Monday, February 9, 2009

Legalization:public policy to come?

Buz read the article in the Sun about the idea being tried abroad about giving free heroin to drug addicts in the same week as the Michael Phelps  and A-Rod stories broke. And he wondered about the multiple levels of thought occurring about these disparate, yet related events and how, if at all, they might relate to the idea: "oh, why don't we just legalize it!"

We think it's a complicated issue, but the biggie is this: Baltimore, or Maryland, or even the United States, could not unilaterally legalize or even "decriminalize" (what's the dif?) alone. Pretty much, all, if not most, of other countries would have to agree and do the same. When people talk about Prohibition, the key element which seems to me is missing is: almost all the other countries of the world remained "wet", while the U.S. tried to go it alone with being dry.

And, unlike booze, the responsibility for policing what are now "illegal substances" would fall on the private sector, even more than they do now. Drunk employees are easily detected at work (usually, if they show up). Drugged employees are not easily detected, except for those whose lifestyle causes absenteeism, lateness, carelessness, and criminal behavior (not just the criminal possession, either).

The fact is that even now, a large percentage of employers, if not a majority, test for illegal drugs for cause, before hiring, or sometimes even randomly. And Buz detects a growing trend in this direction. He and his fellow security consultants typically urge businesses to do so. Since the majority of thefts from businesses occur via your silent partners in the business (your own employees), this is one way of screening your staff, not only against theft, but with regard to getting reliable and safe workers. And in industry, if you get hurt on the job, you will almost universally be asked to take a drug test; test positive: good luck on you workers' comp claim.

So, while I hear a lot of people saying: we should just legalize it, as a public policy, it would be very difficult to implement (of course, in some cities, like Baltimore, marijuana use is all but decriminalized now). Students of public policy, particularly those in medical fields, are going to have a hard time implementing any kind of legalization here in the near future, Prez O's autobiography notwithstanding. It's a complicated issue, and isn't that simple.


Anonymous said...

Other than possibly smell, how are drugged employees less detectable than drunk employees? If anything, I think it's the opposite since drugs (particularly marijuana) in your system can be detected long after the physical effects have worn off, whereas alcohol is undetectable after a matter of hours.

While not legal, a law in Seattle made marijuana use by adults the lowest priority for law enforcement. As far as I know, the city is running amok with potheads.

buzoncrime said...

Anonymous---I met by the use of the "naked eye"-not any sophisticated drug test. And yes, the smell is the thing..........a person who has not been drinking, with few exceptions, can easily detect a person who has been drinking recently just by their walking into a room. (Just like smoking.) And, yes, marijuana will show up in a drug test a very long time after one has been using it, depending on how long ago, how much one has used, one's body makeup, etc.
Um, which city is amok with potheads? Seattle or here? Buz thinks probably both.

By the way, people truly addicted to alcohol cannot usually just stop on their own. We work part-time at a nonprofit where clients are 100% breathalyzed before they attend an individual counseling session or group {for drug treatment}. And they know they will be tested. Yet, it is not terribly unusual to have them come in at, say, 5pm, and show readings other than zero.

ppatin said...

For people who're truly addicted to alcohol, quitting cold-turkey can be life-threatening. Alcohol withdrawal has the potential to be extremely nasty (shaking, seizures, delirium tremens) and sometimes even fatal.

buzoncrime said...

You're right, PP! Thanks for the reminder. That's exactly why an outpatient treatment center like the one Buz work at refers people who repeatedly test positive to a higher level of treatment.

It's pretty clear that for some people alcohol is by far the most dangerous drug.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say that Seattle isn't running amok with potheads, at least any more than any other city.

buzoncrime said...

Ok; thanks for the clarification.
In many places police are not looking for the casual weed user, but you still might get arrested and charged with it, if you're caught doing it.

I believe Canada and some European countries are much more lenient about casual use, but my understanding is that in Holland the users are wearing their welcome out in some respects.

Buz is waiting to see if the Obama administration backed by its huge support among young people , will take any action in this regard.