Mention legalizing drugs and you are likely to be thought a kook, or worse, - a Libertarian. But I’m not a Libertarian or a kook; I’m a dyed in the wool conservative and I believe legalizing drugs is an idea whose time has come.
Recently on Hanity there was a report of the violence at the Mexican border with the United States and it looks like it has, or soon, will be spilling over into our country. But heading off violence at the border is only one small part of the reason to legalize drugs.
The legalization of drugs would prevent our civil liberties from being threatened any further, it would reduce crime rates, reverse the potency problem, improve the quality of life in the inner cities, prevent the spread of disease, save taxpayer money, and generally benefit both individuals and the community as a whole. These conclusions are based on a basic appreciation of the benefits provided by voluntary exchange and the role markets play in coordinating human activities. Legalizing drugs would eliminate many inconsistencies and guarantee freedoms. The present war on drugs has not and will not produce a decisive victory. I advocate a new approach to this important social problem.
If you think this is inconsistent with conservative principles, you are wrong. Conservatives believe in the principle that individuals should make decisions about their lives, not the government and personal responsibility. People should take responsibility for their own actions. If drugs are freely available in the market place, like alcohol for example, there will be those that act irresponsibly but dealing with that problem pales in comparison to the problems keeping drugs illegal, even hard drugs, causes.
When drugs are legalized, drug dealers will be a thing of the past. Violent crimes and theft will be greatly reduced. Youths and adults once involved in drug crime rings will be forced to seek legitimate work. Deaths due to infected intravenous needles and poisonous street drugs will be eliminated. Taxpayers will no longer have to pay billions of dollars to fund drug-related law enforcement. The estimated $80,000,000,000 claimed to be earned by organized crime and drug rings will also be a thing of the past and drug lords will not have huge amounts of money to infect countries and law enforcement personnel.
Sure there will always be people who will be offended by legalizing drugs on moral or ethical grounds. However there is hardly anything that does not offend at least one person in this politically correct world. Many people object to the sale of alcohol, cigarettes, birth control or animal products, but their feelings or beliefs do not stop these items from being sold. There is obviously no pleasing everyone when it comes to the free market. Under a free enterprise system anyone who participates in the free market will benefit from it. In a free market economy, everybody has opportunity to participate in the market and, therefore, equal opportunity to gain in a positive sum transaction. Not only would the legalization of drugs protect basic freedoms through free trade, but it would also bring enormous benefits to society as a whole. One of the most important societal benefits is a reduction in crime.
First, the price of narcotics will drop enormously and the proceeds can be taxed. When drugs are legal, crimes associated with the high price of drugs will decrease or be eliminated entirely. The supply will increase and the price of narcotics will fall. Addicts who were formerly forced to steal, murder, and engage in other illegal activities to get enough money for their habits will be able to afford the lower prices. Therefore, these types of drug-related crimes will decrease.
Second, drug-related disputes such as gang wars and street violence will be reduced.
Third, the drug business creates great profits for cartels. Cartels are often international organizations, many of which support terrorism and add to violent crime in America. If the narcotics market were open, cartel drug revenues would be replaced by free-market forces, and there would be less of a chance of drug money supporting terrorist organizations, crime rings, and cartel activity.
In 2000, Americans spent an estimated $36 billion on cocaine, $11 billion on marijuana, $10 billion on heroin, $5.4 billion on methamphetamine, and $2.4 billion on other illegal substances. Projected estimates indicate that approximately 260 metric tons of cocaine and 13.3 metric tons of heroin were consumed by U.S. drug users during 2000. In 1992, the overall cost of drug abuse to society was approximately $102 billion. The projected overall cost reached $160.7 billion in 2000. (Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse) Imagine what these numbers are today.
Finally, and most obviously, with transport, sale, and possession legalized, formerly illegal activities will now become society-approved business transactions. Crime that leads to societal instability will be greatly reduced through the legalization of the inevitable activity of drug transactions.
Lastly, the burden on the prison system will be diminished and it will be no longer necessary to release criminals who are greater threats to society than drug users or sellers, as is being done today.
The prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s is a good case in point. The high crime rate during prohibition was due to the existence of the black market, spawned from the government-enforced illegalization of alcohol. The black market led to the formation of major crime rings. The underground market for alcohol grew and led many profit-hungry entrepreneurs into crime. Many were jailed due to transport, sale, and possession of alcohol much like is happening today with illegal drugs.
When Prohibition ended, alcohol-related crime ceased. The profit balloon driven by the limited supply of the illegal substance was deflated. The black market disappeared, along with all of the illegal activity associated with it. Crime rings disbanded. How many crime rings exist today for the selling of alcohol? The answer is none. The reason is legalization.
In contrast to alcohol, drug-related crime is skyrocketing. The President's Commission on Organized Crime estimates there are a total of seventy drug market murders yearly in Miami alone. Based on that figure and FBI data, a reasonable nationwide estimate would be at least 750 murders a year. Recent estimates from New York and Washington are even higher. Anyone who questions whether prohibition is responsible for violence should note the relative peace that prevails in the alcohol and legal drug markets.
Fifty years after the repeal of Prohibition, the average per capita consumption of alcohol fell to its lowest level ever. In fact, people began switching to weaker alcohol alternatives, such as wine coolers and nonalcoholic beer. The legalization of alcohol reversed the potency effect. The legalization of drugs will do the same.
The legalization of drugs would eliminate a lot of serious health risks by assuring market-driven high quality substances and the availability of clean needles. Prohibition in the 1920s created a market for cheap versions of alcoholic products, such as bathtub gin. Alcohol was diluted or adulterated in often dangerous ways. Needless deaths occurred because of the poor quality of the product.
If narcotics were legalized, purity could be all but guaranteed. Businesses, held accountable by customers, would deliver safe products. Brand names would bring competition into the market and assure safer, better products. Doctors would be able to openly monitor the drug use of seriously addicted patients. Poor quality would be largely eliminated if standards are observed.
In addition, clean needles would be readily available. Drug vendors and health care organizations would be able to legally provide clean needles for their customers and patients respectively. Today, needles are shared because they are difficult to obtain. About twenty-five percent of AIDS cases are contracted through the sharing of intravenous needles. Legalizing drugs would eliminate this problem. I have read that in Hong Kong, where needles are available in drugstores, as of 1987 there were no cases of AIDS among drug users.
When was the last time you heard of a diabetic contracting AIDS from contaminated needles?
We have laws that prohibit violent acts against other citizens; this is consistent with our moral code. The laws of United States should not prohibit the intake of narcotics that only have an immediate effect on the individual consumer. If someone ingests a drug, he or she is doing possible harm only to him or herself and no one else is harmed. Only a subsequent act of violence on account of an altered state of mind will cause harm to others. It is the subsequent action that is harmful, not the drug taking itself. Since a drug user is responsible for his or her actions, they should be arrested and punished. Alcohol is legal even though people commit rapes, murders, beatings, and other violent crimes when they are drunk. If a person commits these crimes when intoxicated, he or she is held responsible for them. A mere substance should not and does not serve as an excuse for the violent acts. The ingestion of alcohol is not illegal per se. The same standard should be applied to the use of presently illegal drugs.
There are many benefits to legalizing drugs; we should be objective enough to recognize that.