Any civilised society has to live by the rule of law. Without laws, everyone does what seems right to them and the end result is always chaos. A jungle.
But as thinking people who abide by the rule of law we should also consider the justice of the laws which govern us. Are they appropriate to the way people live today? Are they fair to everyone? For some time now there has been a lot of debate around the drug laws. Cigarettes and alcohol are legal. Cannabis/marijuana, heroin, crack/cocaine, ecstasy, meth etc. are not.
So I ask the question - do our drug laws make sense?
The argument for change:
Because drugs are illegal they have to be smuggled into the country. This causes scarcity, and scarcity drives up prices, resulting in acquisitive crime but this is not the case for legal drugs. When was the last time you heard of someone's house being burgled or a person being mugged to fund an alcohol or cigarette habit?
Furthermore, the goods sold to obtain drug money are often stolen. The street-value of these stolen goods is far lower than the shop-price. This means that to buy £50 of heroin an addict will need to steal about £500 of goods, give or take. This makes drug crime very expensive to the community.
Who profits from the illegal drugs trade? Huge amounts of money go straight to organised crime. The results are even worse in countries that produce drugs, where they are used to fund large scale paramilitary organisations, corrupt governments and undermine stability.
Not only are legal drugs cheaper, reducing the need for crime, but the tax revenue gained from this goes into the public coffers. America tried to make alcohol illegal - the result? Al Capone.
Illegal drugs are not subject to quality controls and so are laced with all kinds of toxic chemicals to bulk them up. The result is that the impurities sometimes cause more harm to drug users than the actual drugs themselves! Illegality keeps drug users on the margins. This discourages them from accessing help and treatment, exacerbating not only their addiction but the impact on their families, employment and prospects.
The war on drugs costs. Keeping a person in prison is more expensive than sending them to university - not to mention the wasted time and potential of the prisoners. Prison overcrowding could be resolved at a stroke.
Argument for keeping drugs illegal:
Alcohol and cigarettes are legal. Yet they are not only addictive but kill far more people than illegal drugs. Making more drugs legal will only result in more harm as they will be easier to obtain. Based on this, some would even suggest making alcohol and cigarettes illegal.
According to a BBC documentary called Horizon in 2011 there were:
Deaths per year due to Alcohol: 40,000
Deaths per year due to Tobacco: 114,000
Deaths per year due to Ecstasy: 27
Deaths per year due to Heroin: 700
Deaths per year due to Amphetamine: 35
Deaths per year due to Cocaine: 214
The moral argument. If drug taking is wrong the law cannot be seen to condone this. What climate would legal drugs create for our children? People should only take drugs that are medicinal and beneficial for their health.
Making drugs legal would bring them into the mainstream of society encouraging more people to experiment with them, possibly coercing those who otherwise would not have considered taking it, putting them at risk of becoming addicted.
Do you think that drugs should be legal or kept illegal, and if so, why?