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Tobacco bill is a poison pill

Tobacco, drug abuse and alcoholism are not about the substance being used; they’re all about the deeper trauma that people are trying to medicate with those substances. That’s why Rep. Mitch Greenlick (Dem.) Oregon House District 33 and his legislation are doomed from the start. Prohibition does not work.

Greenlick recently introduced in the state legislature HB 2077 that would amount to a prohibition of cigarettes. The bill “directs [the] State Board of Pharmacy to adopt rules making nicotine [a] Schedule III controlled substance.”

The DEA defines Schedule Three narcotics as “drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” Schedule Three narcotics require a doctor’s prescription meaning that smokers would need a prescription to buy cigarettes.

The problem here is that doctors have to take the Hippocratic Oath in which they pledge to “do no harm” to their patients. This would pretty much preclude them from prescribing cigarettes, a known carcinogen, to their patients. This is tantamount to an outright prohibition on cigarettes.

However, de facto prohibition isn’t good enough for Greenlick, because the bill would also make possession of cigarettes a crime. Anybody caught with cigarettes would be thrown in jail for a year, fined $6,250 or both.

This legislation will potentially cause a plethora of negative side effects, but one that would be certain is the loss of tax revenue from the sale of cigarettes. The state has collected over $200 million a year since 2002.

HB2077 is a dish of absolute absurdity and Greenlick is adding a side of irony in the form of HB 2275. The main course eliminates tax revenue and the side dish would increase the tax on cigarettes.

With HB 2077, Greenlick will be compounding the loss of tax revenue by exploding the corrections budget. The bill’s provision of a prison sentence for possessing cigarettes presupposes the creation of a black market that is sure to happen.

Greenlick can find a model for this by Googling the word prohibition. The U.S. Government tried it with alcohol, and all it did was create an organized crime problem that the nation still suffers from today.

If that history lesson is too distant, Greenlick can look to the effects of drug prohibition. According to a Cato Institute study, “Current drug policy costs governments $41.3 billion each year to implement, while depriving their budgets of $46.7 billion in potential revenues from taxation of legal drug sales.”

A Time.com article reports that since President Nixon declared war on drugs in 1971, U.S. prison populations have increased nearly seven fold to 2.3 million prisoners. The Time article also points out that half of the nation’s prisoners are incarcerated for drug crimes.

The only way to solve substance abuse problems is to eliminate the desire to use them. The only way to do this is to treat the deep-seated emotional trauma that leads people to substance abuse in the first place.