Illegal drugs in America are becoming legal drugs and our children are at risk.
It’s clearly better to live in a place where, as a society, we make an attempt to curb behavior that makes things worse for the rest of us. That’s where laws come in. Otherwise we’d be living in clans, raping and pillaging people like in goddamn “Mad Max.” But when you get into the territory of telling people they can’t do something solely because “it isn’t right” or “it is what’s best for them,” then you are defeating the entire purpose of laws: to protect society from the individual and to protect the individual from the rest of society. This is why anti-drug laws are draconian intrusions into society’s collective freedom and privacy. They continue to exist, however, because drug users are disliked by much of society and therefore carry very little political clout. But we can’t make laws based around personal preferences. In order for laws to benefit society properly, we must make them as pragmatic as possible. To do that, one must look at what would be best for society, despite personal prejudices. And the fact is that society would be better off if drugs were legal. It would allow for a freer, less hypocritical society while either improving, or at the very least having no effect on, the lives of non-drug users.
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Marijuana has become increasingly accepted because it is less harmful and more widely used than hard drugs. A great deal of marijuana law reform efforts have focused on the harmlessness of marijuana instead of the individual’s right to consume whatever substances they see fit to consume. I don’t blame them; they’re just trying to drum up support for their cause. And they are right — marijuana is pretty damn harmless. But this precedent set by the marijuana activists (marijuana should be legal because it’s harmless, not because it’s none of the government’s business) has been a disservice to drug policy reform as a whole.
Marijuana advocates who do not advocate for the legalization of all drugs are just as bad as those who want to keep marijuana illegal. They’re just saying “No, I don’t like that. Drugs are bad and they kill people and ruin lives so they should be illegal.” No, no, no! Marijuana should be legal because not allowing people to use it simply because it’s “bad for them” is not protecting the individual, but the complete opposite. Aside from physically assaulting, imprisoning or stealing from a person, there is no greater attack on the individual than forbidding them from doing something that doesn’t directly affect anyone else and therefore should be well within their rights.
Drugs lead to crime. Poverty leads to crime. Alcohol leads to crime. Anger issues lead to crime. Only one of these things is illegal. You can’t preemptively make something illegal because it might lead to illegal behavior.
Of course it’s bad to be a drug addict and people with drug addiction do affect others negatively (especially those who are close to them and completely innocent), but it’s not the doing of the drugs that is the problem, it’s the way they behave. And laws can only cover up to a certain point. Also, let’s not ignore the fact that everyone who uses drugs isn’t some crazed drug addict.
Even if that was true, the fact that drug use leads to crime in some cases is not reason enough to make drugs illegal. Drugs lead to crime. Poverty leads to crime. Alcohol leads to crime. Anger issues lead to crime. Only one of these things is illegal. You can’t preemptively make something illegal because it might lead to illegal behavior. This is overlooked in the case of drugs because so many people are incorrectly under the impression that drugs always equate to crime and violence, which is absolutely untrue. Also, the fact that drugs are looked at so negatively by a large segment of society doesn’t help the situation.
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Since freedom and privacy are so important to us here in America, the only time we allow for these precious values of ours to be threatened is when there is a legitimate instance where a little encroachment on freedom will benefit us. With drugs (and really any other time this “freedom in exchange for safety” ideology is invoked), there is no benefit gained from the encroachment.
Many people also seem to be under the impression that legalizing drugs is the same as telling society “OK guys, all hard drugs are safe now,” and this will somehow lead to everyone getting hooked on drugs. Legalization won’t magically make you want to try a little heroin. Do you know who is smoking weed in Washington and Colorado right now? For the most part, and aside from a few people who don’t have to worry about drugs tests anymore, the same people who were smoking it before it was legal. And yes, some people who were afraid of doing anything illegal probably did try it so you could make the argument that if they made heroin legal something like this might occur:
“Hey Honey, I heard they made heroin legal.”
“Yeah, I heard that. Honestly, Snookums, I’ve always wanted to try it. The only reason I never did was because it was illegal. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it can single-handedly drive you into an early grave and make your life a living hell.”
“Same here, Babe. Let’s slam some dope.”
“Great. I love you so much Snuggly-Wuggly. I’ll get the keys to the Volvo.”
Six weeks later they’re in the gutter, wrapped in nothing but their neck sweaters.
But do you see how absurd that scenario would be?
Laws should be all about freedom of the individual: freedom from intrusion of privacy, from drunk drivers making our roads more dangerous, from some asshole stealing your iPod, from all of the gigantic companies getting together and ruining the world (we’re talking theoretically here, of course). Yeah, bad things happen and will continue to, but laws are there to make an individual’s experience as good and as free as possible, not promote some impossible, idyllic scenario where nothing bad happens.
Children deserve to be free of a parent who will not belittle them and destroy their self-esteem. But for the law to reach in and tell a parent what they can and can’t say is taking away more freedom than it is giving. Just like it would be to put a limit on the amount of drinks they have or what drugs they do. If they neglect the children to the point where it is dangerous, then the law should step in — not at the point before any harm has been caused, like when one purchases drugs. That is casting too wide of a net. If we want a free society, laws have to stop somewhere. And seeing as we have drug-addicted parents neglecting their children even though drugs are illegal, I’d say that shows how ineffective the laws are in the first place. Making drugs legal wouldn’t condone this behavior and wouldn’t stop the government from stepping in if parents were too busy doing drugs to be good parents.
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If drug laws prevented drug abuse, then there would be a bit more of an argument. But that simply isn’t the case. And this core reason why drugs should be legal — freedom, and why every single person should be granted the same rights, and why the law stops short of making it illegal to call your kid a loser — is just an extension of why laws exist in the first place. It’s about making society as bearable as possible. And the most bearable society doesn’t have government breathing down your neck and in your personal life, even if that means some bad things are allowed to happen under the law. Most people are just turning a blind eye because they don’t do drugs and therefore couldn’t care less.
All this is reason enough without mentioning how several countries have already undeniably proven the benefit of decriminalization (not blanket legalization, but it is a step in the right direction). Or how in just the last century you could pick up some cocaine or heroin at the corner store and society was getting along just fine. Or that if drugs were legalized they could be regulated and manufactured in a less-dangerous way. Or that legalization would make it harder for children to obtain drugs because it would weaken the black market. And let’s not forget all those other great reasons that advocates used to push marijuana reform through: tax revenue, cutting the cartels off at the legs, and the tremendous monetary and social costs of the Drug War (reasons I’m not belittling — I just find it odd that those reasons are given precedence over freedom).
It seems illogical upon first glance, and that is a large part of why this ridiculous policy is still in place, but people will have to accept the fact that a world where all drugs are legalized would be a world where addicts are not treated as criminals and actually given a shot at becoming productive members of society. It would be a world where an 18-year-old wouldn’t be marked a felon for the rest of their life because they got mixed up with drugs. It would be a world where our justice system isn’t backlogged with nonviolent drug offenders. It would be a world where we didn’t condone a government-mandated intrusion of privacy, violating the “freedom” we as Americans claim to cherish so much. It would be a better world.
CHRIS BRUMMER, a creepy Georgetown law professor couldn’t be reached to comment on this article. Georgetown Law School is at the center of the debates over legalizing illegal drugs.