Measured Against Reality

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

7 Reasons to Legalize Drugs

The more I read about drug policy, the more ludicrous our current situation appears. So here is a list and brief explanation of every reason I can think of that we should legalize drugs, or at least drastically overhaul how we deal with them.

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.

4. History

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.

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17 Comments:

  • I really enjoyed reading your blog...You have very good and interesting points...Keep it up...*Lucy*

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:51 PM, November 07, 2007  

  • Should pediatric surgeons and airline mechanics be permitted to use drugs ?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:40 AM, August 16, 2008  

  • duh... of course pediatric surgeons and airline mechanics can use drugs; they do it now (prescription drugs and alcohol are drugs, right). Using drugs on the job would be allowed just as much as they are not (not at all!).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:57 AM, August 27, 2008  

  • If drugs were legalized the US death rate would go through the ruff. We have a problem with obesity, people not being able to control what they eat and you want to legalize drugs? That is a joke! People will be overdosing left and right, its bad enough you have to wait hours in the ER now.

    By Blogger Robert, at 8:25 PM, December 06, 2008  

  • Robert,
    first off i would think you meant "roof". but i myself am a terrible speller. Second, this is an excellent blog that shows the message; clear, brief, and simple.

    over 63 billion dollers (known to US. gov.) are spent yearly. and thats a low figure. eaither way everythings out their and unbeleivably easy for anyone to get. Think about it like this;- once a week a bussiness man comes home, puts his kids to bed then has a drink. "A drink", sounds fine to me. So we if he smoked a blunt instead. i think he'd live. if the goverment distributed less potent drugs and set a high tax rate we'd definetly have a better economy [anythings better than now], and we could have more hospitals that'll help your obese friends loose some weight. oh! AND that would mean more people would have jobs! not so long of a wait in the ER!

    www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:34 AM, February 13, 2009  

  • you are a complete idiot who has obviously never known anyone who has had a drug addiction. If you did, you wouldn't say that one person's drug use doesn't hurt other people.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:19 PM, March 10, 2009  

  • Sub-mongoloid idea.

    Us Yankees are indeed addiction-prone, and I predict that if dope were legalized in the US the outcome would be similar to that of, say, the wholly legal consumption of alcohol in Russia:

    http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/2009%20-%20Spring/full-Eberstadt.html

    Russia’s patterns of death from injury and violence (by whatever provenance) are so extreme and brutal...

    Unlike drinking patterns prevalent in, say, Mediterranean regions—where wine is regarded as an elixir for enhancing conversation over meals and other social gatherings, and where public drunkenness carries an embarrassing stigma—mind-numbing, stupefying binge drinking of hard spirits is an accepted norm in Russia and greatly increases the danger of fatal injury through falls, traffic accidents, violent confrontations, homicide, suicide, and so on.
    Poisoning via home-made moonshine. Awright!

    In the end us squares would wind up paying for the alpha jocks', Thinkers' and rock and rollers' stupefying Fun and Enlightenment binges with our taxes: theft, robbery, hospital, rehab, varying degrees of manslaughter, and guess what, widespread violence.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:11 PM, April 14, 2009  

  • This is all really stupied drugs should be legalized because nothing is wrong with them if people want to kill themselves go head and drugs can help many people n all sorts of ways all you guys are just stupied haha support weed

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:09 AM, April 22, 2009  

  • He says: "...drugs should be legal, at least the ones less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco". Which ones would they be?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:34 PM, April 25, 2009  

  • Drug Use does NOT hurt other people. look at Amsterdam, and it's surrounding cities. they have crackheads, that are the PRESIDENTS of CORPORATIONS. In our society, that of the US, people are oppressed in a sense that they are pushed into stealing and raving to support there addiction.
    people have the things they like to do, leave them alone. you know, you see a crackhead or a junkie on the street, theres 3 more that have jobs, and familes, and support themselves, AND there addictions. you sterotype, and let that bias your opinion.

    By Anonymous Danny, at 6:04 AM, April 28, 2009  

  • Most people have made up their mind about the matter even before reading this article/blog. However, there is a small amount of people who's minds can be swayed.

    I would first like to say that I have only ever tried Cannabis(Marijuana) once in my life, and I disliked it. But my friends around me have become addicted to it and we've went our seperate ways. I must say that I dislike their choices, however I don't believe having or using drugs should be illegal.

    Many believe what others tell them to believe, simply because it's easier that way. To think, to evaluate, to understand is difficult. But why is it a law? Why is it so bad, so wrong, and so illegal to have or even use drugs? Many protest that it causes people to make foolish decisions, and it very well might. However, the harm dealt should have consequences not the decision before the actual disaster, because people will do what they choose to do, no matter what the law says. We don’t slap people and tell them not to vandalize someone’s property when they purchase toilet paper.

    Though legalizing drugs might not prevent a relationship failure, but it might keep one from going to prison. Prisons are already full, it’s unnecessary to fill them even more with people who really don’t deserve to be there. Murderers and rapists deserve to be imprisoned; they are sinister people, not drug users.

    If drugs were legalized, cost would decrease because of simple supply and demand, which would also diminish drug violence. If people could buy drugs in the free market from such stores like Wal-Mart, then they wouldn’t have to turn to drug dealers; therefore, putting dangerous drug lords and their billion dollar businesses out of business.

    Granted that drugs are legalized, addiction would still be a problem, but a personal problem at that. Addicts need help, not fines. Also because the drug laws are lifted, it doesn’t mean to not share information about drugs. Warnings about the impairment and potential danger should be taught, especially in schools.

    Anyway, I agree that drugs should be legalized.
    ~Mathew M.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:48 PM, March 24, 2010  

  • If you really believe that drugs should be legalized then just remember that drugs ruin lives, families, friendships and much much more. There is no safe way to do drugs and in reality no benefits. Everything has become about money these days, there IS more to life than just money! Sure it's an essential part of life but we were not put on this earth to make money and waste our lives. It blows me away to read of how some people could care less if others ruin their lives just so that our economy can gain more money. Is this what its come to? I mean, can you really say that you don't care about anyone else and their choices? Is there such indifference on the matter that we will do anything for a few bucks?
    There is absolutely no benefits to drugs. Everyone has problems, deal with them or don't,get help, but don't turn to drugs, they only make things worse. If you can tell me one good story were an addict had no regrets or the drugs didn't impact there lives in a negative manner, I'd like to read it. Ask a reformed drug addict if drugs were a positive thing in their life. Drugs just take and take, they take over lives. Now tell me you don't care if the government lets a monster loose in the United States of America.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:48 PM, November 30, 2010  

  • Drug Legalization has already failed once...why go down the same dark path?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:38 PM, November 30, 2010  

  • This is a wonderful site. The things mentioned are unanimous and needs to be appreciated by everyone.

    By Anonymous Health Nwes, at 5:28 AM, February 01, 2011  

  • i agree some drugs should be legalized, but i think only the natural grown things should be legalized. my brother was a drug addict and he is now clean and i never want him to get back into that. i cant i dont want drugs illegal because than id be a hyprocrit, but something should just not be legal. it hurts to see loved ones feen for drugs like heroin and cocaine, and you want them to get better. ive overdosed and had my stomach pumped over 10 times just from drugs and alcohol. its so easy to get ahold of anythng now days so of course people will use them and experiment, but if you do that than at least do it with people you know and know if your introuble they can help you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:42 PM, February 24, 2011  

  • We just heard of how someone has had to have their stomach pumped because of drugs and alcohol. Get help. Just about EVERYONE would be doing drugs if they were legal. Because people nowadays, always pushing our limits, would see that if the government thought it was/is OK then the thought would be "why not do drugs"? People who turn to drugs need help. Don't make drugs a resource for others.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:39 PM, March 31, 2011  

  • It can't work in reality, that is exactly what I suppose.

    By Anonymous тендеры на строительство и ремонт, at 11:12 AM, August 25, 2011  

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