Crack down

December 26, 2007

Don’t get me wrong — as I’ve written more than once, the “war on drugs” has been misguided, counterproductive and full of unintended consequences. Still, it’s interesting that the decision has been made to reconcile the disparity between crack and powdered cocaine sentencing by decreasing the punishment for crack instead of increasing it for powder:

Dr. Harolyn Belcher, an associate professor of pediatrics at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, said there is no evidence that crack is biologically more harmful than powdered cocaine to the fetus or developing child.

“If I had a well-to-do family whose wife was at home snorting coke versus someone who is a mother who is out on the street using crack, the babies would look very similar,” Belcher said.

Belcher said children who were exposed to crack or powdered cocaine in the uterus may be at slightly higher risks for language delays and attention deficits, but she said recent studies have shown that alcohol is far more devastating to the fetus.

This suggests that the designation of a substance as illegal and the punishment for using it or trafficking in it should be based on its destructive potential. Of course our drug laws are based on nothing or the kind. Tobacco or alcohol alone are more harmful than all the other drugs put together.

Why do we continue to resist the only answer that makes any sense? It is bad behavior that needs to be addressed, whatever the bad upbringing, genetic predisposition or ingested substance that caused it.


2 Responses to “Crack down”

  1. Bob G. Says:

    Trouble is…not many people WANT to address BAD BEHAVIOR, and even if they do, they are labelled racist, biased, unfeeling…whatever.

    So unless we want to even consider having a bunch of Crichton-esque “Mr. Bensons” running around, we’re stuck with the current dilemma.

    Sadly, any alternative is just not an option in the “silver bullet” realm.
    It DOES all come down to controlling behavior.


  2. Doug Says:

    The law is a useful tool for many purposes, but not all of them. Prospectively controlling victimless behavior (even if that behavior later leads to bad behavior with victims) seems to be one of them. To make the law effective in controlling victimless behavior, it seems like the cure has to be made worse than the disease.

    Informal enforcement of social norms is probably the more effective tool. If mom, dad, friends, and family take you out to the woodshed for anti-social behavior, you’ll probably cut that shit out before too long. But, if mom has to work 70 hours a week to keep the lights out and dad has disappeared long ago and friends are worthless punks with similar family situations, the social network breaks down.

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