Sunday, May 28, 2017

Legalizing Prostitution and Drugs In New Hampshire

At the Exeter Democratic meeting focused on the Free State Project (FSP), one Democrat rose to say that the FSP members of the New Hamsphire House of Representatives (NHHR) wanted to "legalize prostitution and drugs," as an example of one of the outrageous ideas promulgated by the FSP.

I turned to my companion and said, "What a great idea!"
She promptly moved two seats away from me.

Later, we discussed these ideas.

I pointed out it's already legal in Las Vegas and the Netherlands and neither the city nor that country has gone up in flames.
I speculated treating it as a public health problem rather than a criminal problem would have more benefits than harm.

Hoping to monetize their sexual attractiveness in Amsterdam

My companion corrected me:  prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas, but it is legal in rural counties in Nevada.  Professor Google confirmed she is correct. Of course, illegal prostitution in Las Vegas is well known and apparently is much bigger business than the legal prostitution,  which is confined mostly to brothels just up the road.

Objections to legalized prostitution have fallen into several categories:

1/ Such work is demeaning to the women involved.
In the Nevada brothels women are brought out to  parade almost naked before potential customers, who then may accept or reject them, which is humiliating. 
I cannot see why this is any more humiliating than the Miss America contest or any other beauty contest with the swim suit meat parade, which is advertised as the ultimate in All American girlhood.
It strikes me that women walking naked in front of men does not, in itself, constitute humiliation. Beyond beauty contests, there is the scene at Hampton Beach, where nearly naked women walk in front of men daily. Those women do no look as if they feel humiliated, and in fact some look proud, others frankly provocative. I suspect the demeaning aspect of prostitution is a projection by some women upon other women. I have not had a lot of conversation with prostitutes, but the few I have had some of these women struck me as feeling not humiliated, but empowered. They felt they had a measure of control over their customers.

Hoping to profit from their naked beauty
And when it comes to humiliation, prostitution has nothing on capitalism for the ability to humiliate, as women (and men) are put into positions of having to do jobs which put them in positions which make them feel demeaned and undervalued.

I have to regard prostitution as a failure of the capitalist system, as if offers women a choice when other choices are not as attractive; what does that say for the choices? Some women can make $10,000 a night.
There is that famous poem by Thomas Hardy, "The Ruined Maid"

O 'Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?" —
"O didn't you know I'd been ruined?" said she.

— "You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you've gay bracelets and bright feathers three!" —
"Yes: that's how we dress when we're ruined," said she.

— "At home in the barton you said thee' and thou,'
And thik oon,' and theƤs oon,' and t'other'; but now
Your talking quite fits 'ee for high compa-ny!" —
"Some polish is gained with one's ruin," said she.

— "Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I'm bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!" —
"We never do work when we're ruined," said she.

2/ Under aged girls can be trafficked through the brothels. There have been instances, but there have been prosecutions for that. And there are laws  on the books for unwilling prostitution, kidnapping, enslavement. If women are engaging in prostitution willingly, and are of sufficient "age of consent"  where is the harm?

3/ The weekly inspections for HIV, hepatitis B and other diseases is confined to the women, not the customers, so protects the public but not the workers.
I'm not sure how to address this concern, as, presumably checking the customers would be expected to impair profits, but this must be a problem with at lease some partial solution.


 Which drugs are we talking about and in what way will they be legalized?
Starting with marijuana, which many  authorities believe is likely less harmful than alcohol, there is a bill in the NHHR sponsored by Renny Cushing to make possession of small quantities of MJ legal. 
Renny has remarked he hoped to shift the approach from regarding drug use as a criminal act to thinking of drug use as a public health problem.
I'm with Renny on this.
But making possession and use legal while making sale and distribution illegal poses a problem: If the man who possess a small quantity is committing no crime, then why is he committing a crime when he walks to his car where he has 300 pounds of MJ in his trunk? 
Buying the stuff is not a crime. Carrying it is not a crime. Using it is not a crime. Then why is selling it a crime? 
Either the drug is legal or not, I would think.  
You would not prosecute a man for eating a cupcake in public but why would you send to jail the man who imports the flour from which that cupcake is made?

The problem for me with "legalizing drugs" is there is always a drug which is so deadly or harmful, you have to proscribe it: PCP (angel's dust), Fentanyl and methamphetamine spring to mind.  
You can use heroin daily and still practice piano or saxophone 10 hours a day and play in a club until 3 AM.  You can remain functional and survive.
But if your heroin is mixed with Fentanyl, you stand a good chance of dying after your first dose. 
So legalizing drugs may really mean, legalizing more drugs or some drugs but not all drugs.
Hamsterdam, "The Wire"

As for heroin and cocaine, you have to ask what is the risk/benefit of legalizing those? 
What are the BENEFTS  you are hoping to achieve from your law?
1/  If it's to cut down on the associated diseases from contaminated needles, HIV, hepatitis and subacute bacterial endocarditis, well the experience in Portugal mayb be instructive. The Portuguese have reported a decline of 90% in these outcomes after heroin was legalized there from the simple expedient of clean needles and uncontaminated product.
2/  But would legalization lead to a decline in use? Unlikely. It is hard to know what use has been  before legalization, so how could we know if there has been a change after legalization?
3/  Would legalization lead to a decline in deaths from overdoses, once heroin of known purity and concentration is sold through pharmacies? Possible but not likely.

4/  What about reduction of crime as heroin addicts would now have an inexpensive source for their drug? This is very possible, but we have no really good studies.

As for the risks? 
1/  Would legalizing heroin or any drug mean more people would try it or become addicted?  No persuasive data exists. But you have to ask: Has legalized alcohol resulted in more alcoholism?  Are more people alcoholics since the repeal of Prohibition? 
I don't know. But not having data does not prevent me from guessing and I'd guess not. 
People abuse alcohol whether it is legal or illegal, whether or not  it is easy to get. They do it because of their own demons. I suspect the same is true of heroin and cocaine.
Major Colvin expounding on the genius of accomodation

You will raise the issue of people who became addicted to legally prescribed opioids. This is a case of increasing addiction with increasing use of legal drugs. 

But I'm not sure I really believe people who become addicted to opioids got addicted because of an innocent exposure and would never have got addicted had it not been for that exposure, as if they were infected by a tainted needle.  I'm not sure. I'm just not convinced. It is possible people who have become addicted to oxycontin or other opioids would have become addicted to an opioid without the source having been the prescription. 
Many people addicted to prescription opioids have chronic pain and trying to separate out the drug from the accompanying disease must be a very difficult task.

2/ How would you know if a driver was impaired by marijuana? 
There is no technology for that yet. We can do a breathalyzer test for alcohol but there is no such thing for marijuana yet.

Legalizing heroin in the real world, in America,  would not be pretty. 
The depiction of what this would look like was well imagined in "The Wire."
When the police told the drug dealers they could sell their drugs unmolested in certain zones of the city, as they do in Amsterdam, the touts and hoppers heard them as saying "Hamsterdam." Hamsterdam was a zone where drugs were sold and used openly, without interference from police.
In Hamsterdam, unlike in Portugal or Amsterdam, drug sales were privatized, unregulated and simply cordoned off. Drug dealers were allowed to sell in the open without a competing governmental agency which might sell safer, cheaper drugs. 
In Portugal and the Netherlands they apparently did not worry so much about impinging on the free market in drug sales. Drug addiction in these places is addressed as part of a public health system effort, and in that sense a control was imposed on drug use which was not possible when drugs were bought, sold and used underground.

In general, I tend to err on the side of not making things criminal which may be best regarded as public health problems.
The effort to outlaw is often an effort to bury a problem, to hide it behind walls so the good citizens do not have to see it. 
It's understandable citizens do not want to gaze upon disease and desperation. Just think of how you feel walking down a street and seeing a panhandler reaching up asking for alms. 
We will likely never be free of the death and damage drug addiction, as a disease, causes in America.
I do think we can manage this disease better.
What we are doing now is the 21st century equivalent of throwing insane people in insane asylums and chaining them to the walls. 
We could do better, if we decided to approach the problem dispassionately. 

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