In a recent George Will article, Mr. Will puts forth the proposition that the War on Drugs started by Richard Nixon some forty years ago has been an utter failure and it is time to legalize drugs. The social destruction will subside and there will be an economic benefit to the nation as a whole. It may seem to be a valid argument but is the answer really to legalize drugs?
Yes, the price of drugs will go down and the fight over the illicit trade will disappear so violence will in one sense abate. Also, the government can capture this underground economy and add its tax base to our coffers but at the end of the day, we will not be a better nation for it. In fact, the corrosive effect of drugs will continue unabated.
The all out gang-land war will dissipate but crime itself will not. In NYC, a study was conducted on those people arrested. Around 80% of them had drugs or alcohol in their system at the time of arrest. That is a staggering number. Will legalization of drugs reduce this number or maybe increase it? Drugs and crime go hand in hand and making drugs more available will only increase this link.
Next, Mr. Will works under the false impression that legalizing drugs will reduce or eliminate the black market. This will not happen. We can look to our gambling laws for guidance on this point. Everyone knows the daily number and this is a state-run enterprise. Pick a number from 1 to 999 and hit it, you get a return of 500 to 1. Sounds nice but your local bookie will pay you 600 to 1. So who are you going to place your bet with? Now you know why illegal gambling still exists. The same thing will happen with drugs. Yes, the government will allow the legal sale but factor in taxes, etc. – the best buy will be with your local pusher and not the supermarket.
Finally, drugs has a zapping effect on the will of the user. It becomes the end all to be all. The only thing that matters is the next hit. Although our war on drugs has not been able to break this dependency, is the only answer to embrace it? What does that say about us as a nation. If we legalize drugs, we are putting our stamp of approval on such conduct. Do we as a nation wish to say that drug use is an acceptable form of lifestyle? We have enough problems with those drugs already legalized (alcohol comes to mind), do we need to increase the problem by adding new drugs into our societal mix?
The War on Drugs has not lived up to its billing. The costs of illicit drugs on our nation has been high. The answer is not to throw in the towel but to soldier on. Just because the fight is tough does not mean it is not worth fighting. Legalizing drugs is not the panacea it is made out to be. If this tactic is adopted, it will not be too long before we are a Zombie Nation – all strung out with no ambition.