Why legalize marijuana?
"I see America with half the number of prisons, half the number of prisoners, 10,000 fewer homicides a year, inner cities in which there's a chance for these poor people to live without being afraid for their lives, citizens who might be respectable who are now addicts, not being subject to become criminals in order to get their drug, being able to get drugs for which they're sure of the quality."
Isn't it a gateway drug to harder substances?
"The effect of criminalization is to drive people from mild drugs to strong drugs... Crack would never have existed in my opinion if you had not had drug prohibition. It was drug prohibition- why was crack created? Because cocaine was so expensive." [Cocaine was so expensive because of drug prohibition.]
But what about the morality of legalization?
"It's not an economic problem at all. It's a moral problem. The economics part of it- I'm an economist- the economics problem is strictly tertiary. It's a moral problem. It's a problem of the harm which government is doing. Look, I have estimated statistically that the prohibition of drugs produces on the average, 10,000 homicides a year."
Isn't it good to discourage drug use?
"The case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong- and as weak- as preventing people from overeating. We all know that overeating causes more deaths than drugs do... where do you draw the line?"
What scares you the most about the notion of drugs being legal?
"Nothing scares me about the notion of drugs being legal. What scares me is the notion of continuing on the path we're on now, which will destroy our free society."
Public Health Concerns
Opponents of legalization seem to be just as committed as the prolegalization lobby. They believe that the legalization of drugs would have devastating effects on public health, the economy, quality of life, American culture, and society as a whole. The advocacy group Drug Watch International points out that drugs are illegal “because of their intoxicating effect on the brain, damaging impact on the body, adverse impact on behavior, and potential for abuse. Their use threatens the health, welfare, and safety of all people, of users and nonusers alike.”12 Legalization advocates contend that the same statement could be made about alcohol. William J. Bennett, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, responds to that claim, arguing “that legalized alcohol, which is responsible for some 100,000 deaths a year, is hardly the model for drug policy. As Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, the question is not which is worse, alcohol or drugs. The question is, can we accept both legalized alcohol and legalized drugs? The answer is No.”13 Morton M. Kondracke of the New Republic magazine discusses another comparison between drugs and alcohol: “Of the 115 million Americans who consume alcohol, 85 percent rarely become intoxicated; with drugs, intoxication is the whole idea.”14 Legalization opponents believe that our already burdened health care industry would be overwhelmed if drugs were legal. This would come in the form of direct results of drug use (more overdoses, more AIDS patients, and more illness stemming from addiction) and indirect results of drugs (more injuries due to drug-related violence, accidents, and workplace incidents). They also believe that legalization would increase the number of emergency room visits, ambulance calls, and fire and police responses. The ONDCP reports that in 2002 direct health care costs attributable to illegal drug abuse were $52 billion.15 In addition, legalization opponents disagree with legalization advocates regarding whether legalization would increase drug use. Legalization opponents believe that drug use would increase dramatically if drugs were made legal and easy to obtain. William J. Bennett uses the example of crack cocaine. He writes: “When powder cocaine was expensive and hard to get, it was found...
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