Arguments for the Regulated Distribution of Drugs
What are Drugs?
A simple scientific definition of drugs could be; any substance that effects changes in animals when taken into their bodies.
The spectrum of drugs within this definition would run something like this: sugar,caffeine, marijuana, tobacco,heroin, alcohol, cocaine. Not all drugs are illegal, and alcohol, a powerful addictive drug, is often not even recognized as a drug.
Currently most people use the word "drugs" to mean the illegal drugs; cocaine, heroin, and marijuana indiscriminately.
If we are interested in controlling drug use, the current usage only causes confusion, and allows us to deny our largest drug problems: alcohol and tobacco. Excepting their illegality, the illicit drugs, having fewer users, would pose fewer problems.
Why Control Drugs?Drugs are dangerous! Even the mildest of drugs cause problens. Caffeine contributes to ulcers and sugar to children's hyperactivity. Each drug has Its own effects and dangers, but they can be generalized into problems of health, responsibility, and cost.
Most drugs are also poisons. If you take a sufficient dose, they will kill you. A dose sufficient to get you high is a mild poisoning. Obviously regular poisoning is unhealthy.
For people around the drug user, most problems will be with their failure to meet responsibility. Families suffer greatly for the drug driven decisions of users preferring a high, to fulfilling obligations. The state also suffers anytime a citizen fails to make his potential contribution. All the people in the community suffer when a drug user fails to uphold his obligations. This is not to say that all drug users are irresponsible, for in fact most are responsible. But drug use does encourage irresponsibility. Besides the human and social cost of drug use, there is a monetary cost relating to both the health and responsibility problems.
Why Do People Use Drugs?The answer to this question is as varied as the individual user, but one may attempt some generalizations.
One way to look at drug use is as a social disease. You contract drug use from some user. You want to be like them or be in their social circle. You have a couple of drinks, or smoke a marijuana cigarette, or snort some cocaine, not only to get high, and sometimes not even to get high, but to socialize, to share with a friend, or make a new friend. This is where most drug use starts, and sharing and socializing remain a feature of almost all drug use.
Ignorance is another big factor in the starting of drug use. Not knowing the dangers of drugs leads to an uninformed decision to use drugs.
In recent times, perhaps the largest contributer to the increase of drug use is their illegality. The person who is rebellious or angry at society will express these feelings by defying the law and using drugs. This defiance has generated a lot of drug use out of the alienation many disenfranchised people feel.
Why Prohibitions Fail.Prohibition of anything for which there is a demand creates an unregulated black market. This means prohibition is really a radical form of deregulation. The people who manufacture and distribute the prohibited item have one regulation: "don't get caught." This results in a market rife with corruption, vice, and violence.
We saw this during the prohibition of alcohol and now with the growth in popularity of "Crack" cocaine. Now as then, gangs of unregulated drug dealers are waging war on our cities' streets, in battles for market "turf." The only solution is on the demand side. If there is a demand somebody will supply it, whether legal or not.
No amount of police can control drug use. The recent attempt to restrict alcohol by the Soviet Union serves to show that even a police state can not use force to restrict drug use without increasing the problem.
The War on Drugs is a Civil War!In the cocaine trafficking areas graffiti has appeared saying; "The war on drugs is a war on Blacks and youth." Pointing out that, the war might be on drugs, but drugs' foot soldiers are our own citizens. Some look to the foreign places where drugs grow to find enemies to fight, but if there were no users, there would be no supply, only weeds growing in the jungle. The user is drugs most potent soldier, fighting a guerilla war against law and order with every purchase.
Now that we have identified the enemies' soldiers, we must ask ourselves; Can we win a war against guerillas diffused throughout our society? Do we want to fight a war against a substantial minority of our own citizenry, when each casualty we inflict is one of our own? One of those whom we are attempting to protect from drugs' harm. As the war spirals out of control can we hope to sustain the losses? Is denying drugs to a group of our citizens worth a civil war?
Respect for the Law.One reason to legalize drugs is to increase respect for the law. Respect for the law has often been used as an ultimate reason for not using drugs;"Because they are illegal." And this is a very good reason. Respect for the law is the foundation of civilization, without which nothing we value would last. But the drug laws have lost sight of an ancient principle of democracy and just legislation.
Solon, one of the wise men of the ancient world and father of Athenian democracy, is credited by Plutarch in knowing that "laws must look to possibilities, if the maker designs to punish few in order to accomplish their purpose and not many to no purpose."
In respect to drugs this means if a substantial minority continue use, the law can only punish "many to no purpose." But if the law is designed to keep drug use to a minimum, then only a few will need to be punished and drug use will decline.
In other words it is the obligation of legislators to make reasonable laws worthy of respect, otherwise they will fail in the purpose of the legislation and endanger civilization by encouraging disrespect for the law.
The laws should represent the real values of the people and not be used to shape those values. Nor should they be based on minority or obsolete opinions. Nor should the majority force its morality on a minority. The law should be a force for unity not division. If a law makes a substantial minority criminals can it cause anything but strife?
The Failure of Propaganda.Why after so many years of the government telling us that drugs are bad, is the drug problem growing? The reason is found in the difference between propaganda and education.
Propaganda is based on trust while education is based on reasonable persuasion. Propaganda fails when trust fails, often leading to an effect opposite of that desired. As when the 1930 propaganda film "Reefer Madness", becomes a 1960 "drug cult" film.
Understanding derived from education grows as it encounters conflicts and seeks resolution, coming closer to truth and more complete understanding.
Being the United States is a democracy, requiring truthful information, and there is a tradition of government distrust in our country, the use of propaganda is limited. Our government should try truthful, reasonable persuasion.
Save Our Children!One of the biggest problems of the unregulated black market in drugs, is their easy access to children, even in grade school.
Back in the mid 1910s, when our country was first passing drugs laws at the state level, one of the main reasons for concern was the dangers of drugs to children. Now after seventy-five years of legal prohibition many more children are being lost to drugs than they ever thought possible. How many more generations are we to continue this foolishness?
What was a small problem when we first tried to solve it, has grown into a huge problem. Who can argue that we need more police, and a campaign to "just say no"? Our children are being lost by the thousands because we fail to see the futility of prohibitions.
It is possible to prevent children from using drugs and that should be the law. It is not possible to stop adults from using drugs so that should not bethe law. If we attempt the impossible we will fail at the possible also.
The Solution to the Drug Problem. In the short term we need solutions to our immediate problems of drug related violence, and easy availability to children. Both problems are related to the unregulated black market. The only way to control these problems is to establish a regulated market and control the manufacture and distribution.
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Copyright © 1989 Timothy M. Radonich