Rethinking Drug Legalization
Rethinking Drug Legalization by Jeffrey James Higgins – International Man
The war on drugs is not going well. Despite decades of counter-drug efforts, at a cost of more than one trillion dollars, illegal drugs are still readily available on the black market. Worse, drug proceeds have become the lifeblood of terrorist groups, transnational criminal organizations, and street gangs. A 2014 Pew poll showed 67% of Americans prefer drug treatment to prosecution, yet prisons remain overcrowded with drug offenders and citizen’s civil liberties are routinely sacrificed for little gain.
Now is the time to rethink drug legalization.
I spent most of my 25-years in law enforcement investigating drug traffickers. As a deputy sheriff, I investigated street-level drug dealers, then as a DEA supervisory special agent, I traveled the world hunting the upper echelon of transnational drug trafficking organizations. I convicted Haji Bagcho, the world’s most prolific heroin trafficker, and Khan Mohammed, the first person arrested for narco-terrorism. My experience made me sympathetic to the emotional impulses behind prohibition, but it also gave me valuable insight into the ineffectiveness of drug laws. It is ideologically consistent to believe in both the evils of drug abuse and in the immorality and impracticality of paternalistic laws—like drug prohibition.
Excessive recreational drug use is a terrible life choice. Using any mind-altering substance inhibits one’s ability to reason and hobbles the brain—the only tool one has to interpret reality. Abusing drugs can lead to health problems, poverty, broken homes, lack of productivity, social stigma, and even death. There is widespread agreement on the damaging effects of drug abuse, but has prohibition worked?
According to a 2017 Pew poll, 46% of all Americans have a friend or family member who has been addicted to drugs. A national survey by SAMHSA in 2016 found 28.6 million people, aged 12 or older, used illegal drugs within 30 days of the poll. The cost of drugs is likely artificially high, because of government-imposed scarcity, yet people still find and abuse drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 63,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, far more than the number of people killed in automobile accidents. Clearly, prohibition hasn’t protected citizens from themselves.