In reality, spice is a concoction of different chemicals and herbs which is used as incense, but can also be inhaled to produce a high akin to marijuana. It has become popular over the last couple of years amongst Utah teens and college students because it is legal euphoria. It comes as no shock, therefore, that city, county, and state officials are working frantically to ban spice and thereby its attendant feelings of bliss. Utah County, Cache County, Ogden and other cities have all thrown their hat into the anti-spice ring and now in those jurisdictions you can be put in jail for doing something that was perfectly legal only a few weeks ago.
Government officials never learn, and for some reason they always believe their power is not governed by the same truths that govern the rest of the universe. Such is the case with the banning of spice. The same faulty beliefs, the same ignorance, and the same misunderstandings of moral and economic law that resulted in Prohibition of the 1920s and the current War on Drugs induces our representatives to pass equally moronic bans on spice.
There are likely many who advocate the abolition of spice, like other controlled substances, because it has a physical affect on one’s mind and body, i.e., it produces a high. They may even argue that such a substance is addictive (regardless of whether such a notion is scientifically supported) and since addictions can be destructive of an individual the local and state governments should intervene to protect the individual against himself. In other words, our dear leaders justify using force and coercion to prohibit the use of spice on grounds of morality.
The bureaucrats, however, will never be in the right in forcing someone to do something or not do something against his will if that something does not infringe on the liberties of anyone else. In the case of spice, the mere inhalation or ingestion of spice or any other drug hurts no third party. To the extent that spice hurts anyone at all, it is he who inhales/ingests the product, but each person has a natural right to do whatever he wants to himself so long as he does not hurt anyone else. Is this really such a difficult concept?
In spite of this maxim, government officials, in their infinite wisdom, will argue that there may be adverse consequences that derive from the use of spice and it is against those potential consequences that they are guarding through the passing of coercive laws. They seem to forget
that in the event any of those consequences results in infringing on the liberty of another, there is already a legal remedy.
For example, our representatives, who are grasping at straws as it is, point to a case in which a man in Clarkston who was “under the influence” of spice shot a goat. They recount this situation in order to have us believe that the spice made the man shoot the goat. This is what we call a logical fallacy. Even if it were true that the spice made the man shoot the goat by removing the man’s will power to control his own mind and body, it still does not morally justify banning spice because there is already a legal remedy for the man’s actions, which is why he was charged with cruelty to animals and reckless endangerment. So the remedy for the man’s actions was present at the time of the shooting, yet Cache County decided to pass another law to provide yet another remedy? Waste of time, waste of money. Stay home Cache County councilmen. Make better use of your time.
One Cache County councilman, Cory Yeates, justified the ban as “legislat[ing] people out of stupidity.” Pompous, arrogant…and very scary. The moment a government official believes that the proper role of government is to “legislate people out of stupidity” is when you know that things have gone awry. Mr. Yeates is as wrong as his comment is pretentious. Mr. Yeates’s only job is to ensure that the county government protects those living in its territory. Prohibiting a couple of seventeen year olds from inhaling spice in their basement protects no one for the simple reason that in smoking the spice they infringe on no one’s right of liberty or property.
Mr. Yeates and the Cache County council have apparently taken upon them the mantle of omnipotence, asserting that they are the judges of what is “stupid” and what is not. They have also unilaterally discounted the rights of individuals to be free from interventionist government policies that have no foundation in natural law. In their eyes they are doing a great service to society.
There is no moral foundation for banning spice. Indeed, banning spice is immoral, because it deprives the individual of a piece of his liberty.
Spice is a good and there is a demand for that good. Never, in the history of the world, has a legislative measure ever succeeded in stopping the sell and use of a product for which there is a demand? It is basic economics. If there is demand, there will be supply. The only thing the government can do is interfere with the form of supply and demand. In outlawing spice all these bureaucrats have done is transform the spice market from legitimate to the black market.
In forcing the spice market to go underground the prices of spice will necessarily increase because of the risk associated with selling and producing an illegal product. Rest assured, however, the price will not increase so much as to price itself out of the market. Those who want spice, like marijuana, cocaine, or any other controlled substance will find a way to pay for it.
Indeed, by banning spice the bureaucrats have done a great service to the criminal syndicates who will be able to raise the price of spice to levels that a free market would not tolerate. The sellers of spice are probably thanking those wise individuals in the government who are forcefully cause an increase in the price of their product.
PROHIBITION WILL INCREASE CRIME
The ban on spice is also likely to increase crime. By making the spice market illegal producers and consumers alike must start producing and trading in the underground market. They are instantly considered criminals by the government for doing this, but this increased risk will increase the price which will create incentive for others to get involved in the market. Further, because production, distribution, and consumption must be done underground the newly created market will be regulated by the strong (i.e., the sellers with the most muscle) rather than by the self-regulation imposed by the free market.
Look at the spice market now. There is no crime associated with it because the producers and distributors are able to sell their product to legitimate businesses throughout the state. In counties like Utah and Cache, however, those same producers and distributors were prohibited from doing so overnight. Now if they wish to sell their product they must do so quietly and if caught will be placed behind bars.
Like any banned substance, spice could also become the subject of gang violence. There may be different criminal cartels who govern the sale of spice in certain territories. It is the natural progression of a banned product. Prohibition and the War on Drugs are evidence of the crime that is associated with the production, distribution, and consumption of products banned by the government. Spice, so long as the demand remains constant, will be yet another product associate with crime.
Want to prevent crime? Remove the prohibitions on controlled substances.
SOLUTION? DO NOTHING
There is no spice problem that needs to be addressed. The product is bought and sold peacefully and consumed even more peacefully. State legislators, county and city councils should stay out of the spice market. Let those who want to consume it, consume it and stop trying to micromanage every individual’s life.
Any ban on spice is and will be immoral, contrary to sound economic sense, and will increase crime. Dear bureaucrats, please think about meddling in affairs which need no government meddling, and leave spice alone.
Jerry Salcido is a trial and appellate criminal defense lawyer in Salt Lake City, a former Republican Party county chairman and state delegate, and a legal advocate of homeschooling rights. E-mail your thoughts to email@example.com or email Salcido.