Debate Rounds (4)
4000 character debate, cuz I don't have the time or energy to do anything more than that.
Apply in the comments section if you're interested. Will select an opponent within a few days. Accepting the debate without my consent warrants an automatic loss.
The types of recreational drugs covered in this debate are listed here: http://patient.info...
No doubt our current drug policy is broken. But that does not mean we need complete legalization. What we need are incremental reforms like decriminalizing marijuana. One can have reasonable confidence about the costs and benefits associated with such a change. But outright legalization of drugs like crack or heroin is fraught with too much uncertainty. These drugs are incredibly destructive, and legalizing them will open a floodgate to massively increased use and the harms that attend it.
Since this is an introductory round, a few notes. First, burdens. Although the phrases "burden of proof" and "burden of persuasion" are often used interchangeably on DDO, "burden of proof" refers to an obligation to present evidence or facts to support a specific position, while "burden of persuasion" refers to which side bears the risk of losing if the arguments are evenly balanced. The burdens of proof shift based on the issues that are at stake. The burden of persuasion remains squarely on one side. In this debate, the burden of persuasion should be placed on Pro, as Pro is advocating for a massive shift in policy with a massive degree of uncertainty. Both of us will have burdens of proof in making our cases.
Second, the resolution only requires that I argue against the legalization of one recreational drug. If I convince you that even one recreational drug should not be legalized, I win the debate. In other words, I don't have to support the status quo or the "War on Drugs." And indeed, I don't support either of those things. We obviously need reforms. In some cases, for some drugs, decriminalization is preferable. We need to cut down on incarcerating low-level offenders. Put greater emphasis on drug courts and treatment rather than incarceration. Point is, we need a more nuanced approach to drug policy than outright legalization of all recreational drugs. Each drug needs to be evaluated on its own merits.
== Pro Case ==
(1) Legalization would produce a whopping $88 billion in brand-new public funds. This is because legalizing drugs automatically saves us the $41.3 billion that we're currently spending on the failed "War on Drugs" (i.e. hunting down & punishing drug-users), and sin taxes would bring in $46.7 billion of additional revenue [http://www.cato.org...]. That's $88 billion which could be used to work on other important policy initiatives like education reform, welfare reform, etc.
(2) Legalization would substantially reduce violent crime. Two reasons for this. Firstly, numerous criminal gangs and terrorist organizations are funded almost exclusively by illicit drug trade, and the US is one of their main customers [http://www.cfr.org...] [http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com...]. Legalizing drugs would be a huge financial blow to them, because legal producers/distributors will inevitably replace them (case in point -- black markets for tobacco & alcohol are virtually non-existent). Secondly, drastic decreases in drug prices following legalization mean that drug addicts will no longer be going broke; that's important because the BJS reports that "17% of state prisoners and 18% of federal inmates said they committed their current offense to obtain money for drugs" [http://www.bjs.gov...].
(3) Legalization would improve circumstances for socioeconomically-disadvantaged groups. The mass-incarceration of low-income individuals for non-violent drug offenses has profoundly negative impacts on those groups' socioeconomic prospects -- for many young adults, it smashes any chance of them having a decent future, and it serves as a massive impediment to the proper development of low-income youth by facilitating absentee parenting (because one or both of the parents gets arrested). Legalization would drastically reduce incarceration rates among low-income individuals, which would represent a major step forward in the fight to alleviate our country's extreme income inequality.
(4) There's no reason to keep drugs illegal. A ban on drugs is fundamentally unjustified, because there's nothing distinguishing the consumption, production, and distribution of drugs from the consumption, production, and distribution of any other product. Like any other product, drugs have the potential to bring pleasure & satisfaction to customers, and also have risks of harm associated with them. There's no coherent justification for keeping drugs illegal while simultaneously keeping things like alcohol, tobacco, junk food, and handguns legal.
== Con Case ==
Con doesn't really have any case yet. All he's done is assert that we need a more nuanced approach to reforming drug policy than full legalization. He still needs to explain which specific "nuances" he thinks should be included and why they would be beneficial. Until he does that, nothing he's said so far holds any weight.
(1) First, I don't support the "War on Drugs." So that's irrelevant. Second, so-called "sin taxes" are unsustainable. Evidence shows that "sin taxes" could not be maintained in the face of the highly organized tobacco and alcohol industries.  Third, Pro ignores the costs of legalization, including increased health costs, social costs, regulatory costs, and treatment costs (more drug users means increased rehab costs). In Colorado, for example, tax revenue for marijuana has fallen short, "leaving Colorado short of the funds it had anticipated collecting for enforcement." 
(2) We need to be careful about making bold assertions about how reforms will impact crime rates. For instance, data shows significant crime spikes in key marijuana reform jurisdictions, suggesting a causal link between marijuana reform and increases in crime.  Even if only a correlation, this data is disconcerting (and helps explain why marijuana reform advocates aren't saying that reform contributes to a decrease in crime).
(3) Legalization is worse for disadvantaged groups. First, my proposals would also reduce incarceration rates, while increasing early intervention, treatment, and recovery. That benefit is non-unique. Second, Pro fails to realize that legal drug industries target the poor and disenfranchised. In Colorado, for example, a "disproportionate share" of marijuana businesses are located in lower-income and minority communities, communities that suffer disparate impacts of drug use.  Similarly, studies show that lower-income and minority neighborhoods are eight times more likely to have carry-out liquor stores than white or racially integrated neighborhoods. 
(4) James Wilson said it best: "tobacco shorten's one's life, cocaine debases it."  Not all drugs are the same. Some drugs should remain illegal because they destroy lives with greater magnitude and more certainty than other drugs, including harm to drug users' intimates (family, neighbors), bystanders, and taxpayers at large.
== My Case ==
Certain drugs (cocaine, heroin, meth) should remain illegal because legalization will open the floodgates to massively increased use and the harms that attend it. Those harms include public health, public safety, social functioning, and criminal justice concerns.
Tellingly, Pro offers no evidence that drug use won't increase. Pro admits there will be "drastic decreases in drug prices following legalization." Economists estimate price drops ranging from 80% to 95%.  Drugs will also be easier to obtain. And they will be widely commercialized (think Big Tobacco). This suggests that there will be a massive increase in the use of drugs following legalization. The example of marijuana in Colorado proves the point: Colorado is now #1 in the country for marijuana use among both children and adults.  
Nothing in Pro's case suggests that the potential benefits of legalization will outweigh the potential harms from increased drug use. The full impact of legalization is simply unknown. Pro's case is entirely theoretical. Evidence on the costs of current drug laws tells us little about what life would be like in their absence. We need a counterfactual. But Pro offers none. And without that sort of evidence, it's impossible to say we should legalize all recreational drugs.
Rather than radical change, then, we should aim to make prohibition work better with incremental reforms. Legalizing marijuana, MDMA, and LSD is on the horizon. But cocaine, heroin, and meth should remain illegal. Meanwhile, we should incorporate more harm reduction policies (e.g. needle exchange programs, less incarceration of low-level offenders, more treatment, more targeted deterrence).
Because Pro has both the burden of persuasion and the burden of proof to show that outright legalization is preferable to incremental reforms, and because Pro has failed to offer any non-theoretical, non-speculative evidence, vote Con.
Sources in comments.
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