At the presidents town hall meeting I was truly disappointed by the presidents response to the question about legalizing marijuana.
Drugs should be legal! No one can argue that the nabuse of drugs are a scourge on our society. However, as bad as the effect of drug abuse on our society is, the effect of prohibition is worse. If recreational drugs were legal, under controlled conditions as is the legal drug alcohol, hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of lives would be saved each year. Criminal and terrorist organizations would be denied a major source of income. Crime would be reduced. Doctors can use any efficacious treatment that will benefit the patient most. Billions of tax dollars could be diverted to useful and successful programs. The economy would grow and provide benefit for more people. The social benefits would be manifold.
Many of the deaths that are now pigeonholed as 'drug overdose' are, in fact, caused by drugs that are purer than the users' accustomed dose. This will cause an overdose by merely taking the dose to which they are accustomed. Other deaths are caused by the drugs being 'cut' (diluted) with impure or dangerous substances. At present drugs are cut with anything from relatively harmless things such as baking soda, powdered sugar, lactose and corn starch to poisons like strychnine and arsenic.
Legal drugs would fall under the supervision and standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) thereby insuring cleaner, purer drugs at consistent dosages. In addition, intravenous and intramuscular drugs could be packaged in single use syringes that are designed to be destroyed by the act of using them once. Thus preventing the reuse and sharing of needles. This will reduce the spread of AIDS, hepatitis and many other types of infection. Hence, more lives saved, as well as reducing the burden on public resources since many drug abusers cannot afford to pay for medical treatment.
Legal drugs will take the drug trade out of the hands of criminals and terrorists. It will make it more difficult in the future to have attacks of the nature of the attack on our Marines in Lebanon, the American Embassy in Kenya and the World Trade Center by terrorists who are, in part, financed by the drug trade. It will eliminate the kind of war that is currently being waged on our southern border. Wars for territory that are waged on our streets will be reduced. Many of the drive-by shootings that have become commonplace in our inner cities will be reduced. We will not only save the lives of the dealers who are the targets of these shootings but the innocent bystanders, too often children, who get caught in the crossfire.
Speaking of saving children... Legalizing drugs with the appropriate regulation and control would severely limit the access of drugs to children. Just as minors cannot legally buy alcohol, they would not be able to walk into a state regulated drug store and buy drugs. Under the present conditions drug dealers don't care if the customer is 5 years old or 50. 'If you got the green you got the dope.' Consequently, more lives saved.
Let us now discuss crime. Legalizing and regulating drug production and sale will quickly eliminate a whole plethora of crimes relating to those endeavors. Crimes such as smuggling, producing and selling drugs would cease to be profitable. These crimes would cease to be, except perhaps, for a few diehard adventurers. Or in those locales where the local community has mandated that it remain illegal (After all, their is still a thriving 'Moonshine' industry despite the legality of alcohol). We would also eliminate the crime of possession of drugs. It will also limit the availability of funds to finance other crimes such as illegal gambling, prostitution, gunrunning, extortion and terrorism.
Drugs will likely be cheaper. The supply would be relatively consistent. Market forces such as 'supply and demand' will be less of a determining price factor. Nor will the 'risk' factor to dealers and smugglers affect price. The cost of producing most illegal drugs is minimal, particularly in an industrial setting. Therefore, legalization will make the drugs more affordable thereby reducing crimes such as burglary, mugging and prostitution.
The laws we enact to legalize and regulate drugs must include severe, mandatory penalties for the violation of those laws. In addition, crimes committed while under the influence of drugs and crimes committed for the purpose of obtaining drugs must be dealt with more severely than crimes committed for mere profit.
I would like to propose that criminals motivated by an addiction to drugs be treated as the sick people that they are. That they're conviction require a mandatory, indeterminate stay at a drug treatment facility until such time as the addict is declared, by a proper medical authority, not only free of the addiction, but unlikely to return to drugs. Then, when the addict is cured of their illness they can be returned to the sentencing authority to determine if further criminal penalties are in order. It would also be nice if the people who comprise said medical authority, as well as parole boards and other agencies with the responsibility for releasing criminals into society be held personally responsible for those decisions. But, I suppose that is too much to ask.
Mandatory drug testing in critical industries, massive drug education efforts and a changing social climate as relates to the non-acceptance of drug abuse by the general public in recent years has been more effective in the control of drug use than prohibition ever was.
Another cost factor for drugs which will be eliminated is one that is not talked about very much, but it's effect on society is just as devastating, although not as obvious. That is the cost of corruption. The money that drug traffickers now expend for policemen, judges and public officials. I want to say here that the vast majority of policemen and judges (I'm not so sure about politicians) are honest, hardworking public servants. Nevertheless, they are human, mostly underpaid and overworked and some will succumb to temptation. There is today a 'revolving door' justice system with it's plea bargaining. early paroles and assorted rules that make it difficult for police and judges to do the job of taking criminals off the streets and keeping them off. This gives rise to a level of frustration and cynicism that is enormous. It is an atmosphere ripe for corruption. The surprising thing is that there is not more of it! This is a tribute to the men and women of the law enforcement and criminal justice community. Corruption, however, does exist and imbrues the character of the individuals that engage in it, as well as diminishing the institutions that depend on them. Also, we cannot forget the people in our financial institutions who knowingly 'launder' (legitimatize) the ill-gotten gains of the criminals who engage in these activities.
In addition, the elimination of drug crimes and the reduction of drug related crimes will reduce the burden on the prison system by more than half. It will free law enforcement officers to concentrate on other, more pressing, matters.(I.E. Bernie Medoff, AIG, Etc.) It will allow judges to put away more dangerous criminals and to keep these people off the streets longer when prison overcrowding becomes less of a consideration. In addition, the prison authorities can concentrate more on rehabilitation than control.
Let's talk economics now! The legalization of drugs will, first of all, create jobs. Jobs in agriculture growing the plants. Prosperity and freedom to many third world countries and their citizens. Much of these drugs are now grown by warlords and criminals who oppress their people. Jobs in the manufacturing of drugs. Jobs in the distribution and wholesaling of drugs. As well as jobs in the retail sector. Then there are the tax revenues. The taxes that will be paid by the industries that manufacture drugs. The taxes paid on the incomes of those who find jobs in the drug industries. The 'sin' taxes that will most likely be levied on drugs. If the taxes on alcohol and tobacco are any indication every dollar spent on drugs will be 60¢ to 70¢, perhaps more, will be taxes. Not to mention local sales tax. A portion of the 'sin' tax can be earmarked for effective drug rehabilitation and drug awareness education. After all it is only fair that the people who are the problem be a part of the solution. Some of that money might also be used to develop drugs that are not addicting or physically harmful but will provide the pleasure that drug users seek. Wouldn't it be nice that when a drug abuser matures enough to no longer need to use drugs to hide from their life, they can make a choice to stop. A choice unobstructed by a physical dependency. While moderate users can enjoy their pleasure without fear of addiction.
Further, the reduction of drug dealers who provide a negative role model to the young people in a community is a social benefit that cannot be denied. Today young people, especially in the slums and ghettoes of the inner cities, are given a mixed message. They are told by their families, spiritual leaders and teachers to be hard working, honest and law abiding in order to have a good and prosperous life. Then they look around and see, all too often, people who live by these ideals struggling in poverty and unhappiness at worst, struggling to make ends meet at best. Driving old beater cars (when they can afford cars), living in rundown homes, imprisoned in their homes afraid to walk the streets. While the drug dealers, pimps and thieves seem to own the streets, ride around in flashy new cars, live in classy houses and apartments and always seem to have money. Not only does this send a confusing message to the children. It creates disrespect for those people they should respect most. Children will feel they have been deceived by parents, clergymen and teachers when the lessons they are taught do not conform to the reality they see around them. Legalization will, to some extent, eliminate those negative role models. Then the children will only have corporate executives and politicians to look to for negative role models
I realize that the drug problem is an emotionally charged issue to
many people. There are no accurate figures on the extent of drug use and drug abuse in this country. Estimates indicate that between 5 and 15% of the people in this country abuse themselves with drugs. The number of moderate drug users is practically unknown. However, if we use as an indicater the ratio of moderate alcohol users to the number of alcohol abusers perhaps that will give us an indication.
The people who use recreational drugs and medicinal drugs for recreation moderately are often discrete, quiet, responsible people who go to work every day. They mow there lawns on the weekend and have their friends and neighbors over for dinner. However, because of the illegal nature of their activities they must keep it discretely behind closed doors, often hiding from their children even their mates. These estimates vary to some extent with the rise and fall of the economy. Poverty is a great stimulus to drug use and drug abuse. Perhaps some of the billions of dollars that will be saved by ending the, so-called, ‘War on Drugs' could be used to help reduce poverty. Estimates also indicate that there is no appreciable change in drug abuse figures from when drugs were legal to when they weren't.