Mainstream media gives voice to reason
Commentary: Legalize drugs to stop violence
Reader Mike O’Mara supplies excerpts from this 2009 op-ed, a special to CNN on Mar 24 by a senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University. If any other reader comes across news that others need to know, please do let us know.
By Jeffrey A. MironProhibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration, or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.
Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after.
Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it's permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question.
The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs. Fortuitously, legalization is the right policy for a slew of other reasons.
Prohibition of drugs corrupts politicians and law enforcement by putting police, prosecutors, judges, and politicians in the position to threaten the profits of an illicit trade.
Prohibition erodes protections against unreasonable search and seizure because neither party to a drug transaction has an incentive to report the activity to the police.
Prohibition has disastrous implications for national security. By eradicating coca plants in Colombia or poppy fields in Afghanistan, prohibition breeds resentment of the United States. By enriching those who produce and supply drugs, prohibition supports terrorists who sell protection services to drug traffickers.
Prohibition harms the public health. Patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, and other conditions cannot use marijuana under the laws of most states or the federal government despite abundant evidence of its efficacy. Terminally ill patients cannot always get adequate pain medication because doctors may fear prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Drug users face restrictions on clean syringes that cause them to share contaminated needles, thereby spreading HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases.
Prohibitions breed disrespect for the law because despite draconian penalties and extensive enforcement, huge numbers of people still violate prohibition. This means those who break the law, and those who do not, learn that obeying laws is for suckers.
Prohibition is a drain on the public purse. The right policy, therefore, is to legalize drugs while using regulation and taxation to dampen irresponsible behavior related to drug use, such as driving under the influence.
It is impossible to reconcile respect for individual liberty with drug prohibition. The U.S. has been at the forefront of this puritanical policy for almost a century, with disastrous consequences at home and abroad.
The U.S. repealed Prohibition of alcohol at the height of the Great Depression, in part because of increasing violence and in part because of diminishing tax revenues. Similar concerns apply today, and Attorney General Eric Holder's recent announcement that the Drug Enforcement Administration will not raid medical marijuana distributors in California suggests an openness in the Obama administration to rethinking current practice.
Perhaps history will repeat itself, and the U.S. will abandon one of its most disastrous policy experiments.
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