Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It was 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared a "war on drugs." $2.5 trillion dollars later, drug use is half of what it was 30 years ago, and thousands of offenders are successfully diverted to treatment instead of jail. And yet, 22 million Americans-9% of the population-still uses illegal drugs, and with the highest incarceration rate in the world, we continue to fill our prisons with drug offenders. Decimated families and communities are left in the wake. Is it time to legalize drugs or is this a war that we're winning?

  • paul-butler-for webFOR

    Paul Butler
    Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center


  • Nick-Gillespie-web


    Nick Gillespie

    Editor in Chief of and

  • Asa-Hutchinson-web


    Asa Hutchinson

    Former Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration

  • Theodore Dalrymple web


    Theodore Dalrymple

    Dietrich Weismann Fellow, Manhattan Institute

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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paul-butler-for web

For The Motion

Paul Butler

Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

Paul Butler is a leading criminal law scholar and current Law Professor at Georgetown University Law Center.  He served as a Federal Prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, where his specialty was public corruption. While at the Department of Justice, Professor Butler also served as a special assistant U.S. attorney, prosecuting drug and gun cases. Butler provides legal commentary for CNN, NPR, and the Fox News Network. He has been featured on 60 Minutes and profiled in the Washington Post. He has written for the Post, the Boston Globe, and the Los Angeles Times and is the author of Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice (2009).

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For The Motion

Nick Gillespie

Editor in Chief of and

Nick Gillespie is editor in chief of and ReasonTV, the online platforms of Reason, the libertarian magazine of "Free Minds and Free Markets." Gillespie's work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Slate, Salon,, Marketplace, and numerous other publications. As one of America’s “foremost libertarians,” Gillespie is also a frequent commentator on radio and television networks such as National Public Radio, CNBC, CNN, C-SPAN, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and PBS.

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Against The Motion

Asa Hutchinson

Former Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration

Asa Hutchinson is CEO of Hutchinson Group, a homeland security consulting firm, and practices law in Northwest Arkansas.  Hutchinson was the first Under Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  In that capacity, he was responsible for border and transportation security.  He is a three time Member of Congress from Arkansas serving from 1997-2001. Following his third term reelection, Hutchinson was appointed by President George W. Bush as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowmen School of Law teaching National Security Law.

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Theodore Dalrymple web

Against The Motion

Theodore Dalrymple

Dietrich Weismann Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Theodore Dalrymple is a retired prison doctor and psychiatrist, who most recently practiced in a British inner city hospital and prison. He is the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a contributor to the London Spectator, The New Criterion, and other leading magazines and newspapers. In 2011, Dalrymple received the Freedom Prize from the Flemish think tank Libera!.

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Declared Winner: For The Motion

Online Voting

Voting Breakdown:

56% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (35% voted FOR twice, 14% voted AGAINST twice, 7% voted UNDECIDED twice). 44% changed their mind (6% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 4% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 6% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 2% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 16% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 10% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST) | Breakdown Graphic

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    • Comment Link Mike Monday, 26 November 2012 00:45 posted by Mike

      I really think that the goal of these debates on controversial topics is noble. However, very often the topic is too broad and the sides tend to talk past each other. For this debate, I think that the major issue of our time is marijuana legalization and I would have preferred a specific debate of that notion.

    • Comment Link John Mangione Friday, 23 November 2012 13:07 posted by John Mangione

      Please disentangle the two discussions, "legalizing all drugs" versus "legalizing pot", as they are significantly different, and it is immature as a collective to lump pot with other drugs, just because it is convenient for the intellectually lazy people, and those refusing to consider EACH "drug" on their own merits and dangers.

      If you wish to be considered intellectually relevant, please be more thoughtful about the premises of the debates you wish to have.

      Thank you for at least trying to have an intellectual discussion on either/both of these topics.

    • Comment Link David Thursday, 22 November 2012 23:46 posted by David

      I think the debate asked the wrong question. It should have been framed as "Should drugs with little evidence of harm or addiction be legalized?" This would have effectively neutralized most of the opposition's arguments, since they centered primarily around the harmful effects of meth and opioids. It also would have focused the debate on the most relevant issue: legalization of marijuana and possibly other hallucinogenic plants, like ayahuasca, that have a long tradition of medicinal and/or shamanic use.

    • Comment Link Duane Grindstaff Monday, 19 November 2012 15:11 posted by Duane Grindstaff

      Can anybody post evidence of prohibition actually having the desired effect & working, since the time of Genesis, when the highest authority (God) prohibited a Forbidden Fruit with threat of the harshest penalty (death)?

      All that it did in the Garden of Eden was to empower Satan to bring Temptation to man. Shouldn't that be heeded as a Biblical warning of what not to do?

    • Comment Link G Friday, 16 November 2012 20:31 posted by G

      I'm sorry to say, this was pretty disappointing compared to most of the Intelligence Squared debates. Dalrymple's argument is that consumption of drugs is evidence of a moral and "spiritual" defect in the imbiber's character. Hutchinson's is that felony convictions and prison time are actually redemptive and socially empowering. Butler's is that the application of drug policy is discriminatory, and Gillespie's is a generalized appeal for greater autonomy.

      While there were several worthwhile points- the opportunity cost of diverted resources in the criminal justice system, the capricious nature of enforcement, and so on- many more arguments seem to have been forgotten. I would have appreciated a discussion of the inevitable reallocation of expenses from law enforcement to health care were legalization to take place. Or of how institutionalized racism in drug enforcement leads to alienation and justifiably antisocial attitudes amongst the aggrieved parties.

      Or most importantly, how drug policy serves as a proxy economic instrument. How it transfers tax revenues to the criminal justice and incarceration sectors. How it sustains forced labor domestically for cents per hour. How it neuters a large economically disenfranchised and potentially politically restive segment of the population.

      Last, while Butler and Gillespie had apparently devoted some energy to imagining a decriminalized drug regime, Dalrymple and Hutchinson seemed to have devoted very little effort in that regard. Whatever one's predisposition on the topic happens to be, I would simply ask a somewhat more granular consideration of the alternatives. Regulation of methamphetamine production shouldn't be dismissed as something the market will just take care of. The withdrawal of the vast majority of an organized crime faction's income doesn't mean that they will be able to sustain the same scope of operations in other illegal enterprises.

      This isn't a simple problem, and it isn't amenable to simplistic solutions. Unfortunately, that appeared to be all that was on offer in this case. It's certainly not the fault of the forum, but maybe the issue deserves reconsideration with a more focused question. And maybe amendments to the panel?

      Thanks anyways to IQ2.

    • Comment Link David Douglas Friday, 16 November 2012 16:21 posted by David Douglas

      You know, what's probably the most harmful to the defense of Nixon-era drug policy is that this guy is one of those social totalitarians from the church. He's not an actual traditional conservative. He is a patriarchal neoconservative. And clearly NYC is not digging him. Neocons, everybody hates neocons. Republicans need to shed their neocons, just like democrats have shed *their* totalitarian roots.

    • Comment Link malcolm kyle Friday, 16 November 2012 04:51 posted by malcolm kyle

      An appeal to all Prohibitionists:

      Most of us know that individuals who use illegal drugs are going to get high—no matter what, so why do you not prefer they acquire them in stores that check IDs and pay taxes? Gifting the market in narcotics to ruthless criminals, foreign terrorists, and corrupt law enforcement officials is seriously compromising our future.

      Why do you wish to continue with a policy that has proven itself to be a poison in the veins of our once so "proud & free" nation? Even if you cannot bear the thought of people using drugs, there is absolutely nothing you, or any government, can do to stop them. We have spent 40 years and trillions of dollars on this dangerous farce; Prohibition will not suddenly and miraculously start showing different results. Do you actually believe you may personally have something to lose If we were to begin basing our drug policy on science & logic instead of ignorance, hate and lies?

      Maybe you're a police officer, a prison guard, or a local/national politician. Possibly you're scared of losing employment, overtime pay, the many kickbacks, and those regular fat bribes. But what good will any of that do you once our society has followed Mexico over the dystopian abyss of dismembered bodies, vats of acid, and marauding thugs carrying gold-plated AK-47s with leopard-skinned gunstocks?

      Kindly allow us to forgo the next level of your sycophantic prohibition-engendered mayhem.

      Prohibition prevents regulation: legalize, regulate, and tax!

    • Comment Link Bergman Oswell Friday, 16 November 2012 00:10 posted by Bergman Oswell

      A logic puzzle for you:

      What percentage of the population would use illegal drugs if all drugs were legalized?

      If tobacco was placed on Schedule I tomorrow (where it belongs), what percentage of the U.S. population would use illegal drugs the day after tomorrow?

    • Comment Link Billiam Thursday, 15 November 2012 23:31 posted by Billiam

      The two themes and/or quotes that came flowing from the opposition were as follows:

      1. "That point/question/argument has nothing to do with this debate"

      2. "Drug use has gone down by 50% over the past 30 years!"

      Just ducking the good arguments or questions they can't answer while at the same time sticking to this ideology that every drug is bad and claiming a false victory by heralding one favorable stat of one of the inputs to a problem and not the outputs of incarceration and crime rates.

      Such ridiculous arguments made by the opposition. They'll be sitting right next to Senator McCarthy in the history books here in 50 years.

      Was skeptical of Gillespie going in to this, but solid performance. Butler clung to the racial argument, but any independent minded person should clearly admit that the African American community is getting hosed in this whole fiasco and feel as if the IQ squared board did them a service by letting Butler onto the panel and making that point painfully obvious.

    • Comment Link Cyto Thursday, 15 November 2012 14:10 posted by Cyto

      Asa's arguments kept boiling down to "we live in a democracy and as a society we have decided that these drugs are illegal". That is not an argument - but it does match the opinion of a large percentage of the anti-legalization sentiment.

    • Comment Link Boyd Durkin Thursday, 15 November 2012 10:08 posted by Boyd Durkin

      Interesting that Asa slowly says "President Barack Obama" several times as an appeal to authority. Not a great strategy at any debate and certainly not this particular debate where the audience won't be swayed by a title.

      "Drug Use Cut In Half": Asa, everyone knows that can factually be proven to be caused by global warming as much as the war on drugs. That's to say "no factual proof at all". Societies change.

      "Treaty Agreements": Hey, you signed the dumb things. But that doesn't justify action.

      Asa never said if he'd call 911 if he caught his daughter smoking crack, just that he'd want to lock up the supplier.

      I'm not in favor of chartering the state with outlawing (violently enforcing) all things that are harmful. So, I don't care about drug use rising or falling. I care about the right over your body.

      Next up: Outlaw steak because babies don't have teeth.

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