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.