3 Reasons Why Drugs Should Not Be Legalized

The universality of drug use throughout human history has led some experts to conclude that the desire to change consciousness, for whatever reason, is a fundamental human motivation. People in almost every culture, at every time, have used psychoactive drugs. The natives of South America take coca breaks, just as we do coffee breaks in this country. Native Americans used peyote and tobacco in their religious ceremonies, just as Europeans used wine. Alcohol is the drug of choice in Europe, the United States and Canada, while many Muslim countries tolerate the use of opium and marijuana. Claiming that prohibition, not drugs themselves, is the problem, Nadelmann and many others – even police officers – have declared that “the war on drugs is lost.” But asking for a yes or no answer to the question “Will the war on drugs be won?” is like asking for a yes or no answer to the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Never has an imaginative and fundamentally stupid metaphor had a more sinister effect on correct thinking. On the one hand, about 45% of cannabis users later use other illegal drugs. This seems to support the gateway drug theory [3]. The legalization of drugs will not stop violence and social problems.

Just look at Amsterdam or the Czech Republic, where more liberal approaches have led to an increase in drug tourism and public unrest. In the Netherlands, some cities have tightened restrictions on cannabis for this reason. In addition, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration states that “crime, violence, and drug use go hand in hand.” They argue that “six times more homicides are committed by people under the influence of drugs than by those who seek money to buy drugs.” If the situation is examined on the basis of these data, alcohol and cigarettes should also be classified as gateway drugs. It has also been shown that the consumption of caffeinated beverages is correlated with a higher probability of subsequent cocaine use [4], so it seems that almost all legal drugs should be considered an entry drug. This makes the concept of gateway drugs very questionable. Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash Unsurprisingly, the broader international impact of drug legalization has also gone largely unnoticed. Here too, a long series of questions remain unanswered. Given America`s longstanding role as the main sponsor of international drug control efforts, how would a decision to legalize drugs affect other countries? What would happen to the broad regime of multilateral conventions and bilateral agreements? Should every nation adhere to a new set of rules? If not, what would happen? Would more permissive countries suddenly be flooded with drugs and drug users, or would traffickers focus on countries where stricter restrictions would keep profits higher? This is not an abstract question. The Netherlands` liberal drug policy has attracted an influx of “drug tourists” from neighbouring countries, as has the city of Zurich after the now-abandoned experiment that led to the exploitation of an open drug market in the so-called “Needle Park”. And if it is conceivable that rich countries could mitigate the worst consequences of drug legalization through extensive public programs to prevent and treat drug addiction, what about the poorest countries? One could argue, echoing Aristotle or Martha Nussbaum, that people aspire to some form of fulfillment in life, a state that we can objectively recognize as good and precious.

Such a state, which Aristotle calls eudaimonia, involves being able to use all its virtues and strengths to fully realize one`s potential as a human being. It is clear that some drugs will interfere with this full realization of the human potential of an addict – and therefore taking such drugs would be morally wrong. The fact that climbing is not just a myth can be demonstrated with animal experiments. Interestingly, rats in experimental facilities tended to increase their drug use over time for all drugs except nicotine and alcohol. This could support an argument in favour of the existing different treatment of nicotine and alcohol compared to other drugs such as opiates and cocaine. Another different aspect of the escalation argument is escalation to different drugs and not just increasing the amount consumed. This is what is heard when some milder drugs are called “gateway drugs.” Taking these drugs acts as a “gateway” to harder drugs. The concept of gateway drugs provides a reason to regulate or ban drugs that, in themselves, do not pose a great risk to their users (such as marijuana). In addition to these immediate effects, addiction itself is a threat to life. Some drugs are more, others less compatible with a “normal” human life. Addiction can interfere with tasks at work, either directly (drivers, sports professionals) or indirectly, by taking a lot of time and energy, disrupting sleep or pushing the addict into poverty and out of normal society.

One of these arguments could be that in fact no one should take drugs, at least not drugs that disturb consciousness and clarity of mind in a negative way. At the turn of the century, many drugs were made illegal when an atmosphere of moderation gripped the nation. In 1914, Congress passed the Harrison Act, which banned opiates and cocaine. Alcohol prohibition soon followed, and by 1918 the United States was officially a “dry” nation. However, this did not mean the end of drug use. This meant that suddenly people were being arrested and imprisoned for doing what they had done before without government interference. Prohibition also meant the emergence of a criminal-led and violent black market. Regulation can and should be realistic and adaptable, change over time to reduce damage and, eventually, move all trade over the years to the legal market, where it can be controlled and taxed. This is necessarily a balancing act: if it is too difficult or too expensive for consumers to legally buy their favorite drugs, the black market will remain.

If it`s too easy or cheap, it could lead to greater drug addiction. The transition to legal drug markets is feasible: the U.S. did it for alcohol in 1933 when prohibition ended, and is now doing it again for cannabis. Secondly, the war on drugs cannot be won. People take drugs in the hope of feeling joy and relieving their distress. These desires do not disappear. People who want drugs are also not deterred by criminal sanctions: a 2014 report by the UK Home Office found “no clear link between the severity of a country`s law enforcement against drug possession and the extent of drug use in that country”. It is also virtually impossible to stop the supply of such profitable products – a kilo of cocaine can be bought in Colombia for $1,500, but is sold on U.S. roads for 40 times. Law enforcement suffers from the “balloon effect”: the successful compression of production in one area only moves it to another location.

It is becoming increasingly clear to the public that the war on drugs has failed and that a new approach is needed. In the United Kingdom, a survey found that more than two-thirds believe that criminal sanctions are ineffective in deterring drug users or sellers. Another survey found that twice as many people support the legalization of cannabis as opposed to it. Fifty-five percent of Americans support decriminalization — the removal of criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs — and last November, Oregon voters approved Election 110, making it the first state to move toward decriminalization. Of course, many addicts in Liverpool are not yet on methadone because there are not enough clinics to meet the demand. If the city spent more money on clinics, the number of addicts in treatment could perhaps increase fivefold or tenfold. But would that solve the Liverpool burglary problem? No, because the profits from the sale of illegal opiates would still be significant: traders would therefore try to expand into previously relatively intact parts of the population in order to secure their profits. New addicts would always burst in to feed their habits. We would then need even more clinics that distribute even more methadone.