AHB's article about the Socratic Method sparked an unexpected, but very well
executed, debate about the efficacy of drug laws in the United States.
My official stance on the "War on Drugs": it has largely been a failure. But do I think that means that because drug laws are difficult and costly to enforce, we should strike them from the books altogether?
No. I've heard all the arguments.
"Prohibition leads to black markets and organized crime."
"Cigarettes and alcohol are drugs, and both are more addictive and result in more deaths every year than illegal drugs. So why are those drugs legal, but others aren't?"
"People have the right to ingest whatever substances they want, and it's not the government's business to tell them otherwise."
And a new one that I've heard recently: "these laws carry penalties that ruin lives."
Of course, that is not an exhaustive list of anti-drug law arguments, but those seem to be the most common--at least in my experience. So let's take some time to examine those arguments.
Prohibition leads to black markets and organized crime.
I will concede to that fact. So in theory, if all drugs were legalized, then we should expect to see a decline in drug related violence perpetrated by organized crime. People who make that argument are making a naive assumption: that people in organized crime are rational, civilized human beings, and not the type of people that will behead 100 women and children just to make a point.
If terrorists are willing to blow up a school bus full of children for an idea, then what makes you think that the cartel lords are above blowing up a legal, commercial meth lab in order to protect their monetary interests? Money is an extremely powerful source of motivation, and the drug lords have shown that they will commit unspeakable horrors just to maintain and expand their profit margins.
Think lifting prohibition will stop the madness? Dream on.
Cigarettes and alcohol are drugs, and both are more addictive and result in more deaths every year than illegal drugs. So why are those drugs legal, but others aren't?
That one is usually a rhetorical question, but it's pretty flimsy. Cigarettes are destructive, but in order for a human body to fully manifest the full destructive power of smoking tobacco, one would have to smoke regularly and heavily for many, many years. Even people who have smoked since they were teenagers live to their 50s and 60s. It takes decades of smoking cigarettes in order to destroy your life.
Want to venture a guess of how long it takes for habitual meth use to kill the average human? Five to seven years.
Some drugs are prohibited because they are irredeemably destructive and highly addictive. As far as I know, I've never heard of anyone that had to go to rehab in order to quit smoking. Many people quit cold turkey, some use the patches or gum. It's not easy to kick the habit, but it's certainly manageable without treatment.
It's not impossible to kick something like meth, or coke, or heroine. However, it's common experiential knowledge that nearly all addicts will require some form of treatment in order to conquer their addiction and stay clean.
And alcohol. Just like the hard drugs, you can kill yourself in one night by ingesting too much alcohol. It impairs your ability to function, and it can be addictive. However, alcohol in moderation has proven health benefits. There is no amount of heroine that is beneficial to human physiology.
There's a reason that cigarettes are age controlled: because they wreck the human body, and no one wants their children to smoke. Why should some drugs remain prohibited? Because it's all about the children.
In my line of work, I've met many drug addicts and children of drug addicts. I've seen, first hand, how destructive drugs are. So I think to myself: do I want these drugs to be more easily accessible to my own children? No. Say what you want, but no parent who isn't completely retarded would ever say "yeah, I would be okay with my kid trying crystal meth. Life is all about experimentation!"
Stay tuned for part 2.