The comments section today took a turn down an interesting avenue when Liberal Anthropologist (LA) threw a grenade into the oatmeal barrel as he wrote:

And I want drugs. All of them. Legalized for adults. No evidence exists that legalization means more problems. And our experience with alcohol tells us the opposite. Anybody who is part of the growing minority that thinks drugs should remaijn illegal is on the losing side.

Which is confusing since I am pretty sure his belief system runs contrary to this statement.

None the less, I agree with LA. Currently half of our prison population is incarcerated on possession or distribution charges, this would empty the prisons, it would also destroy the black market associated with the sale of these drugs. The cartels in Mexico and South America would now have to compete with Monsanto, Johnson & Johnson and Bayer. Vai con dios malitos.

However, I have a raft of caveats. Under the current system, it would be an economic nightmare to allow people to walk into any pharmacy and get a bag of coke, or some narcotic such as opium. Under the current system people other than the junkies would suffer directly. It is incumbent upon a civil society to protect itself from the bad actors.

In case anyone is wondering, I do NOT advocate such recreational pharmacological experimentation. It is against my beliefs. I find it repugnant. I have seen the end result of such a lifestyle. It is heartbreaking. The list of celebrities, and the anonymous who choke the morgues with toe tags that read John or Jane Doe, should be enough to discourage anyone with an ounce of sense. But is it my business to dictate how LA idles away his spare time?

Under our current social compact we have an obligation to rescue the junkie from his excess. Granted, often the excess is due to the fact that products sold by ‘unlicensed brokers’ vary widely in their potency. If we were to legalize the sale of such products, then quality control would make the product safer in as far that a given weight of product will have a given potency. Legalization would therefore remove this uncertainty. The junkie would have no excuse regarding overdose. The question then becomes, “Are we still obligated to pick up the pieces and resuscitate them?”

The cycle of addiction for many such products is a given. You experiment long enough with a given toxin, especially a narcotic, you will become physically and psychologically addicted. It is when addiction sets in that most of the negative social behaviors begin to emerge. Inability to keep a job is typically the first. Is has been done. Still, having watched junkies jonesing for their next fix, it is hard to imagine them being able to hold down a job flipping burgers, let alone something that requires concentration. Since we do not want people stoned on the job, for obvious reasons – will society as a whole become economically liable for those who are so debilitated by their addiction that they cannot work?

Other negative social behaviors associated with narcotic drug use includes theft. This is typically the outcome when the junkie is cut off, not from food, but from the means to purchase more narcotics. Will society be forced to provide product free of charge? Once it has been legalized, can the junkie sue the narcotics manufacturer over being an addict? We are already doing this to the cigarette makers. If someone is driving under the influence of a narcotic, will the penalty be greater than it currently is for driving inebriated? Other drugs, such as marijuana are far less addictive, though pot heads are not typically known for being a motivated lot.

Again. It is junkies life; it is their choice. Are we obligated affirm their decisions, or can we just watch the junkie self destruct? One of the driving reasons why we have made these items illegal has been the social cost. The psychological and physical mayhem, and economic loses to individuals can be dramatic. Today, society tries to care for these casualties. Ambulance rides to the emergency room, in and outpatient rehab clinics, etc. Another cost is the broken families, there is a whole industry that deals with helping the families of the addicts cope with the situation. Self destructive behavior is always a strain on the social fabric. The strain will grow if we legalize. Any activity is always suppressed when it is made illegal. Abortion is the 20th century’s cardinal example of what happens when you legalize an activity.

If we are not willing to watch dispassionately as people pay the price for being ‘free’, then we ought not legalize such freedom. If we are willing to have someone go through the end result of an overdose without intervening, then we can legalize. If we strongly penalize the junkie when he exercises poor judgement, and drives while under the influence, of steals in order to feed his habit, then we may be ready. If the social welfare net is NOT used to alleviate the economic impact of engaging in overindulgence then society will not be swamped by the fallout of this freedom.

I do not believe we are ready to engage in such triage.