I’m not going to list for you the statistics on the incredible amounts of money that are being expended on the war on drugs. I’m sure we are all well aware of them. I also will not describe the kind of truly horrible damage that has been inflicted on Latin American countries by the US government that uses the war on drugs as an excuse to keep these countries in eternal subjection. Talk to your friends from Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia if you want to hear first-hand accounts of the scourge that the war on drugs is to them. What I want to address here is the philosophy that is used to justify the war on drugs within the US and Canada.
Before I say what I mean to say about this issue, I want to clarify that I’m as anti-drug in my personal life as anybody can be. I don’t even take Tylenol, I’m so anti-drug. A bottle of Advil scares me. When my friends in college passed around joints, I was always the only one to refuse them. So I’m not criticizing the war on drugs because I’m planning to take them if they get legalized. For me, this isn’t personal but ideological.
Drug addiction is a horrible tragedy. I have seen people being eaten up alive by drugs and their families deeply miserable. However, I believe in one’s complete and utter ownership of one’s own body. Whatever one might think of drug addicts, smokers, alcoholics, and junk food eaters, nobody should have the right to control what these folks do with their bodies. If I support abortion rights, suicide rights, and euthanasia, I cannot possibly be in favor of jailing drug users. I believe that if one chooses to drug, booze, eat, etc. oneself to death, one should be able to do that.
If we abandon the paternalistic attitude of needing to save drug users from themselves, the only argument that is left for persecuting them is that a person on drugs often becomes dangerous to others. This, of course, is true. The danger is as real as the kind that comes from a person who is strung out on such perfectly legal substance as alcohol. If the same restrictions are placed on drug use as the ones that exist on alcohol use (no drinking on the streets, at the workplace, or campuses, for example) and drug use is contained to people’s homes, the danger to others would diminish.
Of course, drugs will never be legalized. Even marijuana use is not likely to become legal in the US. (Quebec is getting there, for sure.) The reason for this is that the two mafias – the drug cartels and the governmental “war on drugs” machine – bring too much profits (both monetary and political) to their participants. Neither the cartels nor the governments want to relinquish the income and the power that the illegal status of drugs offers them. It only seems like these two groups are at war with each other. In reality, they are both profoundly invested into the continued illegality of drugs.