Just because something is illegal, is it really that bad for us? Or conversely, just because something is legal, does that mean it’s safe? With the increasing legalization of marijuana, people are starting to ask these questions about other drugs. How many potential medical breakthroughs are sitting just out of reach because so many drugs are deemed controlled substances? For that matter, why can’t we control what we put in our own bodies?
These are some of the arguments made by people who believe that all drugs should be legal. It’s understandable in some cases; after all marijuana really isn’t more dangerous than smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol, and both of those things have been legal for a long time. But what about provably deadly drugs like cocaine or heroin? Advocates of legalization say it’s a matter of controlling what we can. If these drugs were legal, at least you wouldn’t accidentally buy a bag that’s been laced with rat poison or some other deadly filler. People wouldn’t have to venture into the streets to buy drugs from shady dealers and risk potential violence. Not to mention the relief it would be to our prison systems if they weren’t overflowing with people who had committed relatively minor drug crimes.
It’s a fact that banning something does not mean it’s not going to be bought and sold. Just look at Prohibition, where criminal gangs took control of the beer and liquor supply not long after alcohol was banned. There’s always going to be a black market, and black markets are always going to perpetuate violence. If you sell someone a car and they refuse to pay you what you’ve agreed on, you can take them to court. Or if someone sells you a car and it turns out to be a lemon, you’ve got legal recourse. With illegal drugs, people obviously aren’t going to turn to the justice system, which is how you end up with so many drug-related shootings.
There’s more corruption when black markets exist, as well. Think of all the drug dealers who have bribed police officers, wardens, judges, and prosecutors to ensure they and their people remain out of jail, or at least receive some sort of special treatment.
The actual process of doing drugs can even become more dangerous when laws turn draconian. If governments refuse to allow needle exchange programs and safe injection sites, for instance, you end up with more people sharing needles and thus more people with HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases.
Some people argue that the United States could considerably increase its tax revenue by legalizing drugs. According to one estimate, the U.S. government could improve its budget by at least $85 billion annually by legalizing and taxing all drugs.
Despite all of these arguments, it seems illogical to make it easier to purchase drugs that ruin or end so many lives. Perhaps changes do need to be made when it comes to certain substances that might prove more beneficial than harmful, but a blanket legalization might not be the way to go.
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