco products have some benefits in moderation and danger in abuse.

Becker and Posner consider the other side, the costs to the state when it makes a clumsy, likely overly Puritanical effort to eradicate "evil". Without favoring "legalizing them all" there is the question of relative harm even in the case of addictive drugs. If they are cheap and legally available most of the harm is to the individual and his immediate family, while being addicted in a costly and illegal environment is to have to steal and/or do the bidding of the drug dealer.

A recent TV program profiled a very young mom going to prison on a plea bargain for two years for possession of meth with the amount being just enough to add "with intent to sell". Her husband who had removed himself from the household to protect them was a meth dealer. He was sentenced to 25 years. Now meth is bad drug, but 25 years? at $30k per year? and the kid orphaned but for the good graces of the grandmother.......... is this rational?

Somewhat like the "inner city" in much of the rural south unemployment and poverty with "breadwinners" having a job at a fast food place the "drug biz" is about the only buck around. W/O excusing it..... truth is we're imprisoning folks fleeing economic desperation.

Vivian Darkbloom


You wrote:

"Viv: I too am tempted to use the "my son" test, but life really doesn't work that way does it? Wiki concludes there may be some not well proven benefits along with equally unproven risks. From that vantage point what is the state's interest if one son opts for an "acid trip" while his brothers engage in extreme skiing, motor sports or goes crabbing in the Bering Sea? Ha!"

But yes it does work that way. The "would I recommend it to my kids" test doesn't have anything to do with the federal government. It has to do with a parent's responsibility and discretion. You make it sound as though the federal government is the parent of my children. That certainly was not the point. It is one thing to say to a child (or anyone else) "I would advise against that" and quite another to say that the federal government should make that activity criminal.


Dr. Posner, your arguments could all be used to argue against making no fault divorce easier. But we did.

30% of our children are now raised without a father in the home:
- 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders.
- 71% of all high school dropouts.
- 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers.
- 70% of juveniles in state operated institutions.
- 85% of all youths in prison.
- 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger.
- 90% of all homeless and runaways.

- 73 times more likely to be killed
- 4.6 times more likely to commit suicide
- 6.6 times to become teenaged mothers
- 10.8 times more likely to commit rape
- 33 times more likely to be seriously abused

Women instigate 70%+ of divorces. Only a small percentage claim abuse. And yet no one is suggesting we take another look at bolstering society's most foundational social contract.

In fact, the benefits of legalizing drug production, delivery and cash flow are most assuredly under-estimated. It may actually positively affect the life arcs of children cited above (part of these costs are not included in the Cato study). And since illegal drug use is pervasive, collapse of cognitive dissonance alone must add legitimacy to the argument.

Our discussion regarding drug prohibition seems inconsistent. We are already suffering the lion's share of the ill effects of drug use. We are reaping few of the cultural and psychological benefits of legalizing it.


Viv: Thanks for responding, but it seems clear to me that the essays and virtually all of the comments relate to federal and other state policy as does mine.

As compared to the past it's courageous of professors and judges to openly question the tremendous and continuing costs to the state and the individual of continuing a monstrously flawed "drug war" largely on momentum and the limp spined cowardice of our electeds to do anything other than chime in with each other for harsher policies, many of them prejudicial and neutering the collected wisdom of our judges with inhumanely long mandatory minimums.

What "state interest" is severed by the sentencing of a mid-20's father to 25 years for a non-violent crime? Will society and the individual be improved by spending a million bucks and the release of a 50 year old institutionalized man? I think not.

That's W/O even delving into the costly, corrosive, and unconstitutional effects of "seizure and forfeiture" under the "RICCO" statutes. Those interested in state policy regarding drug laws, or Ha! for that matter anyone who owns an asset! should understand "civil seizure laws". Browse Fear dot Org for a few minutes.

Jim: You seem ready to fall into the same trap as did the "designers" of our "drug war". Ahh yes, if we could only "outlaw" divorce, all those problems you enumerate would be far fewer.

I'd encourage you to delve deeper into some of the social problems underlying the "stats" are.

Here are a few:

In a society where the adulthood of completing secondary education and have a chance at being self-supporting happens in one's mid-twenties while puberty takes place at least a decade earlier is it reasonable to count on celibacy before marriage?

Before answering consider that young marriages have a 50% failure rate, not counting young "relationships" not made official that also have high failure rates.

Do you want to get into the grinding poverty of both urban and rural areas? and the effect on premature marriages replete with a kid or two with the youthful parents facing 30% unemployment rates and "employment" at $10 or so being the alternative?

How about often prejudicially inadequate funding of schools in "those" areas?


Jim..... I'd agree with you that CATO looks at the shallow, first round "monetary" effects. Not that simple, eh?


I think that it is us, the people, who should finally decide what is allowed and what is not. We should request that a government committee evaluate all drugs with respect to their physiological and societal effects. Then we vote one by one on each substance on the list “yeh” or “neh”; allowed or illegal. Majority rules. But we should include all drugs, such as alcohol, cigarettes, hamburgers, trans fatty acids, French fries, cheese, as well as any other substance that can be scored on its wider environmental and societal impact and utility. If its good and we want it we keep it! If we don’t like it, we vote, we ban it! It is finally time people take power in their hands. Power to the people! Socrates drinks hemlock, Jesus gets crucified.


Jack, you misread my argument. I am well aware of the facts you cite and they only buttress my point.

Marriage is both too easy to get into, and too easy to get out of. So is sex. That was not always the case, but we will not put either of them back in the box. The children suffer. It has rewritten our culture. And I do not believe the choice is between celibacy and 30% of our children at huge risk. Although you implied it, I do not believe you do either:)

IMHO, legalizing drugs is a far less destructive issue than what we have done to our society by destroying marriage. Now I am sounding like a conservative. But the facts are nasty.

And Jack, you have it backwards; fatherless families define the poor, not the other way around.


Jim....... Here, mostly we're discussing public policy related to the horrendous costs of a seemingly misguided "drug war" that if not a complete failure after 40 years is close enough to call it such. I don't think arguments such as "less destructive than....... marriage" problems shed light anymore than when gun advocates trot out "more are killed in auto accidents" line.

I think my comments above would indicate that the failure rate of young marriages may well indicate "it's too easy to get into" but what, as either a society or a parent are we to do about it?

And even if you or I have a theory as to what is to be done about sex from 15 - 25 or 30 I suspect it will not coincide with the hormone driven decisions of our young folk. I suspect that whatever I desire something like the serial monogamy and careful contraception as practiced by our young college set will continue and is a better choice than youthful attempts at marriage, or celibacy.

Here, I'd point out to the well-intentioned Democracy@Work poster that making things "illegal" doesn't prevent them from happening. Indeed, the way traffic engineers set speed limits is to see how fast the average travels that stretch anyway --- too low creates scofflaws and dangerous speed differentials and, we can see what 40 years of "throw the book at 'em" drug warring has accomplished.

Poverty is serious and growing problem in this "richest" of nations whether single parent or other. In the many areas where unemployment among younger folk is 30% or more and miserable pay that would not make a "breadwinner" is surely a feedback loop that exacerbates the absent father stats.

Not sure how long "we" want to continue on this ALL for the rich tack, but it does not bode well for what remains of our democracy or the majority of our people.

Luap Namgurk

I think that soft drugs in moderation should not simply be just legal. Access to them should be a RIGHT.

Just like we have the power to regulate a decent pay for all, tap into the coffers of those who earn disproportionate wealth in order to finance our right to food for all, shelter for all, healthcare for all, and the education of our choice, so we should have the natural right to a heavily subsidized modest ration of the SOFT drug of our choice. A very modest 0.5% surtax on those earning $200,000 or more would be more than enough to finance such a program. Our representatives in Washington should and will listen to people when ultimately called upon. I know, the rich will resist it, of course, but what are they going to do? 10% of the population will elect its own politicians? Politicians answer to the majority if they want to be re-elected.

Not only that, but our politicians have wider responsibilities to humanity. Save the tiny amounts of greenhouse gasses emitted by burning cannabis, a happy citizen is much more likely to stick to the confines of a low carbon lifestyle.

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Thanks for this short and informative post.


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David Friedman

Posner writes:

"it is important to note that their monograph is not a cost-benefit analysis in the usual sense."


"But tax revenues are a transfer payment rather than an increase in overall national wealth."

True, but the conclusion Posner draws is not only wrong but backwards. The taxes being discussed would result in drug prices lower than those on the current illegal market. That implies that the cost to consumers of paying the taxes is more than balanced by the gain to consumers from the elimination of the costs imposed on them via price rises due to current drug law enforcement.

Even with the taxes consumers would still be still paying less for their drugs than they now are, so rather than subtracting the cost of the taxes from net gain one should add to the net gain the additional consumer surplus from the lower prices, making the study's estimate (in that respect) an underestimate, not an overestimate, of the net social welfare gain.

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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.

Gart Valenc

Apologies, it seems I posted the comment below in the wrong place (Note to Drug Legalization Post), so I'm posting it here now.

Professor Becker,

I do value the work you are doing enormously. I've read the paper you wrote about illegal drugs and found it very stimulating.


As your post clearly demonstrates it, there are other economists contributing to the debate on drugs. I do believe, however, that the profession needs to up their engagement and take more decisive a participation on this crucial debate. So, I salute your contribution.

I'm wondering whether you could add some links to/list of publicly available papers, essays, etc. on the economics of the legalisation of drugs and the policies that should underpin it.

I do not belong or am associated to the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) at all, so I’m speaking for myself when I say that their campaign calling for an Impact Assessment of Drug Policy is worth supporting. As are, indeed, the campaigns by other institutions calling for a debate on drugs based on scientific principles and not on ideology, prejudices, ill-founded argument or just sheer fear.

Gart Valenc

Gart Valenc

Links to IDPC and other bodies calling for a scientific, objective debate on drug policy are available at:


Gart Valenc


@anon and @vivian;

there were a lot of studies done on LSD and creativity; check out this podcast by jim fadiman who gave LSD to scientists, architects and engineers who had been stuck with a problem for some time. The results were amazing. Is it really true? We don't know because we can't make these experiments anymore.


It's a shame that we limit ourselves just because of prohibition and what's more, a prohibition on the least worrisome compound (check out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11660210).

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In response to a question put by a former Law Enforcement Agent, United States President, Barack Obama welcomed a new debate on the legalization of drugs and promoted the shifting resources into help for addicts through improved rehabilitation services.

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