Nov 16, 2010

legalization and time: another LD Mailbag

There seems to be quite a bit of confusion regarding the role of legalization in the illegal drugs resolution of November / December 2010.
Resolved: The abuse of illegal drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice.
For instance, via email:
One of my opponents kept arguing (when I was Aff) that legalization had nothing to do with the debate. This confused me, but I thought it was just something with her. Then I get a judge who, upon being asked her paradigm, said that legalization is nonresolutional. What is all this about? I thought that was what the debate was about. What grounds, then, does the Aff have? And I mentioned what you said about manufacture and distribution could be illegal, but apparently that's still nonresolutional....

In my Aff case I talked about how drug abusers aren't guilty of a crime as they do not harm others; if they do then the law can interfere. However, my opponents said that since the resolution says "illegal drugs," drug abusers are clearly guilty of a crime, and apparently I don't have the power to change the drugs' legality.
In one sense, full legalization could nonresolutional--after all, if there exists no such substance as an "illegal drug," then there's nothing to debate. Flawless victory, Negative.

However, some form of decriminalization seems necessary, thanks to the word "not." I've argued many times before that making abuse (shooting up, smoking, inhaling, sniffing, ingesting) a matter of public health still gives the Negative ground to pursue manufacturers and distributors of illegal drugs.

Now I'm starting to think there may be another way. Let's look at the temporal aspect--how affirming and negating play out in time.

If we talk in terms of "possible worlds," we don't concern ourselves with time. The resolution is or is not true, always and forever. Thus, illegal drugs are always illegal, and full legalization (as opposed to partial decriminalization) is completely nonresolutional.

However, if we talk in terms of the status quo, with an eye toward the future (thus with time as part of the equation), then the Aff can argue the resolution can be true now--we "ought to" legalize drugs at some point in the future, in order to stop treating them as a matter of criminal justice--and that once legalization occurs, the resolution isn't false, but unnecessary.

In this line of thinking, legalization--complete and utter--is a valid Affirmative option.

What do you think?


Alex said...

I had always thought of arguing that the ILLEGALIZATION of drugs in themselves is illogical, rather than push that legalization be allowed. You could maintain that the state doesn't have power over what citizens do to their own bodies (Foucalt and Biopower). I like to use the comparison that we can't force a person not to commit suicide, and we can't charge him with anything either. Similarly, we can't put someone who's self-harms in jail because of what they do to their own body. So in this case, you could argue that the only reason that trafficking and creation is such a crime is directly because of the illegalization. You could take alcohol as an example here too (like you said in a previous post, Jim).

Anonymous said...

i recently was at a debate tournament and i was aff, and my opponent said my contention of legalization reduces drug violence --non-violent methods of dispute become possible, she said that legalization doesnt match with the resolution? so what do i do ?

C said...

How about just arguing that the framer's intent of "illegal drugs" is made to refer us to psychoactive substances rather than drugs that are illegal, on the grounds that the term "illegal drug" is just what they're casually referred to as?

I argued one round that if the rez was referring to drugs that are illegal, it would encompass off-prescription or stolen legal drugs. However everyone in the room knows thats not what the framer's intent was, so they accept your interpretation of the term.

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, you either junk your contention, or argue that legalization is resolutional, as I've done above.

C, given that the framers of the resolution make no published statements as to their intentions, warranting the claim by referring to "framers' intent" would be based on sheer speculation. Instead, argue based on reasonable definitions from authoritative sources, and from commonly accepted terms within legal or public health contexts.

Anonymous said...

The way I justified legalization as aff ground was by positing "Resolved: The poaching of endangered animals ought to be prevented." In this case, no one could reasonably argue that the aff must keep animals endagered. As far as I am concerned, illegal does nothing more than tell us we are not talking about Nyquil.

Jim Anderson said...

Hmm... I'd like to think that's a foolproof analogy, but I do wonder if there's a functional difference between the two.

For instance, "endangered species" may or may not require a normative response--not all societies or legal systems care whether a certain kind of penguin faces extinction--but in every society, an "illegal drug," by definition, is criminal to some degree and in some way.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim,
Well I'd first like to say that I am a decorabilia-fanatic. Thanks for all the work you put into your blog because it really helps my friends and I with our cases.
I don't understand why everyone is arguing about legalization and illegalization anyway. Isn't the rez talking about what to do with abusers, whether the drugs are legal or not? I really don't get how legalization ties into that at all.

Also, what is your opinion on taking a empathetical stance from the Affirmative ground? Would it be reasonable to say that addiction is really a disease because of the brain's neurological tie to drugs, and that we should try to lead abusers to health instead of punishing them for something beyond their control?
Just a couple ideas. I don't really get this resolution. I have to have both my cases done by the 11th or I'm screwed. HELP!