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Don't Legalize Drugs

NCJ Number
City Journal Volume: 7 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 1997 Pages: 14-22
T Dalrymple
Date Published
9 pages
The legalization of currently illegal drugs will not achieve what its proponents claim, and it will probably lead to an increase in drug abuse and its attendant costs.
The arguments in favor of legalizing the use of all narcotic and stimulant drugs are twofold: philosophical and pragmatic. The philosophical argument is that in a free society, adults should be permitted to do whatever they please, provided that they are prepared to assume the consequences of their own choices and that they cause no direct harm to others. The pragmatic argument is that the overwhelming majority of the harm done to society by the consumption of currently illicit drugs is caused not by their pharmacological properties but by their prohibition and the resultant criminal activity that prohibition fosters. Regarding the philosophical argument in support of individual freedom, it promotes self-indulgence, which surely leads to the dissolution of society. No culture that makes publicly sanctioned self- indulgence its highest good can long survive; a radical egotism is bound to ensue, along with its rebellion against any limitations upon personal behavior perceived as infringements of basic rights. The pragmatic argument for legalization can be countered by another pragmatic argument. Legalized drugs would clearly be less expensive than the cost of these drugs were they illegal. This means their availability and consumption would increase. If it is true that the consumption of these drugs in itself predisposes users to criminal and reckless behavior (as data from the author's clinic suggest), it is also possible that the effect on the rate of crime would overwhelm any decrease in crime that may result from legalization. Further, the legalization of currently illicit drugs would not ultimately result in less governmental and other official interference in citizens' lives. As drug-induced behavior increases, there would be more public safety checks on citizens' drug-using habits, particularly for persons whose efficient and effective job performance is crucial to public health and safety.


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