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Legalize All Drugs

02/28/2011

I don’t currently take any illegal drugs, and I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone else. For that matter I wouldn’t recommend alcohol to anyone either, though I drink it myself. There usually aren’t many logical reasons for taking drugs recreationally, legal or not. There are only risks, and the risks vary dramatically depending on the substance. Lives have been ruined by all of them.

That said, laws that tell us what not to put in our bodies seem like babysitting to me. Adults, I think, should be trusted to identify and choose a prudent course of action. Choosing it for us is condescending.

Maybe the current patronizing approach would be more palatable if it was effective. But criminals thrive under this system, and violent crime rates are high. In the United States–a country with extremely harsh drug laws–there were 5 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants in 2010. In the Netherlands, where drug policies are much more liberal, there were less than a fifth of that.

There are methods of discouraging drug use that don’t trample our dignity. In his book The Price of Everything, Eduardo Porter suggests that raising the price of drugs–by legalizing, regulating and taxing them–would prove far more effective. He points out that between 1988 and 2009 the number of twelfth graders in the United States who admitted they’d taken illegal drugs rose 7 percent. During the same period, the percentage of teens who had smoked a cigarette dropped from 28 to 20. Porter attributes this to price fluctuations. Since 1990 increased taxes have roughly doubled the price of a pack of cigarettes in the U.S., while drugs have become significantly cheaper.

Through regulation, we could eliminate some of the risks currently associated with drug use. For instance, those who choose to do drugs wouldn’t have to worry about them being secretly laced with more dangerous and addictive substances. As well, if drugs were legalized, the billions that are now spent on law enforcement could be allocated to research, increasing education,  developing rehabilitation techniques, providing clean needles and opening new rehab centres.

This would also reduce strain on the environment, since any reduction in consumption means less waste.

Legalizing drugs is a perfect example of something that initially seems utterly batshit, but in truth is perfectly batshite.

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