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To Drug War or not to Drug War

Posted by Chance on August 8, 2007

Make no mistake, I believe drugs are bad. I believe using drugs for recreation is a sin. However, I’d like to consider philosophical and utilitarian arguments for and against drug legalization.

Philosophical arguments against drug legalization

1) Drugs are not, in fact, a victimless crime. Families and friends are torn apart by someone’s drug usage. Drugs may be consumed by the individual, but they are a cancer to society as a whole.

2) Freedom implies someone has free will to make their own choices. Due to the addictive nature of drugs, however, that free will can be severely limited. They may make a choice for their first fix, but they are hooked afterwards.

3) To say that drugs should be legal because they only hurt the person that takes them (at least directly) may provide a disturbing distinction between victimless sins and other sins. By legalizing drugs, we may be saying “these things are bad, but they aren’t as bad as murder, stealing, etc…” I think many people would agree, but they fear that by legalizing drugs, society, as a whole, is approving of them. While the Bible places a lot of importance on the Golden Rule, it provides little or no distinction on the level of sin based on how many people it affects.

4) In the balance of freedom vs. security, the benefits gained for society as a whole outweigh the benefits of being “free” to do crack, heroin, etc…

Philosophical arguments for legalizing recreational drugs

1) (Counterpoint to argument 1 above) It is up to the family structure, the church, and other voluntary organizations to discourage such behavior. Concerning friends and spouses, people have freedoms and responsibilities in choosing who they have relationships with, and drug usage, or the possibility thereof, is something that should be considered.

2) (Partly a counterpoint to argument 3 above) This is the typical libertarian argument. The purpose of government is to keep people safe from other people, not enforce morality, even if that saves someone from their own actions. Someone should have the right to do whatever they want, provided that they do not hurt anyone else. Who am I to say that someone doesn’t have the right to participate in recreational drugs? If we truly value freedom, someone should have the right to live their life as they please. Anti-drug laws dwell on a slippery slope, and such laws will work their way into other areas of life, such as cigarettes, consumption of fast food, etc…

Utilitarian arguments against legalizing recreational drugs:

1) Legalizing drugs would make it easier for kids to get a hold of them. A kid would only need to get a hold of someone over 18/21 to get their fix.

2) Drugs impair the individuals ability to function. People couldn’t perform their job duties while impaired. People can’t drive while high.

Utilitarian arguments for legalizing recreational drugs:

1) Drug enforcement is largely ineffective, as demonstrated by Prohibition against alcohol. We spend tons of money on the drug war with little or no results.

2) Outlawing drugs has increased crime. It has created a black market that inflates drug prices, causing people to steal and murder. Furthermore, it has increased the powers of gangs that profit greatly from the drug trade. The illegal drug market also funds terrorists.

3) Outlawing drugs has reduced our freedoms. People’s privacy has been decreased due to drug raids, as police forces on the federal and local level have become more invasive. Innocent citizens have been harmed during the execution of the Drug War.

4) Outlawing drugs is harming the suppliers and consumers of prescription drugs. Doctors are paranoid about prescribing too many pain killers due to the government’s watchful eye. In turn, people who genuinely need pain relief suffer. Furthermore, a drug like marijuana may be the most useful in relieving nausea for patients with certain diseases.

5) Enforcing drug laws harm the police force in pursuit of other duties. Police spend resources executing the Drug War, not spending as much time pursuing killers and thieves. Jails are becoming overcrowded. (Note: This argument depends much on someone’s philosophical reasoning. This argument presumes that drug usage is on a much lower level than victim-claiming crimes).

6) (Counterpoint to philosophical arguments 1,2 for keeping drugs illegal). While drugs harm free will and hurt people’s loved ones and families, again, these arguments presume that keeping drugs illegal will actually decrease drug usage.

7) (Counterpoint to utilitarian argument 2) It is up to private companies to do drug testing. Driving while impaired would still be illegal.

So there you have it. I am not trying to push across a certain point of view. This is something I am pondering, and these are the arguments that come to mind. In short, drugs are so damaging that I think outlawing drugs is worth the tradeoff in freedom. So, philosophical I don’t have as much of an issue with keeping drugs illegal. However, I genuinely wonder if the Drug War is indeed effective and is not making things worse.

This chilling thought comes to mind. What if the S.W.A.T. team busts down my door either by mistake or by an “informant” who has a grudge against me. What if my wife or kid gets shot in all the confusion. It is known to happen.

I’m curious what other people’s thoughts are and if they have good philosophical/utilitarian arguments for or against the Drug War.

Balanced Politics: Legalization of Marijuana? follow link for pro/con articles
The Cato Institute: Against the Drug War
Note: I tried to find an individual link supporting the drug war that was not already on Balanced Politics, but it is harder than I thought.


8 Responses to “To Drug War or not to Drug War”

  1. preacherman said

    This just my oppinion:
    I think there could be good benifits for legalizing medical marajana right now. Increasing appitate, releaving pain, etc.

    I do think our generation when we get into power will legalize pot.

    I want you to know that I support the boarder patrol and the war on drugs that are going on right now. I hope that the Texas 3 will be pardoned by Geoge Bush.

    One of our deputies was sentenced to prison for stoping a suburban he thought was might have drugs. Instead had human traficers.
    You can read more information at


    Justice must be served. The other boarder potrol agents stopped a dealer and they were sent to prison instead of the drug dealer who was given amnisty. You can read more about this att CNN.com. Texas 3.

    I think it is crazy when drug dealer get set free and those who get them get sent to jail. It is crazy.

    I hope this isn’t off topic. But wanted to let you know what is going on in the country. Great post as always brother!

  2. Dan Trabue said

    I used to be of the Keep Drugs Illegal mindset. I am no longer.

    Just so you know, I’m a tea-totaler. I don’t drink or smoke, much less use illegal drugs. No use for any of it.

    Further, I don’t have much respect for people who need any of it as a crutch. I pity such folk, but it’s a bit lame to get caught up in all of that, it seems to me.

    I used to be so against drugs, that I was in favor of prohibiting alcohol (again).

    I think you’ve provided a very reasonable list of points pro and con. My ultimate reason for being opposed to the criminalization of drugs is that I just don’t think it works. Prohibition didn’t stop people from drinking, but it did increase crime. Same for drugs today, except much much worse, I believe.

    According to this article, there are 1/2 a million people in our jails because of drug crimes!

    I’m out of time right now, but let me just say that I don’t think prohibition worked with alcohol, nor do I think it’s working with drugs.

    Having said that, I ALSO don’t think that No Prohibition is working with alcohol, either. And probably wouldn’t with drugs. There are huge negative results of alcoholism, as you’ve noted.

    So if neither Prohibition nor No Prohibition are working, what to do? I believe in trying to pay for things as you go, so my best solution is to legalize drugs, but tax them and dedicate the taxed money towards rehabilitation and mitigation programs.

    Out of time. Thoughts?

  3. Dan Trabue said

    Another way of looking at it:

    During prohibition, I wonder by what percentage the problems associated with the drinking of alcohol decreased? Surely there was some decrease in the number of drinkers and frequency of drinking. 50%? 25? 90?

    Those are just wild guesses, I don’t know and haven’t been able to find any stat on the topic.

    But let’s use 50%. If we assume that, we might could assume the problems associated with drinking dropped by that much (alcoholism, broken marriages and families because of alcohol abuse, drunk driving, etc).

    And that would be a good thing EXCEPT that we also know that there was a wild increase in crime, jail and other expenses due to Prohibition, right?

    So from a purely practical, fiscal point of view, we might want to know whether the costs of No Prohibition outweigh the costs of Prohibition. If it’s costing us more to Prohibit drugs than the costs associated with No Prohibition (as I suspect to be the case by a large margin), then we’d have to acknowledge that reality.

    Anyone seen any studies to this end?

  4. Glen said

    Outstanding post Chance. Sorry it took me so long to get here. I have been extremely busy lately.

    I want to address a few of the arguments, for and against, that you laid out for us. As you probably know, I am a former extreme drug addict. My drug use hurt a lot of people, but the person it hurt the most was me. I still think drug use should be called a victimless “crime” though, because as you said, people choose to keep addicts in their lives. They choose to enable them. If we are to label drug use as not a victimless crime, then we should also do the same for adultery. People do get robbed by drug addicts, but when somebody is robbed, the crime is robbery, not drug abuse. I hesitate to even use the word crime though, because a severe drug user is more sick than bad.

    There really is no justification for our government to engage in the Drug War. If the Drug War resulted in less drug use, then maybe you could make an argument for less freedom. But it hasn’t helped. In fact it has made things worse. We spend billions incarcerating non-violent drug offenders. We push the drug trade into the hands of violent organized criminals. We take sick people, who may be suffering from a number of different things like manic-depression, clinical depression, schizophrenia, and others, and we lock these people up, give them a criminal record and tell them that they are bad.

    When compared to alcohol, many of these illegal drugs, pale in comparison as far as damage done. Think about it. Marijuana is illegal and alcohol is legal. That doesn’t make any sense.

    Then you have federal substance control, a horrible violation of the constitution and federalism.

    I could go on and on, but I will just refer everyone to two of my favorite conservatives/libertarians, William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman.

  5. Dan Trabue said

    “When compared to alcohol, many of these illegal drugs, pale in comparison as far as damage done. Think about it. Marijuana is illegal and alcohol is legal.”

    Excellent point. There is no sensible reason for outlawing one and not the other.

    Glen and Dan uniting on a topic, how about that?

  6. Glen said

    Dan, we agree on a lot more I suspect.

  7. Dan Trabue said

    I beg to differ…

  8. Josh said

    Not too many are killed over a pack of cigarettes, and I suspect quitting cigarettes is more painful than quitting marijuana, although I’ve never had to quit the latter. Sure people smoke cigarettes, but I think that society as a majority sees it as a dirty habit. Start drinking coffee every day for a month, and then go a week without it… Now, should caffeine be outlawed?

    I’m on the side of “where does the government stop in it’s interaction with drug enforcement?”. Drugs were illegal when we were in high school, yet how many did it stop from using it? Perhaps the fact that it was illegal made more kids experiment with it, just because it was “illegal”.

    And, it could be a way for the state to raise money and regulate drug trafficking.

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