Your grandma has Alzheimer’s disease. This morning she woke up and could not find her husband. He died 5 years ago. If you tell her, she will be sad and upset… at least until she wakes up again tomorrow. Should you lie?
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It is easy to be in favor of legalizing pot. People should be allowed to to make their own choices, even if that means they might make choices that we think are mistakes.
But what if there was a drug that was absolutely 100% permanently physically addictive after the first dose? The drug is cheap and easily available. Once you’ve had your first dose, you are miserable until you get the next one. Repeated use kills quickly and quietly. I’ll call it “Slack”.
Every person who has ever tried Slack now regrets it and wishes they could quit, but they can not. It’s addiction is too strong. Even so, new people continue to try it and get hooked.
Would you be in favor of legalizing Slack?
Invalid answer: “There is no such thing as a 100% addictive drug!” (this is the answer I once got at an otherwise very interesting a drug addiction roundtable.)
Possible valid answer:
“There is no substantive difference between making the single bad decision to try that first dose of Slack and the repeated bad decisions people make to continue to take less addicting drugs. Part of the cost of freedom is that people sometimes make bad choices for themselves – and they suffer the consequences.”
I think that is logical, but contradicts the general human principal of proportional consequences. I think we all intuitively sense that the bigger a mistake, the more severe the consequences can be. It does not seem right to allow a Slack user to die as punishment for single moment of bad judgement. It seems like we should want to stop them from doing something that we know is a mistake – and something that even they will eventually agree is a mistake.
There is no drug like Slack today, but I’m not sure that it matters. What if a drug was only 99% addictive and deadly rather than 100% – would that change things? How about 98%? Or 90%? At some point we are talking about heroin or crack, and eventually we get down to StarBucks.
How do we define the line between a drug that should be illegal and one that should not?