You Can't Deny
We know certain things for sure. If meth was no longer illegal:
1. All dangerous clandestine meth labs in residential neighborhoods would close;
2. All dangerous street gangs would be out of the meth business;
3. Every dime currently spent on meth prohibition could be spent on real crime; 27
4. Meth addicts would have no legal disincentive to seek help;
5. The manufacture of meth would be safe and produce a consistent product; and
6. Toxic waste from meth production would be safely disposed.
If you support maintaining the war on drugs, you must necessarily conclude that either I am wrong about the above six assertions or that the benefits of the drug war outweigh the obvious benefits contained in the six assertions. It is difficult for me to imagine one could rationally and honestly dispute any of the six assertions. They are obvious and virtually guaranteed to flow from legalization. Therefore, a drug war supporter is left with the argument that the drug war’s benefits outweigh the benefits contained in the six assertions. If this is your position, I challenge you to honestly reweigh the costs and benefits of each scenario. Unless you put your finger on the scale because you personally benefit from the drug war, you must conclude legalization wins.
I do not intend to claim that the above six assertions are the only benefits of legalization. I list them together because I find them to be indisputable. There are other benefits of legalization. I suspect many people would either not experiment with or stop using meth. Recently, a teenage meth user confirmed for me that she and her friends started using meth at least in part because it was illegal. I cannot recall any friends of mine who didn’t drink alcohol prior to reaching age twenty-one. Indeed, I consumed more alcohol prior to reaching age twenty-one than I do today or since I have been age twenty-one and one month.
In countries where the alcohol drinking age is sixteen, rates of alcohol related problems appear to be lower than in the United States where the drinking age is twentyone. 28 The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse reports that in 2003, 5.55% of Americans were either alcohol abusing or alcohol dependent. The Austrian drinking age is sixteen and 2.2% are regarded as alcohol dependent.29 The German drinking age is sixteen and 3.9% of Germans’ alcohol use is considered harmful.30
Even during prohibition, while rates of death from alcoholism and cirrhosis were rising in the United States, they were decreasing during the same time period in Great Britain, Denmark and Ireland where alcohol use was legal.31 I recently traveled to Amsterdam where marijuana use is legal for those over eighteen years of age. Marijuana use among minors in Amsterdam is decreasing. Indeed, the rate of marijuana use by minors is five times less than what it is in the United States.32 Even among adults, the rate of marijuana use in the United States is twice as high as in the Netherlands where use of marijuana is legal.33 Many of the locals informed me that marijuana use is simply not exciting and they virtually don’t ever use it unless people from out of town are visiting. As you may expect, I had a lot of questions for proprietors of marijuana coffee shops. I personally witnessed a peaceful and safe marijuana trade in Amsterdam. Although I wouldn’t want to live there for unrelated economic reasons, the Netherlands is a good example of why legalization makes sense.34
Tobacco is a far deadlier drug than is meth. For the year 2000, tobacco is blamed for causing 435,000 deaths.35 Deaths resulting from the direct or indirect use of all illegal drugs including meth, cocaine, OxyContin, heroine and ecstasy for the same year total 17,000. id. 36 37 Despite the fact that tobacco is legal, tobacco use is declining. In 1956, 42% of adults smoked. In 1980, only 33% of Americans smoked. Additionally, in 1977, 29% of high school seniors smoked. Four years later, the number of high school seniors who smoke had fallen to 20%.38 Education about the dangers of tobacco use can be credited for the decline of tobacco use which occurred while the drug was legally available and without any of the crime and violence associated with the drug war. The recent rise in popularity of non-alcoholic beer and low nicotine cigarettes can be attributed to the same phenomenon. The same beneficial effects could be applicable to meth and other illegal drugs.
Fortunately, people are slowly waking up to the fact that this war on drugs is the entirely wrong approach. I am encouraged by a courageous group of law enforcement and former law enforcement members who have joined together to form a group entitled Law Enforcement Against Prohibition or LEAP. A visit to their website at http://leap.cc/is well worth the time invested. The over two thousand law enforcement members of LEAP state the following, “The membership of LEAP believe to save lives and lower the rates of disease, crime and addiction, as well as to conserve tax dollars, we must end drug prohibition.” The members of LEAP are willing and eager to debate their views with anyone willing to try to defend the drug war. Also, judges are finally starting to speak out. See, http://www.judgesagainstthedrugwar.org/ contains judicial opinions critical of the drug war.
Astute observers of the drug war might point out that the $50-$69 billion dollars currently being spent on the drug war annually could be used to more effectively address the problems associated with drug abuse. That money could go a long way to facilitate drug abuse education, treatment and prevention.
Additionally, some may argue that legalization of drugs could be administered in much the same way alcohol is currently dealt with. Certainly, people who commit real crimes should be punished whether or not they were using drugs at the time. Legalization of drugs does not mean laws must permit unsafe drug impaired drivers on the roads.
Further, employers and other private citizens would be free to prohibit any and all drug use at their workplaces or on their property as they can now with alcohol. Indeed, what would change with a reasonable scheme of legalization would be a deletion of much of the crime and violence only; everything else would remain much the same or improve.
It is a substantially better deal than the ongoing and worsening disaster we currently endure. The drug war is un-American. One cannot simultaneously value freedom and yet support a governmental scheme which denies the individual his or her sovereignty over his or her own body. Indeed, control over one’s own body is the most fundamental of all rights. Worse, the drug war has effectively birthed countless violent criminal enterprises.
This possibly well intentioned effort has resulted in effectively creating our 51st state; the state of incarceration. The state’s population is growing out of control and it is choking the life out of the other 50 states. Thousands of peaceful Americans are currently living in cages because of the drug war. The drug war is lunacy and it must end immediately. As it did for the revolutionaries who founded our country, the time has come for us to be bold and courageous. We must speak out against this horrendous mistake. We have the better case.