Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reader Poll: What is the biggest public safety threat from illegal drugs?

Since I've been focusing more coverage again recently on the rising threat posed by drug cartel violence on both sides of the Texas Mexico border, this week's reader poll aims to identify what Grits readers think is the biggest threat to public safety from illegal drugs.

I wanted to post someplace here for readers to comment as well as the poll in the sidebar because it's quite likely I didn't identify all the important threats to public safety that may concern Grits readers. (Responses from commenters to last week's query were quite informative and useful. Thanks, folk!) Here's the question as asked; register your view in either the poll in the sidebar and/or in the comments:

Which is the biggest public safety threat related to illegal drugs in America?

  • Detrimental effects on users' health and lifestyle
  • Crimes by drug users
  • Organized crime gangs transporting and distributing drugs
  • Mexican drug cartels
  • Damage done by overincarceration and reduced civil liberties related to the Drug War


Anonymous said...

The government fears legalization would lead to:

1. Everyone would be in a drug induced stupor.

2. Soceity would suffer because no one would work.

3. No one would pay taxes.

Taxation of cigarettes has reduced usage to less than 20% in most places and it is still declining. Education about the health risks of tobacco products have brought on a negative social stigma that has been far more effective than the "War on Drugs".

Recreational Drugs can be handled in the same way. Results would be a much greater benefit to society and the work ethic would remain intact.

Anonymous said...

I happen to agree with you on this one. But dang if that isn't one of the most slanted polls I ever read. It's like it was written by or something.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

How would you prefer the question be posed? And how do you know which way I voted?

Anonymous said...

The government fears legalization would lead to:

1. Everyone would be in a drug induced stupor.

2. Soceity would suffer because no one would work.

3. No one would pay taxes.

Sorry- but I totally disagree and wonder how you came to think these absurd thoughts?? I am a marijuana smoker- and gee whiz, guess what?? I work full time, I pay taxes and I am NOT in a drug induced stupor. In fact i have a very full and rewarding life- I dont commit crimes, and I dont sell my stash. C'mon ANONYMOUS...cant you do better than that??

Anonymous said...

The worst? Police corruption.

Anonymous said...

Without using buzzwords like "overincarceration" and "Damage done by..."

My guess is that you voted either 3 or 6, and given the volume of articles over the years I'd say more likely 6. They're probably both about equal.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So how would you phrase the last option?

And you were wrong how I voted. Perhaps some of your other assumptions are missplaced, too?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it also biased language to say "organized crime gangs" instead of "successful entrepreneurs", or "cartels" instead of "multinational conglomerates"?

All language related to the drug war is loaded. That's part of why it's almost impossible to have an honest conversation on the topic.

kaptinemo said...

Perhaps a better question might have been: "What benefits have drug prohibition provided the United States?" followed by questions such as "Lowered crime rate?" "Improved public/police interaction?" "Reduced incarceration rates?", etc.

Obviously, the above 'benefits', despite all the scores of billions of taxpayer's dollars spent in attempting to achieve them, have not materialized in the 93 year long 'war'; quite the opposite is the case. And given past history, those 'benefits' are never likely to. But it forces those who support drug prohibition to consider the factual results of it in light of their continued calls for more of the same.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

kaptinemo - I'd have gone with that question if I could think of any benefits to list! ;)

JSN said...

The problem they were attempting to solve before drugs were regulated was that patent medicine dealers were getting people addicted to drugs to increase their sales. Instead of providing a supply of regulated drugs at a low cost for registered addicts they made them illegal.

By making drugs illegal there is no way to insure they are pure, have known concentrations and that the user knows how the drug will act on them and what the side effects are. Furthermore they make it profitable for someone to supply illegal drugs at an inflated price.

I think they had too much confidence in law enforcements ability to deal with the illegal drug trade.

Anonymous said...


Easy killer, you may have some residual anger from dealing with danielusmc in other threads.

I think it's a bit loaded. I'm not sure how I would rephrase it without giving it more thought than I have time for on a Monday. But--as a public policy major who has done significant research into statistical analysis and polls generally, I just think your questions are too charged.

I'm not criticizing you, and the guess as to how you voted wasn't a substantive part of my comment. Not that there was a substantive part. And it's your joint anyway, so you get to ask what you want.

Anyway, whatever.

Gritsforbreakfast said...


Believe me, amigo, my "residual anger" has nothing to do with this blog!

As to whether the question is too charged, what about 9:44's point? Isn't it charged to speak of cartels and organized crime gangs, when, if they were sellling beer instead of pot, we'd be talking about Miller and Budweiser instead of Sinaloa y Gulf, etc.?

The question asked which is the biggest "threat," so everything listed will be negative. I'm not sure how to portray that last item without making it negative just like the other possibilities.

I'm open to the possibility it's poorly worded. How do you describe that phenomenon, then, in a neutral manner? And would you agree that surveys on this topic using the more common language of "cartels," "gangs," etc. are also biased and misleading?

Anonymous said...

"Poorly worded" is not how I'd describe it, it's a good poll even if I do think it's too charged. I disagree that some topics are always controversial and slanted. For example, I'm so far removed from any drug cartel activity that I don't see it as a threat at all. I only see overincarceration as a problem from a libertarian perspective, and many think you can't lock enough people away (see, Smith County) so the only incarceration problem is that they aren't locking pot smokers away fast enough.

It starts to get "automatically controversial" when you ask about "threats of [insert hot topic here]." But, if you want to know what people see as the bigger threat, you have to list a bunch of threats.

Words like 'effect of' are more neutral than 'damages due to,' and so on. But that's a very academic way to look at polls, when your audience already knows what the topics are and isn't exactly a random sampling.

So, is the topic automatically biased? No. But can you go ahead and phrase it any way you want because your audience isn't the random sample most polls look for? absolutely.

Basically, I'm defending what started out as a joke. Don't let it divert from the topic.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No doubt it's not a scientific sample!

I've only ever done one reader poll that I think has any statistical validity at all and it's this one, both because of its size and the neutrality of the question.

In this case, basically I'm coming to see cartels and related official corruption as a huge, worrisome undercurrent (my pick of the choices, incidentally), and wanted to see how many Grits readers agreed with me. Obviously, so far, not many, so what do I know? best,

Anonymous said...

Good grief. Please don't tell me that thousands of basement-dwelling Farkers are as close as you've gotten to scientific.

We're doomed.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Farkers or no, it's hard to imagine the source of bias on the question "Do you have an alibi for last night?"

OTOH, when you read their comment string on the topic, many of them had alibis such as "my Halo 3 user logs," so maybe it's too narrow a pool after all. :) best,

Anonymous said...

overincarceration. the only reason pot isn't legal is because the government hasn't figured out how to tax it yet. just give them time.

Prison Writings, Interviews, and Art said...

I guess the poll pretty much says it all so far. In the end the taxpayers pay for the huge prison population, either that or big business gets richer from slave labor. A vicious cycle, that needs to be stopped. But how?

Rusty White said...

The biggest threat, is to continue to blindly support a policy that facts, truth, logic and common sense " CAN NOT ", not only can they not be used to support it, it can't be used to justify it! So knowing this is the truth, WHY SHOULD WE???

When you have a failed policy, BY IT'S OWN documented failures, why continue it? The bottom lines to this problem is money, power, and harm done. As long as we continue a policy that has Guaranteed the total control of all three to the bad guys, year after year, NOTHING WILL CHANGE!

The Regulation and Legalization of drugs " IS NOT " a vote for or against any drug! It " IS NOT " to solve our countries drug problems! "" IT IS " to take the money, power and funds away from those who have had it for 30+ years! While ending the needless violence and deaths of both users and innocent Americans! While slowing the spread of disease.

There Has To Be A Better Way!:)

Rusty White

Anonymous said...

Getting caught in the middle of a raid at seven thirty or eight in the morning when you are dropping your child off at school feels dangerous.

Wrong house dynamic entries that can quickly set off things like getting killed by a police officer or killing one in, of course, unacceptable self or household defense.

All those things are a real threat to the public's safety.

Was there undercover police work in the United States before the War on Drugs?

Do police often, or ever, go undercover to catch murderers and thieves and such?

Undercover police work is fraught with dilemma.

It certainly makes it that much easier for the people who might be inclined to impersonate a police officer for one reason or another.

Anonymous said...

The biggest public safety threat from illegal drugs is from the illegality, their prohibition.

Alcohol, a drug, is dangerous...but prohibiting it, making it illegal, made everything about it that was dangerous, infinitely more dangerous, and amazingly enough, the prohibition of alcohol gave birth to very dangerous activities that the authoritarian prohibiters didn't foresee.

Same holds true with the today's presently illegal "drugs", only a look at history should have helped them foresee what this prohibition of a substance has wrought.

Alcohol can kill. Drugs can kill. Fire can kill. Cars can kill. Gas can kill.

They are things.... substances, and objects, that are dangerous, but prohibiting people from using them and calling their use "a crime" doesn't work.

It never has and it never will. Making possession and use of a substance a crime, only creates another whole level of crime... real ones.

Smoking, drinking, eating, injecting, and possessing drugs should not be a crime.

Doing so, theoretically, might happen before a crime... like stepping off the porch and getting in the car might happen before a crime... or picking up an object, or a fit of rage or greed might lead to a crime... but things that one imagines might "lead" to a crime shouldn't be the crime.

Only the actual crime, murder, rape, or theft should be the crime, and whatever one imagines might have "lead to it" is not the point.

Hmmm. Making everything illegal... a crime... that might lead to a real crime... murder, rape, theft, or injury. That's something to think about.

Hope said...

"The Regulation and Legalization of drugs " IS NOT " a vote for or against any drug! It " IS NOT " to solve our countries drug problems! "" IT IS " to take the money, power and funds away from those who have had it for 30+ years! While ending the needless violence and deaths of both users and innocent Americans! While slowing the spread of disease."

Very well said, Mr. White.