The great country of the United States of America is already losing its position in the world due to poor fiscal management, failing schools, over taxation and regulation, and too many people taking too much from the government and not contributing back. Now numbers of Americans are wanting to legalize the free use of many drugs deemed to have no or limited medical value; marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, etcetera. The wide spread ramifications of this could not be fully grasped by these people; otherwise they would never consider it. Either that or they just don’t care about what happens to all the Americans that will become victims of their selfish, drug craving desires.
Why would many think legalizing drugs is a good idea? The answers are varied. It would legitimize the sale of drugs and end the criminal reign of drug dealers, smugglers, and traffickers. It would lead to the government oversight of the drugs to insure that the drugs are pure and high quality. This would lessen the chances of drug overdoses and poisonings due to the unscrupulous use of dangerous chemicals mixed with the drugs as cutting agentsi. The Government can tax the drugs and increase their cash strapped coffers. The drugs will be decriminalized so there will be a large reduction of the prison population, saving government costs, and making room for violent prisoners. The Libertarians have as part of their platform the following: “…We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.”ii The use of drugs is within the exercise of sole dominion over our own lives and the government has no right to legally prevent it. We already have legally used drugs of alcohol and tobacco in America and the country has not collapsed. The legalization of marijuana will make the drug available to sufferers of cancer, and glaucoma which helps relieve pain, nausea and increases appetite. The drug war is a failure. It needs to end and the police resources redirected to other crimes.
All of these arguments appear valid and seem to make sense. The majority of Americans that do not use illegal drugs regularly, but may have dabbled in their use from time to time may be inclined to believe these arguments. The reality is that things are not so simplistic. Let us consider the first argument. It will stop the reign of drug dealers, smugglers, and traffickers. People in the drug trade don’t just commit drug crimes, they are involved in any and all crimes that they can possibly make money at. They will continue their criminal behavior. They will not disappear. They surely will not dismantle their organizations in America. They will just move to another lucrative enterprise. I, however, am not convinced that they will cease their drug trade if drugs are legalized. They will continue to sell to kids who can’t buy the legalized drugs, or find other markets for their product. You also know as well as I that the Government will not resist the temptation to wildly overtax the drugs just like they have with alcohol and tobacco. This gives the drug dealers plenty of opportunity to ply their trade here. They will simply lower their prices and undercut legally sold drugs. The drug dealers also have the opportunity to convert their operations into legitimate businesses to supply the now legalized drugs to the markets in America. Either way, the drug cartels of Mexico, South America, and elsewhere will still be engaged in the drug trade of America. That means, violence, murder, kidnapping, and all the other ugliness associated with the drug trade will continue.
The next argument is that it would lead to the government oversight of the drugs to insure that the drugs are pure and high quality. Ok, this part would happen. This would be a positive part of legalizing drugs. The drugs will be properly prepared for safer consumption. The proportions would be better controlled. The purity and filler content would meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards. This would lessen the chances of accidental drug overdoses and poisonings due to impurities and lack of quality control of illegal drugs. This is all well and good if you are a user of these drugs. They will destroy your life and affect many others, but at least you can do so with “safer” legal drugs. The Government will get a part of the money that you stole from your family or neighbor to buy the drugs, but at least the now replaced street drug dealer will not get the rest of it. The new “legitimate” drug dealers like all the pot shops in California will get it instead.
The drugs will be decriminalized so there will be a large reduction of the prison population, saving government costs, and making room for violent prisoners. This is a large part of the argument made by advocates for legalizing drugs. Yes, there is a large percentage of the prison population that is drug related. There may be a reduction of prisoners related to the drug trade, but I doubt it. As I argued earlier, the Government will drive the price of the drugs up to the point where a black market will continue to flourish. There will still be street dealers and all the crimes associated with them. The one point that advocates always miss is that the legalization of these drugs will cause the use of them to explode upward exponentially in this country. That means the numbers of addicts and abusers will also go up exponentially. The prisoners that were in for drug related offenses will now be replaced by a surge in arrests for property crimes, robberies, and other violent crimes committed by the newly increased population of addicts and abusers who cannot exist in the legitimate job market.
The Libertarian argument that we have the right to exercise sole dominion over our lives, except that “only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes”, therefore, we should legalize drugs completely ignores all the unintended consequences. iii It is easy to say that a person should be able to shoot heroin or smoke a joint in his own home without Government interference. It is what the person does as a result of that use that should have all of us concerned. Also using the Libertarian argument, there is no legitimate reason to forbid children and teenagers from using drugs. They have the same rights as the rest of us, don't they? The legal use of alcohol and tobacco in this country is routinely proffered as examples for the legalization of drugs. The things that set alcohol and tobacco apart from these other drugs are their affects on us. Alcohol creates euphoria and is a depressant, but it takes awhile to become addicted from its use. Tobacco is quickly addictive, but there is no physiological or psychological effects from its use that prevent a person from safely functioning in society. How well has alcohol and tobacco worked out, however? The leading cause of death on our roads is by drunk drivers. Tobacco use has caused thousands of people to suffer with cancer. Why on earth would we want to legalize and in turn legitimize the use of more drugs in our society? The drugs we use now are bad enough.
Medical marijuana is beneficial to sufferers of some types of cancer and glaucoma. The marijuana relieves pain, curbs nausea from chemotherapy, and increases appetite for those not eating due to the effects of their disease. I am not hard-hearted. I understand the suffering and I accept that marijuana helps these people in coping with their diseases. The problem with marijuana as clearly demonstrated in California is that it is nearly impossible to control the use and distribution of the drug to just patients holding truly legitimate prescriptions. A person can just scribble on a scrap piece of paper a fake prescription and it is accepted in the pot shops in California. The likelihood of people legally smoking marijuana sharing a toke with friends also greatly increases. It is hard enough to enforce marijuana laws now, but when it is illegal everywhere then police have probable cause to investigate when it is detected and take action. When you add to the mix many thousands of legal users smoking it everywhere, it increases the difficulty of enforcement and will lead to an increase in wasted man-hours. Legalizing medical marijuana for all intents and purposes will make the enforcement of marijuana laws unenforceable. Which, I believe is the whole purpose of pushing for the legalization of marijuana for medical reasons first. This is a stepping stone to the dismantling of the marijuana laws in this country.
As a side note, I find it odd that California and many other states that have or are in the process of legalizing marijuana are at the same time demonizing tobacco use. They complain of second hand smoke. City governments are passing laws forbidding the use of tobacco outside in public places. There has been a movement to ban smoking tobacco in apartments and in places like homes and cars when children are present; Belmont, California is an example of this. The argument is that smoking tobacco or being exposed to the second-hand smoke from tobacco causes lung diseases especially lung cancer. How can you be for the legalization of marijuana while at the same time strive to ban through legislation the use of tobacco? The chronic use of marijuana is far more harmful than tobacco. The very method of smoking marijuana leads to this. Tobacco cigarettes are smoked normally through a filter and the smoke is exhaled almost immediately after inhaling. Marijuana on the other hand is normally smoked unfiltered. To increase the effects of the "high" the person holds the smoke in the lungs as long as possible before exhaling. This greatly increases the lungs and blood exposure to over 400 different chemicals found in marijuana smoke. Marijuana has 50% more carcinogens (cancer causing compounds) in it than tobacco. The method of smoking marijuana increases the likelihood of cancer over tobacco. It also will cause the cancer to occur at an earlier age. Marijuana users in addition suffer from an increase in lung infections, phlegm, and breathing problemsiv.
What are the arguments against legalization? Illegal drugs have little or no medicinal use. There are better and safer medical alternatives. A much higher level of the population will use the drugs, increasing abusive behavior and addiction. Once addicted, the person is unlikely to remain employed. The legalized use of these drugs will increase the strain on medical, police, fire, and ambulance services. Many will become dependent on Government assistance and no longer contribute to society. Many more will turn to burglary, forging checks, shoplifting, robbery, or other crimes to maintain their increasing need for the drugs. The prisons and treatment centers will fill beyond capabilities due to the increase of users turning to crime to support their habits. Employers will have a harder time finding employees that are drug free. Businesses will have higher incidents of sick leave and medical expenses reducing their productivity and ability to compete. On the job injuries and accidents will increase. Civil liability risk to companies will increase due to higher levels of drug related accidents. The economic strain on all of society will be increased because of the burden added by the legalization of these drugs. There will be more drug intoxicated drivers on the road. Can you honestly say that any of this is worth it just so some selfish person can get stoned?
Anyone who would argue that these claims are unrealistic is being naïve. I have over 20 years experience dealing with drug addicts, dealers, and traffickers. I have seen these occur. I see the ugly underbelly of society. I work in it and drugs are a major part of it. People see Robert Downy Jr, Charlie Sheen, or some other celebrity with a drug problem. It seems so glamorous. They have all this money, and all this talent. They are having fun in the most decadent and debauch ways possible, and many of us live their lives vicariously. We want to sympathize with them. They are not doing anything wrong. What they are doing is only affecting them. Once they go too far with their drug use they can just go to rehab and all is better. If you are rich, influential, and famous, you can fix a lot of really bad things. 90% of us do not have that luxury. When we behave that way, we leave a wake of destruction, and we have no means to fix it. I have seen numerous people with good jobs, families, and reputations completely destroy all of it due to their addictions. It is sad to watch someone that is married with children and a thriving business get addicted to crack cocaine and within two years smoke up all of his business and personal assets. Yes, this has truly happened in my town. Although I have hundreds of anecdotes, I will try and refrain from sharing any more. I will though say now that marijuana is addictive. Aging hippies from the 1960’s think the marijuana today is the same as the marijuana they smoked in Haight-Ashbury, Berkley, Greenwich Village, or wherever. It is not. The THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) that gives a person the “high” feeling from smoking marijuana in the 1960’s was at an approximate 1-2% concentration. Modern marijuana is as high as 16%. Chronic users of marijuana are lethargic, they lose track of time, and they have reduced desire to work or meet obligations. Timetables are not important. They just don’t care. Ambition and pot smokers do not co-exist. Be honest with yourself and ask if you have ever been stoned or knew anyone that was stoned and at the same time was enthusiastic about going to work. So, if you smoke a joint in the morning before going to work, or on your lunch break, what kind of worker are you for your employer? How long do you expect to remain employed? Would you want to trust your livelihood and the welfare of your family on a business run by a boss who is a pothead? Would you trust him to work hard to make the company a success which in turn will afford you an opportunity for success? Boy, legalizing drugs is looking better and better.
I have spent a lot of time writing about marijuana because it is the one drug that has the most push for legalization. There are other illegal drugs that will be the next in line if marijuana is successfully legalized: cocaine, heroin, LSD, PCP, methamphetamine, to name a few. LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) was made popular in the 1960's by the hippies in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco and by Timothy Leary. During this period of time drug use was argued to expand your mind to greater possibilities. It was a good thing. There was no harm done. Many people look back on this era with fond memories. They forget, however, that the hippies were dirty and smelly. They begged a lot. They were transient. They spent a lot of time engaging in immoral behavior. They contributed very little to the continued welfare of society in general. The era came to an end in large part because the people in this drug using sub-culture migrated to the use of methamphetamine. Robberies, rapes, and other violent crimes exploded in early 1970's as a result. The communities they were in would no longer tolerate their presence and behavior. The Manson Family and the murders caused by them was a sensational example of this behavior.
In the 1970's heroin became popular. Thousands and thousands of people were “on the nod”. This dream-like state that users experience gives them the feeling of peace and contentment. This is a very desirable feeling. The high lasts about 6 hours for new users, but the time gets shorter with use. Heroin is very addictive. As little as 3 days of use can cause an addiction. Heroin is caustic to the system and causes vein damage. Once a person becomes addicted, he will suffer painful withdrawal symptoms within hours of the drug wearing off. The anxiety and pain felt by addicts is what drives them to take extreme measures to get more heroin.
It is not hard to remember back to the 1980’s and the crack cocaine epidemic to be reminded of the vast negative effect drugs had on this country. This epidemic caused a crime explosion. Matter of fact the worst crime wave in American history peaked in 1991 and cocaine had a lot to do with it. Street Gangs, a byproduct of the drug trade, spread like wild fire across the country. Gangs like the Rolling 60’s Crips, Piru Bloods, the Latin Kings, etc. became every police officer's problem in this country.
The 1990’s and 2000’s saw methamphetamine sweep the country. This drug was great because it let you party hard all weekend then juice up to make it through the work week. Methamphetamine allowed a person to have hyper-energy. He could work hard day and night. The big problem with methamphetamine is that its ease of addiction and it is cheap to buy with long lasting effects. It also causes delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations. It is very common for methamphetamine addicts to get into a destructive spiral. The user repeatedly takes the drug and stays awake for days. The lack of sleep causes sleep deprivation hallucinations and paranoia which leads him to fearing being attacked. He then uses more methamphetamine because he is afraid to go to sleep. His body is on maximum overdrive. This spiral continues until the person runs out of methamphetamine. Methamphetamine addicts are very likely to have violent behavior because of this.
As America changes the drugs of choice through the years, the two things they all have in common are that they are still here and they are addictive, either physiologically, or psychologically. They cause bizarre behavior, they cause paranoia, and the person often hallucinates. If a person takes these drugs, and as a result does not care about anything else, what makes you think their behavior will not spill over into your life? If you do not already have a loved one in your family somewhere that has been destroyed by drugs consider yourself very lucky. If you have someone, then why would you want any other family to suffer, too by legalizing these drugs? The number one victims of all drug abusers and addicts are their families. Druggies will beg them for money, if they don’t get it, they will steal it from them in the form of money or property to pawn. They will take checks from the family member’s check book and utter them to get money. Why is the family the main target? It is simple, families will not prosecute. They want the addict to get help, not go to jail. The addict will play on this sympathy at every opportunity. The hardest lesson families learn is that once a person becomes an addict, he only loves the drug. The family no longer matters. The addict cares even less about anyone or anything else, except the next high.
The last argument to make is that police lost the drug war, therefore, let’s give up and legalize them. The police have not lost the drug war any more than they have lost their battle with any other crime. Crime has always existed. Illegal drugs are just another crime. What police do is keep crimes down to a tolerable level. The drug laws do the same thing. Most people will obey the laws most of the time. There are only a small percentage of people who actually engage in the majority of the crimes, including regular illegal drug use. We as police officers want to keep the population of drug abusers and addicts down to the lower percentages of society. We are doing a pretty good job of that. If society, however, chooses to legalize these drugs, the lid will blow off the pressure pot and the police will not be able to contain the consequences. That means, you, your family, your friends, your co-workers, everyone, will suffer sooner or later. Do not let this genie out of the bottle, keep these drugs illegal.
i Cutting agents are very cheap chemicals compared to the cost of the drug itself and they dilute the drugs to usable levels and expand the volume to increase profit.
ii Libertarian Party 2010 Platform: 1.2 Personal Privacy-Libertarians support the rights recognized by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, and property. Protection from unreasonable search and seizure should include records held by third parties, such as email, medical, and library records. Only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes. We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.
iii Libertarian Party 2010 Platform: Statement of Principles- We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.