Vice Squad
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Alcohol and Nicotine as Warnings Against Drug Legalization

In the comments section of this post over at Drug WarRant, 'Sam from Ithaca' looks for a brief rejoinder to a common argument against drug legalization....
Sometimes, prohibitionists use the following argument.

"Of course alcohol and tobacco kill zillions more Americans each year than all illegal drugs put together. That's because they're legal. Imagine how much worse things would be if other drugs were legal, too."

I invite everyone to share their "elevator speech" in response to this argument.
A few subsequent commenters volunteered suggestions, and 'Sam' indicated that he or she was excluding cannabis from the discussion, because of its relative lack of dangerousness. Here's my quick response:
Legal availability of drugs to adults for recreational purposes does not require a regime anywhere near as lenient as that surrounding alcohol and tobacco. Advance purchases can be required from state or regulated monopoly providers, advertising can be controlled, public consumption can be outlawed, quantity limitations can be put in place, taxes can be imposed, and buyers can be licensed, for instance. More dangerous forms of the drugs -- heroin as opposed to opium, for example -- can face stricter regimes. Enforcement and regulatory resources can then be targeted at the most socially costly types of drug use, while preventing low risk adults from facing arrest for behavior that is not blameworthy, and while greatly reducing black markets, with all their attendant harms.


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