7 Reasons to Legalize Drugs
But first, a disclaimer. It seems to me that there’s a popular belief that if you support the legalization of drugs, you are a drug user. I have not, and will not, ever use any kind of drug that I don’t need. I do not support eradicating our insane drug policy because I would be able to use them without worrying about being punished. I support it because it would be the single most beneficial thing we could do for our society that is actually feasible. I alone have nothing to gain from this, but I truly believe our country, and the world, would benefit greatly.
Continue reading...1. Most illegal drugs are not harmful
Or at least less harmful than legal drugs. A British study recently found that the only illegal drugs more dangerous than Alcohol and tobacco are heroin, cocaine, and barbiturates. I’ve read statements by physicians saying that even heroin isn’t dangerous, although I have my doubts about that claim. The point is that there’s no scientific consensus that many of the Schedule I drugs actually deserve to be there, and in many cases the data goes the other way. Why they’re kept there is beyond me, but I have a feeling it’s about someone’s agenda.
2. Personal freedoms
This argument basically says that an informed person should be able to make the decisions about what they do with their body, whether what they want to do is dangerous or not. As long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, why shouldn’t someone be able to harm themselves? Should the government really protect their citizens from themselves? Should S&M be illegal? How about eating raw meat? Standing outside during a thunderstorm holding a large metal pole? Where do you draw the line on outlawing self-destructive behavior? If it doesn’t harm anyone else, it shouldn’t be illegal. And saying that drug users could hurt other people is invalid even if it’s true (which it probably isn’t), because the same is true of alcohol, but that will never be outlawed (again).
I realize that some people might not find this convincing. However, many of these people will say that drugs should be illegal because they’re evil, immoral, or somehow intrinsically bad. That is not a valid argument. All of those words (and most of the ones used to describe drugs) are subjective, and as such have no place in deciding law. Your morality is not everyone’s morality, and while you might not like drugs, someone else surely will. The solution is simple: you don’t do drugs, he does. No one loses.
3. Remove the allure
I can’t say for sure that less people would use drugs if they weren’t illegal, but there is some truth to the statement that many people do them as an act of rebellion. Every time something is made illegal and demonized, people crave it. Whether it’s books or booze, hacking or hashish, speeding or speed, some people will always be attracted to illegal things. Making these things legal could, over time, diminish their occurrence. Granted this is a fairly weak argument, but I thought I should include it.
I was really surprised to learn that most illegal drugs were not outlawed because they were dangerous. Why were they outlawed? As a way to persecute unpopular groups of people. Whether it’s Mexicans with marijuana, Asians with opium, hippies with LSD, the rave scene with MDMA, or African-Americans with just about everything, making the drug illegal was often a way of attacking the group using it. (As this is probably hard to believe and I can’t find it online, I will say that it comes from a History Channel documentary series called Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way).
The history of drug illegalization is also fraught with outright lies. Henry Aslinger, the man who criminalized marijuana, said that it was addictive, caused people to go insane, and had no medical use, all of which are outright lies, but are still believed today. The same is true of other common illegal drugs, such as ecstasy and LSD. Whenever these drugs are studied they are found to be mostly harmless, or at least less so than other legal drugs (see point 1).
5. Money (Eliminate funding of undesirables)
Whether it’s organized crime, gangs, dangerous dealers, arms runners, warlords, or murderous dictators, all sorts of inarguably bad people are funded by drug money. As a quick example, without opium sales, the Afghan insurgency would have died long ago. Another is the Columbian Mafia, whose brutal and destabilizing reign in South America would not be possible without drug money. The fact is, when something popular is made illegal, it just funds worse things. The Mafia and prohibition is the classic example, but the same is true of gangs in LA and New York. They can only operate with money, and that money comes from drugs.
I’m not saying that legalizing drugs would eliminate these problems outright and overnight, but it would certainly help to reduce the impact they have, far more than our current “War on Drugs” ever could. And even if legalization didn’t eliminate these undesirables, legitimizing their labors may very well turn them into legitimate businesses. I suspect it costs less to operate like a normal business than like a Mafia, but that’s just a hunch.
6. Money (Costs spent fighting/enforcing the law)
In 2003, the “War on Drugs” cost $19 billion dollars in federal money alone. An estimate puts state costs at about the same level. That’s nearly forty billion dollars. That’s enough to pay for one million college students’ educations, per year.
That doesn’t even include the costs for arrests, prosecutions, convictions, and housing of the convicted. Around 10,000 people per year are incarcerated because of drug violations. Drug offenders make up over 60% of the US prison population. Housing them costs about $2 billion per year. The lost wages are estimated at about $4.2 billion per year. This doesn’t include the costs needed to try someone, which are surely astronomical.
Granted this is an estimate, but 45 billion dollars is a lot. Especially when we’re clearly losing this “war” and needlessly incarcerating Americans whose only wrong was ingesting something the government doesn’t think they should (although some of these prisoners are probably guilty of more, many are simple recreational drug users, who harmed no one). Besides all this, every study I’ve ever read has said that the prison system makes addiction worse, and that actual treatment would cost less and succeed more.
Legalizing drugs would free these Americans and save us billions per year. Ending the war on drugs by legalizing them would hurt few and help many. So why aren’t we doing it?
7. Money (That could be funneled into legitimate economic activities)
According to the UN World Drug Report, the illicit drug trade is worth $13 billion at the production level, $94 billion at the wholesale level, and $322 billion at the retail level. Imagine if that money were taken away from warlords, organized crime, and dealers, and given to pharmaceutical or food companies, farmers, and retail stores or pharmacies. Imagine the tax revenue that could be generated! If legalized drugs were taxed at anything near the rate of cigarettes, this would generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. And that’s assuming that sales don’t increase, which they most likely would.
Of course, I’m not an economist. It’s not guaranteed that anything near that amount would be generated, or that all of that money would funnel into legitimate channels. But over time, it’s likely that much of this money would start going to governments and businesses, which is a good thing.
I believe that legalizing drugs, at least the ones less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, would be a great benefit to our society, more so than anything else we could do with so little effort. In my eyes, this is similar to the filesharing situation, where vast numbers of Americans are being turned into criminals for doing something that they don’t consider wrong and harms no one, except here it has already happened. It’s time to right this wrong and fix this idiotically broken system.
Some final notes. I left citations (mostly) out because this is not supposed to be a research article, just my thoughts on the topic. Numbers used were found through Google and are meant solely to give an indication of scale, not as absolutely precise figures (although they very well may be). I am confident that all facts stated are correct, but if some aren’t then feel free to correct me, no one gets everything right. At some point I want to make this article into some kind of true research paper, but that is labor intensive and would be even longer.