Quid Rides? De te Fabula Narratur

What are you laughing at? The joke's on you.

Is it Time to Legalize?

Posted by Anthony on March 31, 2009

By Anthony J. Aschettino

Much has been made recently of the ongoing violence in Mexico, with drug cartels and gangs involved in the trade essentially running amok on the US-Mexican border. In a country that has traditionally had a problem with the rule of law, or at least the application thereof from a federal center, the current increase in crime is simply another side-effect of the ongoing war on drugs being waged in her neighbor to the north.

Politicians on both sides of the border, and in fact throughout the world, ceaselessly pontificate about the merits of clamping down on drug use. In The United States, the D.A.R.E. program attempts to inculcate from the youngest possible school-going age the evils and dangers of getting involved with drugs. There is no question, medically speaking, that several of the currently illegal drugs (cocaine, heroin, crystal-meth) are highly addictive and, over time and with excessive use, can be ruinous to one’s health.

That having been said, there are many benefits to legalizing all drugs. The revenues alone to be had by taxing drugs, even if only one such as marijuana, could probably offset a large portion of the financial issues being faced in several government areas. It would certainly reduce the massive overcrowding problems that the vast majority of American prisons are now facing, and no longer would murderers and rapists be paroled early in order to make more space available.

Legalization would by its very nature decriminalize drug use, with the benefit of allowing further outreach by programs seeking to help people who wish to stop their addiction. It is a known fact that needle-exchange programs are an effective way to help reduce the spread of HIV and other blood-borne illnesses. Legalization would also ensure the purity of drugs, eliminating the potential risks of overdose from ignorance about potency or additives.

Perhaps the most effective argument, however, is the one based upon a logical look at the way markets function. During the Prohibition Era in The United States, organized crime as we know it today was essentially born. The trafficking of alcohol across the border from Canada (and from the Caribbean via boat) netted mobsters a windfall in profits. Having no legal recourse for their business, these rival gangs solved their disputes with violence and the bribery of public officials. Once Prohibition ended, the violence over alcohol ended.

Legalization would destroy the violent cartels that plague countries on every continent in the world. Once the producers had access to a legal market they would no longer have to turn to drug lords in order to get their product out. Furthermore, profits from the illegal drug trade are a major source of revenue for terrorist organizations worldwide. Legalizing the trade would allow governments to monitor production and observe trade, ensuring that illegal and violent groups could not benefit.

Sure, there would always be the temptation to illegally produce a legal product (such as one today making alcohol or tobacco products without a license), but this would be a drop in the proverbial bucket: the amount of product on the legal market would dwarf theirs, and legalization would naturally bring prices down so markedly that there would be no need to shop on the black market for drugs.

At the end of the day, legalizing drugs in The United States (and elsewhere) would also not result in a massive increase in drug addiction: those who smoke marijuana, inject heroin, or snort cocaine now are going to continue to do so despite the legal standing of the product, and their decision to seek help if they feel they have an unhealthy addiction will only benefit from increased government efforts (fueled by revenue from the taxation) to make such help available to them.

For a long time, in America and elsewhere, the legalization of drugs has been viewed as to taboo a subject for legitimate discussion. We may just now have, in the form of the economy, increasing local and global violence, and an enlightened progressive administration, the perfect storm of ingredients for a rational and objective re-analysis of our drug policy. It is high time to do so.


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