If we didn’t learn anything else from the great American experiment of prohibition, we did learn that people who want to consume will find a way, even if it means supporting criminal activity.
Our prohibition on the use of controlled substances has resulted in the same activity, but to the extent that the supply and distribution is controlled by criminal elements waging war to assure their business activity. I recently read that the current war between the drug cartels in Mexico has cost approximately 50,000 lives to date.
The importation and distribution of illicit drugs has become a major business and a key component of the underground economy in many of our large inner cities. Tertiary effects are increases in violent crime, increases of other crime such as prostitution and a terrible burden on the criminal justice system. It is quite clear that the “War on Drugs” has failed miserably and should be abandoned.
There is only one solution that makes any sense, it is to legalize drugs; control the importation, production and legal distribution. Just as with alcohol and tobacco; drugs could be taxed, both on a federal and state level, with the proceeds going to substance abuse education and treatment. Other benefits would be the reduction of prison populations by almost 1 million. From a recent study we get the following:
- A 2008 study by Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron has estimated that legalizing drugs would inject $76.8 billion a year into the U.S. economy — $44.1 billion from law enforcement savings, and at least $32.7 billion in tax revenue ($6.7 billion from marijuana, $22.5 billion from cocaine and heroin, remainder from other drugs).
Under my plan, marijuana would be purchased just as alcohol and tobacco are currently purchased. The marijuana’s quality and potency would carefully be controlled. Other drugs would be available by prescription only and purchased from pharmacies. Federal and state statutes would have to be rewritten to reflect the new status.
Legalizing marijuana would provide farmers with an opportunity to grow products that would be very useful and can be used in a variety of applications, from making of ethanol to plastics.
I know there will be a number of objections raised to the legalization of drugs. Many will argue the moral implications of allowing the purchase and consumption of drugs. However, those same moral objections could be made against the use of alcohol and tobacco. Although alcohol and tobacco costs to society represent huge sums each year, we still allow their proper use. Currently the illicit drug costs are considerably less, but the crime associated with drugs would be pretty much eliminated resulting in a safer society making the benefit greater than the costs.
Probably the first step would be to legalize the possession and use of legally purchased marijuana. Marijuana remains the most abused drug, but is also the drug with the least negative effects.