Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Supply follows demand

 

January 3, 2019



I'm feeling smugly superior to Frank Watson, which is silly, except in a small way.

His column of 10-25-18, "Demand comes before Supply," shows that when it comes to drug policy, he's lost in the woods, barking up the prohibition tree. "If we want to stop the flow of drugs, we need to eliminate the demand created by the users in our country."

We can't eliminate the demand for drugs. We've been trying drug prohibition for 103 years.

Listen to a retired prison official.

"The point that I'd like y'all to understand is, there's not a prison on this planet that drugs have not been found in. We've got forty foot walls, gun towers, every modern technology available to the world, snitches; no rights - you can strip anybody naked, you can tear their house apart - yet we can't keep it out of a totally controlled environment." (YouTube, Cops Say Legalize Drugs part 1, Rusty White)

I would like to shout this from the rooftops, "Accept the facts, Frank!" I wouldn't get so upset about Frank's fantasizing about a drug free society, if only he were not trying to influence drug policy.

This Letter to the Editor, with its historical accounts, supports John Marks' observation that "Prohibition pushes drugs, and free markets promote drug use. In countries where the smallest use of drugs is found, there is a government policy of restricted availability."

So, to minimize drug use, we can use our personal influence, and we can use government policy to restrict availability.

Unfortunately for us, government policy and expenditure have been used three ways to multiply demand. I said, government is being used to push drugs, and push them hard.

The first way that government is being used to increase demand, is this new thing of allowing the pharmaceutical industry to advertise directly to consumers. We should stop that.

And let's lower the boom on expensive medicines. Competition is the magic of the private sector, but it can be strangled when the anti-trust laws are blunted, allowing the formation of Big Pharma. Let's break up Big Pharma, like we did to Ma Bell.

A second way that government has been used to increase demand, is to allow the killer drugs, alcohol and tobacco, to be sold in child-accessible stores all over the place, and advertised. Including sponsorship of childrens' sporting events, and openly naming their drug dens on the walls of the sports field.

Any merchant will tell you that sales will increase when you get your product into more stores. So let's restrict the number of outlets.

We should dust off the state liquor store system, and restrict alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana to the state liquor stores; no advertising. (But let's keep the bars and restaurants as they are. That's custom and culture.)

Some politicians are so tied to the policy of privatization that they supported closing Washington's state liquor stores; not just philosophically, but also for the convenience of the druggies. Just the other day, one of them told me that people don't want the state to own the stores, and don't want the state to hire "people who don't care if they sell anything or not!"

Excuse me, but people like me, who want to protect kids from drugs to the extent possible, want to take drugs out of the hands of people who profit in direct proportion to how much they sell.

I prefer the state system, because state employees are guaranteed their state salary, insurance, and retirement, even if they don't sell any drugs all day. That's what we want, isn't it? There's no financial incentive to push drugs. Unlike the merchant in the private sector, the state employee's net worth is not increased by maximizing drug sales.

With drugs, there is a direct conflict between family values and selling drugs for profit.

Let's reopen the state liquor store system, and restrict alcohol, tobacco and marijuana to those stores. No advertising.

A third way that government has been used to increase demand is to prohibit the use of narcotics for recreational use and for treatment of drug addictions. Prohibition creates a black market with monopoly pricing power, so drugs are pushed hard, multiplying drug use.

From 1915 until the 1970s, America had drug prohibition, while the countries in Europe didn't. The following historical accounts are clear. Prohibition was a big mistake.

In 1938, Physician Henry Smith Williams wrote, "The illicit drug trade - quite literally a billion-dollar racket - is essentially an American institution. There is nothing like it in the world." (Drug Addicts Are Human Beings, Prologue.)

In 1956, Rufus King was chair of the Joint Committee of the American Bar Association and the American Medical Association, on narcotic drugs. America had a large drug problem, and doctors, controlled by revenue agents, were not allowed to treat their patients. King wanted to know how Europe was dealing with the problem. Because he was representing the ABA, he was able to interview top officials. He says, "When I asked about the drug problem, they'd say, 'what problem?' I found that this whole thing was made in America." (Drug Crazy, by Mike Gray, from an interview with King.)

Cocaine and Morphine were invented in time to be heavily used in the Civil War. Plus, they were sneaked into patent medicines. Addictions became so widespread that people began to remark on it. Mike Gray found research papers that indicate that addiction peaked in America about 1900, then declined steadily, due to a growing awareness of addiction. Moreover, "The pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 finally forced manufacturers to list product ingredients on the label, and when people began to realize that their favorite nostrums were laced with addictive drugs, they stopped using them." (Mike Gray, Drug Crazy)

Sadly, that trend was reversed some time after 1915, when the upward trend caused by prohibition's drug pushing crossed the downward trend that was caused by people's growing awareness of addiction and it's effects.

Let's skip over to England. Their Pharmacy Act of 1868 removed the opiates and cocaine from the hands of general chemists and herbalists, giving the monopoly to the pharmacies. You know; "If you want drugs, you have to go to the drug store." Later, a doctor's prescription was needed, but there were no restrictions on the doctors' powers to prescribe. Ninety years after the Act, in the 1950s, the number of heroin addicts seeing doctors for treatment of their addictions, was in the low hundreds ... in a population of 50 million. (Drug Wars, by Neil Woods)

I want similar results for us. Unfortunately for Britain, in 1971 the Brits got into prohibition. Now they have a mess similar to ours. The lesson is clear, isn't it?

Prohibitionists have trouble absorbing this history. Tell a prohibitionist - a true believer - that the policy that has consistently produced the fewest new addictions to drugs is open access to the pharmacy; "If you want drugs, go to the drug store." Their eyes will widen, their mouths will hang open in fear, and say, "Buy drugs?... without a prescription?"

Let's talk about that.

Under prohibition, Americans are spending $100 billion a year on drugs ... without a prescription!

That's sixteen times the global sales of McDonalds! The four McDonalds in Pullman/Moscow, together, sell about $10 million a year. Think about it.

How'd it get so big?

1. Profit incentive. The retired commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics said that prohibition's profits are "astronomical."

2. Pyramidal selling, like Tupperware, Amway, Pampered Chef. But without their problems of differentiating their products from similar products that cost less, downtown; and motivating their downline to sell such uncertain value to their friends.

The magical power of prohibition, is that it creates perfect product differentiation -- you can't go downtown and buy the lower priced product. Prohibition creates a monopoly for it's merchants in the black market, allowing pricing at 5x to 50x the pharmacy price.

"Come to the party, bring your friends!... Having a good time? Yeah? Look at the money I'm making - you could, too! You throw parties, I'll supply you. Get your friends to throw parties, you supply them. Let's go!"

Motivating the downline? Once someone has partied enough to become a druggie, they'll do anything to get their next feeling of well-being: Shoplift, introduce friends to parties, give sex - boy or girl - and the younger the better - more 'virgin', right?

There is nothing moral, ethical or clean about prohibition.

Prohibition's black market makes drugs available any time, any place, to customers of any age, by merchants of any age. There are absolutely no restrictions. Stop it. Let us create a restricted market structure.

We could open a government dispensary. That retail structure is flat, not pyramidal. No drug pushing; no profit to be made by making more sales. No kids selling drugs to kids.

Different drugs have different effects on people, so we need to consider having different levels of restrictions.

We have to accept that there is, and always will be, a demand for drugs. But we don't have to continue to allow the government to be used to push the level of drug use up to the level we are suffering from today. When we reverse the three government policies mentioned above - all three of which push drugs hard - I'm positive that we'll see a decrease in the numbers of new addictions.

Positive. It's simply history and economics. It's just business.

Beyond these three steps, I'm open to further suggestions for reducing the demand for drugs.

--Wiley Hollingsworth, Pullman

 
 

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