Oct 1, 2010

Resolved: The abuse of illegal drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice.

The NFL Lincoln Douglas debate resolution for November / December has been released:
Resolved: The abuse of illegal drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice.
It raises all kinds of interesting questions.

Why do we criminalize certain bad behaviors, but not others? When it comes to illegal drugs, who chooses what's legal--alcohol, tobacco, caffeine--and what's illegal? What can we safely assume about the criminal justice system (or the society) in question? What would a public health response look like? Does prohibition lead inexorably to a War on Drugs? What exactly constitutes "abuse of illegal drugs?" Would drugging someone else be a public health matter if the resolution were affirmed? And who makes the decision to decriminalize drugs--do we use democratic methods? Listen to the experts? What if no consensus can be found? Who has an interest in preserving the status quo? In what ways might prohibition increase the problems of drug abuse? And, from a critical perspective, what about a libertarian stance that says neither option presented by the resolution is valid--that drugs should be a matter of individual choice, and not the State's concern?

John Stuart Mill's "harm principle" offers a good access point for someone unsure of where to begin. You can also bet that utilitarianism will be a popular position, especially for Affirmatives trying to link any kind of prohibition to the War on Drugs.

This should be interesting. As a person who, over time, has come to believe that the American drug war is a tragedy, my inclination is to see the resolution as tough for the Negative to win. I guess we'll see. Regardless, it's a fantastic resolution from an educational perspective--there's a lot of hype, misinformation, and propaganda to sift through, on all sides.

More links, analysis, and observations to come. As always, share your questions and ideas in the comments--they're what make this site so useful for so many!

Added 10/7: Some thoughts about both sides of the resolution.

Added 10/13: One of my PuFo debaters got me thinking: could a public health official quarantine drug abusers?

Added 10/19: Another attempt to cut to the core of the resolution in an LD mailbag.

Added 10/22: Some links to older material on retributive justice.

Added 10/25: Value and criterion pairs.

Added 10/31: What's the most destructive drug?

Added 11/2: A couple links from the IDPC. The first: examining countries that use the death penalty for drug offenses. The second: a policy paper encouraging a treatment-based approach.

Added 11/7: I discuss some cross-examination strategies for this resolution.

Added 11/9: I write about definitions and uniqueness in an LD mailbag.

Added 11/10: A public health effort to warn students away from drugs by having them feel the damaged organs of deceased drug addicts. "This is your brain on drugs" taken to a whole new palpable level.

Added 11/11: Slate magazine's piece about Vancouver BC's "harm reduction" efforts is well worth reading. It's perhaps the continent's most coordinated--and controversial--public health approach.

Added 11/16: I discuss alternative approaches to legalization on the Affirmative. The upshot: you may be able to argue for full legalization and still be resolutional.

Added 11/21: Taking a break from resolution-specific blogging, I offer general advice about countering The Spread.

Added 11/22: Considering civil commitment as an Aff justification.


Jaycie said...

Hi Jim, I just saw this topic a few minutes ago and I was kind of confused on how to start a negative side. Right now I'm the one teaching LD in my debate class so I need to come up with a few ideas for them to start with. I thought about saying, for the neg, that it should be both an issue of public health and criminal justice so the aff would be wrong by saying it should not be a criminal justice matter. Does that even make sense or does it work with this debate? Thanks for any help you can give me.

okiedebater said...

This topic seems interesting as it definitely has more of a policy flavor than value flavor. My immediate thoughts for it are follows:

-include a lot of statistics about high current levels of drug use to argue that the concept of deterrence has failed

-research other issues that are being treated as public health issues rather than criminal issues (ex: smoking)

-argue that treating the abuse of illegal drugs as a public health issue provides for the development of more resources for rehabilitation (ex: if smoking was illegal, there could probably not be a legal industry to help people quit smoking)

-consider the punitive aspect of punishment. The abuse of these illegal drugs is itself a victimless crime; it is the crimes associated with drug use that has led to the demonization of these drugs. I think the aff could legitimately argue that drug use could be treated as a public health issue, while maintaining that any crimes committed while under the influence of drugs would still be punished. This would serve as a block against the NEG arg. that it leads to uncontrolled crime.

-since this resolution has a policy flavor, emphasize the problems with having it as a criminal justice issue, not just the benefits of having it as a public health issue. For example, try to link the high number of drug cases to a bogging down of our criminal justice system. Surely society would be better served by the more efficient judiciary that would result from treating this drug cases as public health issues. Also, link drug cases to higher prison populations. The more prisoners there are, the more society is hurt:
1) economically (paying for them to be there, as well as hurting the workforce when they have difficulties later in life obtaining jobs),
2) politically (restricting the right to vote of felons, including those with drug charges, moves us away from the ideal of universal suffrage), and 3) in terms of diversity (this restricted ability to vote and interact with society in general resulting from drug incarcerations negatively affects the marketplace of ideas.)


-Crazy/fun kritik-ish argument: argue that treating the abuse of illegal drugs as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue would mean legalizing them in most instances. They may still be controlled substances, but they would still be more widely available (like alcohol, cigarettes, and pornography). If they then become de facto legalized, then there can no longer be any abuse of these "illegal" drugs. This would mean that treating the abuse of illegal drugs as anything other than a criminal justice issue means that illegal drugs cease to exist. When that happens, there are no illegal drugs, therefore no abuse of illegal drugs, and the resolution can no longer be upheld by the affirmative. NEG wins because the concept of *illegal* drugs is so tied into the concept of legality that it cannot be divorced from the criminal justice system without ceasing to be. The difficulty with this argument would be that it wouldn't really leave much ground for the affirmative, making the resolution un-winnable for AFF if your analysis is accepted; this could cause some opponents to convincingly cry foul.

-the NEG wouldn't have to be based solely on deterrence; it could effectively argue rehabilitation as well. If drugs were a matter of public health, there could be no means of requiring rehabilitation. Incarceration and probation provide two means through which the criminal justice system can better provide mechanisms that ensure rehabilitation.

Overall, it kinds of feels like some debates on this res. could devolve into AFF "The criminal system has failed. We need to try something different" and NEG "Crime would be higher if we didn't handle it this way." As a former debater and current judge, I'm hoping to see some creative stuff on this.

Jim Anderson said...

Jaycie, that's what some would call a "balance Neg" approach. It explodes the false dichotomy of the resolution. Seems like it could work.

I'll have some thoughts on the Negative coming soon.'

okiedebater, I find it ironic that you use smoking as an example of a public health solution. Although cigarettes are legal, smoking them in increasing numbers of locations is illegal. In fact, while the movement to legalize marijuana gains steam, so does the movement to restrict use of cigarettes--even in open areas such as public parks.

Anonymous said...

this topic is horrendous

Jim Anderson said...


Raley jones said...

@ Anon
Stupid troll.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim, first I'd like to say that your blog has helped me TONS. I've just started out debating and I find myself completely lost most of the time, but a lot of your posts have been clearing up a lot of stuff for me.
Anyways, just a quick question.
Are things like the war on drugs and illegal drug trafficking topical?

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, thanks for the kind words.

The War on Drugs is topical--but you have to be careful, because the resolution doesn't provide any context. One of the key questions to ask is, are we talking about "real world" arguments, or on an ideal / abstract plane? And how much can we assume about the world of the resolution? (For instance, even in the real world, the U.S.'s War on Drugs isn't the only approach to criminalizing drug abuse.)

As to drug trafficking, most definitions I've seen would rule that out. "Drug abuse" is the ingesting of a drug, not the manufacture, possession, or sale. They're connected, certainly, but the resolution doesn't say that selling or making illegal drugs should be a matter of public health. Just their abuse / intake.

I'll try to put up a more comprehensive set of initial observations / questions / scattered thoughts starting tomorrow. I am already starting to sketch out ideas for the Neg, which I see as the harder side.

(Oh, and up above: that's enough of the baseless assertions and concomitant troll-bashing. Let's keep it civil--and useful. Thanks.)

Anonymous said...

Jim, might you have any suggestions for possible kritiks?

Anon said...

Jim, I think legalization, ending the war on drugs, and so forth doesn't necessarily affirm or negate, but there are arguments on both sides - making running this type of argument not very strategic. The neg gets access to this ground by saying that, by legalizing drugs, we aren't treating them as a matter at all, thus the resolution is false. The aff can possibly get access to this ground by saying that, once legalized, it would be treated as public health, but that clashes with the other interpretation. In short, I think you can run legalization, but you shouldn't because that forces you to win the T debate (which just gives you access to legalization) or lose the round.

lilies' requiem said...

Jim Anderson,

First of all, I want to thank you for a great, analystical, really helpful blog! :) This is the last year on Debate Team and your blog has always helpd me start off my cases.

Second, to everyone else - keep in mind that while Aff has to prove that illicit abuse is ONLY a matter of public health. Negating the resolution means Neg has to prove that it is AT LEAST a matter of criminical justice. Note, it can also be a matter of both :) So, that balances out Aff's advantage :)

Anonymous said...

@ lilies
Can you explain why the neg has the ground to argue for a bit of both?

It seems that "matter of public health, not of criminal justice" means that in negating the resolution one simply just flips the terms, but correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

it depends on how you view the burdens in LD debate. If the sole burden of the negative is to prove the resolution false, then proving that we should have both public health and criminal justice proves that we shouldn't only have public health, thus proving the resolution false.
With that being said, there are a lot of theoretical reasons as to why the burden of the negative should be to prove the converse of the resolution true (we should treat it as a matter of criminal justice)

Emmie said...

I was curious as to what a good value for the aff would be. I was leaning towards a value such as "Personal well being." I was planning to possibly take the position that good for the individual ultimately results in good for the society as a whole. What I am struggling with is what to do with a criterion.

Jim Anderson said...

Emmie, it sounds like you'd be advocating a form of libertarianism that would square with the thinking of John Stuart Mill, especially in On Liberty. Seems like a criterion in the making.

Anonymous said...

For this resolution, what does it mean to prove it true or prove it false? "ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice". If the affirmative were trying to prove this true, would they simply have to argue for public health, or does the wording imply that the affirmative argue as to why it should be public health and not be criminal justice.

The former arguing simply for public health, the latter arguing for public health, and arguing against criminal justice.

Jim Anderson said...

I think you have to prove both, for the simple fact that the Neg can argue for a dual-pronged approach, advocating enforced rehab through Drug Court (as is the case in many jurisdictions in the U.S. right now), along with a public health-based approach (education, voluntary treatment, anti-drug vaccines, and more).

Anonymous said...

I am new to debate and we have to learn LD first and she threw the topic on us and showed us how to format it but i am so stuck!!!!!! I dont want to quit debate but i am so lost... I am stuck on Aff and Neg cases... the cases are due tomorrow! I am so screwed!

Neil Mehta said...

Hey Jim,
First of all I'd like to say that your blog helps and all my friends start our cases each year. But this year, especially this topic, I'm having trouble grasping what the resolution actually means and what we are supposed to be debating
Thanks for the help.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim, your site has always been very helpful to me, and I'd like to sincerely thank you for all the help; the articles you post really jumpstart my cases.

As for this resolution: I'm having a really hard time grasping what the rez is asking of us, and which philosophy each side pertains to. I feel as though both aff and neg can argue many of the same philosophers and things, and its really confusing me. Both sides can use kant, Societal Welfare, Rawls, the Social Contract, and something to the effect of: "deterrence of crime is necessary".

I guess the most stable affirmitive ground would be proving that public health is effective in reducing drug use, and that criminal justice isn't.. and then linking it all together with claims to Justice or Societal Welfare

I guess the most stable negative ground would be proving that public health does not actual deter drug use, and that crime only has one solution: criminal justice.

Both seem to clash well, but I don't think they get to the heart of the rez, which is: what should be done of the individuals who commit these actions.. and whether those individuals are responsible for their actions.

At this point, i'm putting together cases with tape and toothpicks because I don't quite understand what it is I truely should be debating as a traditional debater. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.


Anonymous said...


I noticed you mentioned drug courts as a matter of criminal justice. Is there any way for the negative to include drug courts in his advocacy, and if so, how?

Jim Anderson said...

Whoa... a string of great questions that seem to deserve their own post. I'll put it up later tonight.

Jim Anderson said...

And, despite my saturated schedule, it's posted. Although I don't think the discussion is anywhere near over... just continue it over there, if your questions pertain to the four other posts above this one.

Hiyawan Solomon said...

Hi Jim I was wondering as affirmative can one "Critique" or advocate a position that would essentially criticize the immorality or injustice in the criminal justice system which allows for a default Affirmative?

Jim Anderson said...

Seems like a risky move. It might fall to different Neg responses:

1. A counter-kritik against statism, arguing that a "default affirmative" is still wrong because public health is oppressive. (At this point, you've lost six minutes, since your case is now non-responsive.)

2. Compelling warrants for why your burden of proof hasn't been met, or, in other words, matching theory with theory.

3. A non-uniqueness argument in which the injustices in the public health system are pointed out.

There may be others, too, that I can't imagine after a long day of teaching. Anyone else want to chime in?

Anonymous said...

Jim, what exactly is the negative's burden? I at least see it as slightly ambiguous. Thanks for your help!

Anonymous said...

Do you think I could run a neg case saying that we should treat illegal drug abuse through the criminal justice system primarily to protect victims or drug-related crimes (i.e. domestic violence, murder, etc.)? That way I don't have to prove that criminal justice deters people from using drugs, just that it enables us to "lock up" hardcore abusers before they commit these crimes. I am leaning towards valuing public safety or something of the like, in that a government had an obligation to protect the innocent first and foremost. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim,
So first your blog is amazing.
Second I'm wondering if you think my idea for the aff. is strong enough. I was thinking of going with liberty and individual rights and talking mostly about the fact that it's a victimless crime and denies suffrage where it is unecessary.

Destiny said...

So I was reading the comments left on here and what okiedebater said about how the concept of illegal drugs ceases to be illegal, when it becomes a matter of public health, really apeals to me, but I was curious if this would be considered a legitimate argument, even though it leaves no room for the aff. to argue? And if so would you reccomend using this?

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous, the negative's burden is always going to be a bit of a matter of interpretation. According to the NFL rules, it's to prove the resolution false "as a general principle," because no one can reasonably be expected to prove the resolution entirely false (or true, for that matter).

That said, there are a few routes you can take.

1. Prove that public health is an entirely inappropriate response to illegal drugs--that they're only a matter of criminal justice.

2. Prove that the criminal justice system should work alongside (or concurrently with) public health efforts to deter and reduce drug abuse. (And, Destiny, that's the response I'd make to your question: public health efforts don't have to focus solely on strictly "health" matters. Public health involves environmental laws, anti-smoking ordinances, etc. And illegal drugs can still be illegal to manufacture or distribute, while treating the abuse--the act of getting high--as a public health matter, tackled through education, treatment centers, and the like. It's just one prong of a two-pronged approach.)

It's the "rather than" that matters. The Aff seems to be the only one who has to make a distinction.

Jim Anderson said...

Second anonymous, how do you lock someone up for a future crime? In a way, you are punishing the innocent in order to protect other innocent folks.

Think of it in a slightly different scenario. Let's say we could prove that poor folks are X percent more likely to commit crimes. At what point is X high enough to warrant arresting all poor folks?

A retributivist will say "never." A utilitarian will say "let's do the math."

Jim Anderson said...

Third Anonymous, the first part of your approach seems pretty solid.

The second part might work, but only in situations where felons are denied the vote (if that's what I understand you to be saying in your second claim). That's not always the case, nor is there anywhere in the resolution that would lead one to think it would be the case.

(We always have to be careful about the assumptions we make about the world of the resolution: what if the criminal justice approach is to shoot drug offenders on sight? From a utilitarian / deterrence perspective, it might be justifiable. That's why we also have to be careful about utilitarian logic when it comes to punishment.)

Anonymous said...

I'm writing my neg case now and I'm not sure what a good criterion for justice would be. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

Jim Anderson said...

How about Gerard Bradley's brand of retribution, defining justice as "equal legal liberty for all," and crime as a violation of that liberty. Read this, and see what you think.

President Rachel said...

Hey Jim i was wondering if Quality of life would be a good negative value i was looking at it and im not sure what to put for my Neg Value and Criteria Let me know what you think

Jim Anderson said...

I'll have a post up soon with a list of value and criterion choices for this resolution.

Quality of life could work for either side; the tough part is finding a good matching criterion. What measures or ensures quality of life? Whatever your answer, my guess is that it'll trend utilitarian.

Anonymous said...

I have a question similar to Anonymous (1, I think...) about drug trafficking. The resolution says "The abuse of illegal drugs"- is this synonymous with drug abuse?

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim, in the negative could you talk about drug courts?

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous, well... some commentators say that "drug abuse," the broader term, is synonymous with "abuse of illegal drugs," because the drug is "illegal" when it is used off-label.

For instance, it's legal to take Oxycontin with a prescription; it becomes an "illegal drug" when someone takes it without a prescription, or uses it in a manner not prescribed by a physician.

For that kind of definition, see an example here.

The reason I'd go with that definition is that many drugs that are illegal in general usually have limited legitimate uses.

At that point, though, we have to define "abuse." That might be the sticking point.

Second Anonymous, you sure can--but be careful, because there's nothing in the resolution that says that "drug court" is the only (or even the most appropriate) criminal justice approach. We don't even know what society we're talking about--for all we know, the likely punishment for the abuse of illegal drugs would be that drug offenders were shot on sight. (Against any Neg running a deterrence / utilitarian-based Neg: if deterrence is really the goal, what would limit the state from choosing the most extreme--and thus potentially effective--mode of deterrence possible?)

mangela said...

Hi, i was wondering if you had any ideas, tips, or questions for cross examination for this topic?

Anonymous said...

Hi jim, why not we compile all of the ideas on this blog into a lost of blocks for both the AFF and the NEG so that we can more effectively know what arguments are availiable to both sides.

Anonymous said...

1.so do you think aff shouldn't argue about legalization/ decriminilization since it becomes irresolutional and contradicts it?
2.so instead should aff take more of a rights based stand on how intaking drugs in a victimless crime and therefore shouldn't be punished for.

hms-35 said...

Hi Jim, I began writing my AFF case and was wondering, what would be the best choice as a value and vc? Thanks for your help.

Rikki(: said...

Hi Jim, I'm a second year LD debate student and I'm writing cases but find myself a little confused. Here are a couple of my ideas.
Aff- V: Autonomy VC: Mill's Harm principle.
My thoughts are that as long as people "abuse" in the sense of using the general illegal drugs then they have the right to hurt themselves. People can purposly hurt them in a number of ways and they have that right. There is no way to out law every form of self harm. Public health would reffer to needle exchanges, educational programs, and substance abuse rehabs.
How do I back this with contentions?

Neg- Not so sure on this one. I am thinking that because government is able to punish people through a criminal justice system for not wearing seatbelts, then they should be able to punish drugs use. Also I think that by trying to prove how an integrated public health and criminal justice system could be implimented.
I'm confused on value criterion pairs and how to support this with any contentions.

Any help would be appreciated!! Thanks(:

Jim Anderson said...

mangela, that's a good question, and I'll try to have a post up by Wednesday.

first anonymous, sounds great. Want to take charge? I'm a pretty busy guy.

second anonymous, full legalization is different from decriminalization. The way we punish drug abuse is usually through punishing possession or intoxication. These could be treated as a public health issue, while leaving alone questions of whether drug manufacturing or trafficking should be legalized (at least, for drugs that are currently illegal).

hms-35, there's not going to be one best choice. There are good rights-based or justice-based or utilitarian or medically-based arguments to be made for the Aff; it depends on what you find in your research, what you're comfortable arguing, and what you think your average judge will find persuasive. Look at the list (linked above) and let me know if you have any questions about particular V/C pairs.

Rikki, it sounds like you already have at least the shell of two contentions: one being that people have a right to harm themselves (which means, consequently, that the government does not have the authority to punish the abuse--getting high itself should not be a crime), and the second, that to ensure full autonomy for drug abusers means educating / needle exchanges / etc. to reduce their harm to themselves / increase their personal agency.

It sounds like your Neg takes a communitarian or social welfare-ist utilitarian stance toward justice (a friendlier way of saying it's "paternalistic"). Your value would probably be societal welfare with either communitarianism or utilitarianism as a criterion.

Anonymous said...

Isn't legalization invalid, since the Negative can say that as soon as the illegal drugs became legal, they no longer apply to the resolution, thereby making it void.

Also, can't the negative just say that since the resolution targets illegal drugs, it will always be a part of criminal justice since anything that is illegal will have to be treated as criminal justice or otherwise it would not be legal.

Jim Anderson said...

1. I don't think the Aff has to argue for full legalization. Decriminalization should suffice. The drugs would still be illegal in the sense that they couldn't be manufactured or distributed (without government sanction), but to merely abuse (inhale, snort, inject, etc.) the drugs would be a matter of public health.

2. Again, it's a matter of separating abuse of an illegal substance from manufacturing or distributing it. Treat the abusers; legally punish the traffickers and manufacturers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim I am still slightly confused about the AFF arguments of decriminilization. what is the aff supposed to say for decriminilization?

Also, is the war on drugs considered a criminal justice approach?s

Anonymous said...

How would the government respond to drug abuse in a way that treats it as public health?

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous,

1. For decriminalization (of a sort), the Aff can argue that drug abusers should not be arrested and punished; rather, they should be sought out by public health professional (through community outreach / education efforts / needle exchanges / etc.) and, through social and familial pressure, encouraged to seek treatment.

Drug manufacturing and distributing could still be illegal in such a context--and there might be some drugs (in theory) that are so horrible that they should not be legal or taken in any context. But that would be the single, tiny exception to the general principle of treating drug abuse as a problem for public health.

2. The War on Drugs is a (fairly common) approach to criminalizing drugs, and, some would argue, an almost necessary outgrowth of politicized paternalism. It is not the only approach, though.

Second Anonymous, I think I've partly answered your question up above. Public health is about prevention through education and community outreach, treatment through rehab centers and medical interventions, harm reduction through needle exchanges, and, in some futuristic scenarios, vaccination against drug use (imagine a medicine that made your body reject cocaine--not so unimaginable, these days).

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if an aff case could only be centered around distributing free needles and arguing the advantages and efficacy of that plan.Thank for the help!

Clueless Novice said...

Dear Jim,

This is only my second resolution, and I must say your last blog on "States ought not posses nuclear weapons" really helped me on my cases (First time debating. EEK. I got really scared and dropped out third round)

But besides my low self confidence and fear of the big words my opponent uses, I'm having a hard time on deciding my approach to my Neg. I thought Balance neg like Jaycie said sounds like a good way to disarm the AFF, but I'm not sure how to start a case or even to continue. I was looking for good contention ideas, (that seems to be my main problem, coming up with contentions) but I've tossed my coin into the wishing fountain already. Any ideas?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, you can try, but since LD doesn't have plans, there are no guarantees. Don't be surprised if the Neg tries to raise other less favorable or effective public health approaches (like mandatory vaccinations against drug use), and claims that they also fall on the Aff side.

Clueless Novice, getting good at LD takes time, and I'm glad you're continuing the effort. It'll definitely be worth it--and, hopefully, soon!

There are many reasons to have a "balance Neg." Some contentions might include...

1. The empirical argument: that most addicts will drop out of voluntary treatment, necessitating coercion. (This is the "Drug Court" approach.)

2. The deterrence argument: that without the threat of criminal sanction, more people will abuse illegal drugs.

3. The philosophical argument: that drug abusers have ceded their will to a substance, and no longer have functional autonomy, justifying a coercive approach.

There are probably many other (better?) contentions for a "balance Neg." Those are my early morning suggestions.

Anonymous said...


Can there be any contention without a link to the criterion? Or can your entire case just be based on the criterion and proving it good? Thanks for the help!

Jim Anderson said...

Well... my preferred style is to have all contentions link through the criterion to the value. If they don't, I ask myself some questions:

1. Is my criterion "big" enough, or "wide" enough, or sufficient to affirm? Or is it too narrowly tailored?

2. Is there a way to reword the contention to make it fit the criterion?

3. If not, is the contention actually better as a resolutional analysis, overview, or underview?

4. If not, is it best saved as a block against the opposition--is it actually a defensive point?

5. Is it too risky to run a dual criterion in my region?

If none of these strategies will work, then I'm not sure if the contention is worth keeping if it's completely off-framework.

Other LD theorists are encouraged to chime in.

Anonymous said...

Would it be irrelevant to the resolution for me to discuss the prevention of drug abuse through education? meaning the best way to prevent drug abuse is to prevent people from starting drugs in the first place. Thanks!

Jim Anderson said...

Of course that'd be appropriate. In fact, up above, I'll add a link to a hands-on program up here in Washington state.

Stranded Debater said...

Mr. Anderson,

Thank you for always having such incredible and legitimate analysis on your blog.

I had a question regarding decriminalization. I respect my coach dearly, but he firmly believes that decriminalization is unresolutional, and refuses to coach my team on the subject. As a result, I'm having a tremendously hard time answering decriminalization in rounds, but also understanding the heart of this aff-argumentation.

Any light you could shed on how to refute decriminalization would be extraordinarily helpful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Would it be too radical and bad to not state a single, overarching value criterion? For example, having societal welfare as a value, and making the criteria for achieving it clear throughout your case.

Anonymous said...

If I define abuse as "misuse", could I make an argument that using an illegal drug to poison someone is a form of abuse that should definitely be treated as a crime in the court of law?

Jim Anderson said...

Stranded Debater, well... In this blogger's opinion, since there are many forms of decriminalization, not all of them may be resolutional. The kind I think is required for the affirmative is the absence of any sort of punishment (incarceration, fines, etc.) levied against individuals for abusing illegal drugs. This, as I've argued elsewhere, does not preclude punishment for most other drug-related crimes (trafficking, manufacture, DWI).

This might be hypocritical or inherently contradictory (although I've argued here that it's not). It also risks losing any deterrent value of harsh drug penalties (such as the example of Singapore, which, at least by its own official statistics, is virtually drug-free), and might expand drug abuse, and wouldn't give the state the power to enforce rehab, all common arguments, especially for a "balance Neg" approach.

Ultimately, I guess it would depend on how your opponent defines the term, or perhaps I'm misunderstanding your (or your coach's) perspective on what decriminalization entails.

First Anonymous, depending on your region, I don't think a multi-pronged criterion (provided that it's internally coherent and consistent) is too radical. As long as it's not, say, an unwieldy combination of Kantian and utilitarian ethics, which may get you into trouble on the consistency front.

Is there an overall moral framework that fits all your contentions? If you aren't sure, perhaps you should share 'em.

Second Anonymous, you can make that argument; just be ready for some strong pushback. LD is about proving resolutions true or false as a "general principle," so if we're talking about the 1% of times when people poison others with illegal drugs (which is already covered under laws against homicide), then we're talking about a rather blippy objection to the resolution.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I'd like to say that your blog is really helpful. I'm entering only my second debate tournament and this is my go-to site to get started.
I was just wondering if you could make the argument that rehabilitation is basically an incentive to the drug user, and while it is necessary for societal welfare, you need to counter that with repercussions (ie, criminal justice)?

Jim Anderson said...

From a deterrence perspective, I suppose it *could,* in theory, although I highly doubt it, since most drug abusers don't start out thinking of the long term ("Hey, I'll shoot heroin, and if things head south, there's always rehab!")

Rehab isn't a picnic. After all, it requires getting clean, which is takes considerable time and effort, and, most salient to a drug addict, it requires stopping a preferred behavior and no longer enjoying the "high."

I've heard it said that, at most, only about 15% of drug abusers volunteer for treatment; if you could find a (verifiable) similar stat, that would be better evidence that coercion is necessary to get drug abusers clean.

Anonymous said...

Hi, First off I love your blog and it helps me a bunch, secondly I really need help ^_^'

I need a defense against Portugal. The affirmative sides bring up how Portugal has decreased in drug use since decriminalixation. Help?

DannyM. said...

Hey, I am a first year debator and was just looking for a few preset cross examination questions of this case. Thanks!

Jim Anderson said...

Is the reduction significant? Is it due to decriminalization, or to other factors (i.e., is the Aff committing a post hoc fallacy)? Is Portugal's experience generalizable? Is the only goal of this resolution to reduce drug abuse? What about the comparison between Portugal and, say, Singapore, which has strict anti-drug laws? Which has a lower drug abuse rate?

Danny, there's a link up above to cross-examination strategies which includes some potential questions to get your thought process started.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone think of some K's for the affirmative?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering what exactly the legalization argument is. I'm hearing so many different viewpoints about how legalization is to be applied. Thanks for the help!!!

emily and lucero said...

well me and my friend are writing a negative case and we need help on the value criterian with the value of justice... or societal welfare
any help appreciated:)

-emily and lucero

Caroline said...

Hi, Im trying to write my cases and was wondering, if a person is being drugged with illegal substances to the point where if it was not against their will, they would be abusing themselves, is that still considered abuse of illegal drugs? or would that be a matter of the law in a sense of harassment or torture( I dont know the correct term)?
Because Aff could argue that the amount of sex trafficking, kidnapping, etc. will reduce because of the fear of another conflict with the law.
This is my first LD and im novice so I am really trying to get this right. Please help.

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, I discuss legalization here.

Emily and Lucero, for justice, you could use something like retribution (punishing the guilty) or utilitarian justifications for punishment (usually deterrence-based). For societal welfare, some form of utilitarianism or consequentialism is usually employed.

Caroline, drugging someone against their consent would be punished as assault, I'd imagine. It would be illegal on those grounds, regardless of whether the drug itself were legal. (You could drug someone with Tylenol, for instance.) If I understand you correctly, I don't think it's an argument worth making.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,
I read your discussion on legalization, but I still don't understand how you could have the public health system for now and legalization later. Or maybe I don't exactly understand your argument. Please help!!

Jim Anderson said...

It's not that... it's about whether it's a contradiction to say that the phrase "illegal drugs" is meaningful in an "Aff world" where legalization occurs.

It's in response to the Neg claim that the Aff can't argue for legalization because it would somehow make the resolution moot (and thus we would negate).

The whole argument can be avoided by talking in terms of decriminalization of possession or ingestion (the closest proxy for abuse, and the most direct form of abuse), while maintaining the illegality of the manufacture, transport, and distribution of illegal drugs.

Anonymous said...

Can I run the social contract under a criterion of categorical imperative?

Anonymous said...

yeah!!! but that is the most problem of our society

Anonymous said...

according to my research young people are using drugs that can satisfy to their appetite...

Anonymous said...

Why dont we end the great “illegal drug” debate with one very simple experiment. I am a single mom with very painful periods and I have no medical insurance. Yes, I will take those aweful percocets illegally so that I can function as my child never stops wanting or needing me, no matter what I am going thru. My experiment: Why dont I kick one of the many men who are so willing to crack down on illegal prescription drugs, right in the balls for 3 days every month and see how long it takes them to reach for ANY “illegal drug” to STOP THE PAIN!!! How long do you think it would be before their child is fending for themselves because you cant get up? Just my thought.

By Jayline Fields on 2011 02 13