George Will is an opinion writer for The Washington Post and has recently written two well thought out pieces on the legalization of drugs in America. He believes that while there is no doubt legalization will increase the health problems associated with drugs, that government administrators are becoming more agreeable than ever as a whole on legalization, due to the high costs of maintaining current levels of enforcement. I think he may be right…but I also think there is a lot of money being made by a lot of people who will fight for the status quo; and this includes people on both sides of the law. So my gut feeling is that any real change is many years away. But that’s just my opinion. And if you ask me if I think legalization would be a good thing, my gut says no (keep in mind my DOC is of the legal nature already), but honestly I feel like I really don’t know. I guess it depends on too many unforeseen factors that could come into play. It would certainly be a huge social experiment.
Excerpts from The drug legalization dilemma - published April 4, 2012
The costs — human, financial and social — of combating (most) drugs are prompting calls for decriminalization or legalization. America should, however, learn from the psychoactive drug used by a majority of American adults — alcohol.
Twenty percent of all American prisoners — 500,000 people — are incarcerated for dealing illegal drugs, but alcohol causes as much as half of America’s criminal violence and vehicular fatalities.
Prohibition resembled what is today called decriminalization: It did not make drinking illegal; it criminalized the making, importing, transporting or selling of alcohol. Drinking remained legal, so oceans of it were made, imported, transported and sold.
Another legal drug, nicotine, kills more people than do alcohol and all illegal drugs — combined. For decades, government has aggressively publicized the health risks of smoking and made it unfashionable, stigmatized, expensive and inconvenient. Yet 20 percent of every rising American generation becomes addicted to nicotine.
So, suppose cocaine or heroin were legalized and marketed as cigarettes and alcohol are. And suppose the level of addiction were to replicate the 7 percent of adults suffering from alcohol abuse or dependency. That would be a public health disaster.
there is no reason to think today’s levels of addiction are anywhere near the levels that would be reached under legalization.
Excerpts from Should the U.S. legalize hard drugs? - published April 11,2012
Amelioration of today’s drug problem requires Americans to understand the significance of the 80-20 ratio. Twenty percent of American drinkers consume 80 percent of the alcohol sold here. The same 80-20 split obtains among users of illicit drugs.
More Americans are imprisoned for drug offenses or drug-related probation and parole violations than for property crimes. And although America spends five times more jailing drug dealers than it did 30 years ago, the prices of cocaine and heroin are 80 to 90 percent lower than 30 years ago.
People used to believe enforcement could raise prices but doubted that higher prices would decrease consumption. Now they know consumption declines as prices rise but wonder whether enforcement can substantially affect prices.
Would the public health problems resulting from legalization be a price worth paying for injuring the cartels and reducing the costs of enforcement? We probably are going to find out.