Legalization of drugs?

This should get some interesting points of view, particularly with some of our international friends here.

Should drugs be legalized and controlled and taxed?

My answer used to be “Of course not! That’s just crazy!” But I had a conversation years ago that made me reconsider. My son’s baseball coach, years ago when we lived in Texas, was a shaved head prison guard at a prison just outside of Houston. He was a big, bad-ass kind of guy who made Rush look like a leftist liberal. But we were discussing a big murder case in Houston that was drug related, and he made the surprising statement that the best thing that could happen to this country was the legalization of drugs. When I challenged him on it, he had an argument that was hard to dispute. His points were:

  1. In prison you have men behind bars, in a small confined and completely controlled space, surrounded by law enforcement officers. And drugs are rampant. If you can’t keep prisons drug free, what possible hope do you have of ever keeping a nation drug free, no matter how many officers and how much money you throw at it?

  2. He said that probably 70% or more of the men in the prison were there because of some type of drug related crime: robberies and muggings to get cash for drugs, killings that were either directly or indirectly related to the drug market, etc.

  3. Kids in impoverished neighborhoods see the drug dealers driving big cars, having lots of women, flashing the big rolls of cash. They offer the kids big cash to be runners, etc. Hard for the kids to resist. My prison guard said if drugs were legal and controlled, these big dealers would be out of business, and the kids wouldn’t get pulled into it. In fact, the entire criminal infrastructure and cash flow relating to illegal drugs would be gone.

  4. In his mind in the world in which drugs were legal and controlled and taxed, centers would be set up where addicts could obtain their drugs and have a safe place to use them. No more crack houses, AIDS from needles, etc. And at the same time, they could be treated and counseled. And no one would have to steal, kill, etc. to get the drugs.

For all of the arguments against this, it was hard to argue that the way it is today is a totally ineffective failure. Where there may be problems with the legalization, even if it done in a way to educate and discourage use, it’s hard to argue that removing the illegal drug trade and the cash and crime associated is worse than what we have today.

Thoughts? (By the way - I declare this a Personal Attack Free thread: opinions are welcome, personal attacks on people with different opinions will result are not. Just to see if we can have one thread like that.)

From what I understand, the bulk of the “tough on crime” (which is, I’d think, a major reason why you can’t have a legalize drugs platform nowadays) stance that is now seemingly impossible to deviate from sprang up from partisan positioning and was started by the democrats in the early 80s. Then it got championed by the republicans in a “we can get tougher on crime than you” game that has, now, in my opinion, spun out of control. When you’re sending kids to prison for a good portion of their lives for breaking the law (maybe the topic of another thread), you’re basically dooming them to a life of crime. I have grave doubts about the ability of “correctional” facilities to “rehabilitate” people who are sentenced to them.

I guess part of that question is how much a prison sentence is a deturant, how much it’s a punishment and how much it’s for rehabilitation. I’d like to see much more of the latter and less of the former two.


The simple fact is that prohibition never works. When governments ban items, ideas, or substances desired by their citizens, the end result is always an upsurge in smuggling and violent crime. Any politician who truly wanted to end the culture of violence rampant in our inner cities would be pushing to legalize drugs. Without that source of illicit income, there would be little reason for the gangs to fight. Children growing up in poverty wouldn’t look to dealing as the logical way out. Etc etc etc.

Jeff, I think your son’s coach is 100% right.

Problem, though: How many people who don’t do drugs now would do them if they were legal?

I didn’t do drugs as a teen as much because of my propensity for getting caught as because of any basic level of understanding of how they screw you up.

Had the offense been more along the line of “teen drinking” then “using an illegal substance,” I can imagine I’d probably have tried stuff in high school.

And how many adults don’t do drugs because of the stigma/danger of buying them, the potential career and social damage if they were caught, the chance of going to jail, etc? How many of these people would start using if drugs were legal?

Is the war on drugs working? No. But would legalizing them cause a dramatic upsurge in usage?

Denny, that really is the question and the argument many people make against legalization. And I sure don’t know the answer. I would hope that as part of the legalization process there would be a huge education process. I did some REALLY stupid things in my college days wrt drugs (not selling, thank God) as I had that young, invulnerable, stupid outlook that college kids often have. It never occurred to me “hey, if you get caught, you might go to jail.”

I don’t think the model is selling them in 7/11s - you’d need to go to a state center to get them. So I think there would still be some barriers, particularly if you were registered when you bought them. I do some social work, and when I talk to teens the biggest difference between the ones that do drugs and the ones that don’t seems to be issues like self-esteem (by FAR the biggest: basically a string that goes “I know drugs hurt my body and mind but I’m worthless anyway”), peer pressure (doh!), and their overall feelings as to how bad drugs are. I rarely talk to any kid who is worried about the legal part, as the drugs are so easy to get.

Good points all, but I think this last one can be explained by the fact that you’re not talking to the kids who chose not to do drugs, right?

We could always tattoo a scarlet “D” on the foreheads of those who choose to use the legal drugs, to keep the stigma there. :-)

I don’t do drugs. It used to be only because they’re illegal, but now part of the motivation is that I have watched a friend with a drug problem OD on some crazy mix of hash and sedatives and totally lose grip on reality.

The police picked him up at the request of social services (no, he did not get prison time for this) to get him to detox and he tried to run away and had to be handcuffed and forced into the police car. By then he was screaming that he would kill the cops and kicking around so they had to “use physical force to ensure his compliance”, in other words hurt him enough so that he would come along.

Probably the most unnerving experience of my life. So I don’t do drugs, because I know where I might end up and the mere possibility is chilling.

Legalization will remove some of the social stigma, namely that which comes from being incarcerated or being a part of a seedy underworld black market by association. But I don’t think the social stigma will be suddenly absent; if anything, I would expect it to take on larger proportions…like, say, the anti-tobacco lobby.
Either way, I don’t see how “there might be an increase in usage” somehow outweighs all the problems for which prohibition is definitely responsible.

There’s already a three-page thread on this topic, if anyone is interested in the opinions people held on the subject last year. It also includes special bonus features such as Captain Cookiepants going insane and Brian Koontz beginning his post with “I guess I’ll have to inject some intelligence into this thread.” Classic QT3 stuff.

Good points all, but I think this last one can be explained by the fact that you’re not talking to the kids who chose not to do drugs, right?

We could always tattoo a scarlet “D” on the foreheads of those who choose to use the legal drugs, to keep the stigma there. :-)[/quote]

Yeah, surprisingly enough a lot of the kids we work with don’t do drugs. Again, their reasons are a lot more to do with knowing that drugs screw you up (or knowing friends who have been screwed up by drugs) - almost never due to fear of legal consequences.

But my data has to be taken with a grain of salt, a fwiw, since I don’t do the social work full time and thus the cross section I’ve seen over the years I’m sure is filtered and limited.

I just think that if, in one fell swoop we could eliminate (almost) every crime related to the drug trade, and wipe out the number of victims, the negative side would have to be better than what we have today. Imagine no drug dealers, no organized crime drug trade, no crack houses, no women having to prostitute themselves to get drug money, no gang wars over drug turf, no AIDS via needles, and on and on.

So how would this work? Go down to your local 7-11 and pick up some crack, heroin, pot, angeldust etc… ? Have the state run “hard” drug stores? (In some states the Alcoholic Beverage Control sells hard liquor to the public in a govt monopoly.) What happens to prescription drugs? Will they be freely available just because you want them?

I haven’t totally made my mind up on this yet. I do know that are prisons are full of people because of drug offenses, many of them on mandatory sentences that are overzealous at best.

Even Justice Kennedy, hardly a bleeding heart, has said that drug laws are too draconian. If that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does. (Technically he just said that mandatory minimums are too draconian, but those are overwhelmingly applied in drug cases as opposed to any other sorts of cases. He was talking about federal law only, but it’s not like state law is any better.)

I’d do more drugs if they were legal. Seriously.

There is a real problem with the term ‘drugs’. There is such a wide variety of narcotics with dramatically different effects and side effects that to put them all under one umbrella is just irrational. People need to classify things and put them under large generic categories in order to simplify their thought processes. For someone to say “I won’t smoke pot because I had a friend who OD’d on a heroin / cocaine cocktail” is just simple minded foolishness, and a perfect example of social engineering.

Do you drink coffee every day? Then you are a drug addict. Get help before it’s too late!

Yeah, everyone is right in this thread which is a rare occurrence anyway. Drugs should be legalized unless they’re so deadly as to qualify as poison, or unless they’d cause a total collapse of society (like tens of thousands of crack addicts lying unconsciously in the streets). Social pressure is remarkably effective for nicotine, there’s no reason to expect it won’t be just as effective for other drugs. And people have the right to kill themselves in whatever way they wish to. Besides, Steve Bauman has said he’d do more drugs and those editorials would be fun to read!

Are these US states? We have a similar arrangement (here it’s everything except beer, though), but that’s under pressure from the EU anti-monopoly laws.

Eighteen of the 50 states have a monopoly on the hard stuff. (Beer and wine excluded.) That’s probably one way to go to legalize the drugs. But then you’d still have underground dealers that are cheaper, no taxes, yada yada. Just look at cigarette smuggling, for example.

I’d call that a big plus. A few years back, there was a (single) study that showed a very very small statistical correlation betwen my favorite allergy medication and strokes in pregnant women. Sure, I think that that sort of thing merits a big warning label: DO NOT TAKE WHILE PREGNANT – but the actual result was that the FDA “suggested” that the drug be taken off the market. So now I have to make do with less effective (and more expensive) medication.

Think of it as evolution in action. Speaking of which,

More drugs, huh?

We have shooting galleries in Australia where addicts can come in and inject with no questions asked. It is run by a church agency. So far, hordes of schoolkids have not descended on these places asking for a hit. Legalization won’t remove the stigma of heavy drug use. I come from a neighbourhood where drug related break-ins are a common occurence. If they are reduced, I’ll be happy.