In celebration of Illinois’ new, drastic reduction in the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana (1), the topic of this post is drug prohibition. I will begin with the question of whether or not there is any basis for such a policy. Then, I will refute some common arguments for the criminality of drug use, sale, or possession.
First, what conclusions can we draw based on our Framework? Does a person using drugs in any way violate another person’s right to life or property? Of course not. It doesn’t impact anyone else. Does the possession of drugs violate another person’s right to life or property? No again. Simply possessing an item or substance has no impact on anyone else. Does the sale of drugs violate anyone’s right to life or property? No. In a voluntary transaction, only the rights of the party’s involved can be violated, and only if there is fraud (i.e. transfer of different product than agreed upon, breach of contract, etc.).
So if the use, sale or possession of drugs doesn’t violate anyone’s rights, why do so many insist on their prohibition? The common argument is that:
- Drugs ruin peoples lives, so we should prevent people from using them in the first place.
But is this really true? It may be true that someone may make a poor decision while using drugs, or choose more often to purchase and use drugs over other necessities and more productive activities, but the drugs themselves don’t make those decisions. Drugs may be harmful to your health, but that does not mean we should make them illegal, for the same reason that other potentially harmful activities or substances aren’t illegal. They don’t violate anyone’s rights. Locking someone up or fining them simply for possessing or using a substance, actually violates their rights.
The next common argument is then:
- If a drug user’s life is ruined, it is a burden on the rest of society, because we must then take care of them.
But must we? A person’s choices in life are their responsibility, not “society’s”. You could argue that morally, we should take care of the less fortunate, but we have no obligation. For the drug user (or anyone else) to claim that we do, constitutes the violation of other people’s rights to life and property (I touched on this a bit in a previous post and I will probably go more in depth on this point in a future post).
The last argument then is that:
- The sale of drugs should be illegal, since the seller knows they are providing a harmful product.
But the purchaser knows they are buying a potentially harmful product. The purchaser still values the drug and wishes to purchase it. Both parties feel the transaction is in their interest, or the transaction would not take place. Prohibiting the transaction from taking place is a violation of both party’s rights to free association and trade.
As we have seen, the use, possession or sale of drugs does not constitute the violation of anyone’s rights. The act of prohibiting these activities does constitute the violation of rights, and as such, the prohibition of drugs is immoral. This is why we should end the prohibition on drugs, and end the drug war.