Some Dopes are Now Legal in Colorado

This week’s news stories would make you think that the sky had fallen or the Lord had returned to establish his kingdom or something. Marijuana was legalized.

This is hardly a big deal. You still can’t smoke it in public, so stoners will have to do it in private. How is this different, pray tell, from what they were doing before?

“But it’s legal now!” Again, I have to ask, “So what?” Everybody who wanted to smoke dope was already doing it, and practically nobody was getting caught (since cops have other things to worry about).

There are three distinct arguments among my libertarian friends for legalizing recreational drugs:

  1. People should be free to do as they please, except for fraud or the initiation of force.
  2. The effects of prohibition are worse than the effects of legalization.
  3. The benefits of legalization are too attractive to pass up.

The first argument is an assumption based on atheism. Since there is a God and he has given certain rights and responsibilities to the State (and others to individuals), the first argument is powerless, although it does provide a powerful tool for criticizing government actions.

The third argument is profoundly unsound. No amount of tax revenue could justify an otherwise evil action.

I have a lot of sympathy with the second argument. The “War on Drugs” has been the most colossal failure of anything government has ever done (and readers, that’s saying a lot!) It seems incontrovertible that nothing is going to stop people from doing dope. Why, then, sink hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars into the effort?

This argument says nothing about the morality of using drugs. Instead, it says something about the purpose and responsibilities of the State.

There is a higher level on which the issue might be discussed, too, and that is the matter of personal responsibility. I favor a world where people can take their chances and take their losses. The old saying is that to protect people from the consequences of their folly will be to fill the world with fools.

There was a time when drugs were legal. You could buy heroin at the pharmacy. “Dope fiends” were scarce. That day could return.