Why End The Drug War Essay, Research Paper
I think legalizing drugs is an excellent idea, for several reasons.
Violence in America would drop dramatically. As I understand it, most drug-related violence does not
consist of somebody becoming violent after shooting up. Most drug-related violence consists of (in
People who use violence while stealing to support their habit. With a free market in drugs, prices would drop dramatically, thus making it possible for most addicts to support their habit via lawful work.
Drug deals gone bad. When a deal goes bad in an open market, there are peaceful means of
recourse for the victim. One could complain to the Better Business Bureau or Consumer Reports;
one could file a lawsuit; one could just do business with somebody else. These options aren’t open
to black market dealers, so they are far more likely to resort to violence when a deal goes bad.
Gangs and syndicates who battle over turf. Open market competitors also battle over turf, but their
weapons are advertising, sales gimmicks, and just plain providing a better product at a lower price.
At their most violent, they might use lawsuits or government regulations to protect their turf. Any of
these options is preferible to the weapons of choice that black marketeers use when fighting over
turf. Legalizing drugs would put an end to turf wars. (Some claim that drugs dealers would continue
to use violence even if drugs were legal, but I doubt it. After all, alcohol was once illegal; when was
the last time you heard of a turf war over alcohol?)
Criminals out on the street due to lack of prison space. Prison space is a finite resource. When you
put a drug user in a cell, you have one less space for a murderer, or a rapist, or some other violent
criminal. By legalizing drugs and granting amnesty to all prisoners whose only crime was drug use
(or possession or trafficking), we would have plenty of space to put the violent criminals– without
raising taxes or building new jails. More violent criminals in jail means fewer on the streets, and
fewer on the streets means safer streets.
How much prison space would be freed? I recall a study done in Florida which showed that of
45,000 prisoners in jail on drug-related charges, 40,000 of them were in solely for drug-related
charges. If that pattern holds for all 50 states, then legalizing drugs would free up hundreds of
thousands of cells which could then be used to house violent criminals. (I’ll try to track down the
source of that study, if anybody’s interested.)
Dealers who use violence to avoid being caught. Currently, dealers have to use violence (or at least
the threat of it) to prevent citizens and police from interferring in their trade. If drugs were legal, there
would be no need to do so.
Legalizing drugs would help to make drug use safer. The War on Drug Users has two side effects that
make drug use even more dangerous than it would normally be. They are:
The Drug War makes it difficult to obtain pure, high-quality samples of the drugs in question. For
one thing, the clandestine nature of drug manufacturing makes it impossible to build a high-quality
facility for making drugs. Instead, drug makers must do their work hurriedly, leading to
carelessness in the manufacturing process. There is no time for quality control procedures or
product testing. Another problem is that high profits that come from the drug trade, coupled with the
fact that most dealers have a near monopoly on their turf, encourages dealers to dilute their drugs
with impurities to increase the number of “servings” that can be made from the same amount of
raw drug. These impurities are often responsible for drug-related deaths, since
The impurities may themselves be toxic,
the impurities may react with the drug to form toxic substances, and
it is impossible to know how much drug (or even which drug, if the dealer uses other drugs
for the dilution) one is taking.
The Drug War has halted all progress towards the creation of safe recreational drugs. For one
thing, the lack of competition in the underground drug manufacturing industry leaves drug makers
with little incentive to improve their product. For another, it is impossible to carry out scientific
research on recreational drugs: No scientist would participate for fear of ruining his or her career,
and it would be impossible to use modern laboratory facilities for doing the research. In an open
market, however, there would be fierce competition among drug manufacturing companies for
customers. A company that could manufacture safe (or at least safer) versions of recreational drugs
would make a fortune. Thus, companies would be strongly motivated to make safer drugs. Further,
since research could be done out in the open, it would be possible to get good researchers and
good facilities to do the job. The end result is that users would have safer drugs to use.
(”Safer” could mean several things in this context. It could mean drugs that aren’t as likely to kill or
permanently debilitate you; it could mean drugs that don’t interfere with the user’s reflexes, vision, or
motor coordination; it could mean drugs that don’t cause paranoia, violent impulses, or flashbacks;
it might even mean drugs that have desirable side effects, like improving mental clarity or the body’s
resistance to disease. And who knows what we might learn from the research? We might even find
a cure for cancer, or AIDS, or Rush Limbaugh mania.)
A Stronger Economy
The Drug War hinders the economy. Hiring police officers, purchasing new weapons, printing up
propaganda– these things cost money, and that money comes from taxes. Any money I spend on taxes is
money I can’t spend on food, or clothes, or education, or CDs, or any of a thousand things I might
purchase. That lowers my standard of living, and it also lowers the standard of living of the farmer, or the
tailor, or the teacher, or the musician, or whoever makes the products I would have bought. Now multiply
that by 240 million Americans and you get thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of farmers, tailors,
teachers, musicians, and others who cannot enjoy the standard of living they otherwise might have had.
Since they now have less money, they can’t afford to purchase as much, and so the people they buy from
are now worse off, and so on ad infinitum. And of course, corporations and businesses are also taxed,
which leaves them with less money to create more jobs, or to do research to improve their product, etc. Not
to mention that legalizing drugs would also create thousands of new jobs, thus helping many of the
currently unemployed, and making it possible to cut taxes further as there would be fewer people on
More Freedom, part I
The Drug War is endangering freedoms Americans once took for granted. By far the scariest is the current
search and seizure policy, in which the government can confiscate your property without first finding you
guilty of (or even charging you with) a crime. All they have to do is arrest you on a drug-related charge, at
which time they can confiscate your property. If you are later found innocent (or released without ever going
to trial) you have to sue the government to get your property back. The burden of proof is now on you to
prove that your property was wrongly taken. This hits the poor especially hard, as they
can’t afford to lose what little property they have, and
can’t afford to hire lawyers or take time off work to go to court.
Less scary, but still disturbing, is the way the criteria for legal searches has been broadened over the last
few decades. These changes were made primarily to accomodate the people who complained that the
police “had their hands tied behind their backs” by laws which protected a person’s right to be free from
unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Drug War has turned drug users, most of whom are ordinary people “just like us”, into second-class
citizens. We have enough artificial distinctions– race, gender, sexual preference, religious affiliation, etc.–
to divide us against ourselves and keep us hating one another for years to come. So why bother adding yet
another useless prejudice to the list?
More Freedom, part II
The Drug War is likely to keep expanding to cover drugs that are currently legal. You may find out you don’t like the Drug War so much once they come for your drug.
For the record, I don’t use recreational drugs– not even politically correct drugs such as alcohol, tobacco or caffeine. I like the feeling of knowing my mind is functioning at peak capacity, without being disturbed by any alien molecules in my bloodstream. But I really don’t feel like paying more taxes for somebody else’s holy war, and I certainly don’t feel like losing my life, or the life of a loved one, to the violence which that holy
war causes. If you don’t like drugs, don’t use them. If you don’t like drug users, don’t associate with them. But trying to control the bloodstreams of everybody in America is worse than useless– it engenders violence, causes death and injury, drags down the economy, endangers freedom, and promotes hatred. All without even achieving its goal.