Opinion: Legalizing Hard Drugs Helps Everyone But The Bad Guys
No substance is inherently dangerous. It completely depends on how one uses the substance. Shoot, if I inject strawberry juice into my bloodstream, I’ll probably die or fall extremely ill. If used properly, however, every substance has some use and advantage. Narcotics have been the center of fear-mongering politicians for almost a century now; the medical properties inside almost every hard drug have yet to be utilized or researched on a large scale because of strict criminalization, namely the failed “War on Drugs.” There is a growing push for legalization and criminalization of all drugs globally, and positive effects have come from legalization after generations have observed the awful results of the War on Drugs for decades.
“How many people here would use heroin if it were legal?! I bet no one would!” Senator Ron Paul exclaimed in the 2012 GOP presidential primary debate, met with thundering applause.
“Oh, I need the government to take care of me. I don’t want to use heroin, so I need these laws!” Paul followed sarcastically.
Legalization of narcotics such as cocaine and heroin may seem radical and unthinkable to some, but new research suggests that expansion of these individual freedoms may also be most effective to fight dangerous habits and gang conflict. The United States has a growing opioid crisis of unhealthy addiction and distribution. Meanwhile, numerous cities (some in the U.S.) have seen long term decreases in both addiction and usage after legalization and medical permission. However, as some supporters of legalization have pointed out, decriminalization has not been enough in some areas, and it still allows for drug gangs, makes legality an expensive alternative, and restricts individual liberties.
The War on Drugs has miserably failed for well over the last half-century. Over 40 percent of Americans polled had used cannabis and over 15 percent had used cocaine. Meanwhile, the Netherlands (a country with more lax drug laws) has rates less than half of the US for almost every major drug, with 19.8 percent using marijuana and less than two percent using cocaine. Since 1971, when President Nixon declared the War on Drugs, the U.S. has spent an average of well over $23 billion a year implementing and enforcing these laws. Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, has been gaining at least $32 million in public revenue just from licenses, fees, and sales tax every year since.
Additionally, almost one-fourth of the world’s prison population is in the United States. The United States government and much of the world have been repeating the mistakes of prohibition for decades. Even the International Drug Policy Consortium reported that the United Nations Drug War has been a failure. On all counts, the Drug War has been an assault on liberties while wasting time, money and lives.
Currently, harder drugs are in question as the Drug War has been exposed as a loss for the country. Following new research on CBD, scientists believe the newly legalized drug could prevent harder drug addiction when treated. CBD has existed for centuries, but legalization has instantly allowed more studies to be formed to utilize the medical properties not observable in recreational or underground usage. Similar things are expected to occur with cocaine and heroin, as these substances are known to have medical properties that have been used in the past. With new technology, they could serve even more needs if it was easy to access safely. Heroin, meth, LSD, etc. can all be extremely harmful if consumed improperly or excessively, but so can anything else. The way they’re utilized is what matters.
As it stands now, the most dangerous thing about using hard drugs is being caught with them. If these drugs can be observed in hygienic sites, like in Vancouver, addiction can actually be treated effectively with controlled injections. The FDA has concurred with the CDC: legalization can actually make these drugs safer, cleaner and more easily treated for problems. In areas with strict restrictions, drugs are dirty, cheap and often even [more harmfully] fake. Decriminalization is not enough because it still incentivizes the black market to push cheap/dirty drugs and it still punishes people for victimless crimes; when hard drugs are completely exposed to legal markets, these problems vanish.
In the end, the argument to legalize all drugs is simple. You should be able to do what you want as long as you are not infringing on someone else’s rights of life, liberty and property. This is the same case made for marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes, all which can have devastating effects if misused. Drug gangs and cartels have no incentive to be violent (or existent) if their competition is legalized and transparent. If all drugs were legalized tomorrow, cartels would just be a poorly run business. This is why groups like Law Enforcement Action Partnership (formerly Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) exists now, many of which acknowledge the drug war has militarized police while making victimless crimes unlawful and, as a result, more dangerous.
It is time to treat the growing addictions and overdoses as a health problem rather than a criminal justice problem. Legalizing heroin and cocaine could end up bringing the opposite of the Drug War: a win for the good guys. In the long run, complete legalization of drugs will reduce crime, reduce incarceration, save and make money, decrease usage and expand liberties across the country. It’s harder to overcome the stigma of drug names like “meth” and “heroin” over “weed”, but the evidence for their legalization is overwhelming. It’s time to be logically consistent and fight the fear instilled in children’s minds from the beginning; legalizing the hardest drugs can simultaneously make them safer, reduce their recreational usage and return stolen freedoms to non-violent citizens.