mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Why we should legalize drugs, but why I don't really care if we don't...

Reason has a post on one of those unfortunate chains of events that they see as evidence of the problem with the war on drugs. Guy appears intoxicated, is wearing a necklace filled with a powdery substance. Cop stops him, dumps out substance, finds out it's not cocaine, brushes on ground. Substance was actually the ashes of the man's dead baby daughter - and the guy was not drunk or under the influence of drugs.

It's sad, but it's also one of those confluence of events that happens about once in the history of the world. So normally I wouldn't care about this story - but one of the commenters, "blammo", had a really good point.

The bottom line is that, if you, like the majority of Americans, accept that government has a role in regulating the safety of people's food, medications, playground equipment, and thousands of other things the government currently regulates, then making illicit drugs illegal doesn't seem that crazy. It even makes sense. This is why many Americans think Marijuana should be legalized, but not cocaine, heroin, etc. Many more people perceive Marijuana as safe for consumption, so they reason that the government should legalize it.

I think it's interesting because it's something you could take a step further - that drug legalization isn't necessarily a bad idea, but that there are more important things to worry about. There are many things the government regulates quite heavily, taking away personal choice, that are less dangerous then drugs and affect more people (OSHA, car safety requirements, ect) - so people are more likely to fight those things. Then there is social security, where the government decides you can't be trusted with your own money to plan for your own future, so they take away 15% or so of your earnings, which you will never see again if you are below a certain age, and which you can't pass onto your family or friends if you die young. That to me is something that affects more people than the war on drugs, and takes away a right that is more important than the right to use drugs. And that is why while I agree in theory with the idea of drug legalization (especially for marijuana) I tend not to really care in practice about it, or see drug dealers who are in jail as innocent victims of an unjust law (since they chose to violate the law, and not for reasons of civic disobidience - and also because they often commit other actual crimes, like murder or assault on competing drug dealers. Which once again, they commit because drugs are illegal, so they can't compete or sue like normal businesses can, but that doesn't make them acceptable).

ace sums it up pretty well in his post about John Tierny's NYT article about why the meth crisis is overblown.

I think the decisions to move Psedephadrine-containing drugs to the pharmacy counter are stupid - they inconvinience people who have legitimate need for the product - people with colds and allergies - and are unlikely to stop actual drug producers. And since pharmacy counters are often open fewer hours than the rest of the store (or grocery and convinience stores that sell OTC meds), people with allergies are going to suffer. Drug dealers, however, will find another way to get pills to make meth - possibly armed robbery of pharmacisists (talk about unintended consequences).

(on a side note, I know someone who said that she stopped taking Sudaphed once she found out it was used to make meth. I had to stop myself from asking her if she stopped using baking soda, since it's used to make crack cocaine.)

For the record, I've never used any illegal drugs (although I have abused plenty of alcohol, caffine, and the occasionally nicotine). Never. But if I was going to pick an illegal drug that sounded appealing, it would probably be meth (or maybe qat. I mean, the last thing I need is something like weed that makes you tired and hungry - I'm already tired and hungry all the time. But meth - a drug that keeps you awake for hours on end - sounds ideal to a guy who works 6 days a week, runs an ebay business, takes grad classes, and blogs.

But despite this, legalizing drugs isn't really something that would have a direct impact on me, and it is probably the same for many people. When it comes to politics, you have to pick your battles, and it makes more sense to put your energy into something that benefits you directly (ie Social Security) then into legalizing drugs. And that is why drugs will probably stay illegal for a long time (with the possible exception of weed).


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