JUST SAY YES? Drug Legalization

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

For more than thirty years, the United States has been waging a war on drugs. This war—which takes the form of billions of dollars spent each year on drug law enforcement and interdiction, as well as harsh sentencing for drug offenses—is being called a failure by many critics. But if it is a failure, is drug legalization the solution? Just how would legalization work? And would the benefits of legalization outweigh the costs?

Recorded on Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Peter Robinson: Today on Uncommon Knowledge, the war on the war on drugs.

Announcer: Funding for this program is provided by the John M. Olin Foundation.


Peter Robinson: Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge. I'm Peter Robinson. Our show today: legalizing drugs--is it time to just say yes? For decades, this nation has engaged in a war on drugs, a war that takes the form of spending tens of billions a year on law enforcement and drug interdiction, also the form of harsh sentences for drug offenses, even non-violent drug offenses. Critics believe the war on drugs has failed. But if the war on drugs is a failure, is drug legalization the solution? How would legalization work? Could the benefits of legalizing drugs possibly outweigh the costs?

Joining us today, two guests. Dr. Forest Tennant, M.D. has been advising state and federal agencies, including the California Department of Justice and the Food and Drug Administration on drug policy for more than three decades. Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and the author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use.

Title: The Agony and the Ecstasy

Peter Robinson: Bill Keller, writing in The New York Times, "The moralistic drug war has overstuffed our prisons, left communities fatherless, consumed vast quantities of law enforcement time and money and led us into some cynical, foreign ventures, all without making drugs scarcer or more expensive. Legalization, on the other hand, means less crime and inner city misery but more addicts." Legalize drugs? Forest?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Under certain circumstances.

Peter Robinson: Oh really? Jacob?

Jacob Sullum: Yeah, well I think people have a right to control their own bodies which entails a right to control what goes into them, including drugs.

Peter Robinson: All right, how's the war on drugs been going? Another quotation. Sasha Abramsky in The Nation--writing in The Nation magazine, "This nation has been fighting a war on drugs ever since New York governor, Nelson Rockefeller mandated harsh drug sentencing in 1973 and it may be time to announce that this is one war we've lost. More than a million people are serving time in our prisons and jails for non-violent offenses, most drug-related, at a cost to the public of some 9.4 billion dollars a year." Million people in jail, millions more still using drugs. Has the war on drugs been a total failure?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: No, it has not been a total failure. We've had a lot of successes actually. After Vietnam, there's a lot of good rehabilitation. We've managed to control hepatitis and AIDS epidemics to some extent. Crime is down. We have programs. We have drug court. So there's a lot of progress been made but the big issue today from a medical point of view--we've always worried about the health aspects but 9/11 gave us the realization that so much terrorism is funded by drugs, it's now time to take a whole new look at this issue.

Peter Robinson: Okay, we'll come to that in a moment but the war on drugs, your book likewise, Saying Yes--you're quite explicit on the costs of the drug war but the benefits…

Jacob Sullum: Right, well first of all I think we should realize that this is going on ninety years of the war on drugs, doesn't date back to Nelson Rockefeller.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Jacob Sullum: I mean, go back to the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 so this has been going on for nearly a century.

Peter Robinson: 1914 is the first federal legislation…

Jacob Sullum: …which prohibited non-medical use of cocaine and opiates.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Jacob Sullum: Later on they added marijuana and other drugs to the list.

Peter Robinson: Okay so it starts in the second decade of the twentieth century.

Jacob Sullum: So it's a long track history. And I think, in terms of the benefits, the question is, is the war on drugs good at deterring the kind of people who are likely to abuse drugs from abusing them? That's the question. It's not a matter of whether it stops people from using drugs because if it stops people from using drugs who would've used drugs and would've used them in a moderate, recreational manner, would not have caused serious harm to themselves or other people, that is not a benefit. In fact, that's a cost because you're stopping people from engaging in a kind of activity they would have enjoyed and wouldn't have harmed anyone. In the same way that if alcohol prohibition simply prevented, you know, casual drinkers, moderate drinkers, social drinkers, from drinking, that's not really a good benefit. That's a cost.

Peter Robinson: Stop here. Hold the--don't lose the thought but quick interjection. Do you buy that assertion that even--you would say that even quite hard drugs or things that are typically thought of as hard drugs, cocaine, heroin, can be used in moderate, controlled ways that are not harmful to anyone. Is that a fair…

Jacob Sullum: The vast majority of drug users are not heavy users. That's quite clear--no matter what source of data you look at, including many databases that the federal government makes available.

Peter Robinson: Okay. And so do you grant his framing of the question?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Fairly much so. He's absolutely right. Most users are fairly casual, intermittent users. And the other thing I do agree with is we're now reaching almost the one hundred year mark of the Harrison Narcotic Act. We've got problems that just haven't been solved and the current way we're going about it isn't doing it.

Peter Robinson: Okay. So go ahead and continue your analysis. You've got a lot of people who could--throughout these ninety years have been using drugs in a moderate way; unharrassed by the law is your point.

Jacob Sullum: So we don't--the benefit is not deterring them. The benefit is deterring people who, because of the drugs laws, are not going to try these drugs and if they did try the drugs, would end up being addicts.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Jacob Sullum: You can't point at the current addicts and say well, that's what we're trying to prevent because you clearly did not prevent that. People who actually have drug problems now were not deterred by the drug laws. The question is, how many people are there out there…

Peter Robinson: So that Bill--that Bill Keller quotation with which we began the show sets it up. Legalization on the other hand, means less crime and inner city misery. That is, fewer costs but more addicts.

Jacob Sullum: I'm not convinced that it does.

Peter Robinson: That's not…

Jacob Sullum: …point to keep in mind.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Jacob Sullum: I think certainly if you repeal prohibition and these drugs become more readily available, they're cheaper, they're safer in many ways, that's one of the bad things about prohibition that makes these drugs more dangerous in a number of ways. Certainly there are going to be people who will try them who otherwise would not have tried them. The question is how many of those people are going to end up having serious drug problems. And there's reason to believe that the people who are most deterred by prohibition or by taxes for that matter, are the ones who cause the least problem. In other words…

Peter Robinson: And what is the--you said there's reason to believe this is… How do you get to that question?

Jacob Sullum: Well, for example… Economic reasons, basically psychological reasons. If you look at, for example, alcohol taxation, if you raise the price of a bottle of liquor, who is going to be most deterred by that? Is it going to be the alcoholic who depends upon that drug in order to get through his life or is it going to be the casual drinker who can take it or leave it?

Peter Robinson: Onto the distinction between soft drugs and hard drugs. Is marijuana different?

Title: Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Peter Robinson: Andrew Stuttaford reviewing Jacob's book Saying Yes in National Review magazine. "Jacob Sullum admits to modest but instructive use of marijuana, psychedelics, cocaine, opioids"--did I pronounce that correctly, opioids?

Jacob Sullum: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: "…and tranquilizers with apparently no regrets. He seems prepared to legalize just about anything that can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, injected or chewed." Wouldn't you like to draw a distinction between marijuana and the harder drugs?

Jacob Sullum: Well I think--I mean there obviously are distinctions among drugs. Some drugs are more dangerous in certain respects than others.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Jacob Sullum: That's definitely true. For example, if you compare alcohol and marijuana, much easier to overdose on alcohol than it is to overdose on marijuana. It's virtually impossible to overdose on marijuana. Alcohol impairs the ability to drive much more extensively…

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Jacob Sullum: …much more seriously than marijuana does. So in those two senses and there are others--you know, heavy alcohol use causes much more serious health effects than heavy marijuana use. In those respects, alcohol is more hazardous than marijuana. A drug like LSD, this is a very potent substance. You take it in tiny amounts and it has effects that can last for eight to twelve hours. It's obviously something you have to approach in a very different way than you would approach a cup of coffee or even, you know, a glass of beer.

Peter Robinson: But you're not making these--you're calling for a blanket end to prohibition. Leave it up to the consumer.

Jacob Sullum: What I'm saying is you have to make the distinctions based upon fact and based upon science and based upon reality and not based upon the fictitious, artificial distinctions that are enshrined in the drug laws.

Peter Robinson: You are Dr. Forest Tennant and public health is your field. So do you accept the argument--is there evidence that marijuana is indeed in some way a gateway drug to other drugs, that although it's of limited harmfulness in and of itself, it can lead to the use of harmful drugs?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: There's no question that if you just take a look at statistics.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: People enter the drug world if you will with nicotine, alcohol and marijuana. Those are the gateway drugs as we call them, no question about it.

Peter Robinson: Two of the three are legal, of course.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Right. And the issues that are being brought up here by Jacob are certainly known.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: And a lot of people agree with that.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Where the disagreement has come in this whole debate is how are you going to do it? What's practical? For example, it's time not to talk about whether marijuana's more harmful or less harmful than alcohol but how would you do legalization of marijuana? We've got a lot of doctors who want to prescribe it. You've got a lot of people who want to take it for medical purposes. How do we keep these things out of the hands of children? How do we keep them out of the hands of teens? And how do we control for this? Who's going to take the legal liability? We can't even decide who takes the legal liability for cigarettes, alcohol or carbohydrates today. So it's time we started, in my opinion, talking about the practicality of this. How would you do this? That's what I'd like to hear. How would you start in legalizing marijuana?

Peter Robinson: Feel free.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Jacob.

Jacob Sullum: Well I think first of all the question of, you know, how do you keep these drugs out of the hands of children is if anything, indicts the war on drugs because the war on drugs does nothing to keep these drugs out of the hands of children. In the black market there's no incentive to distinguish between adults and minors. Dealers are not going to card you if you go and buy some pot from him or some cocaine or heroin or what have you.

Peter Robinson: So the point is: at a minimum, a blanket repeal of prohibition makes nothing worse? With regard to children?

Jacob Sullum: The point is that at least at the point of sale…

Peter Robinson: Right.

Jacob Sullum: You can now--if you have legal drugs that are being sold in an open way, you can penalize people for selling to minors. And if you get serious about enforcement, you can have an impact. Now there's always going to be leakage. Right. People--it's illegal to sell alcohol to minors. It's illegal to sell cigarettes but they can steal them from their parents, they can get an older sibling to get it or an acquaintance or what have you. There's no question that that kind of thing can happen. But if you want some measure of control, the only way to get that is by legalizing these things, bringing them under the law and then you can at least make an attempt to enforce these age rules which are completely non-existent and if the, you know, in a black market you can't enforce those laws.

Peter Robinson: Is he satisfying you? Are these answers…

Jacob Sullum: Well that's the first--it's just the one question about minors, I don't think we're doing a service to children by keeping these drugs illegal because when they're illegal, they're completely uncontrolled.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Jacob Sullum: They're called controlled substances but I think that's a misnomer.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Here's the question. Would you sell the marijuana at Wal-Mart? Would you sell it in liquor stores? Prescription by doctors, machines? What dosage? What formulation? Who would sell it? Who would own it?

Jacob Sullum: I think it would be sold in much the same way as alcoholic beverages. In other words, it would be sold only to adults, first of all…

Peter Robinson: But a pretty free-wheeling marketplace?

Jacob Sullum: Yes, but I think that that's a positive thing. And let me try to explain why. I think when you have a legal market, you get a wide variety of forms of drugs and you can see that very clearly in the alcohol market. You have products that range from very weak, you know, preparations, you know, beer and wine and wine coolers and malt beverages on up to almost pure ethanol which actually, in this country, you can't really get because there's not much of a demand for it. In other countries, you'll go into the supermarkets and you'll see virtually pure ethanol on the shelves. Now most people don't drink virtually pure ethanol. They could if they wanted to but they don't.

Peter Robinson: Run your car on it or take a swig. Right.

Jacob Sullum: That's right. They overwhelmingly prefer to drink the weaker forms. And this is what happened with other drugs as well when these drugs were legal. And remember they were legal at one point.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Jacob Sullum: And they were available without a prescription. They were available over-the-counter, through the mail and so on. And what you had is a wide variety of substances. In fact, heroin injection was virtually unheard of. You had things like coca beverages.

Peter Robinson: Right, right.

Jacob Sullum: Things like opium, which were milder…

Peter Robinson: Why was the Harrison Act enacted? What was going on?

Jacob Sullum: Well I think it was a combination of things. It was part of this sort of progressive impulse…

Peter Robinson: In other words, was that a recognition of a serious problem that was beginning to develop?

Jacob Sullum: Well I think certainly that people did have problems with drugs and people have problems--those drugs included alcohol.

Peter Robinson: Hold on.

Jacob Sullum: And to a large extent…

Peter Robinson: Do you want enforced--do you want to live in an America in which the free market is at work on drugs and people can buy marijuana chewing gum? You know that's what would happen, right? They'd come up with marijuana life savers or chewing gum…

Jacob Sullum: I think people don't really like smoking and…

Peter Robinson: You're uneasy. I want to give him a chance to vent his uneasiness.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: I don't like it. I don't want it but on the other hand, we can't go on as we are now. We've got to make…

Peter Robinson: You both grant that?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Yes, we've got to make some changes.

Peter Robinson: We're talking about the practicalities of making drugs legal so let's ask a basic question. How would legalization change American society?

Title: Everybody Must get Stoned

Peter Robinson: It seems to me that you can just stipulate that although the details are to follow, manufacturers and growers will figure out some way of getting products to the marketplace under a regime in which drugs are legal and lawyers, lord knows, the lawyers will start figuring out ways of slicing and dicing the liability in a way that individuals and the society and the lawyers themselves can all live with it. So the question that I have for you is, is that an America in which you would like to live, in which drugs of all kinds are as available as booze at the local liquor store?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: No.

Peter Robinson: Why not?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Because we don't know what would happen. You see, you can sit here and we can debate this. See we really don't know both from a health point of view, economics, liability, disease, we don't know what would happen if we did this. So there is no precedent. And that's what I'm saying…

Peter Robinson: Whereas we did know…

Jacob Sullum: I would say that's not completely true because there was precedent prior to the Harrison Narcotic Act…

Peter Robinson: 1914 was...

Forest Tennant, M.D.: No, there was not. We didn't even have amphetamine invented until 1938. We did not have high dosages of cocaine.

Peter Robinson: Okay. But let's just--hold on…

Forest Tennant, M.D.: We did not have the ability to have injectable heroin. We had morphine and opium in that time. In other words, we have drugs today that were really not around when we did this. And there's no society on earth that's ever done this. And so we've got to take, in my opinion, a toe in the water, see what happens. I think we've got to change something but I wouldn't be prepared to go down to a store and buy heroin and cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and marijuana. I mean, I think that's ludicrous to think about doing that. I think you've got to--I think we've got to do something.

Peter Robinson: Okay. And what would you do then, Forest? How would you begin?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: I think you've got to do something with the marijuana issue.

Peter Robinson: You start there.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Because that admittedly, medical-wise, is the least of the problem. We know its dependence-producing…

Peter Robinson: Okay let me then just run down, if I may, some of the proposals that are actually--your book is a marvelously argued and well-written book but still it's still removed from the actual practical politics, I think you'd grant. Let me run down some proposals that are already bubbling up in actually practical politics.

Jacob Sullum: All right. Let me just briefly just make a point that the reason I bring out these arguments about…

Peter Robinson: Yes.

Jacob Sullum: …that the response--the distinction between responsible drug use and irresponsible drug use--use and abuse--is that once people start to think about what you're thinking about, how would this work, right, they're very scared because they imagine and one of the reasons they're very scared is that they imagine that half the population will be addicted to drugs, walking around in a drunken stup--you know, an intoxicated stupor.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Jacob Sullum: And one of the reasons they find that plausible is that they think that typically people--when people use drugs, their lives end up being ruined. What I'm trying to show is that that's not typical and that just as with alcohol, the vast majority of users use in a way that does not cause serious harm to themselves or to other people. And if you keep that in mind, it's much easier to imagine how we could live in a world where these drugs were more readily available, where they were cheaper. And in many respects, as I was arguing before, I think it would be better and safer in terms of the drugs themselves because you have a wider variety of products with known properties.

Peter Robinson: Can you both agree on legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes? That's obvious for you because you want to legalize it for every purpose. What about you, Forest?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: If it's done by a legitimate pharmaceutical company, proved by FDA, standardized dosages. This idea that all doctors want to prescribe it--I would never prescribe it and I don't because I want to know what its control is. I want to know that it meets the same standards as everything else.

Peter Robinson: Okay. So these--there have been two or three states where there have been initiatives that have passed and we know, for ex--and there's a movement right here in Northern California where people grow this stuff effectively in their backyards and up…

Jacob Sullum: There's actually nine states where medical marijuana has been legalized.

Peter Robinson: Okay. But the fact is that even that doesn't satisfy your requirements because we haven't done controlled tests. We don't actually know how useful it is in controlling pain, nausea, all the things associated with cancer, right?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Right. Just give us a…

Peter Robinson: So even what's already been done is too sloppy for you?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Well, that's right. In other words, there are standards today for prescription drugs and as long as it meets that, I don't see a problem. (?) I think if you did legitimate studies and got some of the biases out of it, I suspect you would come up with something.

Peter Robinson: But you want to run it through the FDA?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Absolutely.

Jacob Sullum: Well, I think ultimately that this is going to be a dead end in terms of the drug policy reform because what's going to happen is…

Peter Robinson: His position is a dead end or…

Jacob Sullum: No, medical marijuana…

Peter Robinson: Medical marijuana.

Jacob Sullum: Because what's going to happen--there's no question that medical marijuana--that marijuana has medical value. There's no question. There are ingredients in marijuana that can relieve nausea, that can relieve pain, possibly also help control spasms…

Peter Robinson: That's true? I thought that was undecided.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: No…

Jacob Sullum: It's quite clear--it's a prove--I mean, THC is approved by the FDA as a capsule.

Jacob Sullum: So the question is--the reason that some people still prefer to smoke marijuana is that you get a quick delivery of it. You can adjust your dose as you go along.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Jacob Sullum: You stop when you've had enough.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Jacob Sullum: You don't have to ingest anything. This is a tremendous problem for people who are suffering from severe nausea. They're vomiting constantly. It's very hard to keep something down for the length of time that's required for it to take effect. So there are reasons why people prefer using smoked marijuana rather than the TH--you know, synthetic THC capsule.

Peter Robinson: What I'm asking is: what's the trigger here in….

Jacob Sullum: What I'm saying, it's not... Ultimately you're back to square one with that because you're going to have the medicine to the extent that THC or possibly other ingredients in marijuana have medical value. They can be isolated in the way that we do with medicines and provided as a medicine.

Peter Robison: And it won't move the...

Jacob Sullum: Most people who smoke marijuana, they're not using it for medical purposes. Let's be clear about that.

Peter Robinson: Let's look at another possible first step toward legalization.

Title: Sweet (Maple) Leaf

Peter Robinson: There is pending in Canada, a piece of legislation introduced by the Liberal Party, which is the dominant party in Canada, at the moment in any event, which would broadly decriminalize the sale and possession of marijuana. It would reduce it to the same kind of offense as a traffic ticket. You'd get a citation and a small fine. What about that in this country? You effectively decriminalize and then just watch to see what happens. Is that the toe in the water you're looking for?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: I think we're doing that in some states now. That's a good start.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Let me tell you, I'm very encouraged with this and I--because I want you to be aware that two things have happened lately here in this country which tells you there is a change of attitude. One is we've made buprenorphine which is a heroin substitute available for doctors to prescribe, just now starting. They're taken marinol, which is the synthetic THC, from a Schedule Three to a Two--I mean, from a Two to a Three. Now from a doctor's point of view this is great. I'm saying that there seems to be a climate that we need to try something like this right now.

Peter Robinson: That doesn't even begin to satisfy Jacob. You're talking about doctors being able to prescribe substances for medical use and he wants people to have it because they enjoy it.

Jacob Sullum: But it is--let's not lose sight--I mean, that certainly is progress. If people are not being arrested and going to jail for using a drug that helps relieve their symptoms, that's certainly a good thing. And furthermore, we shouldn't lose sight of there has been progress since the sixties in terms of downgrading marijuana possession as an offense. This used to be something you could do real time for.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Jacob Sullum: Possession for personal use is no longer a felony in any state. So that is progress of a kind. I don't think it should be a crime at all. But it's better if there's a lighter penalty.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: I've got an idea.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: I think the Congress of the United States and the President…

Peter Robinson: Glad to hear it…

Forest Tennant, M.D.: …should authorize some states to try these projects.

Peter Robinson: Federalism. The fifty states are the laboratories of democracy.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Because to try to get the whole country to buy into what he's saying or what I'm saying won't happen but we ought to authorize, maybe a state wants to do what Canada's doing or what Switzerland's doing because somebody's got to try these things and see what happens.

Peter Robinson: So you're in favor...

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Jacob may be right. He may be right.

Jacob Sullum: I agree. I think that's the most plausible route for any kind of serious reform happening. It's going to be at the state level.

Peter Robinson: So what we're looking at really…So we're looking at the eighteen western states that have various forms of ballot initiatives. That's where the action will take place.

Jacob Sullum: Well no, I mean, initiative is one way but let me just point something out. There already is the authorization to do this. It's called the U.S. Constitution. Under the Constitution, the federal government has no business telling California, for example, you may not legalize, you know, medical marijuana.

Peter Robinson: Well John Ashcroft, who knows something about the Constitution, would disagree. So there are constitutional questions to be worked out.

Jacob Sullum: Yeah, but they're, I mean, they're making an argument that if you--in other words, saying if you grow marijuana in your backyard, we have federal jurisdiction over that. As long as they're asserting that and they refuse to step back and allow the states to experiment, you're not going to see any kind of serious movement at the state level.

Peter Robinson: Okay. So you'd agree with that then. You'd agree with that--that you're quite happy to have states undertake various experiments, use the fifty states as the laboratories of democracy, to use the old phrase from civics class, and the federal government ought to back off a little bit and let a few of these experiments go forward.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Absolutely. I think we've got to try it.

Peter Robinson: Last topic, the importance of morality.

Title: Just (Don't) Do It

Peter Robinson: Reagan years, Clinton years--the war on drugs as a legal regime continues in both years--both sets of years, both presidencies, both administrations. During the Reagan years, you get the President and First Lady and members of the cabinet denouncing drug use--Mrs. Reagan and her famous "Just Say No" campaign on which Jacob is clearly playing in the title of his book, Saying Yes-- but you get moral suasion exercised in a pretty heavy way during the Reagan years. And in fact, the statistics show various forms of drug use do indeed dip down. The Clinton years, same legal regime in place but you get much less moral suasion and drug use begins to tip up. Now the point there--what I'm trying to suggest is that the legal regime has held constant. Moral suasion is brought to bear and seems to have an effect. So what I'm trying to suggest or ask is, is the experiment really as frightening as all that if it's coupled with the knowledge that moral suasion alone can kind of contain the problem?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: No question about it.

Peter Robinson: You'd go with that.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Moral persuasion influences a lot of people including myself. We, you know, we have a belief that too many chemicals are bad for us. You also have the medical persuasion. Lots and lot of good athletes decided not to smoke marijuana or use drugs because it hurts their performance. So you've got both moral and medical persuasiveness. I think that will stay in place but there's something major that we need to keep in mind about the Reagan years, the Nixon years, if we go on through the Clinton years. Back when--and I used to appear with Nancy Reagan on shows. I was a great Jusy-Say-No-er but something's happened. We've seen the cartels in Colombia. We've seem the Middle East deteriorate. We've seen 9/11 and we know drugs unpin a lot of this. The corruption in government now, the filling of the jails, you've got what I call the drug industrial complex which has a great motive to keep drugs illegal in this country because they make too much money keeping it illegal. And so as time has gone on…

Peter Robinson: We've seen the costs of the war on drugs.

Forest Tennant, M.D.: That's right. It is--and we've seen countries that can't even vote or walk down the streets safely like Colombia. These are tragedies for humanity. And so it's a small price to pay to let some state or the FDA or a few doctors or a few stores or companies that try something--I think we've got to try.

Peter Robinson: Gentlemen, it's television so I have to come to the last question. Fifteen years from now, will any American over the age of eighteen be able to buy a joint without fear of arrest or prosecution? Jacob?

Jacob Sullum: Yeah, I can see that happening.

Peter Robinson: You think it will?

Jacob Sullum: But I think it's going to require the federal government to respect the Constitution and to allow states to experiment with different kinds of drug policy. What's going to happen in Canada now that they are moving toward decriminalizing marijuana possession? The federal government is very upset about that. I don't think they're upset about it…

Peter Robinson: Our federal government.

Jacob Sullum: Our federal government is very upset about it. I don't think they're upset about it because they think it's going to be a disaster. I think they're afraid it's not going to be a disaster. So here you will have a whole country on our northern border which is not treating marijuana possession in a highly punitive way that we do and they're okay.

Peter Robinson: Forest, fifteen years from now?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Yes, I think it'll be available.

Peter Robinson: You do?

Forest Tennant, M.D.: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Dr. Forest Tennant, Jacob Sullum, thank you very much.

Paul Johnson: Thank you.

Peter Robinson: I'm Peter Robinson for Uncommon Knowledge. Thanks for joining us.