We're gonna' have to legalise the stuff

Over in the US there’s been a drugs bust, enough fentanyl stuffed into a tractor trailer to kill 26 million people apparently. That’s, err, perhaps 20,000 years’ worth of the current fentanyl overdose rate. The only reasonable conclusion to draw from this is that we’re going to have to legalise the stuff:

The Nebraska State Patrol seized nearly 120 pounds of the drug fentanyl — enough to kill about 26 million people, according to estimates by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

120 lbs? That’s really not a large volume nor weight of anything.

The seizure marked the largest fentanyl bust in the history of Nebraska, Nebraska State Patrol said on Twitter. The drugs were valued at $20 million.

It’s not a large value either: $1 a death anyone?

Now, I’m in favour of all of these drugs being legalised anyway. It’s the idiot’s body, up to them what they ingest in whatever manner. If it kills them, well, their choice. The argument that they shouldn’t therefore we must prevent them doesn’t cut much ice with me.

But put that aside and think in a utilitarian manner. If we can prevent overdoses and wasted lives then we should. But only if how we’re going to do it is better than the results of either not doing so or even using some other manner of dealing with the problem.

It’s arguable that clamping down on certain illegal drugs does at least limit their penetration of the market. I don’t think this is true of heroin but perhaps it is potentially true. It’s absolutely not true of fentanyl. For that’s a synthetic opioid. A decent chemist can synthesise it – a good one can make the precursors as well. There is no need to get opium, morphine or any other poppy related product that we already control.

It’s also, as we can see, alarmingly cheap already. Easy to smuggle in vast quantities of doses.

There’s another problem with it. The difference between a dose that gives a high and one that kills is pretty narrow. And it’s an extremely potent drug as well. Quantities for either are small – smaller than can generally be measured by users with candles and teaspoons.

It’s cheap, easy enough to make, has no precursors we can control, kills easily enough and dosage is alarmingly difficult to get right. So, what do we do?

We’re not going to get rid of it for all of the above reasons. So, we need to do damage limitation. Stopping people from dying from it sounds like a pretty good idea actually. And that means that we need it to be pure and in known dosages. That is, we need it to be legal.

I think all drugs should be legal, hey, your body and all that. But even if you think that harm reduction is a more important goal there’s just no way that we’re going to get to fentanyl harm reduction without legality of it. For that’s the only way we will get it in known doses which don’t kill people. And we’re most assuredly going to keep getting it even if we don’t legalise it. Our choices are people tooting on illegal fentanyl and dying or people tooting on legal fentayl and not dying. Not such a toughie that question, is it?

Support Continental Telegraph Donate


  1. Meanwhile in the real world ordinary drugs are on prescription and can’t be otherwise bought. Ordinary over-the-counter painkillers are limited by restrictions. Illegal drugs which don’t kill you can seriously mess youi up. Will post-legalisation drug makers have liability or will they, uniquely, not have to stand behind their product? And most importantly if morons mess themselves up, can I step over them in the gutter and not have to pay for their treatment by way of insurance rates or taxes or anything else? Liberalising just this drug or any and all recreational drugs is not libertarian unless it comes as part of a (currently unimaginable) libertarian culture.

  2. The War on Drugs (comprising the new Prohibition where transactors have to provide their own armed enforcement and dosage is unknowable, plus an entirely different War on excessive prescriptions of painkillers) has been embraced by the Don’t Kill The Job gang as a convincing way to get more tax money. As well as nonsense like “contagion,” the gang uses statistics that can’t be true, such as amounts of drugs that can’t possibly be consumed.

    FDA Commissioner Gottlieb is back in the news again, this time threatening to prohibit topical anesthetics such as OraGel for babies whose first teeth are coming in. This man needs to be put in a small cage where he cannot hurt anyone else, with a sign on the gate warning anyone else who would manage the human herd by “public health” statistics.

  3. Apparently they found opioids in shellfish in puget sound (Seattle) when they did a recent pollution study. Seems there’s enough trace elements from OxyContin usage in the waste water system to show up in the study

  4. Rhoda Klapp’s alluded to one of the problems about illegal drug use. There’s very little societal etiquette about when it might be acceptable or not acceptable to do so.
    There is with the sole legal intoxicant, alcohol. It’s recognised what’s an OK level of consumption for everyday social drinking. A level that doesn’t markedly interfere with decision making & functionality. It’s generally tolerant that this level may be exceeded in certain circumstances & by how much. An acceptable level to be intoxicated at a party, for instance. A much higher level at a sporting celebration or stag night.
    By their very illegality, drugs split society into users & non-users. Non-users may well be unaware that users are using. The users fission into various levels of use. From those who seek the relaxation of tokeing a spliff to those intent on getting totally wasted. Each having its own levels of acceptability.
    Ending prohibition would, at least, give society a chance at working out how to handle drug use. Prohibition never will because there.s no chance of achieving more than token prohibition. Demand will always find supply.

  5. I thought that enough fatal doses in 120lbs of the stuff to kill 26M people seemed a bit off. But with a fatal dose of only 2mg, which is 50 times less than Strychnine, its powerfull stuff. That amount would kill 27,216,000 people approx.
    Yeah lets make them all legal.