Mother Jones should really read Mother Jones

1

Oh, Mother Jones. Sometimes you really get it:

The drug war has never been about facts—about, dare we say, soberly weighing which policies might alleviate suffering, save taxpayers money, rob the cartels of revenue. Instead, we’ve been stuck in a cycle of prohibition, failure, and counterfactual claims of success.

Other times

In the past several years, lawmakers in 25 states have sought to make pseudoephedrine—the one irreplaceable ingredient in a shake-and-bake lab—a prescription drug. In all but two—Oregon and Mississippi—they have failed as the industry, which sells an estimated $605 million worth of pseudoephedrine-based drugs a year, has deployed all-star lobbying teams and campaign-trail tactics such as robocalls and advertising blitzes.

So… drug prohibition doesn’t work, but making pseudoephedrine-based drugs require a prescription to obtain totally will. Seems MOJO itself is “stuck in a cycle of prohibition, failure, and counterfactual claims of success.”

Let’s run it down.

1. Prohibition

Forcing allergy sufferers to get a prescription for medicine containing pseudoephedrine is more prohibition. Duh.

2. Failure

Let’s list a few of the failed attempts to combat meth production:

  • Putting quantity limits on buying drugs with pseudoephedrine
  • Requiring purchasers to show a state-issued ID
  • Forcing manufacturers to change their formulas

To say these efforts have done anything other than make law-abiding allergy sufferers’ lives much harder is actually incorrect. The rise of the infinitely more dangerous “shake and bake” method of meth production is a direct result of this legislation.

3. Counterfactual claims of success:

Since the bill [forcing allergy sufferers to have a prescription to buy drugs containing pseudoephedrine] became law in 2006, the number of meth labs found in Oregon has fallen 96 percent.

Oh, really?

A 2012 study by Cascade Policy Group shows that in Oregon, no decline in meth use was seen as a result of a 2006 policy mandating that cold and allergy medicines could only be purchased with a prescription. This study is incidentally reflective of a national trend that sees an overall decline in meth use and meth lab seizures but not in the availability of the drug itself.

Even if it’s true that such laws decrease the number of meth labs in their states, that’s likely evidence that meth production is being outsourced.

Pseudoephedrine limits have helped shift meth production from local mom-and-pop labs to the large-scale Mexican traffickers who already dominated the business, and they have driven explosive innovation in manufacturing techniques.

None other than the Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that 80% of the meth Americans use isn’t cooked in meth labs, but delivered by large-scale Mexican traffickers.

Trying to force people to stop making and using drugs, including methamphetamine, is a fool’s errand.

And like most prohibition efforts, these laws hurt the poor the most. Cops in Georgia are fighting the war on pseudoephedrine by prosecuting dozens of Indian convenience-store clerks and managers with low English proficiency for selling cold medicine. The clerks faced up to 25 years in prison for selling legal goods. And it’s obviously harder for low-income people, many of whom are uninsured, to get a prescription for allergy medicine. And isn’t the progressive opposition to voter ID laws that low-income people are less likely to have them? If poor folks without ID deserve to vote, they deserve to treat their runny noses.

It’s tragic that Mother Jones will run factually incorrect pieces which support policies they already realize don’t work and ruin lives. But then, “the drug war has never been about facts.”

  • John Chapman

    Great read! Educational, thoughtful and fun!