Jeff Smith: Rebuttal #4
[The RP's Provocation; Jason Atkinson's Rebuttal #1; The RP's First Defense: Jason Atkinson's First Response; Artur Davis' Rebuttal #2; The RP's Second Defense; Artur Davis' First Response; Ron Granieri's Rebuttal #3]
I think drug legalization is a little like campaign finance reform, or Lay’s potato chips: You can’t do it halfway (or, you can’t eat just one).
That’s why I think Jonathan’s wrong
. We shouldn’t legalize marijuana. We should decriminalize all drugs.
Prohibition has accomplished a few things. It has driven up the price of drugs dramatically given the risks that market players take every day. It has increased the potency of drugs and made them more dangerous than they would be if legal and regulated; every year thousands die from taking drugs that are laced with toxic substances. It has helped lead to the imprisonment of a generation of mostly minority young males, many of whom have substantial talents and aptitude for capitalism
(and took advantage of their skills in the only thriving industry in their neighborhoods). And of course, because of the outsized profits available to those willing to risk their liberty and indeed, their life, prohibition helped give rise to an epidemic of violence that plagued inner cities for decades and has to a lesser extent hit rural America via meth.
There is one thing notable thing that prohibition has not accomplished. It has not made drugs any less widely available. When I was in high school, I knew exactly how to get weed, heroin, or crack. When I was in college, I could get my hands on ecstasy, LSD, or powder cocaine. And when I was in federal prison last year, I was offered all of the above, and more. “I can get you anything you need Senator. Help you forget you in here, you can imagine that you back out in them penthouses you be kickin it in.” Consider it for a moment: even in a venue in which law enforcement supposedly controls all traffic, it apparently cannot cut off the flow of drugs.
Some argue that use of drugs will rise dramatically, but evidence suggests otherwise. For instance, marijuana use in Amsterdam is no highe
r post-decriminalization that it was before. And if usage is similar but the actual drugs used are safer because of the
mandated labels with dosage and medical warnings, age limits, and purchasing restrictions that come with government regulation, then it’s possible that drug-related deaths could decline. (Indeed, economist Milton Friedman contended that approximately 10,000 drug-related deaths occur annually due to drug criminalization.)
Any system of regulation would have a range of restrictions for various drugs depending on their risk; while some drugs would be sold over the counter in licensed stores, drugs with greater risks of harm might only be available where use could be monitored and emergency treatment care available. A substantial portion of taxes from the sale of such drugs could go towards addiction treatment and prevention. (Currently, there is a long waiting list for in-patient addiction in nearly every major city.)
Part of having freedom is having the freedom to do harm to yourself. You can smoke crack 100 times and it might kill you, although the odds are strongly against it. You can buy a handgun and a bullet and put it in your mouth, and that is overwhelmingly likely to kill you, but all adults have the right to buy an almost unlimited amount of guns and bullets.
Many members of law enforcement acknowledge that drug laws fail to achieve their stated aims and instead worsen the problems associated with use of prohibited drugs. Indeed, the abject failure of a 30 year War On Drugs to make a dent in drug use – other than locking up a generation of mostly minority men – delegitimizes all law enforcement to some extent. Let’s put our resources towards drying up demand instead of futilely continuing to spend billions a year on supply.