John Livingston

Idaho’s War on Fentanyl — Let’s Try Again on HB 406

All one has to do to see the devastation that has been brought by drug use and its impact on the potential of human capital is to go to Pioneer Square in Seattle or go two blocks from Temple Square in Salt Lake City or go to Portland or any of our major cities. The evil of drug addiction has become ubiquitous in our society and has affected almost every family—including my own.

Many on the political “right” especially those that identify as being libertarian or “libertine” have expressed opinions suggesting that the use of drugs—including Schedule One drugs like marijuana (MJH) and fentanyl should be liberalized or at least in the case of (MJH) down scheduled. Some have even opined that the active ingredient in (MJH) tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is less deleterious than ethanol (ETOH). Those who make such an argument don’t understand the pharmacology and biochemistry of the two drugs.

I have written several earlier articles about this, but I was happy to see an article in last month’s New England Journal of Medicine entitled “Cannabis-Related Disorders and Toxic Effects” (subscription required) details the many physiologic and psychologic pathologies associated with acute and chronic (MJH) use.

Alex Berenson’s book, Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence, has previously documented over 20 years of clinical research that refutes information promulgated from our own National Institutes of Health and Health and Human Services Department—and might I add members of the libertarian and progressive communities in our State. Understanding that our individual liberties are derived from God’s great gift to man (free will) one must begin to understand that any form of addiction is an assault on “free will” and individual sovereignty. If one believes in liberty, then any assault in any form on that liberty—especially when it involves our children must be confronted and destroyed. The liberalization and rescheduling of drugs—(MJH) or opiates like Fentanyl is such an assault.

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Those who participate in the commercial exploitation and assault on such individual liberty need to be prosecuted criminally—those who deal with drugs. Last year it was estimated that almost 100,000 people—the majority young people, died from Fentanyl overdoses. I have been unable to find the number for patients who have harmed themselves or others as the result of acute (THC) psychosis, but if you were to ask any ER doctor who works in a big city, they would tell you that it is very common.

(MJH) use is dangerous in its’ acute setting and long term it has been recognized to impair cognitive function. According to an article written in the 01/22/24 Wall Street Journal by Allysia Finley (MJH) use is more common in young people (18-22) than (ETOH)—less than 2% compared to 6.8—11%. Similarly, in 30-year-olds the same study from the University of Michigan reported 11% daily use of (MJH). This in light of the fact that (MJH) can precipitate acute psychotic reactions in those who have never used it and in those who use it frequently. It can also exacerbate psychotic episodes in those who carry a previous diagnosis of “psychosis. An abstract from the Journal Permante that reviews articles in the Psychological literature explains my position:

“There is strong evidence to suggest that chronic and early cannabis use increases the risk of developing a psychotic disorder, and there is at least moderate evidence that suggests ongoing cannabis use among individuals with a psychotic disorder worsens clinical outcomes (e.g., decreased psychiatric medication adherence, more frequent psychiatric hospitalizations). “

I am a proponent of criminal justice reform. I do not believe in mandatory sentencing of criminals. I do believe in prosecuting and sending to jail those people who are dealing in drugs. There is a fine line between “dealing” and “distributing”. For example, what about a high school kid that habitually gives his friends schedule one drugs like Fentanyl or (MJH) without charging them? Maybe if mommy and daddy are paying for the drugs like what happens at so many well-to-do Idaho High Schools accountability and mitigation could be better directed? Should there be some culpability for them?

A simple law like the proposed Idaho House Bill 406 is not capable of resolving such situations that are nuanced. I am also uncomfortable with a legislative body prescribing a sentence on a citizen who is not even sitting in front of them any more than I am comfortable with overzealous prosecutors. I still believe in the process, and I have to trust judges. If judges aren’t doing their jobs they should be fired or recalled. I do believe we have made progress with “Drug Courts” in our State. Above all we should do everything we can to keep drugs out of the hands of vulnerable people.

We should not down schedule either (MJH) or any of the opiates and their derivatives. I will continue to support law enforcement and our Governor in fighting the ravaging effects of drugs on the people of Idaho—lest we end up looking like Seattle or Portland. WE can do better than House Bill 406.

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5 replies on “Idaho’s War on Fentanyl — Let’s Try Again on HB 406”

In his 1941 book, “Interventionism: An Economic Analysis,” economist Ludwig von Mises made a prescient observation about markets and human nature.

“It is irrelevant to the entrepreneur, as the servant of the consumers, whether the wishes and wants of the consumers are wise or unwise, moral or immoral. He produces what the consumers want. In this sense he is amoral. He manufactures whiskey and guns just as he produces food and clothing. It is not his task to teach reason to the sovereign consumers. Should one entrepreneur, for ethical reasons of his own, refuse to manufacture whiskey, other entrepreneurs would do so as long as whiskey is wanted and bought. It is not because we have distilleries that people drink whiskey; it is because people like to drink whiskey that we have distilleries. One may deplore this. But it is not up to the entrepreneurs to improve mankind morally. And they are not to be blamed if those whose duty this is have failed to do so.”

His observations hold true for marijuana and even fentanyl, at least to the extent that it is knowingly consumed. To paraphrase, it is not because we have drug dealers that people use drugs, it is because people choose to use drugs that we have drug dealers.

The tendency to paint dealers as the enemy and addicts as their victims ignores a simple truth. If no one wanted to use drugs, there would be no financial incentive for anyone to supply them.

Thanks Parish. Von Misis, Freidman, and Hyack all argued on free market principles assuming that the market in addicting substances was in fact a “free Mrket”. Free markets require “free choice” which requires consumer sovereignty . A person addicted to drugs is incapblable of exercising their own free will or independent sovereignty.

All three argued for legalization, but never opined about decriminalization of distrubuters or dealors. I would also point out that market forces are severely altered when the supplier can create a “utility of demand” based on an addictioin that usurps the free will of the individaul who can and often times does become addicted or at least habituated. Government further interferes on the demand side when it provides for drugs and needles that facilitates this demand. We should treat addiction as a medical problem. We should do all we can to restore an individuals “free will” and liberty.

In my opinion liberty loving people should never encourage or ever tolerate activites that infringe on an “individauls free will.

I understand the argument you’re making, but I would caution against embracing the circular logic of arguing that people who make decisions with which you disagree lack the ability to make their own decisions (as evidenced by their poor decision making) and therefore government should intervene.

All human choices have an influence on how we think, not just choosing to consume drugs or alcohol. Anything that feeds an addiction can impact an individual’s ability to make what are generally regarded as “good” decisions. When people choose to embrace their destructive impulses — regarding intoxicants, food, sex, adrenaline, or anything else — they are impaired to some extent, but when that fact is used as an excuse to regulate and control, you’re not preserving free will, you’re replacing it with the force and violence of government.

Government infringes on free will far more than an individual’s personal choices ever could.

Thanks again Parrish,
There can be no liberty without free will. Those who take away “free will” and exploit dependnency are not promoting either free will or liberty. There could be nothing more dangerous to us individaully or as a people than being dependent on something other ourselves.

Actually, both perceptions are correct. The government imposed prohibition which led to either an alcoholic creating his own alcohol for his addiction, or to an entrepreneur (bootlegger) who could see the potential for profit and created a market for it. Either way, the market and the individual made the free choice to create an avenue to obtain what both wanted.
Regardless of the “drug”, government interference has shown little ability to end the problem. The alcoholic chose to exercise free will to re-obtain the alcohol just as the narcotic user will do the same. Prohibition didn’t end the alcohol problem by locking up bootleggers, so will be the same be for other drug use. Locking up dealers will lead the addict resorting to making his own drug or finding another way to create another market for it, or sometimes the danger of the drug itself will lead addicts to switch to something else.
As for free will, addicts who have not used for years and are under no influence of a drug, being in control and of free will, make the decision and choice to start using again. Unimpaired, they have the liberty to make that choice.

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