One of the states in my country recently imposed a ban on liquor. A ban may turn out to be useful, or it may turn out to do more harm than good. Alcoholics may turn to the black market for liquor, and end up paying more and thus worsen their economic condition.
And this got me thinking about other substances the governments across the world have banned. Things such as liquor, which were banned earlier to a large extent in countries such as America, are now legal. So what changed? Did the people somehow become responsible enough to handle liquor or did the government realize that the ban wasn’t effective? Are any non violent drug dealers arrested today really in the wrong? If the government were to decide to legalize drugs tomorrow, then would they be released? After all the only crime of such drug dealers would have been performing a certain act before the government deemed it right to do so. And does a government’s declaration really make a wrong act right or a right act wrong?
The even more frustrating act of governments is punishing distributors of drugs more than the consumers. The laws are framed under the belief that the consumers are fragile willed creatures, and therefore it is not their fault that they consumed drugs with full awareness of what it will do to them. The distributors deliver a required product to consumers. They persuade people to buy their product, but that is something all salesmen do. Everything is designed to be as addictive as possible. Cakes make you fat, social media dissipates your time; everything affects you in some negative way. The government doesn’t ban cakes for the fear of obesity, because most of the population know how much to consume. Those who want to remain fit do not beg for a ban on cakes; they teach themselves to resist its allure. It seems absurd that lack of willpower on the consumer’s side somehow shifts the blame to the producers and distributors.
Regardless of whether bans on items of consumption are useful or not, I consider them to be immoral. I do not believe that any governing authority has the right to restrict what a person may or may not consume.
It is apparent that many of those consuming drugs are not leading a very delightful life and that most of them will be negatively impacted by the use of drugs. I understand and admit the dangers of such harmful drugs, yet remain impervious to these in my views against role of government in banning them.
“The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self protection. That the only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” – John Stuart Mill (Harm Principle)
The primary victims of substance abuse are the users themselves. It is their life to squander as they please, and the government has no role in regulating what a person consumes as long as it does not impact others.
An argument may be raised regarding how people on drugs commit crimes, and I will partly concede to such an argument. Yet although consumption of a substance may increase the chances of a person committing a crime, it is insufficient a reason for imposition of a ban.
For one, the ban itself leads to more violence than would be caused by the drug consumers. The reason for violence in drug dealing activities is due to the ban imposed on drugs. The ban restricts the supply, driving up the cost of the substance, and thus makes it a worthwhile investment for drug cartels. If drugs were sold like cigarettes, then there would be no such violence involved.
Two, not only those consuming drugs are going to commit crimes. Furthermore, people using drugs such as marijuana are less likely to commit crimes than people who are drunk. The impact of drugs such as marijuana on health is also much less than the impact of cigarettes and liquor.
A much more laudable approach would be investing more heavily in rehabilitation centers to help those seeking help. A major part of why people, especially teenagers, start using drugs is because drugs are illegal.
Consider this, you are walking on a footpath, and there is a stray dog nearby. You are walking past the dog, and suddenly it starts barking. There are two scenarios.
In the first scenario, you run. The dog will undoubtedly begin to chase you. In the second scenario, you maintain your pace, ignore the dog, and move ahead. The dog will not run after you.
Take another example. You are told a dozen times to not open a particular box. Once left unsupervised, what is the first thing you do? You open the box.
The point I’m trying to make is that a major part of the appeal that these drugs and other substances have to people is due to them being illegal. There is a thrill element involved, and this plays a major role in attracting consumers. It may not be the reason people continue using substances, but the curiosity does play a role in getting them started.
I believe that by banning substances and making them illegal, the government
1) increases curiosity leading to new consumers
2) augments violence surrounding drugs
3) creates laws on matters it has no right to