A Step Towards Respect of Our Laws and The Social Mores by Legalizing Drugs
(An Approach to Change That Might Lessen Our Tax Burden)
Have you ever asked the question, “Why do so many people bend, break, and/or ignore the law?” I have – and I think it comes down to a pervasive belief (on some level) that many of our laws are not reasonably related to the protection of our society. Many of our laws are intended to restrict decision-making that should be strictly personal in nature. The law caudles us, treats us like children – without the experience to make informed decisions. Instead of developing only laws that address conduct that has the potential of harming others in our society, we develop laws that tell the individual adult that he or she cannot consider a decision they are facing, together with its possible consequences and then choose to live with those consequences.
As stated by George Orwell, “On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”
As a result, the consequences (if you will) are that many adults will decide to do the thing they are considering (even if it is illegal) and take the risk. And from that very act, one loses a certain degree of respect for the sanctity of all laws and may become more likely to shrug their shoulders when they see someone else violating some other law(s) that could be construed as an unreasonable infringement on free choice. The individual might also feel the need to cover up his/her indiscretion. (Maybe by lying on applications to licensing boards, lying on tax returns, doing favors of position to others to attempt to cover up, lying to the courts, etc.) Furthermore, it could be argued that it would then become against that person’s best interest to voluntarily help the police by providing information to them regarding other matters – the danger being that if they get involved one might draw more attention than they want. That’s too bad, since the police have historically relied on that type of assistance in its effort to combat crime. And it is always important to remember that children are watching parents violate the law and will learn that they too should be able to pick and choose which laws they are willing to follow.
We definitely need laws that restrict individual conduct for the health and protection of society. However, such laws need to have a direct relationship to a clearly articulable danger to others or society; and have the ability of reducing that danger. Within this category would be laws such as those prohibiting murder, theft, assault, child abuse, driving under the influence, breaking any other reasonable law while under the influence, requiring the seat-belting of children, and many others. These laws should have clear and definite penalties since they are intended to reduce the numbers of injuries to others. It is my opinion that almost everyone could be able to see and respect this type of regulation’s importance.
On the other hand, there is the category of laws that poses a questionable infringement on individual rights and therefore, reduces respect for ALL LAWS and law enforcers in general. Laws of this type would be motorcycle helmet laws for adults, seatbelt laws for adults, and drug laws restricting individual use. The focus of this writing will concern a closer look at the consequences of our current drug laws in general and the possible advantages of legalizing drugs for personal use.
The first questions that need to be looked at are: Why is there such demand for illegal drugs? Why does there appear to be an endless line of persons attempting to meet that demand?
The motivations of the suppliers generally stem from desire for the enormous tax-free profits generated. However, I’m sure the motivations also involve issues such as excitement, desire for group belonging, need to fund other projects (such as terrorism), and other psychological motivations as well.
So what drives the demand side? It could be any of a number of things: low self esteem, peer pressure (for children and adults), rebelliousness, feelings of not fitting into one’s societal structure, exclusion or being disempowered by one’s culture and society, not having consistent limits during early upbringing which enable good decision making, the need to escape from reality, the excitement of law breaking, or maybe just wanting to have a good time. With regard to wanting to have a good time, it may be informative to look at the behaviors of some of other members of the animal kingdom – cows, cats, squirrels, horses, and many others animals seek out plants and foods that give a buzz.
Consistent with our four legged friends, humans throughout history have sought after those things that alter consciousness. (For example drugs, alcohol, smoking, rituals in churches, running long distances, competition, being consumed by work, music, etc.) And let’s not forget the historical motivations for drug use for many people(s) and cultures have been religious or spiritual in nature. Many rituals of native peoples through time have involved naturally forming mind-altering substances to shift their perceptions of reality. These rituals were conducted on special occasions or for special purposes; and many times involved carefully followed protocols. Furthermore, it appears that this type of drug use (ritualized) has not posed significant problems for their societies.
In today’s world however, a large number of people have come to use drugs to escape from their individual worlds or society, or through peer pressure, or as a social phenomena, etc. Additionally, many are now using highly potent, chemically designed drugs without any ritual whatsoever, as a means of social interaction/discourse; so the potential for one getting one’s self into problems is very real and possibly dangerous for that person. However, the operative words are One’s Self. If an adult is making the decision to use drugs or alcohol, it is first and foremost a decision for that person and not for the rule makers.
I am certainly not advocating a cart blanc expression of free will. The public does in fact need to be protected from bad decisions made by people who choose to indulge in mind-altering substances (drugs, alcohol, and medicines). I feel confident that people/society would get behind developing social norms of conduct via the law that actually protect others. The approach toward legalization of drugs necessarily needs to be holistic; but the regulation of conduct and consequences of a person’s decision to use drugs, alcohol, or medicines within the framework of being holistic should also be firm, clear, and punitive.
The laws against driving under the influence should concurrently be strengthened, aggressive behavior under the influence should carry stiff penalties, committing crimes of theft while under the influence should be bumped up in degree of penalty, children who are neglected because of drug addicted parent should be strongly protected, etc. Strong laws that both protect the public from danger and are clearly defendable as being a reasonable infringement on an individual’s right to engage in an action are needed. We can’t have people freely choosing to kill, steal, rape if they feel like it. If all laws are clearly related and reasonably defendable as being needed for the protection of people and their property, then respect for those laws and the people who enforce them could grow. Having some laws that are for protection of the public and some that aren’t simply undermines the sanctity of all laws. Consider what might happen if concurrently an adequate educational, rehabilitative, and training component replaces the expenditures currently used to fight the drug war – might drug abuse actually decrease?
Given that it appears historically to be part of our nature as human beings to seek out altered consciousness and explore the realities of our worlds (inner and outer), trying to totally preclude and thwart such desires is at the least a waste of tax dollars. The demand will always be there; and if the demand is there, the suppliers will be – especially if the high profits are there. These tax dollars could be better spent on educating children (I mean really putting efforts into early childhood education) and adults about the real dangers of drug abuse, on rehabilitation, on building higher self-esteem in individuals, on creating changes in our society that would allow the disenfranchised to more fully participate. The list of better, more productive uses of tax dollars that could actually encourage the individual to stop using drugs in dangerous or self-destructive ways is long.
So who are the suppliers and why are there so many of them? The groups we hear most about are the international drug cartels, domestic organized crime, free-lance drug dealers and intercity drug dealers. The first three groups, I would argue, are mainly in the business for the money and what money can provide, i.e. power, influence, and wealth. The last group, intercity drug dealers and the youth they employ, in addition to power, influence, and wealth – their motivations are inter-twined with issues of poverty, disenfranchisement, lack of real opportunities for the “American Dream”, and being caught up in the cycle of lack of opportunity – dealing – busted – less opportunity – dealing – busted – less choice.
Imagine you are JOE from a disadvantaged part of a big city. You’re a fairly bright kid. However, you are in a broken home and not feeling great about yourself. There’s a significant drug trade. You use drugs because it’s cool, hip, rebellious, sexy, all your friends do, it’s a way to be a part of something, it takes you away from some of your worries and disappointments. The people involved in the trade appear to be doing okay. The only job you can get is at MacDonald’s – maybe. You decide to be a runner for the local crack dealer. You get busted. Now you can’t even get the job at MacDonald’s, you can’t vote and nobody really cares. The drug dealer is still there holding out a job with some real cash. What do you do now? Now add some prison sentence into the mix.
The next areas that need to be looked at are the effects of the current system of laws and their enforcement on society, individual users and low-level individuals involved in supplying drugs, and the interests that resist change in the status quo.
Let’s look again at JOE. He’s now in prison.
The first question I ask myself is “Who do I want in prison?” Personally, I want people who are violent felons in prison. The more JOEs who are in prisons, the less room there is for the violent criminals.
The next question I ask is “How much do I want to pay to keep JOE in prison? The cost for adult prison is somewhere around $50,000 per inmate per year. The cost for a juvenile is probably closer to $90,000 per year. How much would it have cost to encourage JOE and send him to college and make a taxpayer out of him?
The last question I have for myself is “Am I going to be better off for having sent JOE to prison?” By putting the JOEs of the world in prison for non-violent crimes, I have limited the capacity of prisons for truly violent people. I have used resources (tax dollars) that could have been used to give JOE more options and opportunities. I have, in fact, reduced Joe’s options once he gets out of prison. In all likelihood, I will have to pay for JOE to be tried for the new crimes he commits after getting out and for an even longer jail sentence. Personally, I would rather make JOE a taxpayer and take some of the burden off those who do pay taxes.
Regarding money- Have you ever noticed that when big city police departments are coming up to budget time, they make a lot of arrests to demonstrate their need? Have you ever noticed that most of those arrests target the easiest groups of subjects, inter-city kids selling drugs? With every arrest, there goes another life getting trapped in the cycle little opportunity, busted, less or no opportunity. Even MacDonald’s won’t hire them.
Let’s continue to look at the tax ramifications. Currently, hundreds of millions of dollars are going overseas annually to fight “the war on drugs”; to strengthen the police and army’s of many other countries, to burn the crops of poor farmers overseas who are trying to feed their families. That is hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used here to address a plethora of need. There is also the political bad-will generated by the US taking action against poor farmers overseas, as opposed to dealing with those who become addicted and the causes that contribute to the dynamic of addiction. If I were they, I would be offended by the arrogance of a country trying to impose its will upon me for what is basically a matter of personal choice.
So in who’s interest is it to keep drugs illegal? I would suggest that many people and groups have an interest in maintaining the status quo. First and foremost, the large scale drug dealers. Drug dealers don’t want to lose the money and power. What about the prison industry? Isn’t it in their interest to have as many criminals as possible? What about the Drug Enforcement Agency? Where would their jobs go? What about churches? They are in the business of trying to control the definition of morality. Should that be the business of government or should governments try to keep people from injury or loss of property? What about politicians? They follow the votes and it’s easy to paint drug legalization with a very big bad brush. One has to look at legalization as a holistic proposition of change, education, rehabilitation and accountability or else it would be easy to envision countless cases of unfortunate outcomes. Remember, politicians only follow the votes and public opinion.
I know you are asking, “What about the lives that would be lost if drugs were legalized?” I’ll get to it. But first, I just want to summarize the current loses and ramifications because drugs are illegal.
· Drug profits keep many lazy, selfish, violent people in lives that they do not deserve.
· Drug profits support many ideologies that are bent on hurting/destroying others.
· We all lose the talents and ability of people who have chosen to use illegal drugs to contribute positively to society. (Paying taxes, helping police, pursuing careers that may involve taking a lie detector test or that utilizes drug testing.)
· The profits of the drug trade are not TAXED! This money could go far in addressing some of the more fundamentals issues surrounding the question of why people use drugs in destructive ways. It could also reduce the tax burden on current taxpayers.
· Farmers in the US are losing out a potential cash crop that could help preserve the concept of the family farm.
· There are numerous other possible businesses which currently do not exist because of the drug laws. Products made from hemp, etc.
· The drain of money for the war on drugs, the cost of prison confinement, the cost of recidivism to prison life, etc. all take valuable resources from Education, Rehabilitation, Career Development, Scholarships, etc.
· Police departments target the easiest subjects (inter-city kids) to keep their crime numbers up.
· Drug laws defining the act as a felony, in some states, preclude those who are convicted from voting. This further disenfranchises these individuals (mostly poor, mostly minority) from participating in our process of government.
· The prisons have less space for the truly dangerous offenders.
· Farmers overseas lose access to a crop that might help their families.
· Once busted, there are even less options that support ‘going straight’
· Presently, if a person chooses to use drugs, it is likely that he/she may have to deal with people who are shaky in character in order to obtain the drugs.
· The former simplistic campaign of ‘Just say No’ is not realistic in that it does not consider the complexity of the issues that may bring a person to chose to use drugs or alcohol. With drug testing and the like, many people may in fact ‘say no’, but not without resentment at having been manipulated – and the entire system suffers.
· People who are in need of drugs like marijuana for their medical conditions are denied help.
· However, the most damaging aspect of the current drug laws is the damage it does in terms of respect for our system of laws in general and the fact that children are also learning to disrespect laws because they watch adults who feel strongly enough about the issue of personal choice that they decide to ignore laws that get in their way.
Now back to the question of ‘What about the lives that would be lost if drugs were legalized’. Yes. Surely some lives would be lost. But the bigger question is ‘would that number be larger than under the current system?’ Remember, I am advocating a holistic approach involving a strong educational component, a strong rehabilitation component and a strong training component, which is funded by savings from the war on drugs and increased tax revenues. It would not be necessary to increase the tax burden on current taxpayers. In fact you are creating taxpayers. I believe there would be an actual net savings in lives. Not only would lives be saved but also they could be made productive! Even if that were not the case, the right of self-determination as to the degree of risk you chose to subject your body is of paramount importance.
To summarize with a question: What might it look like if we were to legalize all drugs and reallocate resources?
- People are not being made into criminals for conduct that should remain within the realm of free will and self-determination.
- The extraordinary profit motivation is removed from drug dealers.
- The potential tax benefits would be enormous that could fund many a social program.
- Farmers, here and abroad, would have another cash crop that could help their financial situations.
- Expensive prison space could be used for the violent offenders and thieves.
- Kids in the streets would need to find legitimate work to earn money.
- The focus of law enforcement would be targeting conduct that has the potential of harming others.
- The problem of alcohol abuse could actually receive more attention since it many times is involved in the addictive pattern, and as a result, medical costs nationwide due to alcohol related disease might actually go down. (Lost work hours to businesses may decrease also.)
- Resources currently used overseas in the war on drugs could be used here to address our many needs.
- An increased education and rehabilitation infrastructure would mean more jobs and help the economy.
- Those currently using drugs occasionally would have more reason to help police with crimes such as theft and violence.
- People who choose to use drugs responsibly could do so and still participate fully in society.
- Kids would not see as much disregard of the law, and may actually develop more respect for it – if the laws are rationally related to things that may cause harm to others.
- Our right to self-determination would be more intact.
- A lot more money could be available for early childhood education.
In conclusion, it is the sanctity of the system of laws that is at issue here. That system can only be respected if it is clearly, rationally related to trying to protect us from harm from others. However, it fails when the system attempts to usurp decisions from us that are clearly ours to make.
So therefore- see Senator Obama, you can come clean to me about the allegations of your use of illicit drugs and having gay sex with Larry Sinclair in 1999. Just do it. And where is the American media in this? AWOL. Cowards!
To Follow this story and for real time live information and up to date information regarding Mr. Larry Sinclair’s allegations, “Senator Obama and Larry Sinclair engaged in the illegal use of cocaine and engaged in gay sex in 1999”, see links below: