[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/13/stutman.art.jpg caption="Robert Stutman is a former Special Agent with the DEA."]
By Robert M. Stutman
Special to CNN
Editor's note: Robert M. Stutman is a former Special Agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Principal of The Stutman Group.
Gee, things aren't going great in the war on drugs: violence in Mexico; more and more kids using dangerous drugs at an early age; kids overdosing all over the country from drugs like heroin and OxyContin. If you like this and want a lot more, let's give any drug to any person at any age who wants to use it and see where that gets us.
Our present system is not perfect and needs a lot of fixing, but blowing up the system and giving up completely would be like a contractor who has to demolish a building and instead of using dynamite to take down the building, uses a nuclear device to take down the city. Granted the system is not perfect, but fortunately, even most religions don't demand perfection, they demand of you to try your best. Surrendering is not trying our best!
Counterpoint – Commentary: Legalize drugs
Drugs are not bad because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are bad. About 12% of regular alcohol users become alcohol addicts. About 12-50% of users of drugs (depending on the drug and age of user) become addicts. Right now there are about 175 million regular users of alcohol (at a 12% addiction rate) that equals about 20 million alcoholics. Most studies and even most anti prohibitionists agree that if all drugs are made legal the use of these drugs will significantly increase. A study in Alaska after marijuana decriminalization showed a doubling of marijuana regular use. There are 175 million regular users of alcohol in the US and about 20 million drug users. Do those figures fall out that way by accident? Certainly not—one is legal one is not. Most experts agree that a fair number for the increase in users, if we make all drugs available to anyone who wants them, is about five times the present number of users. Five times 20 million is about 100 million drug users with an average addiction rate of 25% (depending on drug and age). Therefore, we end up with an additional 25 million addicts on top of the 20 million alcoholics we already have. Can we handle that?
Who will pay for the increased addicts who can't work; need health care; and need public assistance, etc? What about the significant increase in overdoses, spousal abuse, child abuse, automobile accidents. These issues are not a guess they are already here with alcohol. Why would anyone with any common sense want to add on cumulatively to the alcohol addiction problem we already have?
By the way, for those who make the specious argument that there is no proof if we legalize drugs and make them available presumably at a cheaper price the use won't go up, I would ask them if that is our experience with alcohol. Study after study shows that if you significantly raise the tax base on alcohol (or tobacco), the user rate significantly decreases. Lower the price, and use goes up. It's not magic, its economics 101.
Finally, the argument of whether we will do away with cartels and crime and violence associated with drug sales by legalizing, has some merit. If you are willing to give all drugs to all people at any age—crack to 12 year olds who want it—then you will certainly affect the crime associated with the drug problem. But as soon as you place some black markets in the picture (no one under age 18 can get legal drugs) then the cartels will simply re-market their product to the group who can't get the drug legally. If the government raises the tax the cartels will sell the product cheaper. Remember their cost of goods sold is almost zero so they can sell much cheaper than the government. Crack as a drug was marketed by drug groups in New York in 1985 in order to lower the price of cocaine (from $100 per gram to $5 a vial) in order to specifically reach the children's market. The government is not that good in anything to compete with the cartels. We will always lose the marketing/sales battle.
Legalization is a grand experiment, which if we tried and it didn't work, we could not eradicate. Once drugs have been made available legally in societies they can rarely be taken back.
Finally, for those who say drug addiction is a "victimless crime," I wish they would tell that to the mom I met recently at a speech who told a group, "My son is 37, has been an addict for 22 years, and I wish he had died. My husband and I are divorced because of him; none of his siblings talk to each other because of him; and worst of all he has a 4 year old daughter and I know what is going to happen to her." Victimless crime?...Anyone who says that has spent too much time in universities and not enough time seeing the real world that drugs and alcohol cause.