Legalize All Drugs?

A surprising opinion piece was published in the Brown Herald recently – it advocates for the legalization of all drugs of abuse. The surprising part wasn’t the call for full legalization without penalties, but that the writer was willing to express an opinion that is often hidden behind a gradualist agenda. The more common method is one of pushing for partial legalization for medical use or decriminalization of some subset of abused substances. Here, the agenda of total, unregulated access to drugs is laid out in full – a stance held by many Libertarians and others who advocate lesser measures.

There is some good info in the piece. For example, the number of students at Brown who use mind altering substances. A poll is cited that showed student use last year: 85 percent used alcohol, 49 percent marijuana, and 9 percent had used ecstasy (along with 7 percent who used any type of psychedelic substance at all). Not mentioned was the overlap. One assumes some of the heavier drug users also drink and smoke weed.

The message seems to be that students are doing it anyway, legal or not. And this is meant to support legalization, since those students unjustly face criminal penalties for their actions. But what’s missing in this picture are the fact that dealers and wholesalers are the primary targets of the law. Those folks aren’t innocent students, they are stone criminals who make their livings selling drugs.

But even when students are busted for drugs, the interaction with the legal system is an important one. When someone uses to the extent that they get arrested, it’s time to reexamine their lives. An arrest can very well be the intervention they need to change their lives for the better.

The writer also brings up Prohibition, the old chestnut drug advocates pull out as their “go to” example. But never mentioned is that Prohibition did cut back on alcohol consumption and the number of drinkers – to the tune of about half, and this effect lasted several years after Prohibition was repealed. To say we should abandon our drug policies because they don’t work is to make the good the enemy of the perfect. We shouldn’t give up on our citizens or a society that isn’t too stoned to function.

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