what’s the Drug War? Radley Balko has a must-read roundup of the knee-jerk and the damage done:
MORE, for real. An editor asked a listserv I’m on whether we knew any recovering addicts who’d be willing to argue against legalization based on their experiences with drugs. I eventually decided it would be a dick move to write back, “Sure! I’m a recovering alco–OH WAIT.” But it’s worth pointing out that you can be compassionate and honest about the misery and hurt caused by addiction, AND ALSO oppose the Drug War. Plenty of people in recovery support legalization, not because we’re sunshiney about drugs but because we’re thundercloudy about prohibition and incarceration.
…To the extent that conservatives still defend the drug war (and there are fewer and fewer willing to do so), this is usually the way they go about it. Their argument is that drug use enslaves drug users with addiction, and that were drugs to be made legal, we’d all be robbed of the benefits of living in a populace of responsible citizens. Use and addiction would be common, thus shredding the moral fabric (or some other vague metaphor) that binds us all together. These arguments have been rehashed again since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. (See also Davids Brooks and Frum.)
I think there’s good evidence that this is wrong on its face. Jacob Sullum’s book Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, for example, presents compelling empirical evidence that the vast, vast majority of people who use drugs—even hard drugs—do so recreationally, don’t become addicts, and inflict little to no harm on those around them. But even if we accept the argument that legalization could lead to widespread use, significantly more addiction, and whatever itinerant harm comes with both, these arguments almost always fail to acknowledge the catastrophic harm inflicted by drug prohibition itself. If we’re truly concerned about policies that “degrade human nature,” “damage and undermine families,” and “deprive the nation of competent, self-governing citizens,” it seems like we should consider not only the effects of illicit drugs themselves, but also the effects of prohibiting them.
But anyway, please read Balko’s piece–it’s one of the best summaries I’ve seen lately of the case against the Drug War.