Why Drugs Should Not Be Legalized
Prohibition has created secondary harms like the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and gang violence. However, the drug industry is well-funded and has a direct interest in less regulation.
Many people cite public opinion polls that show most Americans would not rush to try hitherto forbidden drugs if they were legalized. But such extrapolations are unreliable.
1. They Are Harmful
The criminal prohibition of drugs is a major source of harm. Stringent laws, spectacular police drives, and rigorous prosecutions of addicts and drug peddlers have proven futile and enormously expensive.
Illicit drugs cause a wide range of psychological, social and medical problems. Many of these drugs have a toxic effect on the brain and body, and regular use can lead to addiction.
Prohibition also creates secondary harms by promoting a massive illegal market in these substances. This market causes a number of problems including adulterated drugs, spread of HIV and hepatitis B and C through injection drug use, and corruption of law enforcement and governments.
2. They Are Illegal
Prohibition only drives drugs into the black market and gives criminals control over them. Proponents argue that the government should focus on reducing drug abuse and crime rather than trying to stamp out drugs completely.
The desire to alter consciousness has been a part of human life throughout history and people in many cultures have used psychoactive drugs. From the caffeine in coffee and tea to nicotine in cigarettes, to botanical extracts like morphine and heroin and synthetic compounds like MDMA and fentanyl.
Legalizing these substances will eliminate criminal activity, incarceration and the black market, but it will also increase their availability and consumption. This may lead to increased demand for rehabilitation and addiction treatment centers. It could also result in higher taxes from the sale of drugs as well as decreased productivity in the workplace and health care costs.
3. They Are Not Safe
Prohibition sends a message that drugs are evil and should be forbidden. It also makes drug use more attractive, as is illustrated by the fact that currently legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco are consumed in far greater numbers than illegal ones. In addition, more people die each year from prescription drug abuse than from cocaine and heroin combined.
A growing consensus exists that prohibition is failing to curtail drug production, deter illegal drug usage and stamp out crime associated with the drugs business. In fact, it has exacerbated many of the problems it was supposed to address, such as adulterated drugs, heroin overdoses and hepatitis C transmission from injection drug users. The only way to truly correct this terrible problem is to eliminate the profit motive by making drugs available for purchase at cost from government controlled dispensaries.
4. They Infringe on Civil Liberties
The criminal prohibition of drug use and possession infringes on the right to privacy and personal autonomy. Such restrictions on an individual’s autonomy are only justifiable if they advance a legitimate purpose and are proportionate to that goal. The War on Drugs fails to satisfy either of these requirements.
Stringent laws, spectacular police drives, and ruthless imprisonment of addicts and peddlers have failed to produce the desired results. Indeed, they have exacerbated many of the problems associated with repression by creating a vast illegal market in mood- and mind-altering drugs. Furthermore, the social costs of increased drug use far outweigh any tax revenues generated by legalization. This is illustrated by the current experience with alcohol and tobacco, which are readily available, legally consumed, and associated with enormous costs to society – hospital admissions, rehabilitation programmes, and public nuisance.
5. They Are Illegal
The criminal prohibition of drugs leaves control of these psychoactive substances in the hands of criminals. Advocates of drug legalization argue that allowing citizens to purchase high-quality, controlled drugs will eliminate the illegal drug market, regulate quality and price, and decrease law enforcement costs including arrest, incarceration and prosecution.
Prohibition of drugs allows criminals to profit from the illegal drug trade, and this is a major reason why people like Brittany Murphy, Anna Nicole Smith, and many others die from drug overdoses. Prohibition also allows the spread of AIDS amongst addicts and their partners, who are unable to obtain HIV treatment.
The war on drugs promises a drug free society, but it has failed to do so. Instead, it has created a lucrative black market for illegal drug trafficking and increased the use of dangerous chemicals such as meth and amphetamines.