I'm not going to talk about legalizing pot. I'm tired of arguing why it should be legal. I'm finding more people see it's really, really hard to make a coherent argument in defense of prohibition. I'm also noticing that very few are even willing to defend the status quo on pot, saying "I mean, the situation right now doesn't work, but legalization won't work." The intended points are valid for pot, but what I'm writing is really intended for someone who says "I mean, I can understand legalizing pot, but heroin? That's going way too far."
The core of my argument is "Remember when the U.S. had a drug problem, and then we declared a War on Drugs, and now you can't buy drugs anymore?" We can't keep drugs out of our prisons--how can we keep them out of the homes of free adults? Teenage tobacco use has declined steadily over the last twenty years, and we didn't have to arrest anybody. People who want to do heroin will do it regardless of whether or not it's legal.
If you will, imagine a society where Bob Smith gets a note from his doctor saying "Mr. Smith is hopelessly addicted to heroin. He has tried to quit before but hasn't been able to kick the habit." He goes to a pharmacy, shows an ID to prove he's over 21, spends five bucks for a three day's supply of heroin, takes it home, wipes his arm down with the enclosed alcohol swab, shoots up with a fresh, clean needle, and goes to sleep. Either that, or he shoots up in a government-run heroin clinic staffed by nurses with an on-duty doctor.
The heroin is not cut with rat poison. The purity and weight is clearly measured to prevent accidental overdoses, he doesn't have to deal drugs or steal hundreds of dollars* of stuff per day to afford his habit, he doesn't get HIV, he doesn't have to worry about going to a crime-ridden part of town to find a drug dealer who carries a gun.
Just like now, it would be illegal for him to drive while high on heroin. Just like alcohol today, you wouldn't be able to buy packets of heroin in a vending machine outside of a high school. Laws would presumably exist against advertising heroin on TV. Terrorists and organized crime would lose a major source of funding. Cops would be able to spend their resources investigating robbery, rape, murder, DUIs, and other crimes that put lives and property at risk. Rapists would not be paroled early because of prison overcrowding due to drug offenders.
Is there any way this would be worse than the situation we have today?
* This is a lowball figure. When you're on heroin, a moderate habit can be several hundred dollars per day. Mugging someone and stealing a $200 iPod doesn't translate into $200 worth of heroin; selling it on eBay, craigslist, or directly to someone who fences stolen goods, I've seen estimates that the mugger usually get less than a quarter of the sticker price.
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