While I’m largely of the same mind as Freddie on the subject of drug legalization, which may indeed be the best way to defeat the cartels and avoid the sort of civil war (a la Anbar Awakening) that Chris warns of, I do have some concerns about the implementation. Freddie’s concern over the militarization of the police, and the use of the military as a police-force, is not even hypothetical anymore, as the National Guard has indeed been called to the borders, and Democrats and Republicans alike have called for increased use of the military to help stop up leaky borders, fight increasingly powerful drug cartels, and so forth.
However, I do wonder two things: First, is a call for the legalization of drugs en masse really politically pragmatic? Obviously pragmatism is not the only consideration, but is this option even remotely likely to succeed? And second, is there not a more conservative, cautious approach that could be taken?
I am not completely sold on the idea that legalization of all drugs is even necessary to cut the cartels off at the knees, or to free up sufficient resources to actually make a decent effort at halting much of the drug trade. Marijuana, for instance, accounts for the vast majority of all drug-related arrests, and the legalization of marijuana only would free up a great deal of money, prison space, as well as add a steady stream of tax revenue on marijuana sales to supplement the effort against harder, more dangerous substances.
A third consideration is whether or not we, as a nation, could condone the legal sale of a drug such as crystal methamphetamine. If the free market did, indeed, step in to provide meth for purposes of recreational use, could we as a society reconcile the sale of such a destructive substance with our ethical and moral framework?
The argument could be made that similar questions could revolve around the sale of alcohol, also arguably a very dangerous substance–indeed, quite a lot more dangerous than marijuana, and responsible for far more deaths. Still, alcohol can be used in moderation, and when a clerk at a grocery store sells a six-pack to a shopper, they don’t necessarily worry that that person is going to go out and get wasted and overdose. Could the same clerk exchange meth or heroin for money and do so with a clean conscience? This is due in part to our long history as an alcohol-consuming society, and partly due to the fact that alcohol can indeed be used responsibly. The same simply cannot be said for drugs like heroin or crack or crystal meth.
This is a major stumbling block in the War to End the War on Drugs, and inevitably circles into the region of pragmatism vs. principle. Even if we knew, conclusively, that legalizing these substances would end the militarization of our police, destroy the cartels, and free a good number of non-violent offenders, could we reconcile that with consequences of societal acceptance of the sale of these substances?
I do believe it’s time to stop treating drug users, no matter the substance, as criminals. But I have yet to be convinced that legalizing the hardest of our illegal drugs will serve to make this nation any safer, healthier, or prevent people from destroying their lives with poisons that simply have no place in any society.