Friday, October 5, 2012

Drugs: To Legalize or Not to Legalize

Drugs are the scourge of the public school system and of our society; its impact touches millions around the world each year. Addicts wreak havoc not only upon their families but on the system (both with their crimes and medical bills). Yesterday, I had an assembly about them and the dangerous consequences of using them (in the form of sobbing families and pictures of users/ victims of drug-related crimes). I have to give them credit- pathos is a far more effective tool against drug use than nagging is. That particular officer happened to have lost a brother to narcotics and, thus, even brought people to tears (mostly girls, though, I admit). While it was a much better assembly than most are about the topic, I still believe it was lacking in one important aspect- the incredible complexity of addiction and of the drugs in general. While I appreciate what it was trying to accomplish (and did), this lack of nuance is doing the subject an injustice.

Of course, I think that any drug harder than alcohol (and, by the way, I put pot as a "softer" drug than alcohol) is incredibly dangerous. I think that people should research a drug before they take it and that they have the right to know just how harmful it can be (or as beneficial). In other words, they should be able to access neutral information and information from both sides, which any potential user would be hard-pressed to do as things currently stand.

I'm sure my thoughts during the assembly were quite unusual and more complex than most people's. In addition to thinking about how terrible it was, I also thought, Why isn't this all legal already? 

Are those two thoughts contradictory? Not at all. Much of the harm that he was talking about (but far from all, of course) was a direct result of the fact that these drugs were illegal in the first place.

I know a lot of people are for the legalization of weed and I absolutely agree with them. Before I continue, here's why. While anything that can alter your senses (make you drunk or high) must have some bad effects in my view, weed is pretty harmless in terms of how bad drugs can really be. Yet again, caffeine also has harmful health effects but that doesn't change the fact that it is a drug that is not only legal but present in many of the drinks that we drink on a daily basis. When the case was being made against pot at the assembly, the arguments were far from original and made me roll my eyes.

I'm agree with them, but I want to take it a step further. Legalize everything.

I know the case against legalizing these drugs and I certainly understand it. With the exception of marijuana, illicit drugs are dangerous and very addictive. Simply, the side effects of the drugs speak for themselves. Those against legalization argue that these drugs are too dangerous for the market and those high on the substance are at risk to themselves and others. And yet... It's more complicated than that.

The whole point of making drugs illegal is keeping these drugs away from people. Only... it doesn't. One must consider what criminalization and prohibition mean. As shown throughout history, prohibition never works. As long as there is a demand, there will be a supply- the law of economics says so. People will use these drugs and, if anything, making them illegal will give them a forbidden appeal to people and thus make it use them more. Making them illegal will only force the police to try to stop something that just cannot be stopped when they could be doing things that aren't a total waste of time.

Making drugs illegal will only drive them underground. This isn't only useless, but it also makes the effects of using drugs even more dangerous than they already are. As what happened during the Prohibition (with alcohol), the criminalization of drugs only leads to gang activity and unregulated distribution. There are no safeguards and no guarantees. If people want to get weed in a place where it is illegal, they may very well get traces of hard drugs in their joint or even herbicide (this actually happened to my friend's mom- the government did it, but the weed was sold anyway). Safe inject centers are almost impossible to open up, which leads to higher HIV and hepatitis rates as well as deaths from overdoses. Minors can access drugs much easier and get hooked from a young age (because dealers have no qualms about dealing to a young teenager). Most of all, this underground dealing leads to incredible violence as people fight for the money that results from this situation. It only leads to crime and violence, as well as the profit of disgusting cartels that would stop at nothing to hurt other people. Fighting this violence uses up money and resources and for what?

Not to mention, why are we prosecuting a victimless crime? They are only hurting themselves and their own bodies and they should have the right to do what they want with themselves. They might hurt other people emotionally by their actions, and, while that's sad, it's no reason to make it illegal (after all, people hurt others all the time). Ultimately, addiction is an illness that needs to be treated with professional help. Prison does nothing to help these people; they can still access drugs from within prison even if they're not supposed to. While drug abuse might lead to other crimes such as theft, child abuse and neglect and even murder, those issues should be dealt with separately (for drugs like PCP and bath salts, perhaps they should require users to be strapped down or put in a straitjacket while they are using these drugs so as to not infringe on the rights of others). Prison is not going to solve this problem and it is only crowding prisons with people who are not criminals and costing taxpayer money.

If I could take all of the hard drugs off of the face of the world, I would. Unfortunately, I cannot. However, as I see it, legalization would reduce the harm that comes with drug use. Drug abuse is a terrible tragedy, but I believe that prohibition is not the answer.

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