Freedom and the War on Drugs

If you’re concerned about the epidemic of drug use, you might want to ask yourself why it has gotten worse since we started the War on Drugs in the 1970s. If you’d like to actually reduce the incidence of drug use and the crime associate with it, you should understand that legalizing their use is the only way we can accomplish that in a free society.

Certainly, in an absolutely totalitarian state we might be able to eliminate drug use entirely, but only at the cost of stealing God-given liberty from everyone. As we speak, everyone’s liberties are being infringed in order to conduct the War on Drugs, but so long as there is any liberty left, we will not achieve a drugless society. So which do you want? Your freedom? Or victory against drug use? Modern prohibition even forbids the growth of hemp plants, which make rope, for crying out loud.

I vote for liberty. Now, this doesn’t mean that I approve of drug use. I don’t. And “legalizing” drugs doesn’t mean that we should approve of drug use — it just means that we will have to use other means to solve the problem. More about that in a moment.

I’m fully aware of the bad consequences of drug use. It can affect individual productivity and reliability, but so does alcohol abuse, too much time on the Internet, and even television. But I don’t abuse television… should my use of television be regulated because someone else is wasting his life away watching 10 hours a day?

And yes, drug users tend to commit crimes in order to finance their habit, like burglaries and robberies. But we can’t regulate every appetite that tempts people to commit crimes; what about the users who don’t? Billionaire Richard Branson is an outspoken recreational pot smoker, and it hasn’t stopped him from being productive and self-sufficient. Punish people who commit crimes, whatever motivated them, but the ones who don’t… leave them alone. The problem with the burglar is that he has stolen from someone, and this is true whether he did it to finance a drug habit or simply because he prefers theft to work. The offense we should regulate is the infringement of another’s property, not what the drug user ingests.

There is a tendency to say we must criminalize drug use because it is morally wrong. But neglecting your family in order to watch too much television is also morally wrong. Surfing the internet and lusting over bikini-clad models is morally wrong. Arguably, loafing around eating junk food is morally wrong. So this begs the question: How do you deal with morally reprehensible conduct unless you criminalize it?

Well, how do you deal with any legal — but objectionable — conduct? Very simply by personal and community interaction. Adultery is legal, but in some communities it still carries quite a social stigma and is effectively suppressed. Friends, neighbors, and fellow church members punish wrongdoers by ostracizing them from the community. This sort of discrimination is far more effective at reducing the incidence of adultery than criminalizing it.

If you want to finance an organization that sets out to reduce drug use in the community, you should certainly do so. But your objection to drug use does not justify stealing from people by way of taxation in order to finance the state’s War on Drugs. Instead, lift the prohibition on drug use and then get personally involved in charitable organizations that prove their effectiveness in a free, open, competitive bid for your support.

One final note. I hold that free people should be free to decide what to ingest in their own bodies, because they own their own bodies, and no one else does. But this logic does not lead to a defense of abortion. The baby in the womb is not owned by the mother any more than is the baby out of the womb, and killing it is just as wrong as killing a born human being. The parents own a parental right in the child, not the child itself.

For Liberty,

Manny Edwards

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