While I am all for the legalization and regulation of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana — and of course, caffeine — I strongly disagree with the idea of legalizing the rest of the illegal drug family.
Marijuana is not addictive. And although alcohol and tobacco are, they are too widespread to ban. We know from Prohibition that such a ban is not effective.
The Netherlands’ approach to drug regulation differentiates between “hard drugs” and “soft drugs” by their degree of addictiveness. With all of the success the Netherlands has had with its legalization of marijuana, why not move on to cocaine, heroin and crystal meth?
The above-mentioned drugs are notoriously addictive and harmful. The science is simple: cocaine causes dopamine to build up in the brain synapses which results in a high.
Even 10 percent of a country using cocaine once it is legalized, which means 10 percent of the population incapacitated by cocaine withdrawal, is unimaginable. Whatever economic benefit gained by taxing the consumption of such drugs is evened out by the reduction of productive human resources. For instance, in 2011 tobacco was the largest cause of preventive deaths and resulted in $97 billion of loss in productivity. What draconian tax must the government collect to make up for that?
And if you are to be fooled by the fact that taxation can discourage drug use, don’t be. Taxation does little to hold down drug usage rates. For instance, the rise of an exorbitant U.S. cigarette tax in the last decade hasn’t effected the percentage of smokers in the United States, which hovers around 20 percent.
Even if we disregard health detriments of drug use, what about the moral aspect of it? For this, I have thought long and hard. There isn’t a moral argument against drug use — it’s a matter of personal choice. But, if an individual is truly addicted to a drug — which is astonishingly easy with the likes of cocaine, heroine and methamphetamine — then he is a slave to it. It is like hunger. A person cannot choose to be hungry or not. Drug addiction is akin to violating a basic human right — no one should be held in slavery or servitude.
Thus, the competing interests at play here are personal liberty and societal morality. When these interests come into conflict, you have go with the one that produces least harm. The legalization of such dangerous drugs condones the existence of a parasite upon society, and produces more harm than good.
I cannot pretend to know which specific drug reforms need to take place, but legalization of all drugs is not the answer.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 13 print edition. Robin Huang is a contributing columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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