In America it is perfectly legal for someone who’s 18 years old to walk down the street to the corner store and buy a pack of cigarettes. It’s also legal for someone to go into a bar if they’re 21 years old and buy a glass of hard liquor, or three or four. Both of these behaviors are unhealthy, since there are a variety of poisons in cigarettes (including nicotine, which has been used as an insecticide) and the body isn’t meant to process alcohol which can lead to a variety of tissue damages. People use cigarettes and alcohol for the feelings they provide, because both of them are drugs.
Why then is America so concerned with the use of drugs that don’t fall under alcohol or tobacco? If someone wants to snort cocaine or smoke marijuana, both of which were sold at corner stores to a willing public decades ago, then that person better not get caught doing it or they’ll do prison time and likely pay hefty fines. This applies to a slew of other drugs as well, including methamphetamines, heroin, morphine and a number of other substances. These drugs provide a high for users as well, but they’ve been outlawed by the government and heavy penalties have been slapped on their use. Let’s examine what this has done to the populace.
First of all, drug use is not down. Laws have not stopped the use of drugs, the manufacture of drugs or the sale of drugs. In fact estimates range that as many as 80% of people currently in prison in the United States are in prison because of drug related charges. This has contributed to the horrendous prison overcrowding problem that we have in America. Additionally, because certain drugs are criminal only criminals make them. Which means that if you want drugs, responsible user or not, you have to buy from criminals. This creates an environment of paranoia, distrust, violence and powerlessness on the part of the buyer. Criminals might cut drugs with other substances and create bad batches that are poisonous if used… but users can’t report that to the police. Nor can users report if a drug dealer takes their money and assaults them without delivering the product that was paid for. Drugs money is used to fuel gang and organized syndicate profits, and even worse it finds its way into the pockets of international terrorists.
Now, just for a moment, assume that all of these substances were legal to own, buy and use. You could pick them up at Wal-Mart, or at a drug store. That would create some major changes. First of all, bad product (like tainted needles or poisoned cuts) wouldn’t make it into the hands of drug users, making the drugs a good deal safer to use. Drug doses and products would be screened by the government, and warnings would be placed on the packages telling buyers just what’s in the drug, what it does to you when you use it and what results you can expect. The black market that fuels criminal gangs and international cartels would dry up because of the competition given by legitimate businesses. Criminals sell drugs because there isn’t a Target to compete with and they have a cornered market… take that away and most of the problems of illegal drugs go away too. The violence becomes pointless and punishable, and users become people again, who can be protected by the law when they’re assaulted or taken advantage of by someone selling them drugs. And of course all of the money spent on legal drugs is taxed, accounted for and is no longer swept under the rug.
Naysayers will ask how we know that will happen, of course. Well, there’s plenty of evidence from around the world. For instance, Amsterdam makes huge amounts of money off of the sales of drugs, and its tourist industry is booming. Deaths from drugs and drug overdoses in Portugal, according to Neatorama were cut in half. The country was able to put more resources into drug treatment for those who couldn’t use responsibly, and it saved huge amounts of money that were otherwise being spent on drug enforcement and crackdowns. Legalizing drugs didn’t create a whirlwind of sin and debauchery that tore the country apart… rather it calmed everything down because one of the chief thrills of doing drugs is that they’re illegal… take that away and they’re just drugs.
Is doing drugs unhealthy and self-destructive? Of course it is, but so is watching Daytime soap operas, reading Twilight novels and staying up late on the Internet. However, all of those things are left up to the discretion of the consumer. If you have a problem with liquor, don’t go to a bar and if you have a problem with marijuana then don’t inhale. However, let’s not forget that drugs are a big business, always have been, and that business puts money into the economy and fills the government’s coffers so that we the people don’t have support such a large burden placed on our shoulders. Relieve budget deficits, embrace personal freedoms, empty the prisons, create growth industry and fight terrorism… the advantages of making drugs legal are almost neverending.
“The Economic Benefits of a Legal, Regulated Marijuana Industry,” by anonymous at Legalize.org
“Costs and Benefits of Drug Legalization,” by anonymous at Humboldt.edu