Monday, December 8, 2008

The Case Against the Legalization of Illicit Drugs

The “War on Drugs” has been waging now for two decades. The many detractors of “The War on Drugs” point to the continued prevalence of the illicit drug trade in many inner cities and increased use in rural and suburban areas as evidence that law-abiding society is losing the war. I contend that the detractors are perhaps overlooking the possibility that perhaps they misunderstand the real intentions of the “Drug War”.

To those detractors, I say, define “victory”. What exactly does it mean to “win” the Drug War? Could it be, perhaps, that the Drug War is doing and achieving exactly what it was designed to?
I propose this: the Drug War is being won in that it is achieving the actual aim of confining the majority of violent, illicit drug use to definable, geographic areas that can be relatively, (I will explain “relatively” later) easily policed. I contend that the Drug War was never about eliminating the use of illicit drugs (that would be like eliminating prostitution, which would increase the divorce rate by another 25%). Rather, it was about controlling the prevalence of drugs in polite society. By that standard, I would have to say the Drug War is an astounding success. If you are skeptical that this is true, then why is it that tabloids and mainstream media alike make great fair in the arrests of celebrities for illicit drug use? If the Drug War were not successful, a celebrity drug arrest would garner no more news than a celebrity parking ticket.
That brings me to my second proposition, and the real subject of this writing: the case against legalizing drugs.

One reason against legalizing drugs is that it would undermine the control of drugs in polite society, thus making it far more difficult to police the abuse of these drugs. This is where “relatively” easily policed geographic areas come into play. While it is by no means easy for the many hardworking and dedicated police officers that deal day in and day out with the harsh and dangerous realities of drug-infested inner city neighborhoods, imagine having to police those neighborhoods, in addition to the more affluent areas of the city, along with the surrounding suburbs in much the same fashion. Whether or not the affluent city areas and suburbs would reach the level of crime and violence as the inner-city is not the question. The question is how much increased illicit drug use in polite society do we really want to tolerate?

The second reason against legalizing drugs, and perhaps the best, is that it would not eliminate illegal drug use, rather it would actually serve to increase it. To understand why, simply ask a drug dealer why he or she deals drugs. The answer is simple: what other business can you start with virtually no capital or start-up costs, little or no overhead, tax-free, and no bureaucratic labor laws or regulation, that will garner you an almost instant profit? Answer: prostitution – which is also illegal, not as profitable as drug dealing, just about as dangerous in many instances, and on top of that, most drug dealers ain't that pretty. Besides, drug addicts want drugs even more than johns want sex. Right now, from where I sit, I can drive about 5 miles from my home, and become a drug dealer. No resume, no interview, no W-4, nothing. Just a vehicle and the ability to do very simple math. On one good night, I could probably make more than I make at my legitimate job in a month. Guess what happens when you legalize drugs – all of those benefits go away. Now, it becomes “legitimate”, with the all of the overhead and regulation that comes with it, especially with the medical red-tape that would come with legally selling drugs. How many drug dealers in East Baltimore would actually have the motivation and basic business sense to deal with the hassle of running a legitimate business. See, in a legitimate business, if an employee steals from you, you have to have hard evidence (video-tape or paperwork), call the police, file a report, press charges, go to court, probably never get your money back, and if you can't prove the employee stole the money, if you fire him or her, you might even have to pay unemployment compensation. BIG HASSLE, with a high risk of loss. In traditional drug dealing, an employee steals from you, you kill them and hire someone else. SIMPLE, with low risk of loss. This is where good 'ole capitalism comes into play, and the black market kicks in. With the legalization of drugs, the overhead of drug dealing goes through the roof, vastly increasing the cost of the product, giving the black market, “traditional” drug dealers the advantage because they have almost no overhead and can offer the product at a substantially reduced price. The only thing legalizing drugs would really accomplish is giving greater access to drugs to those who would now not normally pursue them. Eventually, once the addictive quality of the drugs kick-in, and funds get low for what was once monthly trips to the “spa”, now turning into daily trips, these new users will abandon the high cost of legal drugs and go straight to the black market. So now, the “traditional” drug dealers not only have their regular customers of inner city natives, they have even more business from polite society, willing to pay even higher prices than their inner city counterparts. All this serves to make “traditional” drug dealing more lucrative and competitive, and thus more violent..

Having stated my very simple case, I will say that I am speaking primarily of hardcore drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth. In my opinion, the jury may still be out on marijuana.

What do you think?

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