What if all drugs were legal?
by Harry Browne
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The Drug Warriors' biggest argument against medical marijuana is that it's only the opening wedge in a movement toward total legalization of drugs. So, supposedly, we have to "nip it in the bud" - in the words of Deputy Barney Fife, the nation's first Drug Czar.
What if the Drug Warriors are right?
What if legalizing medical marijuana turned out to be the first step on a journey that ended in the outright repeal of every drug law? What would America be like?
Understandably, many Americans fear that with no drug laws, we would have hundreds of thousands of addicts, crack babies, children trying drugs, and other evils. But that's what we have now.
Let's assume the worst
If all drugs were legal, addicts would no longer pay black-market prices to criminals for drugs of questionable and dangerous origin. They would get drugs produced by legitimate pharmaceutical companies and pay market prices. They would no longer die from buying toxic drugs, and they would no longer have to mug innocent people to support their habits.
If all drugs were legal, addicts could seek help by going to doctors - no longer afraid of being prosecuted for their medical problems.
If all drugs were legal, criminal drug dealers would no longer be on our streets. They couldn't compete with the low, free-market prices for drugs sold at pharmacies.
If all drugs were legal, criminal drug dealers would no longer prey upon our children - any more than distilleries and breweries try to infiltrate schools to hook kids on alcohol. When I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1940s, the worst schools were safer than L.A.'s best schools are today.
If all drugs were legal, our government would no longer be dispensing propaganda that makes children want to try the forbidden fruit.
Reducing street violence
If all drugs were legal, our prisons would be emptied of hundreds of thousands of non-violent people who have never done harm to anyone else. No longer would over-crowded prisons cause truly violent criminals to be free on early release and plea bargains to terrorize the rest of us.
If all drugs were legal, law-enforcement resources would be available to fight violent crime, instead of being used to chase people who may harm themselves but are no threat to us.
If all drugs were legal, much of the street violence would end - as it did when Alcohol Prohibition ended - because gangs of thugs would no longer be fighting over drug territories.
If all drugs were legal, police corruption would diminish, because criminals could no longer use black-market drug money to gain immunity by subverting weak policemen.
If all drugs were legal, the government could no longer use the Drug War as an excuse to tear up the Bill of Rights and pry into your bank account, strip-search you at an airport, tear your car apart, monitor your e-mail, or seize your property without even charging you with a crime.
Why do we know this?
Why do I think America would be like this if all drugs were legal?
Because that's the way it was before the drug laws were passed. Yes, there were people whose lives were destroyed by drugs then - just as some people today destroy their lives with drugs, alcohol, financial mistakes, or various character weaknesses - but far fewer people lost their lives to drugs when they were legal.
And America's streets were peaceful.
Has America changed since then? Of course it has. But cause-and-effect relationships don't change. Force still begets force. Government programs still lead to unintended and destructive consequences.
Re-legalizing drugs would put a stop to those destructive consequences - end the criminal black market, end the violence, end the incentive to hook children, and end the production of toxic drugs that kill people.
We have to quit being afraid of the unknown, and instead recognize what we do know - that the Drug War is doing enormous harm to society.
If we care about our children, if we care about our cities, if we care about our country, we have to end the insane War on Drugs.