Thursday, June 5, 2008

The War on Drugs

First off, I do not do drugs myself. I just need to get that out of the way. Whenever there's someone advocating the legalization of drugs, I (and you, probably) tend to think that what they're really saying is "yes I do drugs, and I don't want to go to jail over it." I did smoke pot, but that's behind me now. Even still, I want to talk about the legalization of marijuana.

Yes, marijuana. Not cocaine, not meth, not crack. My problems with those drugs lie in the differences between them and marijuana: the high addiction rates, the tendency towards violent behavior in its users.

Let me get right to it: one of two things is true. Either marijuana is bad for you, harms your health, and causes long-term damage, or it doesn't. Studies have been done intending on proving one or the other true over the years.

If it's true, and marijuana is bad for you, harms your health, and causes long-term damage, then it needs to be legalized. Now wait - follow my logic. I'm not suggesting that a harmful substance be 100% legal and packages in Happy Meals. I'm saying, it needs to be inspected and regulated by the government. The fact that it's harmful shouldn't make it necessarily illegal. We have plenty of harmful, health-threatening things that are legal: alcohol, tobacco, guns, cars that pollute, etc. Alcohol and tobacco would be the two most closely paralleled with a legal marijuana: not sold to minors, not to be consumed in public or while driving (like alcohol), inspected and taxed, the whole magilla. My reasoning: people are going to smoke pot whether it's legal or not. We know this. All the drugs laws in the world won't stop it. But making a substance that's already potentially harmful illegal as well means that those who are going to do it anyway are then going to have to resort to going to some shady drug dealer. There's the chance of getting ripped off, having them not show at all (which only makes us seek out even shadier dealers), getting slipped a "mickey" (having the pot laced with something truly harmful, like PCP) etc. If it's legal, or partially legal like alcohol, tobacco etc., then we don't have to worry about any of that. Also, think about this: if pot were legal, pot dealers would be out of business. There isn't an anti-drug crusading soccer mom in America who wouldn't love that. What happened to the speakeasies of the 20's and 30's when they repealed Prohibition? They simply went away, and with it the bathtub gin. Problem solved.

And finally, if it's not bad for you, harms your health, and causes long-term damage, then it needs to be legalized. The laws and the campaigns to criminalize marijuana had very little to do with actual marijuana. The motivations behind the marijuana laws were always suspect. William Randolph Hearst sought to outlaw the plant because hemp paper was cheaper and easier to produce than wood paper. And as Hearst had major investments in the lumber industry, not to mention major pull with the politicians of his day, and major influence over the American public's thinking by way of his publishing empire, he manipulated and coerced until he was able to affect his will on a nation. But in all of his crusading, there was never once an ounce of proof that his "demon weed" really had any more potential to harm than alcohol. Similarly, as marijuana use was often associated with immigrants, marijuana laws were often particularly harsh in areas eager to cook up reasons to deport Mexicans. I think it's safe to say at this point that marijuana is enjoyed equally by all races and ethnicities. To use anti-pot laws as a way of targeting law enforcement towards one race or nationality would be a misguided effort.

Folks, we spend roughly $40 billion each year on pot laws. Enforcing them, housing the offenders, "anti-drug education" all costs our taxpayers money that would better be spent elsewhere. I'm sure our nation's health care system would benefit from such an infusion of funds, or perhaps our border patrols, or maybe the educational system...? Make your list of how we should more prudently spend $40 billion. Got any ideas?

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