The Real Problems with Legalizing Drugs

Development of a rational scale to assess the ...

Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse, The Lancet, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The debate continues to rage about legalizing illicit drugs. Recently, two states decided to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use. This is the first foray into opening society to the use of a once-banned substance to see how it will affect society. Certainly, we are not going to know the answer in a day or week, or maybe not even in a year or a decade. But, there certainly are a lot of questions that will have to be satisfactorily answered before we would continue down this path.

Prescription drugs can only be dispensed with doctor’s note. Will marijuana, cocaine, etc. also need a prescription? Probably not. They would most likely be treated like alcohol, which can be self-administered. This tends to expose the hypocrisy of modern medicine, which seeks to claim that only doctors should dispense medicine in an effort to protect the people. However, many drugs from which the people are “protected” actually have fewer side effects and kill fewer people than the “safe” drugs. Also, certain drugs that are considered too dangerous or ineffective actually save more lives than the pharmaceutical industry’s treatments. It’s interesting the some of our most devastating drugs, such as LSD and cocaine, started out as drug trials and were originally considered medicinal.

The main thought on removing drugs from illegal status is to break the money chain that feeds the power of drug cartels and gangs. By doing so, we would be able to save the billions of dollars that the war on drugs is now costing to wage. But, there is another side to the cost coin. The is the cost of trying to rehabilitate a life that has been ravaged by abuse of drugs.

When overall harm to society and the drug user...

When overall harm to society and the drug user are considered together, alcohol is by far the most damaging (despite being legal more often than the other drugs) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alcohol is the only legal recreational drug at the moment. I don’t know that anyone can really estimate the damage that this one single drug has inflicted on our society. Perhaps the cost runs into the trillions. That is not to say that everyone who uses alcohol does so irresposibly, just as it would not be right to say that everyone who would use other mind-altering products would be irresposible. But the potential is there for wide-spread abuse with huge consequences for society. Perhaps this is not so much the case with pot as with other more potent, more addicting drugs.

The case can also be made that illegalizing drugs hasn’t managed to make a huge dent in the amount of people who use and abuse them. Many feel that, by legalizing them, the stigma, and the thrill, of living on the dangerous side of the law would be eliminated, and the whole lure of them would diminish. But, let’s not forget that the single largest growth of drug abuse is prescription drugs. These are now sold on the streets and shared at parties like candy. Although these drugs are allegedly controlled by the FDA and by prescriptions, it hasn’t really done much to stop their illicit use and the subsequent epidemic of addictions.

It doesn’t matter what the situation is, the answers always revolve around the two sides of the same coin—power and money. Everyone seems to be in favor of removing the monetary incentives of the cocaine, heroine, meth and other drug traffickers. But

no one seems to care that the “legal” drug traffickers are dispensing for more narcotics and really dangerous drugs to the populace. However, since the FDA is in business to serve the financial interests of these companies, the stamp of legitimacy is placed upon their drug sales. In essence, then, the FDA is the government encouraging legal drug pushers.

In most ideas of a legalized drug trade, all recreational drugs would be taxed like cigarettes. The thought is that this will be a huge revenue stream for the government. It also would require a huge amount of bureaucrats to administer the system. Thus, it is, at best, a wealth distribution plan. Users will now be supporting big government instead of big cartels.

At present, the government spends a lot of money on propaganda to stop people from using drugs. When drugs fall under the control of the government, the same thing will happen that has happened with pharmaceutical drugs. We will be encouraged to use more, so that more public revenue is generated. If you don’t think this is true, pay attention to state lotteries. How many times have we, the people in these states, been told that playing the lottery is good for schools or helps lower property taxes. But there are much more efficient ways to do such things. And how many people do we now have who are addicted to the lotteries. Still, we look the other way, run a few public service announcements about the dangers of gambling, and then generally don’t care about the fallout. The revenue is good.

The DEA‘s budget for 2013 is proposed at just over $2 billion. The ATF budget tops out at less than $1.2 billion. That means we are allocating a mere $3.2 billion, or, about $10 per citizen, to the War on Drugs. The FDA budget is about $4.5 billion, of which the pharmaceutical companies contribute $2 billion. That means that the DEA spends about the same amount of money trying to deter drug use as the Pharmaceutical companies spend trying to encourage approval for new drug use. On top of this, we can throw another $2 billion annually in alcohol advertising, and a whopping $58 billion of ads from the pharmaceutical industry. By all accounts, there is no real agenda in the USA to encourage living drug-free.

If I worked for the DEA or the ATF, I would be hopping mad. And I’m sure the frustration level is pretty off the charts. Surely it could be pointed out that these organizations are just the specialists who work with local law agencies in a wider war. But, often, local agencies are not equipped to take the lead on the drug war, leaving the agencies thinly spread and highly ineffective.

We can say, unequivocally, that the present policies on drug enforcement haven’t worked. This is most likely because of the hypocritical and two-faced message that our government agencies have presented when it comes to drug use. But there are two approaches to making our agenda uniform. The first approach is to end the conflict of interest that exists in the triumvirate of FDA, AMA, and Big Pharma which is caused by the FDA being staffed by members of the other two. Find objective people, who have no financial incentives from doctors and pharmaceutical companies and whose goal is truly the welfare of the American people. Crack down on abuses in the legal drug industry. Shift our agenda back to teaching people that the best way to live is drug free-free of all synthesized drugs. Give us back pure sources of food that aren’t altered in ways that make us sick and that force us to used prescription drugs to treat the symptoms.  Really educate patients that all drugs have bad consequences. For best health, use them sparingly or not at all.

The other approach is much easier, but it’s much more risky. One we decide to legalize a drug, the genie won’t ever fit back into the bottle. And once we decide to build the huge bureaucracy that would oversee these new “legal” drugs, we will never dismantle it. (40 years after the farm got electricity, we still have a Rural Electrification Bureau.) For all those pot heads and freedom fighters that think that legalizing drugs will make their lives freer, just how much of your crop are you smoking?

At this moment, we have two test cases of legalized marijuana. Let’s pay close attention. We are going to learn a lot about how legalized marijuana changes the dynamics of law enforcement, civil liberties, and the like. I’m not sure if we will ever be able to quantify a lot of variables. Since most who will want to smoke pot have already been smoking it, things aren’t likely to change much in the short term. The question I’d really like answered is how much we are already spending on pot heads who find they are unfit for employment and already suck on the teat of government. As a person who deals with recovery from addictive lifestyles, I’m also interested to see how this changes the view of rehabilitation.

In the end, I have had a hard time reconciling my biblical principles of do no harm to your own body with the idea of a drug free-for-all, nor have I been ready to really take my libertarian principles to the ultimate degree of saying that everyone should have the right to use any drug they please. But, I also am of a firm conviction that everything is a drug, even food, and that no one should have the right to tell me what I can and cannot ingest. If I want to uphold the right to deny cocaine and heroine, then I also have to uphold the right of the FDA to tell me I must allow radiation and chemotherapy on my child who has cancer, that I can’t cure the cancer with laetrile, that all my dairy and fruits must be pasteurized and homogenized, that my meet and eggs must be irradiated,  that I must accept foods grown with petroleum-based fertilizers and sprayed with toxic insecticides and herbicides, that my bake sale pies must be baked in a FDA-approved facility. The more I think about it, the more it becomes truly a choice between self-determination of my health or passing that right to Big Brother.

I see two large problems. First, the government would be legalizing drugs. That doesn’t really mean freedom and self-determination. It really means less freedom, more taxes, and more rules. Secondly, I don’t believe that the general citizenry will be able to practice enough self-control to avoid the total meltdown of society. We haven’t done a very good job with alcohol. Other drugs are now banned because they are exponentially more addictive and dangerous.  However, the realities of government oppression in this country, coupled with constant food poisoning, are probably largely to blame for the epidemic of people trying to medicate reality out of existence.

My vote is that, if we are going to legalize drugs, then we should get rid of the FDA. Everyone for his or her self. Let the people grow up and be responsible for themselves. But, of course, that would mean that a true conservative libertarian spirit would have to overtake this land. In that spirit, we would have to abolish the Federal machine and it’s bloated regulations and return rights to the states and the individuals. We would have to say goodbye to government programs and fend for ourselves. Good luck with that.

P.S. Vitamin C stops heroine withdrawal .  Alcohol is a life-saving medicine, as shown here. (Read the whole article to the bottom.  It, like any drug, can be used or abused.)

1 Comment

Filed under Economics/ Book Reviews, Law and Politics, On Family, Health, Environment and Ethics

One response to “The Real Problems with Legalizing Drugs

  1. Robert

    Why are you trying to give an un biased opinion full of ambiguity, your religious that makes sense then.
    The problem at the moment is that we have idiots who think they are chemists cooking this shit. I wonder if the un reacted impurities are doing more damage than the drugs itself. As chemicals become illegal, solutions are found, ie using starter fluid instead of ethyl ether is just one example.

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