Further musings

The November 16 conference at the Bar Association went off well. The presentations were top-notch.

I found especially interesting Steve Rolles and Mark Haden’s discussions of classifying psychoactive substances. One point which Steve made in After the War on Drugs and repeated in his presentation is the limited utility of saying that one drug is more dangerous than another – without regard to dosage: in other words, is one drug safer than another at all doses?

What about using a different standard for toxicity, such as the lethal dose level? There were comments at the panel – I think also from Steve but maybe from Mark – differentiating between substances that are toxic in the near term versus substances that are toxic over the long term. Tobacco is not toxic in the near term but it is toxic over the long term. Possibly then it is necessary to create a nuanced standard for toxicity – one which recognizes that there are substances that can damage the users immediately and some that cause damage only over the long term.

I come back to the question of “medical utility” as a basis for drug classification. Everyone knows by know that the existing drug control system rests on the ban of non-medical use. Therefore, the question of medical use is the threshold question: if there is no medical use, then no use is permissible. I have seen floated the idea that the essential step going forward is to eliminate entirely a medical use requirement from the drug classification scheme; that change is probably what would equalize the majority of psychoactive substances with alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. What makes the latter three psychoactive consumer products? They do not require medical justification for their use.

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