June 14th, 1998.
"The War on Drugs."
Should Drugs be Legalized, or Not? Let me deal briefly with the arguments.
First let let me say a word on freedom, or liberty. Jeremy Bentham said, years ago, "Every law is an infraction of liberty." And the liberty of her citizens -- as defined by John Stuart Mill as being "that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it" -- is the essential foundation upon which on a freedom loving country, such as Canada, is built; no hammers can be allowed to strike at this foundation unless for very good reason. So, the first thing to understand, is this: "The War on Drugs," with its all invasive anti-drug laws, is an infraction on our liberty. The question to be asked is: "Is this infraction worth it?"
And so, what are the arguments for drug laws? First off, - we have to prevent people from harming themselves. So, putting them in jail is preventing them from harming themselves! Should we pass laws that might "help" troubled anorectics and bulimics in our society. Should we make the owners and managers of food supermarkets criminals. One simply has to question why we place the blame for destructive drug habits on the people who sell drugs.
Well, how about: To prevent people from committing crime. The principal weapon in this war is to create crimes where none existed before; to entrap people into a life of crime, a life they would likely not have taken if the taking of drugs was, in the first place, a legal activity.
Another argument: Drug use hurts family and friends. I am sure in some situations this is perfectly true, so, is this a good reason to pass a criminal law against it? If so, then how about jail terms for those who practise other hurtful behavior towards friends and family?
The fourth argument: There are economic consequences to drug use. Well, like a lot of human activities, -- yes, drugs can impact on the economic abilities of those who become involved with them; an individual may just "drug out" all day long and not get down to doing any work. One must question the premise upon which such an argument is founded. Is it not repulsive to reduce the measure of human worth to a person's productive capacity. At any rate, there is much 'unproductive' behavior of people in our society, and the taking of drugs is likely one of them; but, we should never -- as I suspect we have with this drug law question -- take an "effect" and label it a "cause."
The conclusion to be reached -- and this assumes one has some familiarity with what is going on in our streets and courts today -- is that anti-drug laws not only do not help at getting at the real cause of what drives people to abuse themselves with poisonous substances; but, that anti-drug laws exacerbate the problem. Never mind that our government is spending our scarce resources on an unwinnable war on drugs: -- anti-drug laws create crime and corruption; they prevent sensible medical use of certain of these drugs; and, most importantly, these laws promote state activity that infringes on our constitutional rights of liberty and privacy. In the final analysis, it must be understood, that no man-made law can do away with the existence of drugs, and that, notwithstanding what the law denies, or does not deny, -- with the existence of drugs comes the existence of drug abusers. Criminal law will not limit drug abuse; it will, as our experience will now show, increase it. The only way to deal with the evil of drug abuse is the same way we deal with any moral evil: acknowledge its existence, debate it, and discredit it. Or more precisely, -- education, not criminal law, is the answer.