2012′s most popular posts #7 – K2, Spice and legalization

I do not consider myself a drug warrior. (Though, few people do these days. It can be a little like racism. People attribute it to others, but never themselves.) I oppose incarcerating people for possession of quantities consistent with personal use. I favor policies that target demand rather than supply. I’m also skeptical of hype around new drugs that are predicted to lead the the decline of western civilization.

There’s been a lot of talk about the evolving, softening public position on marijuana. We’re seeing more and more public discussion about straight up legalization of drugs, domestically and internationally. (Those NYT discussions should be so great, but they are nothing approaching great.)
Then you have K2/Spice. It’s been a few years since it’s appeared in Michigan and the reflex to ban it does appear to slowed.

However, this small scale experiment with tolerating a drug appears to be coming to an end.

I have a few observations:

  • I’ve been reluctant to buy into the hype and, to be sure, there has been hype. At the same time, many people have responded to the hype by arguing that it’s just a cannabis analog and is no more or less harmful than cannabis. I don’t know a lot about the drug, but anecdotal reports seem to suggest that it’s not just marijuana by another name. There appear to be as many negative Erowid reports as there are positive or neutral reports. And, many of them state that there are differences between K2 and marijuana.
  • I find the marriage of legal capitalism and the drug troubling. Local gas stations, smoke shops and party stores display dozens of varieties more prominently than anything else in the store. (This NORML post describes the marketing.) The packaging uses images like cartoons, ninjas, yoga and Bob Marley to market it. A lot of it looks like it could be candy packaging. (Ugh! I feel like such a geezer saying this, but some of it reminds me of Warheads packaging.)
  • There does not appear to have been an attempt to regulate the drug(s). Could this have worked? I don’t know. Regulation seems to do little to hamper the marketing of legal drugs. I’d still prefer a ban with less harsh criminal penalties. My sense is that, with the possible exception of marijuana, the public doesn’t have the stomach for legalization. I wonder if tide will turn on marijuana as marketing increases. Time will tell.
UPDATE: I wonder what would happen if is wasn’t banned. I’m guessing you’d start to see some large manufacturers get more market share, more wealth, more clout and market in a more organized and effective way.
On the flip side, I also wonder if these kinds of companies would end up enjoying the kind of immunity that alcohol manufacturers maintain. We have a special place in our culture of alcohol and guns. Tobacco lost this protected status. It’s hard to imagine these companies enjoying this status. As suppliers go corporate, they become a target for lawsuits and risk management becomes necessary. What kind of risk management would they employ and what kinds of marketing restraint or checks would the create? I dunno.