Ending Prohibtion

The ACLU recently sent me a poster in the mail. I'm not a member so I don't know why they did that, but the topic is sort of interesting. Apparently there're a whole ream of laws on the books authorizing government seizure of any private property whatsoever with probable cause of crime as the only motivation. (Probable cause leading to arrest I can understand, but seizure of property without arrest...?) These laws were invented to help aid in the war on drugs (one of the many governmental wars, including the war on terrorism and the war on porn ) but, my new poster contends, they have resulted in little more than a breach of basic civil liberties.

In related news, other laws intended for use in the war on drugs put in prison suffering patients no reasonable person would condemn as guilty of any crime.

Many arguments against specific drug prohibition laws center around specific outcomes of the laws being wrong or distasteful. But while many support the relaxation of some drug laws, or perhaps legalization of medical marijuana, or perhaps of recreational marijuana but not harder drugs, the argument should go significantly further: all currently illegal drugs should be legal. Here are some main points to that argument.

For those Mullerian conservatives out there, take a look at the historical record: the so-called "Noble Experiment" of Prohibition failed drastically. Note some of the results: as is usually the case when government outlaws something, a huge black market springs up to fill the ordinary market's void. This black market is dominated by organized crime, providing structure and funding. Organized crime leads to (duh) higher crime. Consider Al Capone's and similar gangs, moonshine, speak-easies, or the fact that murder rates rose 70% during Prohibition, but fell to previous levels once Prohibition was repealed. Alcohol consumption did not significantly decrease and in fact hard liquor consumption increased. Government spending on enforcement increased drastically, and in the name of Prohibition civil liberties were violated, though the newly rising crime rates were not quelled. Social commentators of the day, for example H. L. Mencken, noted that drunkenness actually increased and respect for the law and government fell. Today the case is much the same.

Whatever good may come about from drug prohibition is mitigated by the huge boost to crime provided by the drug black market. Where legal drug sellers compete through lowering prices, crime syndicates, gangs, and individual dealers often compete through violence, and innocents are caught in the crossfire.

What would happen if these drugs were legal? Legitimate industrial competition would quickly put the drug cartels out of business, as happened with Prohibition. The image of back alley drug dealers would fade as quickly as those of back alley abortions did after Roe v. Wade. Currently drug quality varies highly - meth can vary from pure drug to pure poison. This is because of the high risk and low accountability associated with production. Who can consumers hold accountable if their cocaine is toxic? But consider how quickly pharmaceutical drugs are pulled from the shelves when they are discovered to have bad side effects. Making drugs legal would make the streets safe and protect the consumers. Legal drugs would mean legal and safe help for those who wished to rehabilitate

One common argument against is the terrible danger of the addict. And it's true! From that site, it is estimated that drug addicts commit 25% of all auto thefts, 40% of robberies and assaults, and 50% of burglaries and larcenies. How could this be true? Quite simple - drug addicts are rarely on drugs when they commit these crimes! The danger of producing, trafficking, and selling drugs drives the prices sky-high. Addiction does make people do stupid things, but usually these are well-calculated, soberly-executed stupid things designed to produce revenue for further drugs. Such would be unnecessary if drugs were affordable. Nicotine is more addictive than most controlled substances - including crack - and due to low prices causes nearly zero crime. But what do you think would happen if suddenly, tomorrow, cigarettes were sold for no less than $500 a pack. Would everyone would just quit?

Don't fool yourself thinking that legal drugs would lead to drug lords, crack babies, and general crime. Just look around: as far as it will it already has! There is no government is no dam holding back a flood of evil. It can barely deliver the mail. Uncle Sam can only stop drug use to the extant that he controls every aspect of our lives.

There are the few bad apples who do use drugs irresponsibly and I support full police crack-down on all perpetrators of violent crime. The fact is, if drugs were legal drug-related crime would fall drastically: drug wars would cease, addicts would be able to fund their habits through legitimate means, and users could seek help legally. How many people do you know who smoke pot or do coke? Are they hurting society? The whole second floor of Terrace (and several rooms in other clubs) are full of law-breakers - but a breach of the law is often defined as an act against the People, and what people are the victims of these crimes? No, make drugs legal so the government can focus on the small percentage of the population that actually would endangers us then.

Whatever usage increase legalization might see would be far mediated by the positive effects laid out above. Organized crime and theft go way, way down, industry flourishes, civil liberties are safe, and the world is happier. A century ago drugs were completely legal (cocaine in Coca-Cola, e.g.) and personal responsibility was enough to keep the vast majority of users from harming anyone, even themselves. It's time to end Prohibition again, this time for good. Legalize all drugs.

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