Thursday, May 29, 2008

The right to abuse drugs

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." (Hunter S. Thompson)
On FD today one of the anti-every-reproductive-choice-except-birth gang brings up an interesting side-issue while trying to drum up support for the "Pill Kills" protest happening on June 7 (mark your calendars). Predictably, not many endorse this ridiculous notion -- whatever you think of their conservative views, most FDers actually aren't totally batshit crazy. (Really!) Many of those responding to the thread rightfully insist that people can make decisions about their own bodies for themselves. Suddenly authoritarianism rears its ugly head and comes roaring full-throttle up the outside lane:

Good question -- why do we tolerate laws against drug abuse and suicide? Because they really serve no useful purpose.

That suicide is illegal is something too ridiculous to even contemplate, since someone who successfully commits the crime is obviously in no condition to be punished for it. As for drug laws, we're well over 1/4 century into the so-called War On Drugs, and no closer to winning than we were in 1972. Punitive drug laws have proven to be stupid and ineffective in almost every way possible, except keeping the corrections industry afloat, enriching drug dealers and satisfying the primitive authoritarian urge to punish "bad behaviour".

As weird as it sounds, we do have a right to abuse drugs -- it's just a right that, hopefully, we don't exercise, or at least not to the point where it becomes destructive. We're certainly up to the task of making decisions about drugs for ourselves -- most of us don't need a law to tell us that being a junkie is a bad deal, we can figure it out. Those who don't figure it out, or who figure it out but go ahead and do it anyway, need medical help for the disease of addiction, not incarceration and a lifelong criminal record dogging them. Should someone with heart disease from smoking and eating junk food be incarcerated? Duh. Oh right, Big Macs aren't illegal -- but so what? Heroin shouldn't be either.

Apart from the health issues, most of the problems around drug abuse originate with the Law, and the fact that drugs are illegal. Illegality makes for high legal liability which in turn makes for astronomical cost, and that's the cause of all the property crime and sex trade work. You can't support a habit slopping coffee and donuts at Tim Horton's.

After 36 years with no discernible progress, the stupidity of drug laws should be self-evident. We do have a right to abuse drugs if we so choose, just as we have a right to eat Big Macs and smoke cigarettes. They are all bad decisions, but they are our decisions to make, and ours alone.