Minus The Nemesis
A Collaboration of Some of the Finest Thought on Today's World


Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Narcotics police are an enormous, corrupt international bureaucracy ... and now fund a coterie of researchers who provide them with 'scientific support' ... fanatics who distort the legitimate research of others. ... The anti-marijuana campaign is a cancerous tissue of lies, undermining law enforcement, aggravating the drug problem, depriving the sick of needed help, and suckering well-intentioned conservatives and countless frightened parents.
-- William F. Buckley

How does one respond to a screed like this? Mr. Harrell has obviously had some tragedies in his and his friends' lives that he attributes to drugs, so it is difficult to argue the legalization issue without getting personal. I'm only presenting a (unsolicited) response to his post because I have a number of friends who make arguments very similar to his.

First, let me say that I couldn't disagree more with Harrell. I think all drugs should be legal and available for the 18 and up crowd to consume. I hold this position for a number of reasons, but the foremost is that there isn't a good reason why they should be illegal.

Now Harrell has multiple anecdotal pieces of evidence that speak to the contrary. He knows a number of people, some, presumably, good friends who have used drugs and whose lives have been destroyed. He attributes the destruction of their lives to drugs. If that is the case, if drugs, doubtfully, lead to the downfall of what would have been otherwise successful lives I say-- sorry, but big deal. Why should his friend's failure to responsibly use drugs result in a country wide prohibition?

Illicit drugs aren't magical chemicals that leave their users without control. Most drug use is successful, controlled, and non-debilitating. It certainly doesn't doom the user to a failed life. It is the responsibility of the user to know his limits, and use the drugs accordingly. With every drug, be it caffeine or crack, moderation is possible.

Of course, this isn't the perception most people have of drugs. Take heroin once and you're hooked, right? Well there is an obvious reason for this misperception. As drugs are illegal, most of the population only sees drug users when they come to the attention of society-- which is never a good thing. The silent majority of responsible drug users are invisible because of the illegal nature of their habit. To grasp this, important, point think of alcohol. When we see a drunkard on the street, or hear of an alcoholic who has lost everything, we know that this is the exception, not the rule. We know this because for every abuser of alcohol, we also know a host of friends and family who use that particular drug responsibly. We aren't afraid of alcohol because we are familiar with it. Whereas for most people, information on the effects of, say, Special K, comes from government propaganda and violent rants like Harrell's.

Further, most reasonable people know from first hand experience that drugs can be safely used. Harrell introduces this point. Morphine is a commonly used pain-killer. Medically, the drug is taken in consistent doses over an extended period of time. Yet people who receive this drug for medical care seldom become addicted. However, the common assumption is the same drug, when used illegally, automatically turns the user into a chemically addicted slave. When one thinks clearly about the absurdity of this position, the true nature of drugs begins to come to light.

Returning to Harrell's friends, in all likelihood drugs were not the cause for their respective downfalls. It is easy for someone, upon seeing the failure of a promising life, to point towards an easy cause. Drugs fit that bill. This normally leads to false causality. "Robert was successful, then he failed. And he used drugs. Well-- drugs must of caused everything." Granted Robert in Taos, New Mexico is homeless. Granted he used drugs. Why is the automatic assumption that one caused the other? Robert was willing to use illegal drugs-- indicating selfishness, disregard for authority/laws/rules-- and use them to excess-- indicating lack of control/discipline/personal responsibility. With these personal traits, Robert probably wasn't destined for success anyway. Drugs didn't cause his downfall, they only aided it. They were the tool he used to bring about his own destruction. Blaming the drugs for Robert's station is akin to blaming the rope after somebody hangs himself.

Do we want to live in a society where every possibly harmful item is prohibited from us? Or do we want to live in a society where we are free to make our own decisions-- and be responsible for our own failures?

Harrell mentions two other friends, Lesley and Dave. Lesley has "...burned out her brain on pot and turned into a single-mom college drop-out." Of course pot, a drug that most people are familiar with and know it doesn't short-circuit your wiring, was responsible for Lesley's failures. There couldn't possibly be another explanation. Dave has been "...off junk for sixteen years and still craves it every day of his life." Does Harrell mean to imply that he is chemically addicted to a substance 16 years since its last introduction to his body? You don't need to be a chemist to be very skeptical of this claim. Of course, Harrell could mean that Dave has a "mental" addiction to the drug. This is more difficult to refute, because it isn't a disproval position. In any event, he doesn't take the drug anymore, hasn't for 16 years...why should anybody be concerned about his "cravings?" And surely Dave only yearns for the enjoyable aspects of his drug, attesting to its recreational benefits. Outlawing something because it is so much fun you'll want to do it again seems a bit draconian.

In addition to all of this, if drugs were legal they would be cheaper, safer, cleaner, in consistent doses, and less-stigmatizing. In effect, legalization of drugs would greatly reduce the risk currently posed by usage. To quote Milton Friedman "Whatever happens to the number of addicts (if drugs were legalized), the individual addict would clearly be far better off if drugs were legal. Addicts are driven to associate with criminals to get the drugs, become criminals themselves to finance the habit, and risk constant danger of death and disease."

Lastly, I never discussed the financial and security threats caused by our ill-advised drug war. The crime it causes, the drain on resources, the national-security threats involved, the ignorance of proper use contributing to irresponsible use...all caused by an irrational fear of certain chemicals. As the original post largely concerned itself with drugs' effects on users, I will save that discussion for another day.

Harrell has seen what nobody wants to see-- friends fail. As tragic as that is, it is not grounds for justifying the continued suppression of everyone else's freedom.

Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.
-- Ronald Reagan


Please be careful Blogger. Other countries don't have the same standards as the US in ensuring the safety and efficacy of medications. If you do decide to use a pharmacy drugs, PLEASE do your homework. Make sure the pharmacy drugs is in Canada, like pharmacy drugs. Some sites say they will ship the medications from Canada when they are actually in other countries. If you can, make sure the medications are manufactured in the US or Canada. Canada also has good protocols in making sure medications are safe and effective. There are many counterfeit drugs in the world. I would hate to see you become injured because of a counterfeit drug. Like I said before, do some researching before you decide to send away for some medication.
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