Legalize drugs to stop violence?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by hapaboy, Mar 24, 2009.

Should the US legalize drugs?

  1. Yes, all drugs.

    7 vote(s)
  2. Only certain drugs.

    12 vote(s)
  3. No.

    0 vote(s)
  4. Not sure.

    2 vote(s)
  1. By Jeffrey A. Miron

    Special to CNN

    Editor's note: Jeffrey A. Miron is senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University.

    CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Over the past two years, drug violence in Mexico has become a fixture of the daily news. Some of this violence pits drug cartels against one another; some involves confrontations between law enforcement and traffickers.

    Recent estimates suggest thousands have lost their lives in this "war on drugs."

    The U.S. and Mexican responses to this violence have been predictable: more troops and police, greater border controls and expanded enforcement of every kind. Escalation is the wrong response, however; drug prohibition is the cause of the violence.

    Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

    Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after.

    Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it's permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question.

    The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs. Fortuitously, legalization is the right policy for a slew of other reasons.

    Prohibition of drugs corrupts politicians and law enforcement by putting police, prosecutors, judges and politicians in the position to threaten the profits of an illicit trade. This is why bribery, threats and kidnapping are common for prohibited industries but rare otherwise. Mexico's recent history illustrates this dramatically.

    Prohibition erodes protections against unreasonable search and seizure because neither party to a drug transaction has an incentive to report the activity to the police. Thus, enforcement requires intrusive tactics such as warrantless searches or undercover buys. The victimless nature of this so-called crime also encourages police to engage in racial profiling.
    Don't Miss

    * Violence sparks talk of decriminalizing drugs
    * Miron: Bailing out homeowners is a mistake
    * In Depth: Commentaries

    Prohibition has disastrous implications for national security. By eradicating coca plants in Colombia or poppy fields in Afghanistan, prohibition breeds resentment of the United States. By enriching those who produce and supply drugs, prohibition supports terrorists who sell protection services to drug traffickers.

    Prohibition harms the public health. Patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other conditions cannot use marijuana under the laws of most states or the federal government despite abundant evidence of its efficacy. Terminally ill patients cannot always get adequate pain medication because doctors may fear prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

    Drug users face restrictions on clean syringes that cause them to share contaminated needles, thereby spreading HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases.

    Prohibitions breed disrespect for the law because despite draconian penalties and extensive enforcement, huge numbers of people still violate prohibition. This means those who break the law, and those who do not, learn that obeying laws is for suckers.

    Prohibition is a drain on the public purse. Federal, state and local governments spend roughly $44 billion per year to enforce drug prohibition. These same governments forego roughly $33 billion per year in tax revenue they could collect from legalized drugs, assuming these were taxed at rates similar to those on alcohol and tobacco. Under prohibition, these revenues accrue to traffickers as increased profits.

    The right policy, therefore, is to legalize drugs while using regulation and taxation to dampen irresponsible behavior related to drug use, such as driving under the influence. This makes more sense than prohibition because it avoids creation of a black market. This approach also allows those who believe they benefit from drug use to do so, as long as they do not harm others.

    Legalization is desirable for all drugs, not just marijuana. The health risks of marijuana are lower than those of many other drugs, but that is not the crucial issue. Much of the traffic from Mexico or Colombia is for cocaine, heroin and other drugs, while marijuana production is increasingly domestic. Legalizing only marijuana would therefore fail to achieve many benefits of broader legalization.

    It is impossible to reconcile respect for individual liberty with drug prohibition. The U.S. has been at the forefront of this puritanical policy for almost a century, with disastrous consequences at home and abroad.

    The U.S. repealed Prohibition of alcohol at the height of the Great Depression, in part because of increasing violence and in part because of diminishing tax revenues. Similar concerns apply today, and Attorney General Eric Holder's recent announcement that the Drug Enforcement Administration will not raid medical marijuana distributors in California suggests an openness in the Obama administration to rethinking current practice.

    Perhaps history will repeat itself, and the U.S. will abandon one of its most disastrous policy experiments.
  2. fhl


    The teleprompter took it's stage prop for a swim. Swimming helps the teleprompter think better when considering issues.

  3. The drug alcohol is already legal. I suppose legalizing weed wouldn't be the end of the world. The harder drugs would be more problematic.
    Legalization will not solve societies issues. Like guns, the drug itself is not the problem. Discovering why one needs to drug themselves to cope is the issue at hand. Very complicated on a macro level.
  4. I guess the way I look at this is just because we can't solve every aspect of the drug problem doesn't mean we can't deal with the easier aspects of it. I simply don't think anyone should go to jail for smoking pot. That leads to the conclusion that growing and selling it shouldn't send you to jail either.

    If it was legal, there would be a huge market and the government would rake in billions in taxes. In return, users would have a safe and reliable supply of weed that they could be realtively sure wasn't contaminated with dangerous pesticides,etc.

    I don't see this as purely a liberal issue. Plenty of conservatives can see how the war on drugs has eroded our liberties and empowered government at all levels.
  5. The issue is DOA. Maybe ten or 15 years ago there might have been a chance but now we have mandatory drug testing for the simplest of jobs. No way can there be exceptions for failing a drug tests if drugs are legal. It is now liability issue.
  6. bronks


    Not necessarily. There are workplace rules governing the use of alcohol on the job, even though it is legal. I don't see drugs as being any different.

    Although thinking about it, all those work required drug testing companies will definitely have to re-work their business model. Not to mention the DEA will have to be turned inside out from pro enforcement to a more passive role of abuse prevention... I don't think they'd go down without a huge fight.

    EDIT: uhg... and like you said, let's not forgot about the liability issues. Which equals insurers, which equals lobbyists and lawyers.
    Not a snowball's chance in hell. The monies brought in by legalization would have to eclipse all above issues by a fair margin for it to even be considered.
  7. dave74


    The fact is, all illegal drugs are easy to get. They are defacto legalized. Legalizing all these drugs would totally wipe out drug gangs and at least half the crime in any society. Simply give anyone who wants drugs as much as they want, but only give them this drug buffett in "drug communities" so they don't hurt regular citizens with their behaviour.

    Also, to prevent widespread drug use in a drug legal society, young people must be absolutely bombarded with the truth of what drugs actually do to a person.

    You would wipe out all crime that is caused by people looking for money for their next fix. Drug dealers and gangs would simply cease to exist.Keeping drugs illegal perpetuates a drug war which will never be won.

    I am not a drug user and never will be. But DRUGS MUST BE LEGALIZED. The benefits to society are too great to ignore.
  8. jj90


    Legalization has it's obvious benefits. The govt can produce and distribute at a ridiculous fraction of what the drug suppliers are currently charging. That would put cartels/gangs out of business overnight and cut down on the drug related crime as price is lower.

    The problem however, is sustainability. Can you have a nation of addicts? When a person would rather get high than produce, this doesn't work. If one doesn't think a nation could get addicted to crack, you need to check how powerful the delivery method is. A few times and that's it. Some can control it, most can't. And I'm not even touching on the root cause of why a person wants to consume the harder stuff or the psychological profile that leads to addiction.

    Of course some smart people would realize that by not consuming the drug they elevate themselves in standing over the masses. They then get the best high paying jobs. Problem then is now you have a caste system and a black market to supply to the higher classes who don't want to outright buy the drug for being stigmatized. This trade will get ugly fast as it will be the same thing like today, except the buyers aren't poor, they are rich with dealers fighting over customers and turf.

    These are just some of many consequences of legalization. As said by others, benefits must outweigh costs (cost of producing, cost of medical care, cost of dealing with addiction, cost of maintaining a system that records buyers, etc) by a huge margin. Otherwise it will never be feasible to the moral repercussions.
  9. Dude ...if it was good enough for Wm F Buckley Jr its good enough
    for the neocons.

    "I did not inhale that woman"