Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

July 21: US Drug Policy

Next Monday, we’ll discuss US drug policy. Should drugs from marijuana to heroin be decriminalized and, instead, regulated?

  • If so, should all be legalized, or should a line be drawn…for example, excluding the most addictive substances?
  • Where should alcohol and nicotine fit into this policy?
  • What benefits do we expect from legalization? Costs?
  • Should we move quickly, or more deliberately (for example, to see how the Colorado and Washington experiments pan out over time)?
  • What other issues should we be focused on, and what policy option do they support?


  • Scott
    It may seem a matter of semantics but these drugs are already “regulated” and are known as controlled substances by the DEA. (Federal Drug Enforcement Agency). “Decriminalized” is also an incorrect and misleading term. The US Department of Justice committee on recommended penalties has implemented recent measures to “decriminalize” drug related crimes but that is a separate issue. What Colorado and Washington State have done is “legalize” the use and commercial sale of these substances for recreational use within their states. Various groups in other states such as Massachusetts and Maine are considering whether to adopt similar measures. The correct wording of the question for discussion then might be “Should currently controlled drugs from marihuana to heroin be ‘legalized’ by states or the federal government and how and by who should they be regulated.
    You may post this as an addendum if you wish
    Dick Jacoby

    • I’m happy to accept Dick’s adjustments…I was just trying to memorialize the topic quickly. He’s given a much more thoughtful explanation. See you next Monday!

  • Beyond Labels July 21 topic “Should controlled drugs be legalized?” raises some very interesting points for discussion beyond just the libertarian position that individuals should be free to choose to conduct their lives in any way so long as that conduct does not harm anyone else and that “the war on drugs” has unjustly penalized a large segment of society while encouraging criminal activities?
    • What is the difference between “legalization” and “decriminalization”?
    • What are the Colorado and Washington state laws?
    • If commercial sales are allowed should advertizing be restricted?
    • What data are available to show the effects of these?
    • What are the collateral costs and consequences?
    • Should tax revenues be part of the argument?
    • Are the alcohol & nicotine analogies relevant?
    • Which drugs or substances might be “legalized”? (cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, caffeine, salt, transfats?)
    • On what basis – addiction potential? Health risk? Naturally occurring or synthetic? Route of administration?
    • Should the controlled substance laws be changed by Congress federally – or by the individual states?
    • By state legislatures or referenda amendments or initiatives?
    • Are the drugs “legalized” by states automatically exempt from federal regulatory agencies – DEA, FDA?
    • If cannabis drugs are medically effective as allowed in 17 states why are they exempt from “safe and effective”, “labeling”, “dosing”, ”quality control” requirements.
    • Can the individual states provide the adequate regulatory environment?
    • If marijuana is sold within a state by commercial enterprises does the interstate commerce clause apply?
    • When can a state law supersede a federal law (CSA – Controlled Substance Act)?
    • Has it been adjudicated by the Supreme Court? What are the precedents?
    • Is it divided on traditional liberal/conservative or living/originalist constitutional lines?
    • How will it be tested in the courts again?
    • Which way would it be decided?

    Some References: Supreme Court case: Gonzales v. Raich
    An admittedly anti-legalization site:

Leave a Reply

  • Subscribe via Email

    Receive email notification of new posts/announcements about our weekly meeting.

    Join 241 other subscribers
  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments