If you say to drug legalization advocates that you want to find a way to limit the loss of innocent life that results from drugs due to impairment, they often invoke the loss of innocent lives that results from alcohol. That response is beyond irrational. They seem to think that because we permit A, and as a result deaths follow, then we ought to permit B, even though deaths follow. The argument is a foolish non sequitur. The existence of one death-dealing evil is not a moral or rational justification for the existence of another.
They argue as if they have little or no regard for the loss of innocent life. They are quite happy to expand the list of potential victims as long as they themselves get to injure and befuddle their own minds in a cloud of reality-banishing THCs, in a hedonistic orgy of cowardly self-indulgence. Amazingly, they use the death of innocents from alcohol as a reason to legalize drug use. Regarding alcohol, they rightly identify the loss of innocent life as an evil, but they don’t offer any ways to limit that loss of life; they offer it as a justification for legalizing additional drugs. It seems never to occur to them to ask this question: “How many drugs can a society legalize and still remain a society?” Instead of asking that question, they say, “We legalize alcohol and people die, so let’s legalize pot and have even more people die. Why should killing others be limited to the drinkers? Give us the chance too.” Death means nothing to them, and their arguments prove it. What matters to them is another way to get high.
Despite the occasionally deadly consequences of impairment, which they invoke regarding the drug alcohol, they still argue that taking drugs is a victimless crime. But their argument regarding alcohol-caused impairment overtly says it is not. Alcohol is a drug. Because it sometimes causes death-dealing impairment, it is not victimless. It is a death-risk taking enterprise. The death it risks is often someone else’s. If you point this out to them, they say that lots of things risk injury and death to others, yet we permit them. But that response simply invokes the same stupid argument invoked above. The fact that life has lots of risks, some of them deadly, is not a justification for adding even more deadly risks to the list. The fact that life has risks already is not a reason to multiply them. Tell us why we ought to risk MORE innocent lives just so you can get high.
Drug usage and drug legalization are not all-or-nothing issues. The question is not “Should we legalize all drugs or no drugs?” Wisdom is not found in the false assertion that “If we legalize one drug then we ought to legalize them all.” That’s just the all-or-nothing intellectual extremism of an irrational and imprudent mind. The real question is, as noted above, “How many drugs can a society legalize and still remain a society? The answer is neither “all of them” nor “none of them.” We might have to draw a line somewhere other than at either extreme. Drawing lines is sometimes quite difficult. But difficulty is no reason for declining our obligation to make reasoned and nuanced choices.
If I were an advocate of drug legalization, then I’d make this offer: Let’s do for drug use what we did for smoking. We started large campaigns, both public and private, to warn folks of smoking’s awful dangers and risks. We limited its usage to certain ages and certain places. We made no smoking ages and no smoking zones. We limited its advertising. We issued graphic warning labels. As a result, the percentage of smokers has declined over the years. To date, I have never heard even one drug legalization proponent suggest we do the same for smoking pot that we did for smoking tobacco: Keep it legal; educate folks incessantly and tirelessly against it; and limit its use to certain age groups and places. Legalizing it ought to go closely together with speaking out against it.
But think carefully for a moment about the principle and practice of limiting drug usage to certain age groups. We do that because we consider some folks too immature to handle drugs (and alcohol). We limit usage to some persons, or groups of persons. We aren’t talking here about children or teens indulging legally. They are too immature to indulge. That is too destructive and dangerous a practice to permit. So, for those folks, we criminalize it. But if immaturity disqualifies you from use, then remember that immaturity is not an age but a condition of mind and character, things not well identified by age. Age tells how long you’ve been on the road, not how far you’ve travelled. Age restrictions are maturity-based assumptions. Regarding many folks, those assumptions are both arbitrary and mistaken. Some folks in their 50s are too immature to use drugs. (One thinks here of the mayor of Toronto.) Some in their 20s are not too immature. Age is no reliable indicator.
But almost all thinking people agree that drugs ought to be prohibited for at least some. By so thinking, they are selective prohibitionists. They are for prohibition, but only in selected cases. The real issue then is not “prohibition or no prohibition,” but where, and how, to draw the prohibition line. They tend to draw it at a younger age; I tend to draw it at a higher age. Because both sides agree on prohibition of some sort, then now all we have to haggle over is where to draw the prohibition line, not if to draw it. If you are against drawing any line at all, if you wish to legalize drugs even for children, you are beyond the pale of common sense. You cannot be trusted with drugs.
Please notice that those who wish to draw the line at a certain age practice prohibition despite their argument that prohibition leads to a black market and to violence. What they think ought to be a convincing argument to others against prohibition they themselves reject in this case. Yet somehow they are surprised to see others reject an argument they themselves reject.