My highest-ever viewed post here on Bitchspot is Ten Reasons (Not) to Legalize Drugs. It’s coming up on 50,000 views and has been the highest viewed post virtually every day for a year now, yet nobody seems to have any comments and I’m not sure who is still looking at such an old post, especially in the volume that they’re doing so. In fact, I’m completely flummoxed by the idea that so many people are seeking out such a post and having absolutely nothing to say about it. For a post with that many views, it still only has 50 or so comments.
Is it because it is old that no one bothers? Certainly, I can see that, although I still have posts that old and even older that get comments here and there. Is it because everything has been said already? I don’t know that I buy that because drug legalization seems to be a hot topic online. So what is it that makes drugs the hot button issue for a lot of people? I just don’t get it and when I’ve tried to address that, nothing ever seems to get resolved.
And to be honest, why is this such a high priority for so many people? There are a lot of very vocal people who are absolutely convinced that this is their #1 political priority, above everything else and I just don’t understand it. What’s going on in their heads that shooting up heroin or snorting cocaine is the most important thing on the planet, above people’s rights, above the economy, above everything else? Please, someone explain this to me.
Therefore, instead of taking reasons why the pro-drug crowd thinks we ought to legalize drugs, I’m going to talk today about twelve reasons why we should not legalize drugs and evaluate them as fairly as I can. The source did not provide links for any of these claims and I may or may not attempt to verify some of them but I’m going to simply react to the claims and see how things go. Anyone else is welcome to do the same in comments. The information comes from the NFIA (National Families In Action) and whatever is contained here, you’re welcome to take with a grain of salt.
1. We are winning the drug war. Regular drug use has been cut in half since 1979. Then 25 million Americans used illicit drugs. Today 13 million do.
Now I’ve been quite clear, I don’t think we have a war on drugs in the United States, we have a media campaign on drugs. We don’t actually do anything that is designed to stop drug use or drug availability, we just talk about it a lot. I think much of what we’ve done is largely ineffective and that if we’re serious (and so far, we’re not) we need to get out and really have a war and stop drug use and drug trafficking. That said though, assuming these numbers are correct, they’re even more impressive than they think. Between 1979 and today, the population of the United States has risen from 225.06 million to 316.16 million. That means that the rate of illegal drug use has dropped from just under 10% of the population to around 3% of the population today. That’s very significant.
2. The combined efforts of prevention, education, treatment, research, law enforcement, and international drug control reduced cocaine use even more dramatically. In 1985, 6 million Americans used cocaine regularly. Today 2 million do.
Again, using actual populations, that means that in 1985, when the population was 237.92 million, 6 million Americans used cocaine ( 2.5%) to today, with our population of 316.16 million and 2 million users ( .63%)? It seems like things are working.
3. We don’t need to study whether legalization would increase use. Between 1973 and 1978 eleven states “decriminalized” marijuana and our nation experienced the greatest escalation in drug use in history. Marijuana use rose form 14 percent to 31 percent among adolescents, 48 percent to 68 percent among young adults, and 7 percent to 20 percent among adults over age 26.
And we see the same thing in modern states that have decriminalized marijuana use. In Washington State, for instance, the number of drivers caught “driving under the influence” is up since the state legalized marijuana. This year, at least as of this writing, 745 drivers were cited and 420 arrested for exceeding the state’s limit on THC in the bloodstream, an increase of more than 9% over the year before. That’s in just the first six months that the law has been on the books. By contrast, in the previous two years combined, about 1000 people were pulled over for in total for marijuana impairment. If things continue at this rate, things will increase from an average of 500 traffic stops a year to nearly 1500. That’s a 300% increase.
4. Comparisons with society’s two legal drugs show what would happen: Some 111 million Americans use alcohol regularly, 61 million smoke cigarettes, 13 million use illicit drugs. The alcohol and tobacco industries spend $12 billion per year to increase consumption. The illicit drug industy spends none. Keeping drugs illegal holds use down.
This is where a lot of pro-drug people try to pull the “gotcha” card. They point out the legality of alcohol and tobacco and claim that marijuana is no worse than either of them, therefore it ought to be legal, assuming that I, like so many people, am a user of either. I’m not. I honestly don’t have any love for either. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in close to 25 years and I’ve never smoked. I have no horse in that race whatsoever. We do know that particular types of alcohol, in small doses, does have a health benefit but tobacco has none whatsoever, it is harmful in any concentration.
5. The impact of legalization on adolescents would be devastating. Today, 26 times more teenagers use alcohol than cocaine (21.1 percent vs. 0.8 percent) and 25 times more teenagers use tobacco than cocaine (20.2 percent vs. 0.8 percent) on a regular basis.
This is an issue because with a higher availability of drugs, kids would have more direct and/or indirect access to them. It’s foolish to think that adults wouldn’t buy drugs for kids at a rate any less than they buy alcohol for kids. The second that pot is available at every corner store, more kids will have an interest in and access to it. In Colorado, for instance, where the state decriminalized marijuana in 2010, the schools are reporting an alarming increase in the number of minors bringing pot to school, and in surprising quantities.
6. No amount of goverment regulation would effectively prevent the advertising and marketing of newly legalized drugs to children. Do we really want the equivalent of a Joe Camel marketing marijuana to kids? Or the equivalent of the Budweiser Frogs promoting crack to kids?
I don’t necessarily agree with this one because Joe Camel and the Budweiser Frogs are cancelled advertising campaigns. Yes, we can look at such campaigns of the 50s and 60s especially and realize they were aimed toward kids, purposely or not, and they were eventually outlawed. Joe Camel went away in 1997 and the Budweiser Frogs ended in 1998. I have a feeling that if drugs were ever legalized, there would be enough oversight to keep such things from happening, just as we don’t see a lot of alcohol advertising aimed at kids using cartoony characters. That doesn’t mean that kids are not exposed to positive messages for both alcohol and tobacco, but that’s a matter of education and it does demonstrably work to limit the number of kids using either substance.
7. As the number of drug users rose, so would the number of addicts. When 60 percent of the nations high-school seniors tried marijuana in 1979 for example, 10.7 percent used the drug daily. When experimental use fell to 33 percent by 1992, only 1.9 percent of seniors used marijuana daily.
Now I’ll be honest, I don’t think that marijuana addicts are as serious a problem as some make it out to be, it is less addictive than tobacco, but there are still plenty of people who report marijuana as their primary drug of choice and who suffer physical or psychological addiction to it. The National Institute of Health reports that about 9% of pot users will become addicted to it, this number goes up to about 17% for those who start young and for those who smoke pot daily, this number goes up to 25-50% However, many of the people who want to legalize marijuana also want to legalize or decriminalize many, if not most other drugs as well and that’s where we see a serious problem because, while pot may not be the most horrible thing on the planet, you cannot say the same for other drugs. In general terms, between 4-16% of people who use cocaine can become physically or psychologically addicted, but among some users, especially those who suffer from low self esteem, anxiety or depression, those numbers may be much higher. We can look at many other commonly used drugs and see that this remains a consistent problem across the board.
8. As the number of drug users rose, so would the number of deaths. Cigarettes kill 420,000 Americans every year. Alcohol kills 100,000. Illicit drugs kill 14,000.
It’s actually very difficult to come up with specific numbers for how many people die of the various types of drugs every year, but the figures given here, in total, are pretty accurate. From what I’ve seen, the number of drug overdose cases in the United States from all forms of drugs is a bit over 40,000. Limiting this just to illegal drugs, it’s about 17,000, at least in 2000. We haven’t seen newer figures that take into account states where some drugs are now legal, I’m sure those will increase the numbers significantly. It is true that there are no reported deaths due to marijuana, but again, many people who want drugs legalized do not limit it to just marijuana and when you start to increase the number of people using cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, etc. that will not be the case. The second you start legalizing these things, the number of users will increase and the body count will rack up.
9. The economic cost of legal drugs is 2 1/2 times greater than that of illicit drugs.
I’m not sure what they’re trying to say here to be honest so I’m not going to address it. I’m honest about it.
10. The health-care cost for alcohol alone is 3 times greater than that of illicit drugs.
Between the late 70s and the mid 90s, emergency room mentions of cocaine and heroin use went up steadily, with costs to treat these cases rising from $44 million in 1985 to over $110 million in 1996. There are so many factors that play into serious drug usage that it’s difficult to really do it justice here. Serious drug users tend to be less reliable at work, more than twice as likely to take unexcused days off as non-drug users. They tend to take more risks and spread diseases like gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. In fact, chronic drug users are considered the primary vector of some of these diseases. This is not a harmless or inexpensive problem.
11. Legalization would drive crime back up. Proponents insist that legalization would stop “rising crime,” when in fact the “drug war” has reduced crime in most cities to the lowest levels since the 1960’s.
Like it or not, drug users are more prone to turn to crime to get money for their drugs. In 2004, 17% of state inmates and 18% of federal inmates said they committed their crimes specifically to buy drugs. Among state prisoners in 2004, we can break down the crime types, with property (30%) and drug offenders (26%) more likely to commit their crimes for drug money than violent (10%) and public-order offenders (7%). In federal prisons property offenders (11%) were less than half as likely as drug offenders (25%) to report drug money as a motive in their offenses.
12. Surveys have established a link between belief in harm and drug use. The more young people believe a drug can hurt them, the fewer use it. Legalization would reinforce the notion that drugs are harmless and more kids would use drugs.
In fact, we can use tobacco as a perfect analogy for drugs here. Since the modern anti-smoking campaign began, rates of tobacco consumption in America have dropped by half, from 42% to 18% of adults, and in places like California and New York, where the anti-smoking effort has been even more concerted, the incidence is down to 12-14%. Even when you consider a million kids a year pick up smoking, those numbers continue to drop overall. It’s been a matter of education and increased costs that have made the difference. Many pro-drug people that I’ve seen have argued that legalizing drugs will make the number of users go down because the mystique will be gone, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with tobacco since before we started telling everyone how horrible it is for you, the number of smokers was high, even though it was legal. In fact, being legal doesn’t slow down the number of people taking up the habit, making it hard to get, as expensive as possible and as criticized as you can seems to make the difference.
So where does all of this get us? I agree that the media campaign on drugs that we’ve been running doesn’t work but that doesn’t mean that we should just give up and legalize all drugs. The evidence clearly shows that most drugs are an economic and social drain on society and therefore, just giving up is not an option. Until someone can come up with a demonstrable, rational reason why drugs *SHOULD* be legal and can show that they are actually good for individuals and for society, that’s not an argument that I’m willing to consider. It makes no more sense than arguing that our “war on murder” is a failure because clearly, people still murder other people so we ought to just legalize murder. It’s an absurd claim. We need good reason to do things, not throwing up our hands and saying what we’re doing isn’t working so we should just give up.
In fact, we need to take this more seriously, we need to take steps to actually stop drug dealers from making drugs available permanently, we need to stop the drugs at the border and take whatever steps and go to whatever lengths necessary to ensure that there are no drugs available for people to take. Liberals won’t like the solutions, but honestly, I don’t like liberals so the disdain is mutual. People have a responsibility to follow the laws and pay the consequences of failing to do so. That’s how a rational society operates. It’s no wonder that the liberals and libertarians have no clue how anything rational actually works.
Of course, if anyone disagrees, please feel free to take up the gauntlet in the comments. I’d love to see someone actually explain how drugs are demonstrably good for society. I don’t think you can do it.