Week 10 – March 11, 2014
Law and Society Lecture – Moral Panic & the War on Drugs
Discussing the problem with metaphors: images of particular descriptions.
The war on terror metaphor and its similarities to the war on drugs metaphor.
We hear about the war on terror on a daily basis and has dominated the western area.
Is this a real war? No. war is against a specific enemy, no declaration, and no determinancy on when this war will be won or lost, there are no
Conflict between the good and the evil and its only a metaphor and like most metaphors it misleads.
Discourse on the war on terrorism
State of Union Address, Bush Jr. September 20, 2001
“This is a new king of evil. So this will be a long campaign a campaign that will use the resources of the U.S to win. My administration is
determined to find them, to get them running and to hunt them down those evildoers who did this to America. Now I want to remind the
American people that the prime suspects organization is in a lot of countries. It’s a large broad organization, based upon one thing: terrorizing.
This crusade this war on terrorism is going to take a while. The have roused a mighty giant. This war will not end until every terrorist group has
been found, stopped and defeated.”
The possibility of determining if we have succeeded is almost impossible and will take forever. How can we be sure that we can locate every single
terrorist group? What will it take to permanently stop and defeat them?
How are we even defining terrorists?
Discourse on the war on drugs
Ronald Regan 1986
My generation will remember how America swung into action when we were attacked in WW2. Now we are in another war for our freedom and its time for
us to pull together again. When we all come together united striving for this cause then those who are killing America and terrorizing it with slow but sure
chemical destruction will see that they are up against the mightiest force for good. They will have no dark alleyways to hide in.
Terrorism does pose a threat and so does drugs. But like terrorism the threat of drugs is not just in the act or the user. The threat is also in the response
to drugs. The threat that we confront as a society from the states attempt to prevent it.
Notion Of Harm – Mill on Liberty
the principle is, that the sole end for which manking are warranted in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their members is selfprotection. That
the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of vixiled community against his will is to prevent harm to others. His own
good physical or moral is nota sufficient warrant.
For mill and liberals it’s never okay or proper to criminalize an act because it may prevent harm to the user or the thought of this act may be offensive to
others. You may think drug users are bad people but its not bad enough to make these acts illegal and criminalize or cause them harm for doing so.
There is a need to guide public policy in terms of drug control based in terms of this harm principle. Each drug legal or not legal must be based on its own
merits, its relative potential on personal and social harm and what can we do to minimize harm. We need to have a policy according to mill that is tailor
made for each particular drug. For mill only public protection justifies state intervention or coersion and it has to be limited to actions that threaten civil
order or public security.
Weber on Modern law
Emblematic instance of racialization
i.e decision making based on reason and efficiency concerns replaces patterns of thinking based on custom, emotion etc. Modern Law
with its logical, consistent rules and procedures
provides a means for rational social control in a democratic self determining society.
Are our drug policies good examples of laws that are science based and rationally thought out?
Why does Canadian drug policy seem to make such little sense?
no reliable correlation between harm of a drug and its legal status
Substances that pose the greatest deal of harm are not included in the list of inhibited substances.
Eg. Le Dain commission: disproportionate amount of money and time spent on convictions compared to the amount of harm from cannabis; and
recommended that the government reform laws to allow for the regulation of its possession and cultivation, just like regulating alcohol. Because of
cannabis low toxitity the majority of the commission agreed it should be decriminalized but not legalized to deter young people from ingesting it freely.
365 submissions were given to the commission and some of the best scientists spoke about the minimal harm weed causes and the testimony included
The final report was praised and was very well thought out but its conclusions were ignored by the federal government. They spent a lot of money on the
research but the government paid no mind to it.
The criminal law has a paternalistic view and function and does not connect to mills theory.
Ian Campbell said the state has to state guard social morality and criminal law has a paternalistic function. He is responsible for relating conventional
morality to drug use. He said the criminal penalties must be upheld.
Despite the Le Dain majority recommendations the laws support Campbell’s view of enforcing morality and drug laws have not changed much at all.
Hathaway It is also said that any intervention in private drug use is a violation of citizens rights.
we always argue against criminalizing drugs like weed and it never goes anywhere and its time to look beyond that.
When discussing criminalization of drugs think of these questions….
Current criminalization approach is ineffective: it is a deterrent? Is it effective?
The harm that a law seeks to prevent has to be greater then the cost associated with its persecution.
Criminalization adds substantial aggravating social harms.
“The nature of the war on drugs is such that the more vigorously a nation wages it the more catastrophic are the social consequences inflicted upon
itself” (p. 499)
The US has achieved the highet rate of imprisonment in the world at a cost of 5