Monday, March 9, 2009

Legalize it?

The Economist has an excellent leader this week arguing for international legislative action to legalize narcotics.

The argument is nothing new, of course, but it is given fresh impetus by a meeting next week of a variety of government ministers in Vienna to set international drug policy for the next decade. The last such meeting in 1998 sought a drug-free world and committed to “eliminating or significantly reducing the production of opium, cocaine and cannabis by 2008.”

Didn’t work.

The Economist argues that legalization is the “least bad” option, acknowledging that it is not good. Some drug users will suffer. It’s probably a better deal for producer nations than for consumer nations. Harm reduction sounds like weak concession.

But in the face of manifest failure, The Economist argues, it’s worth a try.

It’s a tough sell, not least because law enforcement agencies have become addicted to the budgets they get for fighting the “War on Drugs.” And even those who are disposed to accept the legalization of pot might blanch at legalizing methamphetamine. I know I do.

But Afghanistan and Mexico are failed or failing states because of the narco trade and it’s going to keep costing us billions we can’t afford to swim against the tide of corruption and mayhem generated by drug prohibition.

The most commonly abused drug — alcohol — is perfectly legal, because prohibition didn’t work. Not only did it fail, it basically created major league organized crime. Just as the War on Drugs has “fostered gangsterism on a scale the world has never seen before.”

The argument of drug warriors that the drug market has stabilized — in other words, it’s about the same as it was a decade ago — isn’t sufficient justification for continuing the war. In the current recession, we no longer have the resources to keep up a full-court press and the financially stressed have both more reason to take drugs and to peddle them.

People will always want to alter their senses and they’ll always be willing to pay a pretty penny to do it. And somebody is always going to be willing to supply that demand — and they’ll corrupt governments and kill anybody they need to to keep those profits rolling.

It’d be better if everyone would take Johnny Cash’s advice: “Come all you rounders and listen up to me/ Lay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be.”

But they won’t. We need to come down to reality and accept that. Legalize it? I’ll hold my nose and say yes.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Jim,

    Disrupt the global miitary-narco industrial complex and its perpetuation of War for Fun and Profit by any and all means?

    Say it ain't so, partner.

  2. Jim,

    For me, as a libertarian, I struggle with this one, too. One the one hand, I would like to believe we are all responsible people who don't need or want government interference in our lives. People should be free to do as they please.

    But on the other hand, I sure as hell don't want anyone in a position of responsibility for the welfare of my kids to have a drug problem.

    I can't have it both ways, so, like you, I tend to side with legalization since I think it would destroy the cartels, eliminate street gangs funded by drug profits, create a revenue source for our government, and possibly even make it safer for those who use illicit drugs, since they will be better produced, controlled and distributed than they are today.

    But legalizing something like crystal meth seems like handing down a death sentence to some of our youth. I'm torn.

  3. I think that all substances that people use recreationally or medicinally and create a consistent treatment for those that pose harm to the users. So to me that would mean that we should legalize all recreational use of drugs but have the manufacture, packaging and distribution controlled and taxed with an eye to always make the pricing and availability attractive enough to destroy the black market for these substances, while at the same time making the large scale marketing of these substances illegal. If we were going to look objectively at this issue we would be loosening up the silly prohibition on marijuana but tightening up on the regulation of the ridiculously unregulated cigarette market -an easily available substance that demonstrably has a higher lethality than meth. At the end of the day both of these products should be made available to people who want to use them through the same regulated and taxed channels.

    Bottom line is thatwe should not have government interfere in what people choose to ingest. This always leads to a black market taht by definiton fuels crime and violence

  4. Uhhh, if the Gov't views it as a tax revenue stream, why wouldn't the illegal distribution of it simply continue to avoid the taxation and regulation? Bootleggers still exist to avoid state tax of alcohol....wouldn't the same hold true for drugs?

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