ALAN POLK HEMPHILL
On December 16, 1989, on the Brinkley Report, Sam Donaldson asked the question that drew the basic difference between those who favor the legalization of drugs and those who favor the continuation of the "war."
Donaldson asked Prof. Milton Friedman, who supports the legalization of drugs, if as a result of legalization, he was willing to accept an increase in drug abuse as a tradeoff to reduce violent crime. Friedman said that he was willing to accept that tradeoff. Donaldson then asked another professor, who opposes the legalization of drugs, if he was willing to accept violent crime as the price necessary to reduce the number of drug addicts. He said that he was.
That was the dividing line that actually makes the issue. On the one hand there are people who, for moral reasons, believe that the ability to stop people who want drugs from buying them is worth the crime, the crowded jails, the rich criminals, the billions of dollars and criminal acts necessary to purchase drugs at what is an artificially inflated price.
On the other hand are those who believe that if some idiot wants to commit suicide and fry his brain, he should be permitted to do so cheaply and without the necessity to rob me for the means to buy his drugs.
The world is filled with people who care so much for their flawed fellow man that they want to protect him (or her) from their own stupidity, regardless of the cost to society. They see it as their moral duty to keep those not so enlightened as they from frying their brains, liver, or lungs on (drugs) (alcohol) (nicotine).
As a result, we have filled our jails and must build more, quickly. Our police, and now our military, are being deployed disproportionately to counter a distribution system that would no longer exist one hour after drugs were made legal. Gangs are both richer and more violent because drugs are illegal.
Would there be more drug use because drugs would be cheaper if made legal. Yes. At least until the mound of voluntary corpses piles so high as to discourage future potential users. Better them, say I, than the innocent elderly who are beaten and robbed to supply the money for overpriced drugs that must be smuggled in at great price.
I know that some moralists insist that every life is equally important, but I don't accept that. Not for a second. Particularly unimportant, to me, are those who have so little respect for their lives that they prefer cocaine to food. If they are willing to commit suicide, I am willing to let them. I will not encourage them, in fact I will discourage them - but it is their life and I will not support massive expenditures of money and violations of liberty and property to continue a fight whose major victims are innocent burglary victims and whose victors are scum who sell drugs and drive BMWs.
The legalization of drugs will cut violent crime in half, instantly. It will stop the massive profits to the pushers, instantly. It will also instantly increase the number and intensity of drug users, who will become more visible, and who will die more openly. That is a price I am willing to pay.
Under drug criminalization, the victims are the innocent citizens who sit on the stoops of their houses, or walk down quiet streets with their children, or sit quietly in their homes never expecting to be shot, or beaten, or robbed.
Under decriminalization, the victims are those who are voluntary participants in drug use. Only about two percent of the population are casual drug users, and only one half of one percent of the population are addicts. If that doubles, but we cut the rate of violent crime in half, and the criminal court cases in half, and the prison population in half, I could live with that.
That works for me.
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