It's Time to Make Drugs Legal Here

The Clinton administration has come up with a 5-part plan to cut drug use by 25% by the year 2002 and 50% by 2007. The hard numbers are supposed to provide accountability. The spokesman for the White House drug policy director Barry McCaffrey said, "no longer do we only measure the people working the issue and the dollars spent on it. Now you've got to prove the bang for the buck."

I wish that were so, but after 60 years of fighting and losing the war on drugs (with measurable losses), neither government nor a majority of citizens is ready to face the truth: drugs should be legalized.

Clinton said, "Studies demonstrate that when our children understand the dangers of drugs, their rates of drug use drop." So a key piece of the effort is an advertising campaign that generates $195 million in matching contributions from media companies. Any official initiative that generates money is always considered successful no matter how little benefit it actually provides citizens. Police departments can confiscate everything owned by a drug dealer: boats, houses, jewelry, and even take the vehicle owned by grandparents of a teenager caught smoking pot while driving. The sale of these confiscated items provides cops with a vested interest in continuing the drug war despite its effects on our fellow citizens.

Barry McCaffrey claims the 14,000 lives lost annually mean we should spend $18 billion a year for this effort. He's not analyzing the numbers correctly. Let's just look at actual overdoses. They come in two categories: accidental and suicidal. Accidental overdoses happen when someone gets a dose that is either too strong or just poisoned (which is often murder but not classified that way by the police). If you could purchase a package of heroin or cocaine of known strength and purity at the local liquor/drugstore, there would be no more accidental overdoses. There also wouldn't be any bad trips caused by LSD and other hallucinogens that come mixed with belladonna, strychnine, and other rat poisons.

Drug suicides may or may not decrease with legalization. But one factor that would certainly decrease is the cost of drugs which may affect other areas of life. A woman with a $10 a day habit instead of $100/day can support herself working as a store clerk instead of as a prostitute. A man could support his habit as a laborer instead of as a thief, just as alcoholics today can work as successful marketers, district attorneys, and journalists. For those who think drug addicts can't operate normally, think for a minute what is involved in casing a joint, heisting television sets, and transporting them to a fence.

Another aspect of Clinton's poorly designed plan is securing the nation's borders. We can't even keep drugs out of a maximum security Federal prison. Does he really think we can close our borders in this era of free trade embodied by NAFTA and the euro?

Besides bringing illegal addicts back into the fold of normal society, drug legalization would also add to government coffers. Instead of wasting $18 billion on a losing effort, we could be making tax dollars off the manufacture and distribution of legal, safe drugs. Granted, they aren't necessarily good for your health or spirit, but neither are tobacco, liquor, or gambling. Yet the people who are "responsible" users of those vices currently pay tax dollars that go for helping the abusers. Usage may increase slightly with legalization (if people make rational decisions about using drugs), but the number of deaths will fall drastically. And isn't that what we're really trying to accomplish?