So, why should we legalize drugs?
- The costs of trying to enforce a prohibition on drugs far outweigh the costs. As evidenced by the failure of the alcohol prohibition, trying to legislate controlled substances does not significantly reduce the behavior, it only drives the behavior underground.
- Government should be punishing crimes, not trying to punish the supposed source of the crime.
- There is an inconsistency when alcohol - a substance that has plenty of potential for abuse - is legal, while other drugs, such as marijuana, which is not chemically addicting, are illegal. Alcohol and controlled substances such as marijuana can be used without causing people to commit serious crimes. Again, we should be punishing the crimes, not trying to punish what "experts" deem to be the source of those crimes.
- Our prisons and jails are already overcrowded. We should be using prison space to house criminals who pose a serious danger to society - criminals such as murderers, rapists, and child molesters - rather than guarding people who do not pose a violent risk to society. By the same token, we should avoid incarcerating so-called white collar criminals because white collar criminals do not pose a violent risk to society. Rather, we should be using heavy fines and other such penalties to punish nonviolent offenders.
- Making certain drugs illegal only drives up the cost of those drugs. It is a basic principle of supply and demand; by constricting the supply of drugs, while the demand doesn't significantly change leads to an increased price. Then, because of the increased price, there is increased appeal in manufacturing and selling drugs due to the potential for increased profits. The stakes go up and thus drug dealers/manufacturers are willing to resort to violence in order to protect their business.
What are the caveats?
- It is essential to regulate the manufacturing of drugs such as methamphetamine. Certain drugs, such as meth, must be very carefully manufactured in order to reduce the risk of deadly explosions. Amateurs should not be allowed to manufacture meth in their homes due to the very high risk that a serious chemical contamination of an entire neighborhood could occur.
- It is also extremely important that employers still be allowed to discriminate based on drug use. Drug users must understand that just because their drug use is legal does not mean that they are guaranteed protection under discrimination laws. Drug use still poses serious risks and employers should be allowed to refuse to hire a drug user based on an assessment that the costs of hiring a drug user outweigh the benefits of doing so.
Legalizing drug use would not only save federal and state governments billions of dollars, it would also reduce the burden that is currently placed on our judicial system. More effort could be put into keeping violent offenders off the streets. Although I am most definitely not advocating drug use as a good choice, I believe that it is not worth the economic costs for the government to attempt to severely curtail drug use.