Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Criminalisation, Criminals, and Compassionate Cannabis
One of the costs of drug prohibition is that regular law-abiding folks who also want to use proscribed drugs sometimes have to deal in a criminal sub-culture to acquire their supply. Further, having drugs on hand makes one reluctant to call the police when one is a victim of crime, lest the victim become the target of the investigation. In England (we learn from this Guardian article), a woman who suffers from multiple sclerosis grew her own marijuana, which she smoked hourly for pain relief -- other remedies having failed her. The criminalisation of pot not only pushed her into self-supplying, it also made her grow operation quite valuable. Further, would-be thieves would recognize that she would be reluctant to report the theft of her marijuana. So her crop was stolen while she was away. A neighbor saw evidence of a break-in and did not have the same motive to avoid reporting the crime, and the police were called. As a result, the MS sufferer and crime victim was haled into court. On Monday, she received a conditional discharge -- one wonders whether a US court would have been as merciful -- but she faces ongoing legal trouble if she continues to use medical marijuana. So she asks, 'What can I do now? The government should either make cannabis available on the National Health Service or give people like me some sort of amnesty.' Or perhaps they could end the prohibition of marijuana more generally.
When the cost-benefit types examine drug prohibition, do they catch all of the angles -- the reluctance of drug users to report crimes (and hence the promotion of crime), the stifling of beneficial uses of the drug in question, the waste of police and court resources arrayed against people who have done nothing wrong....?