Today’s writing prompt is actually interesting. The question highlights an apparent personal subjectivity to how we all comprehend the word Freedom despite the term having a solid definition. Though this definition is worded differently depending on the source, the throughline is generally the same.
I’ll use dictionary.com as my source.
Most of the subjectivity associated with the word comes from where my (and everyone else’s) personalized definitions of the word start bumping into one another and into the laws of the land. In this case, the law of the land is wherever you reside.
We all have views as far as this is concerned. A common law broken where I live is the speed limit (despite it being 50 for much of the city, many drive at 60. A justification I often hear for this is “Everyone else drives at 60″). Then there are local regulations concerning the legal use of backyard fire pits (if no one complains, people can operate them without permits without hassle).
Shifting to the federal level (and to a personal disagreement I have with the law), we come to cannabis and other substances. I have believed in cannabis legalization since after high school, and with that out of the way (at least in Canada), I still think that the law needs work. It is obviously a law put in place by people that don’t understand the substance they are dealing with. Considering that there is a maximum amount of cannabis that can be legally purchased in 1 transaction but no maximum amount for alcohol.
Drug Policy Reform Proposal
We now come to the other substances. All other substances should be legalized and all funding currently devoted to fighting the importation, distribution and consumption of these substances be diverted toward treatment.
In fact, I have an entire policy proposal to law out.
For starters, you legalize the production and distribution of all substances for which a market exists. This brings to the illicit drug market the quality control mechanisms of the pharmaceutical industry. Gone are the deaths of unsuspecting users of substances like cocaine and amphetamines because someone unscrupulous up the chain added fentanyl (or some other cheap opioid derivative) to pad the pocketbook.
I also propose a complete overhaul regarding how so-called vices are taxed. I propose removing local, regional (state) and federal taxes for all vices (Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling etc).
These taxes would be replaced with a Common Good tax. Administered under the purview of the Canada Revenue Agency and Health Canada (in Canada) and The Internal Revenue Service and the Food And Drug Administration (in the US), all taxes collected on vices would flow into 1 national pot. These resources would be distributed around the respective countries based on local needs.
I also propose a review of what constitutes treatment in the context of the law. Though twelve-step programs are often known to dominate this process, they are also now increasingly well-known as one of the least effective treatment methods. Yet for many individuals seeking treatment voluntarily or involuntarily due to a court order, 12-step programs are often one of the only available options.
I looked into AA as a branch of my cannabis explorations in 2020. Though the initial agenda of that exploration was to shred AA, I came to a sort of compromise.
Is AA as the only option in many cases ridiculously overfunded for its barely over single digit recovery rate?
Should it be available as an option for people that would benefit from it?
Writing that piece made me realize that treatment policy almost certainly can not be a one-size-fits-everybody model. I even had to reconsider the proliferation of only entirely abstinence-based treatment programs. Though this works for many people, is it the best path for everyone?
Another aspect of my drug policy proposal would seed the funding of further research into addiction treatment options. And not just narrowly focused on 12-step programs (and even abstinence-only) programs either. Health Canada and the FDA would be tasked with finding (and funding) all proven treatment options for notable segments of the population.
Since this may end up being a floating set of goalposts as populations change due to ageing, immigration and other factors, Health Canada/The FDA would be funded enough to stay on top of these changes.
Along with being better for the population’s overall well-being, this vigilance may also preempt any future innovators like JUUL from sneaking nicotine addiction into the lives of a new generation of consumers.
I feel like now is the right time for these reforms since we are on very precipice of some kind of technological revolution. Though how it will play out is still up in the air, we do know that many people’s lives will be disrupted in the coming decade(s). And when lives get disrupted, social problems like addiction start to manifest.
Without these reforms, you will have what we currently have . . . the market deciding based on profitability (particularly in the US). As the labour market is increasingly disrupted by the changes of automation, the industries that thrive on human misery (including those in the business of reversing its worst effects) will only welcome this change. Vice peddlers push a coping mechanism, whilst the recovery industry is there to step in when the coping mechanisms become too disruptive. Though one would hope that the recovery industry has the best intent for the patients in mind, that isn’t exactly good for the bottom line, is it?
Neither are dead patients, though.
This makes the 12-step program (or any single recovery program with a low recovery rate used en-mass) perfect for such a treatment paradigm. The low success rate makes for plenty of repeated visits. And the single-focused nature of the operators using the 12-step principle (no alternatives!) ensures that the lack of success is clearly the addict’s fault.
So the process repeats until . . .
or the end result that seems more likely, given the data . . .
In closing, far too many people (politicians included) base their drug policies on their sentiments and feelings towards the various substances themselves. In my view, this is the wrong way to look at the topic.
It does not matter what I (or anyone else) think of alcohol, heroin, cocaine, gambling or any other vice. Some are harmed by these things. But others still engage in these activities (for better or worse). And people will make these same choices whether the opportunity to do so is government sanctioned or not. As has been proven time and time again with all such activities.
As such, I propose that these vice activities be brought into the legitimacy of legality (or remain so). However, no agency, municipality or entity should profit from the taxation or otherwise be enriched by the profits of such substances or activities.
Regions with a lot of race track betting or casino gambling may take issue with this new set of circumstances. As far as this is concerned, there is nothing wrong with extracting a premium land tax return for premium commercial land. However, that is as far as it goes. Covering infrastructure costs and other local costs (such as schools). That is it.
As regions like this will deal with the worst effects of readily available gambling and gaming (such as addiction-derived poverty and houselessness), these areas will also be eligible for funding from the pool to help alleviate these realities.
Even though gambling isn’t technically substance abuse, it is no less addictive. As such, gambling addicts deserve the same chance at a better existence as any other person does.
Having written this earlier (I am now editing) it occurred to me that I overlooked one of the most important entities when writing this . . . the company or casino owner itself. Land and property taxes are pennies to the millions (if not billions) brought in by the gaming companies themselves.
This raises a new question: Should companies kept afloat strictly by gaming revenue be allowed to exist? Should there be a maximum cap (in terms of the maximum allowed gaming revenue an entity can earn) imposed on gaming companies to encourage investment in less socially destructive profit drivers?
Or should casinos have to fork over far more taxes to account for the social harm their business models often inflict on surrounding areas?
Please comment below if you have an opinion on this or anything else.
Unlike the War On Drugs or other past attempts at tackling this beast, my proposals do not have an end goal in mind. As great as it would be to end all addiction-derived pain and suffering in the world, that isn’t happening. That isn’t happening anytime soon, if ever at all.
What we can do, however, is make the process of drug production, distribution, and consumption much safer by offering both certified pure substances and easily accessible paths away from drug use.
1.) Clean production helps to get the grow operations and methamphetamine labs out of houses and neighbourhoods. They can irreparably damage dwellings utilized for this purpose (not to mention posing a danger to neighbours and others in close proximity).
2.) Clean distribution puts the whole transactional process of obtaining the substance behind a legitimate legal framework of identity verification. If you are not old enough to vote, you shouldn’t be old enough to access hardcore drugs!
It is currently up to the scruples of the drug dealer to determine whether or not a given high school student with cash walks away with any substance to which they sell. This is, and never has, been the right way to do things.
3.) Clean consumption is harder to implement but worth pursuing. Instead of having drugs consumed in parks, alleys, street corners, under bridges and in other locations that are optimal to no one (including those tasked with cleaning up the contaminated sharps!), safe consumption sites allow this drug use to occur in a safe environment. And more important than the cosmetic annoyance of needles lying around is the knowledge that the drug users will have help readily available (as in trained medical staff) should they find themselves in an overdose situation.
Reducing the overall societal consumption of hazardous drugs should, in fact, be a goal for the long term. But the short to mid-term goals ought to be in minimizing and/or eliminating risks that the current status quo drug market poses to both participants in the market AND bystanders outside of it. We should protect not just the neighbourhoods and people in our cities but also the citizens where many of these drugs currently originate. Cartel-ravaged nations like Mexico, Colombia and Honduras.
Now THAT isn’t something you see every day. If you have not seen Gordon Ramsay On Cocaine, I highly recommend it. Few people aside from Gordon Ramsay himself would get the inside scoops that he did at all levels of the drug hierarchy (including the law enforcement side)
Harm reduction is the ultimate long-term goal of this project. There may, in fact, be no way to get a given segment of the population off of the substances which currently control their lives. While unfortunate, this doesn’t mean these people should be relegated to sewers, alleys, parks, under bridges and other lonely locations. They deserve the same access to medical treatment that we do.
Given the right incentivization structure, one could hope to widdle down the complete write-off category (as previously presented) to as close to zero as possible. How THAT happens is a whole other post for a new day.
Back to Freedom
Though my views of drug consumption may border on libertarian in terms of personal autonomy, I run from the term realistically. To me, most libertarians are ridiculous people that want the trappings of what we have without actually having to pay for them. To be honest, the same could be said for many conservatives in general.
For me, freedom is a hard nut to crack. If I were to attempt to boil it down, however, I’d say that you are likely fine so long as your actions are not causing overall duress to anyone else in your vicinity.
This covers almost every social topic or situation involving only the individual (including gender identity fluidity and abortion). Period.
Though everyday interactions with others are harder to base on rigid policies (since everyone’s boundaries are different), some boundaries can apply. For example, unwarranted violence. Unnecessarily subjecting others to your 2ed hand smoke. Being the Karen in the neighbourhood everyone hates them because of their complete disregard for anyone but themselves.
The most important duty of the citizen of any liberal democracy is to ensure that said democracy does not backslide back into the realm of fascism. Though many promoters of fascism wear and praise the flag of freedom, it is a hollow lie. Their freedom is the freedom to throw degenerate lefty scum like YOU into detention.
Without liberal democracy, there would be no debating the specifics of freedom as far as society is concerned. You are with them, or you are on the train.
Stay vigilant, or your freedom doesn’t mean shit. While it could be argued that we are already there . . . it could be much worse.