CONTROLLING DRUGS THROUGH REGULATIONRegulating drugs presents a great opportunity. For the first time in history we can control drug use. With properly designed regulations, modern computers, and a consistent approach to all drugs, we can start reducing drug use. The opportunity lies in discouraging drug use while eliminating the black market. The danger lies with the state encouraging vice, as they do with advertising state lotteries, or subsidizing the tobacco industry, or allowing liquor advertising. At all costs we must not send the message that drug abuse is acceptable, nor that drug use is safe.
We must design the regulations to eliminate the black market. Prices should be set to ensure that all legallyeligible users purchase all their drugs through state controlled sources. Two other factors need to be balanced to determine the price. First, if the price is two high, addicts will steal to support their habits. Second, low prices will encourage use. The tax on each drug should be balanced between eliminating the black market, discouraging drug use and preventing drug-motivated crime.
The regulations should require labels with strong warnings about addiction, habitual use, and the long and short term health problems. It is important that all information supplied on the labels and accompanying literature be accurate and complete. The control of drugs within a regulated market depends on informed people making informed decisions. Not only warnings of actual dangers, but directions for safest use need to be supplied. The health-related problems could be controlled much better if intravenous drug users had sterile needles and used standard medical techniques instead of street methods. With AIDS moving into the general population, principally through intravenous drug users, we need to address this point now.
It is important to have complete control of distribution. If the elimination of the black market is successful, miners using drugs will be using state-supplied drugs. In order to assure minimum use by miners the regulations should require unique control numbers on limited dosage units. That way all units may be easily traced to the original purchaser.
The purchaser should be held responsible for the ultimate use. The penalty to deliberate transfer to miners should be severe. The penalty for irresponsible storage leading to Possession by miners should be moderate but definite. A major law enforcement effort and constant vigilance will be necessary. Inconsistent enforcement or inattention to the Problem will lead to unnecessary drug use by miners.
Records of legal purchases should be correlated to determine buyers with abusive use levels or the potential for redistribution. Treatment should be offered and law enforcement informed of possible illegal distribution. Law enforcement should have easy access to this control system.
The economic base of the black market to miners is to small to sustain the market without adult users. It seems possible to pr event sales to miners. Un like drug use by adults, there is general agreement against drug use by miners. The lower economic rewards and increased risk involved in a market limited to miners should discourage most adults from transferring any drugs to miners. Law enforcement should be able to convict a high Percentage of those who repeatedly supply drugs to miners.
What is important is control. We will have to consider which economic methods of control will reduce all drug use best. While accepting some drug use, the ultimate goal should still be zero use of all drugs. Reasonable but restrictive regulation, complete and accurate information about drugs, and social pressure will control drug use better than force. A long term positive approach will lead closer to the zero use goal than the "quick fix" of more coercion.
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Copyright © 1989 Timothy M. Radonich