Have you ever wondered why drugs are illegal? We’re born into a society that has pre-determined rules, laws, norms, customs and stigmas, many of which we might not believe in ourselves, yet we go along with it. First, because we don’t want to be thrown in jail for breaking the law. Second, out of respect to our fellow man and hoping that others respect our rights just as we respect theirs.
However, prohibition of substances, on its face, doesn’t seem to make sense if you believe in a free society where adult human beings are capable of making responsible decisions for themselves. Why does it matter what another person puts into their body as long as they are not infringing upon the rights of those around them?
Many people around the world today believe that all drugs should be decriminalized, including members of law enforcement and Harvard economist, Jeffrey Miron.
In fact, there is an entire group of law enforcement personnel (called LEAP) that have set up a website to advocate for the decriminalization of all drugs. Their argument is basically this: it is not the use of the drug itself that causes so much personal and social harm to the folks using the substances, but rather it is the prohibition of the substances that is causing the real damage.
By prohibiting drugs and making them illegal, you create a black market for the product that is unregulated and completely monopolized by organized crime syndicates. Because they have a monopoly on the market, they can charge incredibly high prices for the drugs and have to fight to keep their control of the market. This leads to the bribing of other criminal organizations and the fighting and killing of not only other gang members, but law enforcement personnel and children as well.
If history has taught us anything about prohibition, it is that it does nothing to curb the actual use or abuse of the substance itself. When drug dealers are arrested and imprisoned, supply and demand does not really change. Instead, a spot opens up for the next drug dealer with an entrepreneurial spirit seeking to cash in on the huge potential profits.
As Jeffrey Miron explains, attempts to enforce this violent and corrupt underground drug market ultimately lead to the reduction of basic civil rights--specifically the fourth amendment to the constitution. It prohibits sick people from using substances that may help treat their chronic conditions and ailments, and breeds strong relationships between crime syndicates and terrorist organizations, both of which have something to gain from the selling of illegal drugs.
Miron believes that by legalizing all substances, we create a market for them that operates much like the markets that sell substances like caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol. And as is the case with drugs that are legal, we would see a small portion of the population use them recreationally with minor negative effects and an even smaller portion of the population that misuses and abuses them to their own detriment, but not to the detriment of others, relatively speaking.
While this is not a solution that completely eliminates all negative consequences of drug use, it is one that creates a balance that is much better for society than simply prohibiting drug use altogether.
While many people who argue against the legalization of drugs think that consumption of drugs would significantly increase, evidence suggests that this most likely will not happen. Portugal legalized the consumption of all drugs over a decade ago and they experienced almost no change at all in consumption rates--if anything, they saw mild decreases in drug use.
Policies surrounding a fully legalized drug market would most likely operate similar to the ones we have now for alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, with certain age requirements and limiting consumption to certain times and places.
Do you think all drugs should be legalized in the United States? The evidence and supporting details for such an argument seems to make quite a bit of sense.
Let us know how you feel about the prospects of legalizing all drugs and be sure to share with friends and family members who you think would be interested in reading more about this topic!