Drug Legalization

D.A.R.E. and many school programs taught and continue to teach students about the dangers of drugs and may have played a large role in keeping me away from drugs, alcohol, and smoking cigarettes ... and I'm very happy about this. I was in student groups in high school and was very much against drug use, but I've modified some of my stances. I used to think that marijuana and other drugs should be banned, but I no longer hold this position. It seems that the arguments that I have seen lead me to accept the fact that all drugs should be decriminalized, but I'm still thinking about the "all drugs" part. I will argue that marijuana (and potentially other drugs) should be legalized in this post.

Before I begin with the arguments, I have no interest whatsoever in smoking marijuana or using any drugs. I don't even like alcohol, going to drinking parties, or the idea of getting drunk. I'm very much against the "drinking culture" because I view it as anti-intellectual and harmful. I'm also not arguing for legalization just because I have friends who smoke marijuana or because I want to be anti-establishment (although that often incidentally happens).

Drug Use is a Matter of Choice, not Legality: Strip Club Analogy

Think about strip clubs. Many people enjoy going to strip clubs and others have no interest in attending, think that they are immoral, and think that they are degrading women. Regardless of the legality of strip clubs, the non-interested parties have made decisions regarding whether they want to enjoy strip clubs. Interested parties go to strip clubs because they think that they are entertaining and want to enjoy the experience regardless of what is legal or illegal.

We know that we can't stop strip clubs because there are so many strippers and so many people who enjoy watching strippers. People pay good money to see strippers and tip well. Stripping is in high demand and if you strip in a safe environment (or view stripping in a safe environment), ensure that others' rights are not being violated, and choose to attend or strip, everything should be fine.

Imagine if strip clubs, something in high demand, were illegal and strippers and strip clubs could not be stopped. Regardless of legality and despite all efforts to stop strip clubs, they still are in very high demand.

As you can see, strip clubs and drugs have many things in common.
- Regardless of legality, there is demand.
- Regardless of legality, people make choices to be entertained/entertain.
- Non-misuse of drugs and strip clubs do not violate others' rights.
- We can't stop strip clubs because of the high demand, because of how easy it is to make a strip club, and avoid being caught; efforts to stop strip clubs are futile.
- If strip clubs and drugs were illegal, prices would go way up (because of the risk factor, limited availability, etc)
- If strip clubs and drugs were illegal, the people who choose to partake would be more likely to commit crimes to acquire money.
- If strip clubs and drugs were illegal, there would be no way to settle disputes, so people would resort to violence in order to "settle disputes."
- If we ban strip clubs or drugs, the government would have to spend tremendous amounts of money and time to enforce laws.
- If we ban strip clubs or drugs, offenders who are caught would spend time in prison, face tremendous fines, clog up the prison system, cost courts money, etc.

Criminalizing Leads to Crime and Violence
If something that is in-demand is banned, suppliers have tremendous profit incentives and can charge much more money because people are willing to pay and because of an added risk factor. Banned items also become less readily available and more expensive because there is not an open, visible market with many, many sellers and competition. Not many people are willing to take the risks of selling drugs (because it is illegal), but if drug use were legal, many more people would be willing to sell and thus drive the price down [more sellers, more competition, lower prices].

Since people don't have the money and can't afford to buy banned items, they'll commit crimes in order to acquire money. If the item were not banned, people could afford it (like alcohol and cigarettes), and these crimes would not be committed. Another problem with criminalization is that there is no legal recourse that people can have because the action was illegal. If a drug dealer is ripped off in an illegal setting, he/she can't take the purchaser to court in order to settle a dispute, so violence is often the only option. If someone was ripped off in a legal environment, people can use legal methods to have recourse.

In a legal setting, crime rates to obtain drugs would be greatly diminished because the prices of the drugs are very low. Decriminalization would lead to lower prices, competition, less violence, and less crime.

A Libertarian and Freedom Argument
As citizens, we should be free to make decisions about what we want to ingest whether it be saturated fat, cheeseburgers, alcohol, or marijuana. We should have the right to do whatever we please provided that we don't violate the rights of others. Individuals, not the government, should be able to choose what they want to do with their bodies. This argument is quite simple and should be the cornerstone of our laws.

Pay the Consequences for Misuse, not use
Safe amounts of various drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, and caffeine can be ingested without misuse and causing harm to others, therefore safe usage should not be criminalized. I can, for example, legally ingest a safe amount (or even an unsafe amount) of drug x and harm no one. Should my actions be penalized? Clearly no harm was done to others, so how can I be charged with a crime? Crimes with victims are similar to debts without debtors - they don't exist. If I fail to violate the rights of other individuals, I should not be prosecuted. If, though, I misuse a drug and violate others' rights, I should be prosecuted. The drunk driver who kills someone should be prosecuted just like the marijuana user who drives impaired and kills someone (even if the latter never happened).

It is not fair to ban something just because it can be misused especially if it's relatively harmless and can be used in safe doses quite easily. Alcohol may be very harmful if misused, but this doesn't mean that I should be banned because of this. Marijuana can impair people and interfere with driving ability, but this also doesn't mean that it should be banned. If we want to ban marijuana just because it can be misused and lead to harm, we should also ban many prescription drugs, caffeine, and alcohol.

Costly efforts to house criminals, enforce laws, wage "the war on drugs," etc, are a tremendous waste of money that could be avoided. The "war on drugs" has also failed despite tremendous commitment.

From David Boaz (source):

- Federal drug war outlays increased by more
than 1150% between 1981 and 1999, and the
federal government spent more than $75
billion on anti-drug activities during the last
five years. Adjusted for inflation, the federal
government spends twenty-five times as
much on drug law enforcement every year as
it spent on Prohibition enforcement
throughout the Roaring Twenties.

- Police officers made more than 1.5 million
drug law arrests in 1999, about eighty per- cent
of them for drug possession.

- The number of drug busts tripled during the
1980s, and the number of convictions
doubled. Arrests continued to rise throughout
the 1990s, and the average sentence for drug
offenses nearly doubled.

- America's prison population quadrupled
between 1981 and 1999, from 344,283 to
1,366,721. More than six million people were
on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at
year end 1999. (
3.1 percent of all U.S. adult

- On December 31, 1999, state
prisons were operating at between one percent
and seventeen percent above capacity, while
federal prisons were operating at thirty-two
percent above capacity. More prisoners are in
jail for non-violent drug law violations than
ever before.

- The armed services, Coast Guard, and Civil
Air Patrol became more active in the drug
fight, providing search and pursuit planes,
helicopters, ocean interdiction, and radar.
Defense Department spending on the War on
Drugs rose from $200 million in 1988 to $800
million in 1990.

- The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and
National Security Agency began using spy
satellites and communications listening
technology as part of the drug war. The CIA
also designed a special Counter Narcotics

- The federal government forced drug testing
upon public employees and required
contractors to establish "drug-free" workplaces.
Drug testing has also expanded
among private companies.

The above arguments should be sufficient reasons to legalize all drugs, but there are additional good arguments for legalizing marijuana.

- Marijuana has health benefits and can be used to treat anxiety, depression, glaucoma, and other problems.
- Marijuana is quite harmless to its user and is not addictive.
- Marijuana, with a good conscience, can be regulated and sold by the government creating many, many, many new jobs and great revenue.

A bad argument that pro-legalization people shouldn't use:
"Marijuana exists in nature, therefore it should be legal and moral to use!"
The idea that something exists in nature does not give it a legal or moral basis - this is the naturalistic fallacy. Rape exists in nature, so should that be decriminalized? This is a bad argument.

I'm standing on the fence at the moment about the implications of my argument regarding hard drugs and may post an update when I reach a conclusion.

I hope you enjoyed my arguments for legalizing drugs. Please point out any issues you may have with my arguments...this is a new field of argumentation for me!