25 March 2011

On the legalization of drugs

My colleagues and I had an interesting discussion this morning regarding the legalization of drugs.  This is something that I have never supported, despite having become significantly more libertarian over the past few years.

However, it seems that we have lost this war, at least at far as marijuana.  I'm not going to fight or argue over studies regarding harmful effects, or possible medical uses, or its potential as a gateway drug. There's lot of science out there and lots of FUD, too.  But when you put it all together, it seems to me that marijuana isn't really anymore harmful than other substances we use and tolerate, like alcohol.  It might be less harmful.  A number of states have legalized medicinal uses; other jurisdictions look the other way.

Prisons and jails are full of drug users and abusers.  Some of them from simple non-violent possession or use of marijuana.  I'm not so sure that this is a good idea anymore, or that this is a very efficient use of our increasingly limited resources.

Legalization of marijuana would create an industry that could be regulated and taxed, providing a potentially lucrative source of revenue for governments.

According to a number of studies, marijuana is less dangerous (physical harm to the user, addictive potential of the drug, the drug's overall impact on society) than alcohol or tobacco.  I'm sure the drug warriors can find opposing studies, but this just seems like common sense to me.

I have been a long time supporter of the war on drugs, and I think we should continue against hardcore drugs, and especially when violence is involved.  Drugs like meth, crack and heroin are dangerous and I think the government has every reason to prohibit their use. But simple, non-violent possession and use of marijuana? Perhaps it's time we give up the ship on this one.

I am curious to hear what those of you think who continue to support the war on drugs against marijuana. What are the costs, what are the benefits? Does the latter really outweigh the former?
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