it s time for a new approach to drug policy

By mopsie · May 6, 2006 · Updated Oct 16, 2010 · ·
  1. mopsie
    For 70 years the government has waged a war against drugs. After 70 years and nearly a trillion dollars spent, this war has accomplished nothing other than imprisoning innocent people based on the personal choices they make regarding what to put into their own bodies.

    The drug war has not stopped people from wanting drugs or getting drugs. Yet, when faced with the undeniable failure of the drug war, supporters say we need to throw more money at the problem. Haven't we spent enough money? Haven't we destroyed enough innocent lives? How much longer does this have to go on before we recognize the failure and try a new approach? The war on drugs has never worked and never will work. Human nature leads people to seek pleasure and novelty, and laws of economics dictate that when a demand exists, a market will rise up to supply that demand. An attempt at prohibition ignores those two fundamental principles. It should come as no surprise that drug prohibition has failed. History provides a clear case of the devastating effects of prohibition: the alcohol prohibition of the 1920s. The alcohol prohibition wasted taxpayers' money, ruined innocent lives and created a black market that put people at risk of injury or death from impure or poorly made products. The prohibition was actually responsible for the rise of organized crime. After many years, the mistake was realized and prohibition was repealed. Why have we not learned from this history lesson?

    Some people fear that legalization will be viewed as condoning drug use. This is not the case. One can support legalization while still condemning drug use. Supporting legalization simply means recognizing that the war on drugs is costing us more money than the drug problem itself. Does that make any sense?

    Suppose a problem in society is costing us one billion dollars per year, and I have a solution that would cost two billion dollars per year--would anyone support my solution? I think not. What if I then said my solution could work if we just spent even more money? Most people would consider me insane and would disregard anything else I had to say. Yet, when politicians take that very stance with the drug war, they receive praise and awards.

    Most people agree that violence resulting from drug gangs and drug dealers is a problem. I, as much as anyone, would like to eradicate that problem, and there is a simple solution: legalization. If drugs were legalized, dealers would be out of business immediately. This is an undeniable fact. Marijuana is a plant that grows naturally. We could, if we wanted to, grow as much as we wanted; thus, it has no intrinsic value. Its value is a creation of the drug war!

    The drug war artificially drives up the price, enabling people to become wealthy by running criminal empires based on selling drugs. So, in actuality, the drug war has created the very problem it claims to be fighting! We don't see people making black market beer, candy bars, or hamburgers, because the notion of trying to compete with legitimate makers of those products is absurd. And, as Alex Peak, president of the College Libertarians pointed out, legitimate companies resolve conflict by lowering prices and improving the product, not by staging shootouts and gang warfare.

    The number of deaths from drug use pales in comparison to almost any other cause of death, such as accidental drowning, car accidents, legal prescriptions drugs, or accidental choking. More important, most drug-related deaths are the result of impure products or accidental overdose.

    Both problems are virtually eliminated with legalization.

    A common reason people give for drugs being illegal is that they are "dangerous." In fact, the drugs are dangerous because they are illegal, so again, the drug war is actually the cause of a problem it claims to be fighting.

    The United States arrests more people each year for marijuana offenses than murder, rape, robbery, and assault combined! How does that make our streets safer? Violent criminals roam the streets while non-violent drug offenders take their place in our prisons. Once again, the drug war succeeds in making us less safe.

    Many of you might be concerned that legalization would cause increased drug use. Not only is there NO evidence to support this claim, but there exists considerable evidence to the contrary. Many reasons people give for trying drugs relate directly to their being illegal.

    Additionally, very few people mention legality as a reason for not using drugs. Most people who avoid drugs have simply made a personal choice not to use. There are ways to get high using legal substances that can be easily obtained, yet these substances are substantially less popular than any of the illegal drugs.

    There is no consistency in the classification of legal and illegal drugs. Tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol all contribute to various health problems. There is little evidence to suggest that occasional use of Marijuana, ecstasy, or LSD would cause serious health problems. In fact, for decades, the government has ignored scientific medical research that contradicts the supposed dangers of these substances.

    But, even if these substances were very unhealthy, why should they be illegal? If I want to cut off my finger, I can legally do so.

    If I wish to starve myself, no one can legally force me to eat. I am legally entitled to eat junk food and not exercise, even though that lifestyle has been shown to lead to diabetes and other serious health problems. I am legally entitled to drive my car, even though driving has caused about 1,000 times as many deaths as marijuana, ecstasy, and hallucinogens combined.

    In fact, if I am sick and can be saved by medicine, I am legally allowed to refuse the medicine, even if I die as a result. It is not the government's role to force people to be healthy. Matters of health are personal choices that should be left to individuals. A free society should not infringe upon ownership of one's own body.

    The war on drugs is unfair, unjust, and misguided. It costs far more money than the drug problem itself, and it ruins innocent lives. It is not working, and it cannot work. It makes our streets less safe and allows criminal enterprises to make millions, taking tax dollars away from our government.

    I am not saying that legalization will solve all our problems. But, at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves, "Is the war on drugs doing more harm than good?" When considering all the relevant factors, I think the answer is a resounding yes.

    [SIZE=-1]Pubdate: Thu, 04 May 2006
    Source: Towerlight (Towson U, MD Edu)
    Author: Dmitri King
    Note: Dmitri King, a senior mathematics and secondary education major, is The Towerlight's proofreader. [/SIZE]

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  1. Nature Boy
    That's a brilliantly written article and brings up several undeniable statements that would make any hardliner blush. Good read.
  2. Sklander
    Wonderful read. SWIM sure hopes the people in charge of this entire thing will recognize their futile attempts and change their ways.
  3. psyche
    I see all main points concentrated in this post in an intelligent form. Good job, this is something I think everyone should read.
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