What if we legalized ALL drugs?

December 7, 2011

Political Theory

“Eighty-five million Americans have experimented with illegal drugs. Since the object of criminal law is to detect and punish the wrongdoer, should we reason that 85 million of us should have spent time in jail?” – National Review Founder William F. Buckley

What if we legalized all drugs? The idea may sound a bit radical to you, but so did gay and inter-racial marriage decades ago. I’m not equating drugs with inter-racial or gay marriage, but there is a curious similarity. Many opponents to such marriages suggest that they will ruin the family unit and destroy America. Some go as far as to say that if we legalize gay marriage then more people will eventually become gay and then people will start demanding the ability to marry animals and so on… bit absurd isn’t it? If gay marriage was legalized in every state tomorrow how many of you would turn gay? I’d place my bet on none. Is it not the same with drugs? If heroin was legalized tomorrow how many of you would rush to the pharmacy to buy heroin? I know I wouldn’t, and I would hypothesize that those who would are already drug users or have contemplated using heroin for some time.

Your first question is most likely why do we need to legalize all drugs? In the United States we arrest 1.6 million people a year for drug related offenses. Of those 1.6 million, an African American male is thirteen times more likely to be arrested than a white male (even though drug use among male African Americans is lower than drug use among white men by almost 10%). In comparison to other crimes more people are arrested each year for marijuana related offenses than all other violent crimes combined. The United States has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population. Over 200,000 of U.S. students have been denied financial aid for college (often preventing them from attending school) because they have a drug related conviction. 82% of all drug convictions are for possession only. It is clear that Nixon’s War on Drugs has failed.

International leaders who favor the legalization of marijuana and other substances include: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. official George P. Schultz, former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, former presidents of Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia, and the current Prime Minister of Greece. The desire for drug reform within and outside the United States is quickly coming to a consensus, or arguably already is.

A common concern is what about the children! But what drugs do children not have access to now? In which U.S. high schools and towns do teenagers not have access to marijuana, cocaine, or heroin? A good part of teenagers use drugs to rebel against their parents and are determined to get them. Teenagers who have the want to use drugs will always be able to get them whether they are legal or not. And the same for adults. I’m assuming most of you know how prohibition supports this argument and I won’t delve too into it. What I will mention is that during prohibition people started making Bathtub Gin to make homemade whiskey, but were doing it incorrectly and ended up killing themselves by drinking methanol. The same thing is happening today and has happened for decades as people have attempted to recreate crystal meth, morphine, and others. If you want to see the dangers of people attempting to producing their own drugs search krokodil on Google, but I must warn you the images are difficult to look at.

The United States has spent around $50 billion of taxpayer money a year for decades to fight the War on Drugs and nothing has changed. Where in Portugal drug abusers are treated as ill, and not delinquents. Drug use in Portugal has declined down the line and HIV infection has dropped by 17% and drug related deaths have fallen by almost 50%.

Would the legalization of drugs not save money? Free up prison space? Reduce racial profiling? Increase freedom and liberty? Destroy organized crime and gang-related violence? Appropriate funds on rehabilitation drug abusers and not imprison them? What GOOD does drug prohibition do?

All drug statistics from Students for a Sensible Drug Policy.


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8 Comments on “What if we legalized ALL drugs?”

  1. weinben Says:

    The War on Drugs is one of the biggest domestic failures our government has ever engaged in, costing hundreds of billions of tax dollars over the years for arrests that pertain mostly to the use and selling of marijuana. The legalization of weed is gaining more and more popularity every year as its use increases and people realize that, just like any other substance, moderation is the key to a safe and enjoyable experience. If you eat a lot of fast food, you will gain weight. If you smoke a lot of tobacco, you will have a much higher chance of getting cancer. Obviously, with weed, if you smoke a lot, you will be subject to some of the negative consequences of it use. But unlike the first two examples, it still remains illegal, mainly because of moral issues. It is likely the federal legalization will occur within our generation’s lifetime, as we were raised by the first generation (Baby Boomers) who defied social norms and used the drug, and they ended up alright now, didn’t they. We have been raised by people who understand the drug but cannot condone it, just like they don’t want use to drink-or, rather, binge drink- because of the health risks involved from overconsumption and to not set a “bad example.”

  2. benjadler Says:

    1. One thing we are great at in America is putting people in jail. Convictions are not too hard to come by. However, as you accurately pointed out, placing all of these people in jail on drug charges does make a dent in our economy as taxpayer money goes towards feeding, clothing, housing, and entertaining prisoners of the state. It’s as if we are running a really poor national resort. Don’t want to work? Want free meals, entertainment (a little TV, a library, and a place to workout), free board, o yeah, and a nice orange jumpsuit to go with it?! Well come to prison a great way to get away from the troubles of life for as long as you want… brought to you by the American taxpayers… we put our dollars towards housing criminals.
    2. Obviously, based on this massive failure of the war on drugs, by locking up many good kids for small marijuana possession charges, our government is not only costing the taxpayers money, but also altering the future of many of its young people.
    3. Marijuana, unlike a lot of other drugs, is not addictive or as bad for you as smoking or drinking. Why then, without as many of these serious health risks and related deaths is it still illegal?
    4. Drug related violent crimes are only growing with all of the violence in Mexico. Simple math… selling drugs = lots of money… Legalize drugs, offer them to be sold in safe clinics where one can check in, use a clean product, and be monitored by employees to make sure they do not harm themselves or others (like rehab… minus the rehab) could make the government a lot of money.
    5. Drug prohibition is not a good thing… but sadly, much of the conservative culture in America supports it. Once drug use becomes more of the norm and is accepted down the line, I believe the policy will change since people will side with the conservative view that drugs are accepted and should, therefore, be legalized.

  3. zschmitt17 Says:

    I am completely for the legalization of every single drug. My main reason is that I do not think that the government should be able to control what you put into your body. It should be a personal choice, not a choice made for everyone by a handful of people.

    I don’t understand why smoking cigarrettes are legal, but pot is not. Cigarrettes are proven to give you lung cancer, they are extremely addictive, and has the possibility to kill people. Marijuana can’t possible be worse than that, can they? Alcohol provides similar effects to drug use, but can cause liver damage and those dreading hangovers. Compared to alcohol and cigarrettes marijuana should definetely be legal.

    I am not to familiar with any harder drugs. I’ve heard about crazy acid drips and the use of cocaine and know people that have done them. These people function normally in society. By looking at them you would never guess that they have done hard drugs.

    Lots of people in the United States use drugs and lots of people don’t. Thats fine I do not care of some people don’t want to use them. But they should be legal for those who do. If you want drugs you can easily find them anyways. The U.S. could turn this into a huge money making venture.

  4. weimarj Says:

    Logical reason points towards legalizing drugs, or at least marijuana. That alone would fix many problems that the U.S. is facing right now. It would free up prison space, which many prisons in America are overcrowded. It would raise tax revenue since there would be a very heavy sin tax on heroin, cocaine, and weed. There would be less over doses because there would be standard qualities of whatever drugs you choose to buy. If we look to the past prohibition clearly does not work. An at home example is the prohibition of alcohol in the 20’s. The only results of banning drinking was stronger organized crime, more people actually drinking and abusing alcohol, and more arrests of drunk people. That is why I think that purely from a logical standpoint drugs should be legalized.

  5. Rainyo Says:

    I most definitely agree in the legalization of all drugs. Brandon makes a great point in that people who really want the drugs will figure out a way to get them no matter if they are legal or not. And it’s not like they are hard to come by either, you just have to look in the right places. I remember freshman year a kid in my dorm had his room raided by police because he was suspected of drug dealing. Yeah, the police found a good amount of pot in the room, but was it worth it to jeopardize this kid’s college career all because of a naturally growing plant that has acquired a bad rep on no solidified basis? Yes, pot does have the ability to make you lethargic, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t being proactive in someway. Quite the contrary, there have been studies emerging showing signs that pot actually stimulates brain cells rather than killing them. The concept of marijuana smokers being stupid is also a ridiculous presumption. I mean, have you seen the advisory board of NORML, probably the most prominent of Marijuana reform groups in the nation? The board consists of the president of the American Civil Liberties Union and the executive vice-president of the Cato Institute. Not to say that these two people partake in marijuana smoking, but they do at least support it, so they mustn’t think I’ll of people who do enjoy marijuana.

    However, pot in an exception in the drug world. There are issues that arise with excessive cocaine use or the use, in general, of methamphetamine. But I still think these drugs, which are much more detrimental to one’s health than marijuana, should be legalized. People already know these drugs are bad for your health, so legalization still won’t change that concept. What will change, as in the case of Portugal, is the treatment of these users. Instead of overcrowding our prison system, we can take Portugal’s approach and treat users not as criminals, but simply, as Brandon put it, ill. People will understand the issues/implications by care and understanding, rather than force.

    Now, people may think that people, especially youth, will be more apt to trying these hard drugs (i.e. cocaine, meth, etc.) if they were to become legal-“The government says they’re legal, so they must not be THAT bad for me”. But the government has legalized tobacco products, and we definitely know the implications of that in the long run. I think it is important to note zschmitt17’s point in that who is to tell you what you can put in your body or not. From a philosophical standpoint, no one can, just as no one can forcibly tell you what you should eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. Even though i feel that this is an important philosophical concept, I also feel it is important to implement proper teachings regarding the implications of these drugs (minus the backward teachings of the D.A.R.E. program). Unbaised drug education should be presented in a way that doesn’t jam the info down people’s throats, but rather leaves it up to them to decide-“Look, you can do whatever you want, but I’m just gonna present the unbiased facts to you so you can make a decision for yourself” instead of “Pot’s bad, if you do it, you will live as a squatter in an abandoned building snacking on rats for the rest of your life”.

  6. kpatch Says:

    With the number of strong prescription drugs that can be used recreationally, it is an interesting debate to consider the legalization of all drugs. One benefit would be that the government would be able to control the substances. It would arguably be more difficult to obtain these illicit drugs if the government were regulating them rather than buying them off of the streets. As seen by the current state of Mexico, drug trafficking can lead to extreme violence so it could be beneficial for the government to have more control. There is also the argument that it would not be that different from how so many painkillers and other man made drugs are restricted. This argument of legalizing drugs is an interesting one, however I think it is too big of a risk for the government to take on in the event that they were not able to gain control over the drugs which could lead to more dangerous uses.

  7. blevz Says:

    Some historical precedent in the matter of drugs bring some additional questions to the matter. During the late 1800’s amphetamines were all the rage for all sorts of uses. People could order, through magazines and catalogs, countless remedies prepared as ointments, lathers, gargles and pills. As more companies began to get into the business, the big players petitioned the government to regulate these sales so that legitimate pharmaceuticals could be verified pure and sold at a markup. This shift in regulations coupled with the news that the popular drug of the time, cocaine, caused a populist backlash against all drugs including alcohol. Prohibition frothed over into anti-drug mania. The government later signed an international treaty that classified certain drugs (marijuana, cocaine, heroin) as criminal and ostensibly banned them. Though public opinion has changed a lot over the years, it is interesting that the war on drugs has continued unabated since it was started decades ago by President Nixon. Because of the self fulfilling nature of its job, (raising prices through creating increased scarcity and thus increased profitability) the DEA continues to undertake the same operations across the country and occasionally around the world to try and stem a demand that will not go away anytime soon.

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