In light of my recent article, where I touched on responsibility, which included some information on drug use, I came across this list from a pro-drug website that gives 10 reasons they think we should legalize all drugs. I’d like to address their claims, if I could. Keep in mind, this is a UK site, presumably aimed at a UK audience, so some of their points may not be as applicable as they could be but I’ll try to muddle through.
Just as a reminder, my basic position is that if you have to smoke, snort, ingest or inject any illicit substance into your body to feel good about yourself, you’ve got serious issues and should probably see a professional.
And please, do not come back with the “people are going to do drugs anyhow” nonsense, that just doesn’t fly with me. Stupid people are going to be stupid, that doesn’t mean we should embrace stupidity as the norm and not try to educate the brainless idiots. Society has every right to make determinations of what is acceptable within that society and what is not acceptable. The fact that many people within the society are going to act in a manner contrary to the rules only means that many people are going to get punished for violating the social contract to which they inherently agree and submit.
So let’s get started, shall we?
1 Address the real issues
For too long policy makers have used prohibition as a smoke screen to avoid addressing the social and economic factors that lead people to use drugs. Most illegal and legal drug use is recreational. Poverty and despair are at the root of most problematic drug use and it is only by addressing these underlying causes that we can hope to significantly decrease the number of problematic users.
The problem, of course, is that drug use doesn’t solve any of these underlying causes. When you get sober or come down again, your problems are still there and probably worse than when you started. Even if we did legalize drugs, it wouldn’t solve any of those supposed “underlying causes”, it would just give those people who use drugs license to keep using them and avoiding the problems that put them in that situation. You can’t look to the politicians to solve the problems either, they know that doing what needs to be done to solve poverty would put them straight out of office for life. The problem isn’t really poverty, it isn’t really despair, the underlying cause for most of America’s problems, including drug use, is a lack of individual and personal responsibility for the lives of each and every American. These are things we just don’t talk about and certainly, our politicians will never try to do anything about because doing so would be political suicide.
2 Eliminate the criminal market place
The market for drugs is demand-led and millions of people demand illegal drugs. Making the production, supply and use of some drugs illegal creates a vacuum into which organised crime moves. The profits are worth billions of pounds. Legalisation forces organised crime from the drugs trade, starves them of income and enables us to regulate and control the market (i.e. prescription, licensing, laws on sales to minors, advertising regulations etc.)
About all legalization will do is allow the government to regulate and tax drugs, thus keeping them expensive and many forced to remain underground in order to find drugs cheap enough to use. Just look at tobacco taxes, they make up the majority of the cost per pack. Are we supposed to think the government won’t take an equally large chunk out of drug revenues? Further, in point 4, he says that roughly 50% of minors use drugs, yet here he wants to control drug sales to minors? If 50% are using drugs now when they are illegal for anyone to use, how are we supposed to think that 50% won’t be using drugs when it’s only illegal for minors to use? Or maybe he’s suggesting that we make it legal for minors to use drugs too? Might as well throw in alcohol and tobacco too, prohibitions against minors using those products hasn’t stopped anyone who wanted to acquire them either. In fact, it will likely make the problem worse. If we legalize all drugs, as this website wants, then what’s to stop minors from getting not only pot, but cocaine or heroin? We have plenty of liquor stores now that will sell booze to kids to make a buck, are we really supposed to think that drug dispensaries wouldn’t do the exact same thing for the exact same reason? All of the regulation and control that would be placed on legalized drugs would only drive people underground, most drugs can be grown, cultivated or manufactured relatively cheaply, people can grow their own pot rather than pay $8 a pack or whatever unit of measure joints would legally be sold in. Doesn’t declaring “this is legal, but only in government-approved stores and packaging, otherwise you’re breaking the law” go against the whole legalization sentiment anyhow?
Besides, he says he wants prescriptions for drugs? That’s absolutely nonsensical, why pay money, go to a doctor, get a prescription to go to a pharmacy to get drugs when you can just go down to the guy on the street corner and get it right now, without all the associated cost? Besides, a prescription means there’s something wrong with you, something that requires a drug to correct. What “disease” or what condition does someone need to have in order to qualify for a drug prescription? If anyone can get it, why have it prescribed in the first place?
3 Massively reduce crime
The price of illegal drugs is determined by a demand-led, unregulated market. Using illegal drugs is very expensive. This means that some dependent users resort to stealing to raise funds (accounting for 50% of UK property crime – estimated at £2 billion a year). Most of the violence associated with illegal drug dealing is caused by its illegality
Legalisation would enable us to regulate the market, determine a much lower price and remove users need to raise funds through crime. Our legal system would be freed up and our prison population dramatically reduced, saving billions. Because of the low price, cigarette smokers do not have to steal to support their habits. There is also no violence associated with the legal tobacco market.
The problem is, it wouldn’t reduce crime. People in the U.S. talk about legalizing marijuana having a massive impact on the Mexican drug cartels, as if that one single act will shut the majority of their criminal enterprises down. That’s ridiculous. These people aren’t criminals because they deal drugs, they deal drugs because they’re criminals. If we legalize marijuana and take the profit out of it, they’ll just shift to harder drugs, or other crimes, to keep their criminal organization going. It’s not like the drug kingpins are going to wake up one morning and go “oh, they legalized pot, I guess I’ll go get a legitimate job!” We already know that the cartels are involved in kidnapping for ransom and other criminal activities, legalizing drugs won’t stop the cartels, it’ll just shift their focus. We refuse to actually deal with the cartels, with or without Mexico’s help, the only thing legalizing drugs would do is make their criminal activities less visible here in the U.S., it wouldn’t stop the crime one bit.
4 Drug users are a majority
Recent research shows that nearly half of all 15-16 year olds have used an illegal drug. Up to one and a half million people use ecstasy every weekend. Amongst young people, illegal drug use is seen as normal. Intensifying the ‘war on drugs’ is not reducing demand. In Holland, where cannabis laws are far less harsh, drug usage is amongst the lowest in Europe.
Legalisation accepts that drug use is normal and that it is a social issue, not a criminal justice one. How we deal with it is up to all of us to decide.
In 1970 there were 9000 convictions or cautions for drug offences and 15% of young people had used an illegal drug. In 1995 the figures were 94 000 and 45%. Prohibition doesn’t work.
This is a clear logical fallacy, argumentum ad populum. The number of people who commit a crime doesn’t change the fact that it is, indeed, illegal. Most people speed too, that doesn’t mean we should eliminate speed limits. I am of the mind that people should not be jailed for drug use offenses, people who use drugs need treatment, not punishment. I will handle this more in my final thoughts at the bottom.
5 Provide access to truthful information and education
A wealth of disinformation about drugs and drug use is given to us by ignorant and prejudiced policy-makers and media who peddle myths upon lies for their own ends. This creates many of the risks and dangers associated with drug use.
Legalisation would help us to disseminate open, honest and truthful information to users and non-users to help them to make decisions about whether and how to use. We could begin research again on presently illicit drugs to discover all their uses and effects – both positive and negative.
No it wouldn’t. You’d get the same people making the same statements that you get today being posted on the side of cigarette packages. If you think the FDA wouldn’t be posting the same kinds of claims on the packaging of formerly illegal drugs that they do on every other drug that has never been illegal, you’re high. The fact remains that most drugs simply have no credible positive benefits. Yes, marijuana can help control nausea associated with chemotherapy, and I entirely support chemo patients with legitimate prescriptions having legal access to medical marijuana, but only so long as they go through the legal process and proper channels. The idea that we should have street corner pot dispensaries that anyone can walk into and come out with a dime bag is absurd.
6 Make all drug use safer
Prohibition has led to the stigmatisation and marginalisation of drug users. Countries that operate ultra-prohibitionist policies have very high rates of HIV infection amongst injecting users. Hepatitis C rates amongst users in the UK are increasing substantially.
In the UK in the ’80′s clean needles for injecting users and safer sex education for young people were made available in response to fears of HIV. Harm reduction policies are in direct opposition to prohibitionist laws.
Unless you’re going to give away all of these things free of charge, it will still be a problem as people who cannot afford a clean needle for every injection will share. Poor people who cannot afford condoms simply do not use them. So who pays for all of this stuff? Do you just add a tax to the drugs themselves, making them more expensive and driving users to cheaper, unregulated drugs? We again are faced with this problem, it’s not that drug users are stigmatized or marginalized, it’s that we have people who are pathetic enough to think they need to shoot something into their veins to make themselves feel good.
7 Restore our rights and responsibilities
Prohibition unnecessarily criminalises millions of otherwise law-abiding people. It removes the responsibility for distribution of drugs from policy makers and hands it over to unregulated, sometimes violent dealers.
Legalisation restores our right to use drugs responsibly to change the way we think and feel. It enables controls and regulations to be put in place to protect the vulnerable.
You’d have to demonstrate that there is actually a responsible way to use drugs. I just don’t think you can do it, any more than I think you can come up with any way to responsibly smoke. Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it responsible. There may be some small health benefits to drinking in moderation and I really have no problem with that, but try arguing a responsible method of getting drunk off your ass, I don’t think it can be done.
Add to that the absurd first sentence, it shows that this individual really doesn’t get it. A person is only law-abiding so long as they follow the law. That’s like saying laws against murder unnecessarily criminalize otherwise law-abiding murderers. This is someone entirely unclear on the concept.
8 Race and Drugs
Black people are over ten times more likely to be imprisoned for drug offences than whites. Arrests for drug offences are notoriously discretionary allowing enforcement to easily target a particular ethnic group. Prohibition has fostered this stereotyping of black people.
Legalisation removes a whole set of laws that are used to disproportionately bring black people into contact with the criminal justice system. It would help to redress the over representation of black drug offenders in prison.
The solution to this, of course, is to stop treating blacks and whites differently. It’s not prohibition that has done this, but a criminal justice system that punishes different grades of drugs differently. Someone caught with an ounce of cocaine is treated differently than someone caught with an ounce of crack. Same drug, different presentation. Since crack is cheaper to produce, it is more prevalent in the poorer communities, and since blacks tend to be poorer, do the math. That’s just basic equality, it has nothing to do with prohibition.
9 Global Implications
The illegal drugs market makes up 8% of all world trade (around £300 billion a year). Whole countries are run under the corrupting influence of drug cartels. Prohibition also enables developed countries to wield vast political power over producer nations under the auspices of drug control programmes.
Legalisation returns lost revenue to the legitimate taxed economy and removes some of the high-level corruption. It also removes a tool of political interference by foreign countries against producer nations.
Whole countries are run that way because the people allow it. If countries had the will and the guts to demand it stop, to summarily toss any official that colludes with the drug cartels in prison, to enforce drug laws, etc., it wouldn’t be a problem. And so what if the illegal drug market makes up 8% of world trade? The illegal slave market makes up a certain percentage of trade too, should we just legalize that? And who cares if the powerful nations can stomp on the less powerful nations with regard to their drug-production? It’s not like the powerful nations don’t stomp on less powerful nations with regard to terrorism, to nuclear weapon programs, to human rights abuses, etc. It’s not about interference so much as it is about power and no one has made a case yet that says more credible, powerful and advanced nations shouldn’t interfere in the affairs of nations that are doing things that are harmful to the international community.
10 Prohibition doesn’t work
There is no evidence to show that prohibition is succeeding. The question we must ask ourselves is, “What are the benefits of criminalising any drug?” If, after examining all the available evidence, we find that the costs outweigh the benefits, then we must seek an alternative policy.
Legalisation is not a cure-all but it does allow us to address many of the problems associated with drug use, and those created by prohibition. The time has come for an effective and pragmatic drug policy.
I will agree, prohibition as we have previously used it hasn’t worked well. However, this isn’t for the reasons that one might think. We have declared a “war on drugs”, but here in America, we like to declare war on things. We have the “war on drugs”, the “war on crime” and the “war on poverty”. We’ve even declared war on cancer. George Carlin once said something to the effect of “you give me a disease, we’ll declare war on it!” Yet none of these are wars, they are simply political positions, it gives the politicians something to talk about and rally the troops around. The war on drugs is all talk and very little action, mostly because America lacks the will to take the action that needs to be taken if we are serious about ending drugs and their associated problems.
In fact, our current system doesn’t work. It doesn’t stop anyone from taking drugs, it doesn’t stop drugs from being openly and freely available, it doesn’t stop the crime involved in drug use, so why keep doing it? Well, like it or not, the same thing can be said for murder. Our current laws haven’t stopped murders from taking place, they haven’t eliminated contract killers, nor done away with the weapons that can be used to commit murders. Therefore, as seems to be the rationalization by drug-advocates, should we simply legalize murder? Because the people who support drug use assert that drug use can be a positive thing. I don’t think you can make that case at all.
I do not acknowledge that permitting pathetic people to act in a pathetic manner, to dodge responsibility and live in a drug-induced fantasy world, is doing anyone any favors. We live in an unfortunately increasingly-liberalized world, where personal responsibility is a thing of the past and we can point to that lack of responsibility as a contributing factor, if not a direct cause of most of the world’s problems. When people choose not to be responsible, either individually or collectively, you have problems that only worsen with time.
So how do I think we ought to fix the drug problem? Certainly not with legalization, although as I said, I have no problem with drugs that have a legitimate medical use being accessible to those with a legitimate medical need. In fact, I go 100% the other way. I think that if we’re serious about eliminating the drug problem, we not only need to claim that we have a war on drugs, we need to actually start one. The first order of business is that all convicted drug dealers, without exception, are put to death. Not after 40 years when they’re old and sick and have spent a lifetime in prison, I mean right after their mandatory appeal. Take them out back and shoot them. I do mean all drug dealers, by the way, from the drug kingpin who makes billions off of drugs to the guy on the streetcorner selling baggies of pot. If you make money from drugs, if you exchange goods for drugs, be you black or white, rich or poor, old or young, you have forfeited your life.
Then we exercise actual zero tolerance. The original zero tolerance thing wasn’t serious. It confiscated property and money made on illegal drugs and sold things off for pennies on the dollar and the money just vanished into government programs. I’m serious about it. If you are convicted and executed of dealing drugs, the government, with a civilian oversight group, confiscates *EVERYTHING* you own. Everything. If you tried to hide some of your ill-gotten gain in the names of others, call in the IRS auditors to climb all over their books and confiscate any money deemed to be illegally present. If you’re married and your wife and/or minor children legitimately were unaware of your activities, treat it as a divorce, the wife can have half of whatever non-drug-money related properties exist and if there are none such, give her a one-time payout so she can get on her feet, none of this “lots of money so she can maintain the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed” crap. All properties are sold on the open market for market value, not at tiny auctions for a fraction of their actual worth. All proceeds get split between drug enforcement activities and licensed drug treatment facilities. Yes, I understand the problems inherent in letting police capture “drug dealers” and getting big paychecks out of it, there is a chance of trying to railroad wealthy people through the system so they can get a gigantic windfall. Like I said, there will be a civilian oversight committee, and the details can be hashed out at a later date. The point is, we take as much impetus for that away from the authorities as we can.
We also confiscate all of the drugs that currently are simply destroyed. It is graded and the best of it is given to treatment programs that need it. There are many drugs that are so addictive, they simply cannot be stopped cold turkey, they must be gradually decreased over time. The best of the marijuana confiscations get sent to legitimate, licensed medical marijuana facilities. Anything that we can legitimately use out of these confiscations, we should use. Anything we cannot, we destroy.
And for the users, we do not sent them to prison. Prison is not the proper place for a drug user. We could cut 50% of our prison populations tomorrow if we’d just let the people who were smoking a joint go. Anyone found guilty of using drugs would be consigned to a drug treatment facility. Depending on the individual case, this can be in-patient or out-patient. You do not get out of the program until you are both 100% off of drugs, have had psychological counseling and, preferably, can demonstrate that you have a job. You can, and will, be randomly tested for drugs for a period of 3-5 years after your conviction. Your drug conviction will be sealed once you have left the program, in other words, employers will not be able to see that you’ve had a drug conviction, and after the 3-5 years of probation, assuming no drugs ever turn up in your system, the conviction will be totally expunged from your record.
Put this system in place for a few years and you’d almost totally eradicate the drug problem. Once dealers know that they have a better than average chance of ending up dead, most of them will stop out of self-preservation and the ones that don’t, well, they end up dead and that problem solves itself. Most of those that remain are going to drive up the prices dramatically, they’re going to want significant compensation for risking their lives every day, thus pricing a large percentage of drug users out of the market. If a joint costs you $100 or $1000, pretty soon you learn to do without or you get into a treatment program and get clean. This should all go for foreign nationals in the country as well. I don’t think we should recognize diplomatic immunity with regard to drug crimes either. Yeah, you’re a diplomat but you’re dealing drugs in our country, you’re subject to our drug laws, kiss your ass goodbye.
The laws of supply and demand will take over and, if supply is virtually wiped out, demand will eventually wane. I don’t care how much you want to buy an alien saucer, there aren’t any, so your demand is irrelevant. Of course, this will never happen because America doesn’t have the will or the guts to take a stand like that. The world is getting more and more liberalized and I would honestly not be surprised one day to see people start arguing for legalized murder. And yes, all of this is entirely authoritarian, but you say it like that’s a bad thing. Authoritarianism is not a bad thing, it is the flip side of freedom. If you are free, you are responsible for your freedom, you are responsible for your actions, you are responsible to society and society has a right to hold you accountable to it’s laws and rules.
Welcome to reality. I wish more people lived in it.