This week, President Obama was in Mexico City and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to stopping the transport and sale of illegal drugs in Mexico. He plans to redeploy 500 federal agents and more than $200 million to combat illegal drugs, money and weapons from being transported between Mexico and the United States.
Does anyone else have the impression that this isn’t going to work? It just seems like more of the same to me. For most of the twentieth century there were federal laws against various drugs. There have been federal agents trying to stop their sale and transport this whole time, but you know what? There’s still drugs out there. There is, however, a simple solution that will end the Mexican Drug War permanently:
Yes, you read that right. Now, that plan is probably setting off a fire alarm in your head. You’re probably thinking, “that’s crazy! If you legalize drugs, it’ll just cause the problem to get worse!” But, you see, it really won’t. The reason that there’s so much violence and danger associated with drugs is because they’re illegal.
A good comparison to the current drug war is the period of Prohibition. When alcohol was made illegal in the United States, it didn’t stop people from drinking. It only caused it go underground. Whenever you make a product or service illegal that people still want, you create a black market. In a black market, there’s no enforcement. You can’t file a complaint with the authorities or try to sue if the product you receive is dangerous. The people who supplied alcohol knew this, and would often “cut” alcohol with cheap, legal, but poisonous substitutes, like turpentine. And who were the suppliers during Prohibition? The mob, of course. And with the mob comes turf wars, violence, and just a whole big mess.
This, of course, is exactly what’s going on today with illegal drugs. People still want marijuana, cocaine, herion, etc. (at least, there’s a demand for it), and so people will supply it. People who can take advantage of the fact that it’s illegal and not have to bother with supplying safe(r) products.
After Prohibition, what happened? Did the gang wars and drinking problem get worse? No. It actually got a lot better. Think about it. Today, are there turf wars over alcohol? Are people getting mowed down in the street because of them? Are people dying from having a single drink? No. It would be ridiculous to think so.
The reason is because, with legalization, comes regulation and taxation. If you legalize drugs, the people making a profit on it won’t be drug barons and street pushers, it would be publicly-traded companies like Anheuser-Busch, Philip-Morris, and so on. We may vilify these companies for producing products that are dangerous, but they’re not selling to kids or murdering people to keep their market share. If we legalized drugs, the cartels will suddenly lose all their power and collapse. Drugs would be sold over the counter, in smoke shops and supermarkets (who check IDs, by the way).
Of course, drugs are still dangerous by themselves. There’s no denying that. But it would be a much better controlled danger, with doses and quality assured.