Op-ed: The US Government Should Legalize Drugs — Here’s How

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If the US is to legalize drugs, it must be done methodically. (Image Credit: Reason Foundation)

The specter of magic bullets and mushrooms have timelessly tormented the lives of those who live in the US. Perennial embargoes on the sale and consumption of drugs seem to have only propagated the popularity of these illegal substances. Under these circumstances, it is no surprise that more than 1 million people have died since 1999 from overdoses caused by drugs. Nevertheless, a new generation, freshly liberalized in thought from the confinement and captivity of Covid-19 are now fighting for the legalization of many illicit substances. Recently, America’s democrats have taken the position of decriminalizing drugs. In fact, some left-winged congressional representatives have begun introducing bills that would decriminalize all drug possession. With the current trend of society leaning leftward, it seems almost inevitable that drug legalization will come into effect. The politicians in Washington will be forced to come up with a legalization plan that doesn’t lead to catastrophe.

To do this, the government must base their policies on the lessons learned from their antecedents, countries who have already legalized drugs. A blanket, unregulated, and sudden decriminalization on drugs would have disastrous effects. Overnight, drugs would be as common as water; the virus of addiction would spread across America. The effects of unrestricted proliferation would be disastrous. Instead, the government ought to slowly legalize while providing treatment to those suffering from the consequences of narcotics.

In the end of the day, not all drug users are addicted. Only about 25% of people who use illicit drugs develop an addiction. The success of government de-criminalization will be judged on its ability to make drugs safer and how well it protects and rehabilitates those who are addicted. 

First, the US government must invest heavily in drug rehabilitation centers. Most drugs themselves do not pose serious harm unless it leads to addiction. In fact, Marijuana has been found to be less dangerous than alcohol. It is addiction that can lead to people searching for drugs with increased potencies and overdose. Rehabilitation centers can help to curb addiction by preventing and stopping overdependency on drugs. By building these sanctuaries before de-criminalization, society is prepared for a rise in addiction.

Second, the government will have to create their own drug supply chains. The black market for drugs is highly dangerous; partly because many elicit substances on it are laced with fentanyl. In the past few years, it has become more common for drugs such as Cocaine to contain Fentanyl in them. This is because it is more addictive and cheaper to create than Cocaine is. Fentanyl is, however, much more dangerous than Cocaine, which has a purity fluctuating from 20-90%. The government should set up their own supply chains and drug distribution centers to discourage citizens from buying impure street drugs which may contain other substances in them. Instead, the government should sell their own purified drugs, substances which can be much safer than street drugs. They should then require that all narcotics be bought from government-run facilities. Those who used to buy from the black market are now incentivized to buy drugs from the government because they can get similar products at a much lower risk to themselves financially and punitively. This can help to promote safer drug usage in society.

Third, the government should decriminalize drugs one at a time. Some drugs are more dangerous than others. For example, the NIH found that Crack Cocaine was most harmful drug, compared with LSD which was found to be only a little more harmful than Nicotine, a drug commonly found in cigarettes. The government should not legalize drugs that can lead to over 1/3 of users becoming addicted. Instead, they should slowly decriminalize safer drugs to keep society running.

There are many benefits to legalizing drugs. For one, they prop up the economy: A UN advisor even claimed that drug money saved the US economy in 2008. The decriminalization of drugs could even destroy the black market for the substances, ending the use of impure drugs. Whatever the government chooses to do, they must not hand this industry to the free market for mega-corporations to wreak havoc on society. Companies ought not to be handed the power to profit off addiction, death, and misery. The United States must learn from the mistakes of not regulating cigarettes in the 1900s and instead nationalize the drug industry.

Written by Pacey Qi

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