During prohibition, alcoholism rates tripled. That’s how good making thing illegal is at stopping people from doing them. For every person that abused alcohol before prohibition, there came three. That is the opposite of what such a law is for. Evidence suggests abuse levels are lower where the drugs are legal (I’m still thinking prohibition, but also Holland), so people are healthier and more productive. And, as I mentioned in an earlier post, drugs being illegal is precisely what empowers the deals. But, is there a moral angle to view this issue from? Yes.
“My right to swing my arm ends at your nose” (I’m on the same bus, no internet, I can’t source the quote). That’s a metaphor for the basic moral principle that is “I can’t do what I want until I start infringing on the rights of others” or “I have liberties, but I also have the responsibility to not create victims”. That’s all pretty simple moral talk. And into that model you cannot do as you please with your body doesn’t immediately fit. It is possible to talk about how health risks impact upon insurance costs (where health insurance is necessary) and strains national health services (where medical care is free at the point of use), but if you’re going to make that argument perhaps we should start legislating what you can eat, drink and smoke: no more tobacco, no more alcohol, and a healthy diet is the law.
Those three things are absurd to most people. But, it follows. If I can’t take heroin because it will put me in a hospital bed or psychiatric ward then I can’t destroy my organs with fat, lungs with cigarettes or liver with alcohol for the same reasons. So which is it?
But it is worse than that. The War on Drugs is a real, fully fledged war with guns, bullets and a death toll. In order to limit the freedoms and rights you have over your body, people are dying. In the area colloquially known as “sound of the border”, innocent Mexicans who live on the wrong road or in the wrong end of town are dying as people fight to secure drug-transport lines. American soldiers are defending their country from the invading drugs, losing that battle, and catching collateral damage along the way. There is a real, innocent death toll to stop narcotics getting into the blood stream of people who want a non-alcoholic buzz.
And the war costs money. Those soldiers are paid for, the guns and the bullets and the tactics are all financed. And then all the prisoners of war are also paid for. “Criminals” cost money. Policing costs money. Prison cells cost money. So when we’re talking of non-violent, non-fraudulent people who have not affected victims or suffering we really need to ask ourselves whether we want to pay to criminalise them and then put them up at the invitation of our governments (in the UK, at the invite of the Queen herself!).
The government could, I’d wager, spend that money and policing resource somewhere else. The soldiers defending the border from the Mexican drug cartels could be better utilised, relocated and thus save the lives of innocents caught up in the war zone.