Sunday, February 27, 2011

Update on Draft 1.4

Another week, another case of not putting in as much time as hoped/planned on the vice paper. Nevertheless, I do have the beginnings of a draft on the licensing section, and an even more rudimentary start to self-exclusion. I didn't make it very far into the Committee of Fifty's 1905 Summary book, alas, and the Portuguese section remains untouched. So for next week, my goals are: (1) brush up the licensing section; (2) complete a draft of the self-exclusion section; (3) put down some preliminary discussion of Portugal; and (4) read a lot more of the Committee of Fifty's book.

Writing is research, as the cliche' has it, so I am OK with the emphasis so far on gathering, digesting, and organizing information. But I am approaching a time when I will want to think more carefully about applying economic theory -- or rather, behavioral economics choice theory -- to regulatory options involving licensing and exclusion. Self-exclusion or self-limiting, for instance, would seem to work well for people who are sophisticated about their future self-control shortcomings. Naive vice consumers, though, will not recognize their future unreliability, so a voluntary exclusion will not have much appeal, at least until serious damage has occurred. (Comparisons between naive and sophisticated consumers are a feature of many contributions to behavioral economics -- I associate the terminology with papers by Matthew Rabin and Ted O'Donoghue.) So maybe I can do some more gathering as opposed to thinking, by collecting the main contributions to behavioral decision theory.

The Draft Two deadline, March 15, is looming. This is the first "real" deadline, because there was no intention that Draft One would be anywhere near complete. My hope is that I will indeed have a complete draft by the deadline -- but I suspect that it will be rambling, unfocused, and possibly pointless. But that is why there are three more drafts planned.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Update on Draft 1.3

A familiar tale: my goals for this past week were modest, I failed to meet them, but still accomplished more than I would have had I not committed those goals to writing on this blog. So I will soldier on -- OK, a sort of antiquated, out-of-shape, cowardly type of soldiering.

I did fully get through Fosdick and Scott and the Transform blueprint. I updated the Fosdick and Scott review in the old draft, but barely touched the Transform section -- which requires a serious Transformation. Didn't write the licensing section(s) either, but did cobble together some thoughts. So, for next week, in terms of writing, I will re-iterate last week's plan: rewrite the background sections on Fosdick and Scott, and Transform -- with a focus on their similarities as well as their views on buyer licensing -- and generate a full, coherent draft of the licensing section. Beyond these now-venerable aspirations, I want to look into the Committee of Fifty's 1905 Summary book, a hard copy of which I procured from the library, and also get up to snuff on the drug policy regime in Portugal. In Toward Liquor Control, Fosdick and Scott make frequent reference to the Committee of Fifty.

Fosdick and Scott do not look all that kindly toward the licensing of alcohol buyers -- though they recognize that it can be helpful in some locations, and that it has proven popular with many elements of Canadian officialdom. Transform endorses buyer licensing or limits for many drugs, and the proposed licenses come in a wide variety of styles. For cannabis, they do not see the need for buyer licenses, though purchase limits (as in the Dutch coffee shops) might be put in place. During the early part of a transition to a legal regime, they support buyer licenses and purchase limits for users of cocaine, opiates, and amphetamines. For the psychedelic drugs, Transform imagines clubs at which drugs could be dispensed to members, who among other conditions, might have to undergo training on the risks (and benefits) of drug use.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Update on Draft 1.2

I'll try to put a positive spin on the past week's activities. Continuing to work my way through Fosdick and Scott, at a glacial pace. Did a somewhat better job in assimilating the Transform drug reform blueprint. The other two elements of my intended background section, on the Portuguese decriminalization and the defeated California marijuana legalization initiative, remained on the back burner. Continued to try to learn more about self-exclusion, though almost nothing made its way to the blog.

I see the paper as heading more in the buyer licensing and self-exclusion direction. (I now envision the sections of the paper as: (1) Introduction; (2) Background; (3) Licensing; (4) Self-exclusion; (5) Conclusion; and (6) References and Endnotes. The title is evolving, too, with the current version "Toward Drug Control: Buyer Licensing and Self-Exclusion.") In a sense, all drug control regimes (from the point of view of the consumer) can be described as variations on the license theme. What do you have to do, what hoops must you jump through, to acquire the drug legally, to be a licensed user? For alcohol, it is that you must be 21 years of age or older (to purchase); for marijuana, in terms of federal law, there is nothing you can do (except for those four or so remaining federal medical mj users). Other marijuana "licensing" regimes are in existence: in California, you must receive a recommendation from a physician (though you will still bump up against the federal prohibition), while in the Netherlands, you must be 18.

So one issue is what must be done to acquire a license. A second issue is precisely what the license allows, that is, are there limits imposed? In the US, once you are old enough to purchase alcohol, you can buy all the alcohol you want. In the Netherlands, you will be limited to 5 grams of marijuana in a coffee shop. A third issue is whether licensed users can choose their own limits, lower than the legal maximums. A fourth issue is how you can have the license revoked, and reinstated. In the US, some people lose their drinking license as part of a court proceeding, and they either check in regularly for testing or wear one of those fashionable ankle bracelets. I imagine that troublesome users of any drug -- if the trouble is drug-related -- should face the possibility of losing their drug license.

Any drug regulatory system that requires some positive step (beyond becoming sufficiently old) to acquire a license has a built-in self-exclusion system: don't get the license, and you are not a legal buyer. But for drugs (or other vices) that do not require such positive steps, voluntary, enforceable self-exclusion schemes can be useful elements of the regulatory framework -- as they already are for gambling. Self-exclusion programs involve many of the same issues as broader licensing schemes: what do you have to do to self-exclude, how can the exclusion be revoked, are there ways to exclude in a limited way, and so on. Self-exclusion could even be tacked on to the regulatory system for drugs that do require buyer licenses: a person could choose to self-exclude for some time from the option of acquiring a license.

OK, in the coming week I intend to finish up (for the time being) with Fosdick and Scott, and with Transform, and to rewrite the background sections of my paper that involve these contributions. I also want to generate a draft of section 3, on licensing. We'll say how this mini-plan goes....

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Update on Draft 1.1

I suggested that I would try to provide a weekly post detailing my progress from Draft One to Draft Two. The assiduous Five Drafts reader rightly should now expect the refrain of "little progress," and I would prefer not to disappoint expectations. Since last week, I learned more about the Transform drugs regulatory framework, though I have no written evidence of that. I read a bit more of Fosdick and Scott. I continued to learn more about self-exclusion programs, though only two new posts made it to the Self-Exclusion blog.

I have decided to focus the section two literature review on just four main contributions: (1) Fosdick and Scott; (2) Portugal; (3) California mj; and (4) Transform. (So already a significant part of what little appeared in Draft One is slated for excision.) The idea is to pick up on the three challenges to drug prohibition noted by Levine and Reinarman:
the emergence and development of the harm reduction movement within drug prohibition; the growth of a serious, reputable opposition to criminalized and punitive drug policies; and the inability of drug prohibition to stop the cultivation and use of cannabis throughout the world.

See you in a week, with the blessing.