Thursday, March 05, 2009

Prohibition Continues: Legalize It (And Everything Else, Too)

It sounds like a cliche because it is true: The drug war has failed.

Eradication programs in countries with a steady demand for drugs means that the less drugs on the market, the higher the price, ergo more dealers/suppliers push for more drugs to enter the market as profits get higher and higher.

Basically, without addressing demand, authorities are playing a wack-a-mole project with the supply of drugs. It won't work. And the only way to address demand, is to stop criminalizing addicts, who will be imprisoned for their mild self-harming ways, only to be placed in an environment inundated with copious amounts of drugs, violence, paranoia and intimidation.

That's only the problem with the addicts.

The other big issue is the massive black market for gangsters, supplying widely used products without any product safety inspection, quality control or worker's safety. You think your workplace is unsafe? Well...Meanwhile, the government is ceding major revenues from taxes to people who kill each other for a living.

How did the model ever make sense? Why do we keep going down the same failed path for decades, when it appears obvious a shift in policy is required?

The Economist wonders the same thing:
There are two main reasons for arguing that prohibition should be scrapped all the same. The first is one of liberal principle. Although some illegal drugs are extremely dangerous to some people, most are not especially harmful. (Tobacco is more addictive than virtually all of them.) Most consumers of illegal drugs, including cocaine and even heroin, take them only occasionally. They do so because they derive enjoyment from them (as they do from whisky or a Marlboro Light). It is not the state’s job to stop them from doing so.

What about addiction? That is partly covered by this first argument, as the harm involved is primarily visited upon the user. But addiction can also inflict misery on the families and especially the children of any addict, and involves wider social costs. That is why discouraging and treating addiction should be the priority for drug policy. Hence the second argument: legalisation offers the opportunity to deal with addiction properly.
This newspaper first argued for legalisation 20 years ago (see article). Reviewing the evidence again (see article), prohibition seems even more harmful, especially for the poor and weak of the world. Legalisation would not drive gangsters completely out of drugs; as with alcohol and cigarettes, there would be taxes to avoid and rules to subvert. Nor would it automatically cure failed states like Afghanistan. Our solution is a messy one; but a century of manifest failure argues for trying it.

Yeah. It's broke. It needs fixing.

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