Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Case for Legalizing Drugs

In the next two days, I want to deal with the issue of drugs, and the so called “drug wars.” Today, I’ll begin with the case for legalizing drugs.

Here are the arguments advanced by those who want to legalize drugs:

1. Personal freedom

In the US, we place a high value on freedom and liberty. Our Declaration of Independence invokes the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This means we allow people to make certain choices, even when they’re harmful to themselves or society. For example, we let people eat Big Macs and French fries even though they’ll cause heart disease and obesity. We let people smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and ride motorcycles. We believe so strongly in personal freedom, that we let women have abortions, and terminate a potential life. Against this backdrop, legalization advocates might ask, why do we let a woman get an abortion, but not get high afterwards? Why do we let someone sell porn, liquor, and cigarettes, but not crack?

2. This would save money

Each year, the US spends $44.1 billion on the “drug wars.” This money goes towards paying law enforcement, court costs, and incarceration costs. If we stopped prohibiting drugs, we could save this money, and spend it on schools and hospitals. Moreover, we could also place some sort of tax on the drugs, and make even more revenue that way.

3. This takes money from gangs

A lot of gangs make money from the sale of drugs. If people could buy their crack at the local pharmacy instead, presumably drug revenue for gangs would go down. This means less money available to purchase weapons, and maybe less power for the gang.

4. This allows us to focus more on rehabilitation of dealers and sellers

So long as drug use is illegal, and a criminal justice problem, society is likely to put drug users in prison. The problem is that prison isn’t terribly rehabilitative. People will go in and be exposed to dangerous criminal elements and live in bad conditions. They will come out without education or skills, and with a grudge against society for putting them in prison. They can’t get scholarships to go to college, or get jobs half the time.

Moreover, prohibition prevents people from coming forward to get rehabilitated. If they do, they risk being turned into authorities. If we legalize drugs, then all the people battling addiction who refuse to get help for fear of the authorities can come forward.

5. This reduces crime

This is partly because legalizing drugs takes money from gangs. But it is also because people don’t have to resort to crime anymore to get their fix. Under status quo, they have to steal, or deal with illicit elements to get their crack. But now they can go to CVS.

6. This leads go safer drugs

With drugs legalized, now we can use the FDA to regulate drug quality. Also, instead of having a drug dealer who has no medical expertise making crack, drug makers like Pfizer and Merck can make it.

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