George Will predicts in his syndicated column this morning that hard drugs — cocaine, methamphetamine, etc. — will be legalized in America. This is one of the rare times I think Mr. Will is wrong. I pray he is anyway.
All the arguments for legalizing drugs are sound, but one. Casual users will not remain casual where hard drugs are concerned. If substances like cocaine and smoking-grade “black” heroin are made cheaply and legally available in this country, which they would be under legalization, you could kiss millions of American lives goodbye. Mr. Will rightly argues that 80% of illegal drugs in America are consumed today by 20% of illegal drug users, just as about one in five Americans drink 80% of all the booze produced. But most Americans have never tried cocaine, crack cocaine, or its ilk. Providing drugs like that with a government imprimatur of acceptability — which legalization would do — would lead to widespread experimentation and addiction. It would gnaw at the soul of this country, as it already does.
When I think about the legalization of drugs — and I think about it a lot when reading about the violence American drug use has brought to our cousins in Mexico and in other Latin American countries — I think about the legalization of abortion. Two totally different issues of course. But did anyone believe in 1970 in New York when abortion was legalized to end dangerous “back alley” procedures, that more than 40% of all pregnancies in New York City — a million a decade — would be terminated, 60% in the black community? No way they did. It could not have been predicted. But that rate of abortion occurs because the procedure has become an option to carrying a baby to term. It has been added to the menu of legally permissible choices in this country. With that went the taint of the concept to millions. Legalizing drugs would invariably remove taint as well.
Government has stepped into so many areas of our lives in the U.S. that we have begun to rely on it for guiding principles. It attempts to regulate everything, from what we eat to how we speak to how we raise our children. If that same paternalistic government implicitly gives the green light to drug use, regardless of the package warning labels it would require, a lot of people, who would not otherwise, will begin putting things in their noses, lungs, and stomachs with very bad consequences.
Isn’t it ironic that a society seeking to ban tobacco, sugared soft-drinks, and trans fats is soberly discussing legalizing smack?
There is no question that the “War on Drugs” is not working. But is the answer declaring war on ourselves? It can’t be. It just can’t.