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In this world when your 16 years old skater daughter buys a monster energy, it doesn't just contain proteins and caffeine but might have things such as Anavar, Trenbolone, cocaine and even Period Suppressing Drugs for that true MONSTER energy.

Now the vitamin tablets that ''allegedly'' give you a boost in energy as they say in TV commercials actually really give a boost in energy due to all the drugs inside.

Could this complete freedom for drug distribution boost the economy of a country when compared to regulated countries?

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    $\begingroup$ Throughout the overwhelming large part of history no state had any laws regulating what drugs a free person could sell, could buy, and could ingest. You are describing the world before WW1, and in a large part also before WW2. The idea that the State can regulate what a person chooses to drink or eat is extremely modern, and, as far as I can see, it is already approaching the end of its short life. The world did just fine, thank you, before well-meaning politicians decided that it was their business to decide what person was allowed to smoke. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 1, 2021 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP actually didn't know that, they almost make it feel like some restrictions where always present, good to know. $\endgroup$
    – red
    Sep 1, 2021 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you think that Coca-Cola is called Coca-Cola? it still contains cola nuts extract... but it is no longer allowed to include the first part of its name. (Fun factoid: in 1839 the British went to war against China because the Chinese had the audacity to forbid the importation and consumption of opium. The British won.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 1, 2021 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ "completely unregulated drugs" Completely? are you sure about that? it's all fun & games until someone's jaw falls off // on the upside of course the hastened (planned?) obsolescence of all those production units (aka people) you can expect should help ameliorate things like unemployment // which could be good for the economy in some ways :) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 1, 2021 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP "in 1839 the British went to war against China because the Chinese had the audacity to forbid the importation and consumption of opium" // Slander!! that wasn't it at all, we went to war because they had the audacity to forbid us from selling them opium :) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 1, 2021 at 19:07

6 Answers 6

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Oregon and Portugal have decriminalized all drugs. You'll see drug tourism money if you have an open border.

Demand for drugs is inelastic, so making it legal probably won't change actual consumption that much. It will draw people already buying the drugs in the black market to spend money legally in your state or country.

It will boost your economy by taking drug money out of other places. If your borders are pretty open, then yes, you'll see an economic boom. You've essentially realized all the black market drug dealer money.

EDIT: Demand for Illegal drugs is inelastic

Demand for recreational drugs is inelastic as well. Which makes sense. If you're addicted to heroin, you'll pay any price to alleviate withdrawal. Many people refuse to take drugs even if it's offered free, like in the anti-drug videos.

Even with legal or partially legal drugs like alcohol and cannabis, price is still relatively inelastic. People will pay $10+ for a beer at a sporting event or concert. Most new distilleries and breweries don't compete on price but on quality. Demand for alcohol is also inelastic.

Most cannabis dispensaries have gone mainly to extract-based products, which are more expensive. Using extracts customers can buy only what they want, such as CBD. They can also choose the strain they want.

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    $\begingroup$ "Oregon and Portugal have already done this" - no, they have not. "Decriminalized" does not mean "unregulated". Many drugs in Oregon and Portugal are still illegal, but carry civil instead of criminal penalties. Neither enjoy free, unregulated distribution or consumption of prescription or recreational drugs. These examples are a step in the right direction, but nowhere near the scenario the OP describes. $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2021 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ "Demand for drugs is inelastic, so making it legal probably won't change actual consumption" not entirely sure about that, are you only considering medication for illness? if so then that would be largely right yes, but if you're including recreational drugs it wouldn't be I think. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 2, 2021 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ Part of the reason for marijuana extract products is that many people want to use them for health benefits - e.g. CBD oil for arthritis pain relief - without the psychoactive effects. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Sep 2, 2021 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore - added more information for inelastic demand for drugs drugs, including illegal drugs. It's fairly well documented in in economic literature. $\endgroup$ Sep 2, 2021 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ "makes sense. If you're addicted to heroin" No, I'm afraid I'd have to say it doesn't make sense, sorry :) there are an awful lot of 'relatively' un-additive illegal recreational drugs out there // & demand for those can be very elastic indeed when subjected to factors like price & legality. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 2, 2021 at 21:51
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Lesser drugs will be profitable.

Selling weed, LCD, ecstasy, or other drugs which are not much worse than alcohol or are safer will sell for lots of money and boost the economy.

Heavy drugs will have a net negative effect.

As the opoid crisis proved, having a highly addictive and euphoric drug widely available has a massive cost in health, money, and lives.

In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses.1 The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total "economic burden" of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.2

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  • $\begingroup$ if everyone is both buying the drugs to poison themselves and also buying the cure, doesn't that actually help the economy because the make more money circulate? and if everyone dies younger, doesn't that mean that the average population will stop being old? which mens less pensions, which means less people that get money without actually producing? $\endgroup$
    – red
    Sep 1, 2021 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ When people die, or are disabled, or are injured they become less able to produce money via jobs and education and such. A lot will turn to crime to fund their drug habits as well, which means mugging or killing more productive civilians. Doesn't matter if there's more stuff to be sold if people don't have jobs. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Sep 1, 2021 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ The opioid crisis in the USA is a bad example, though. It was engineered and does not represent the normal drug consumption and drug addiction dynamic. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Sep 1, 2021 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ If drugs are completely unregulated it's not gonna be hard for other people to engineer people taking lots of drugs. It's an example of what happens when a hard drug is super free for people to take, and pushed by the government and businesses. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Sep 2, 2021 at 7:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Otkin "was engineered and does not represent the normal drug consumption" You're suggesting many of the negative impacts were caused by it 'being' illegal'? or something else? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 2, 2021 at 11:20
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Overall economic effect will be negative

There are two aspects of this question:

  1. Is recreational drug use (in itself) positive or negative for the economy?
  2. Would deregulation of narcotics increase or decrease their overall use?

For #1, the answer is "negative". In US, in 2017 alone, and only for opioids, economic cost is estimated at $1,021 billion (just above 1 trillion) US dollars. To me, this figure is so staggering that I won't even try to tally up the upside of the drug trade.

For #2, the answer is less clear cut, but in my opinion it would be "increase". Case study: tobacco use. Tobacco (a recreational drug) enjoyed increasing success for the most part of 20th century, which was fueled by massive advertisement by the tobacco companies. When significant restrictions were placed on smoking, as well as advertisement, tobacco use plummeted.

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  • $\begingroup$ That report estimates that each case of "fatal opioid overdose" cost eleven and a half million dollars. I knew that funerals were expensive in the USA, but I didn't know that they were quite so expensive. What on earth did they do for each "fatal opioid overdose" to justify eleven and a half million dollars? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 1, 2021 at 23:29
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP I presume this includes things like "lost wages" - i.e. the deceased would have kept contributing to the economy as a whole. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Sep 1, 2021 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander "I presume this includes things like "lost wages"" was 'opportunity cost' the term you were looking for? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 2, 2021 at 11:25
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This kind of freedom provides opportunities. It also takes away opportunities.

In this environment the product only has to look good enough to sell and be cheap to produce. That can encourage a race for the bottom. Many will compete to get to the bottom first.

Others, who have a quality product, will innovate to get that quality recognized for what it is. This is why brands exist. But without any regulation you can't register trademarks. So all you can do is infuse your brand with anti-counterfeiting protections that let normal people detect a counterfeit.

Hinez basically did this when they started selling Ketchup in a clear glass bottle so you could see the product before you bought it. To this day some products are given out as free samples so you can taste for yourself.

But drugs are hard to identify by sight if diluted in a drink. So if you really don't trust whoever is selling the energy drink you may prefer to buy the drugs separately and mix them yourself.

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    $\begingroup$ Trademark protection and drug regulation are two very separate parts of the law, and one is much older than the other. There is no (or very very little) regulation of trademarks; anybody can register any trademark they please, as long as it doesn't clash with an already registered mark. (In many countries you don't even have to register your trademark; all you have to do is use it in commerce, and the law will protect your mark. For example, Stella Artois beer has used the Stella Artois name since the 14th century.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 1, 2021 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ I think you are confused about the meaning of the the word "regulation". It is not a synonym for "law". As I said, there is very little regulation of trademarks, essentially forbidding the use of obscene words and symbols. Other than that, you are free to use whatever words and symbols you want. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 1, 2021 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ Or you go to your local pharmacist who mixes up the drink at the soda fountain - which is exactly how many soda recipes actually started. See the history of Dr. Pepper as an example. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Sep 1, 2021 at 18:39
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    $\begingroup$ @candied_orange let me repeat what Alex said, because I don't think you got it, trademark law is not drug regulation, it can, has & will exist irrespective of the existence or not of drug regulations, it has nothing to do with the question as written & nothing to do with any answer to the question as written. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 1, 2021 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ Unregulated drugs only means you can sell anything you want not that you can use anyone else's 'name' (essentially what a trademark is for a company & its products) while doing it // these are two completely separate areas of law & regulation & trademark is not included in the OPs question, so I repeat, you just haven't understood what Alex said, or the question as OP wrote it (regardless of what he maybe meant). $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Sep 1, 2021 at 22:51
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Without any regulation is bad, straight out detrimental to the free market. There needs to be regulation enough to allow consumers to be certain of content.

That is if a person buys a pill of 2mg narcotic A plus binder, that is what it should be. It should not be vitamin C or just binder or drug B narcotic D etc.

Things that bring it closer to a free market will make the market more efficient. Which will improve some people's quality of life by making it easier to access desired entertainments. In this regard the economy will be better.

However drugs are not infrastructure, they by themselves do not increase production. So I would not expect big change in the economy beyond reducing costs of enforcement.

If people consume recreational drugs in very large quantities I would expect a negative impact on the economy as everybody is tripping and not working.

Conclusion

If USA switches all current recreational drugs to the status of 'over the counter' drugs. I would expect a boost in terms of decreased costs to enforcement and jail/prison costs. A longer term boost of less broken families.

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It's about the right to bear arms ... and the failures of capitalism.

Your country may well regard itself as pursuing a "Second Amendment", since it is protecting the right of its citizens to possess dangerous things. And it may well need to, since some of these drugs are indeed potent weapons. A derivative of fentanyl, for example, was used to save the lives of the majority of the hostages in the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis by incapacitating their attackers; but even with the best of intentions, in that event it also proved capable of mass fatalities.

The effect on the economy can be hard to quantify, but note that deregulation can be used as a means of restraining trade in a sector. For example, in the U.S. dietary supplements were spared from prohibition under DSHEA, but as an alternative, regulation was made so weak that the supplements are often sold without the described ingredient from the label or may even contain undeclared prescription drugs. This deterred a great deal of very interesting community-based science development that might otherwise have been done to develop products like Oxalobacter or Nymphaea.

It makes sense that allowing commerce will be more merciful and better for the economy than banning it, but you'll need to look deep into the details and the underlying philosophy to produce an effective theory of just how to do that fairly, or how to operate any truly fair marketplace in any society. To shape such visions is the highest calling of the sci-fi author, and at times it is even recognized as such by critics - I wish you good luck!

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