A week ago, having read the sad little piece written by a mother whose son was on drugs, I put some questions up on my I'm Listening blog on payson.com.
The main one was this: "How do you folks feel about the claim sometimes made that we would be better off if drugs were legalized?"
The feedback from the folks up on the blog amazed me. I don't know any of them personally, but I've gotten to know them quite well by what they say, and what they stand for. That's why I was amazed to see comments that I'll paraphrase, summarize and slightly expand on here.
Here they are:
1. We have lost the "war on drugs."
2. Anyone who wants drugs can get them.
3. The cost of the "war on drugs" to the country, which runs to billions of dollars, is straining our economy.
4. Our police are unable to keep up with drug enforcement, and are therefore unable to take care of things they used to handle well.
5. A prime cause of crimes of theft, such as identity theft and break-ins, is the need for drug users to support their habit.
6. Our prison system is overburdened.
7. Education, not criminalization, is the answer.
8. Drug sales support gangs, organized crime, and terrorists.
From a wise-sounding retiree who was a public servant for 30 years: "There are times I think it should be legalized."
From the same person: "Surely, unless we do legalize and regulate the now "illicit" drug industry, we will never get [the money] to pay for the unacceptable social effects of their products."
And again: "I think one of the reasons I can't bring myself to get onboard with the legalization aspect is that to do so is either sending the message that I approve of, or condone, drug use, or that I wasn't willing to "stand the line" in the war on drugs."
From a clear-thinking blog user: "Why not treat drugs the same as alcohol? Tax it, regulate it, prosecute its abuse, and treat those abusers?"
From another person of the same clear-thinking type: "I'm not saying that drugs should be legal, but maybe we should quit jailing people for possession and start using that cell space for thieves and killers regardless of why they steal or kill."
Please understand that a lot more was said, but the rough summary I've given you is reasonably accurate. A few facts emerge which have tremendous significance: One, the people who responded seem to agree that the war on drugs is lost. Two, they also appear to be saying that it is doing more harm than good. Three, they would probably legalize drugs if they weren't worried that they might send a signal that it is "OK" to do drugs.
So, here's my question to you: Education has worked dramatically where smoking is concerned. Some people still smoke, but the percentage is far less than before. Do you think education is the answer for drugs? Should we legalize drug use, harshly punish drug sales to minors, and use the money saved for an aggressive education program?
I'm still of two minds about this -- how do you feel about it?