Monday, April 21, 2003

Advice to Those Fighting to Legalize Drugs
By Alexander Marriott
UNLV Rebel Yell: April 24, 2003


In light of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter at UNLV having its funding withdrawn, I think it’s time to rethink the strategy employed thus far that has led to the break between the national organization and our campus chapter.

As far as I can tell, the use of the marijuana plant upon flyers and organization literature, as well as on shirts, etc., angered the national organization to the point where they thought the UNLV chapter was doing more harm than good. They have a point, sensible drug policy includes more drugs than just marijuana, where are the shirts with lines of cocaine and heroin needles? But I don’t advocate wearing shirts that have drug paraphernalia on them in order to make the argument for drug legalization.

It’s not necessary, or even desirable, for one to use drugs or want to use drugs in order to want their legalization. There are two perfectly legitimate arguments to make for legalizing drugs, ones I rarely hear around here, and one very bad argument, which I hear far too often.

The bad argument first. It goes something like this, “Tobacco and alcohol kill far more people every year than marijuana and most other drugs, if not all of them put together, yet tobacco and alcohol are legal. Therefore, all other drugs should be legal too.” The reason this argument isn’t effective is because to make it you have to accept the premise that drugs kill people, whether it’s alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, or whatever. If you accept this premise as valid then the proper response is not to legalize all drugs, but to outlaw all of them because they are, in effect, murderers. It would be as if I said, “Handguns and rifles kills far more people every year than tanks and rocket propelled grenades, handguns and rifles are legal, therefore tanks and rocket-propelled grenades should be legal as well.” This is absurd reasoning though, inanimate objects can’t kill anyone and if you think they can then I suggest you do a little experiment. Sit in a room with a gun, a pack of cigarettes, and a bottle of gin. Don’t touch them; just wait for them to kill you. Time, though, inanimate as it is, will kill you.

The proper arguments for legalizing drugs are divided into two categories, weak and strong. The weak argument is this, “The constitution allows for no regulation of drugs by the Federal Government, therefore the DEA is an illegal institution.” This is true, but if the constitution were amended you’d have no ground to stand on. Plus you can then do nothing about the states, because they would be able to still make drugs illegal and enforce it. Plus there could be a law for anything, the Nuremberg Laws were used to justify Nazi atrocities; just because one has a law doesn’t make it right.

The strong argument is much more effective and can’t be assailed easily. It goes like this, “Humans are born with their lives and their liberty. They own their life and therefore their body. They can do with their body, as it is their inviolable property, whatever they wish, so long as it doesn’t violate the rights of anyone else (meaning it doesn’t infringe on the property, life, or liberty of others.) Drugs only damage the bodies and minds of those who use them. Therefore, they have a perfect right to buy or grow any drug they want and to use it.”

This does not mean that they can drive under the influence of drugs. Just as one cannot drive under the influence of alcohol, it would be illegal to drive under the influence of any other mind-altering drug.

It also does not mean that if you are worried about your friend or relative using drugs that your rights are violated. If you are worried then you have only recourse to private means of getting them to stop. If you cannot convince them to voluntarily stop using drugs that doesn’t mean you can bring the state into the matter to make you feel better, and the state has no right to intervene anyway.

It’s not cool to use illegal drugs, and I would never recommend it but I don’t presume to speak for the likes and dislikes of others and as I don’t want my rights violated I won’t violate other’s rights. As long as they don’t violate mine or anyone else’s in the process they can shoot up whatever the hell they want, if this means that they die from overdose then that is their own fault. I won’t and can’t be responsible for their mistake. Drug use is stupid, pointless, and contemptible, just as killing your dog would be, or raising a Nazi flag in your lawn, or burning a cross on your property. But you have the right, as you own your body, your lawn (presumably), and any animals, to do all of these things, but you also will be held responsible for all of them.

If you don’t get jobs because of your drug use, that’s your fault. If you die from drug use, that’s your fault. If all of your neighbors hate your Nazi-dog-killing ass, that’s your fault. Freedom means the freedom to do things, but also to live by the consequences of your actions. Just as if you speak publicly, and say something stupid or unpopular and then people don’t deal with you any longer. Unfortunately, the latter part of freedom is oft misunderstood and ignored.

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