Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Legality =/= Prescription

Just because something is legal to do doesn’t mean it should be done.

Some find it easy to bring up the idea of drug legalization as a way of getting everyone stoned or intoxicated. This red herring of an argument is common and appeals to our emotions. No one wants to be a loser drug addict. They feel their better than that. They may cut their own arm off before ensuring a life of drug addiction for them and their loved ones through legalization.

What they fail to understand is legal activities aren’t always desirable ones. For instance, one can never tip serves at restaurants. This activity is not enforced, it is legal not to pay a tip. Yet we see most people pay a tip. Why is this? Oh right, people are capable of moral and ethical decisions without legislative impetus. That’s right, people don’t need laws to tell them what is right and wrong in a given situation. This is common knowledge. We don’t arrest people for being jerks or not being polite. Because of that, actions with are anti-social may be avoided by the mere fact that they make one look unfavorable toward others.

Now one may argue that drugs are different that other kinds of potentially anti-social behavior. It is said that addiction removes the will and one is incapable of rational decision making. This is false. Two studies in particular demonstrate this. The first was called “Rat Park”. In this experiment, rats were not only caged in isolation, like virtually all addiction studies, but allowed to live in a group called rat park. In this group setting, rats were allowed to do more than just feed. They were able to mate, play with other rats and form social bonds with them. Both groups were given morphine, a highly addictive opiate drug similar to heroin. The researchers found that the group rats were not additive, as they did not spend all their time receiving the drug. They would divide up their time between other activities. Some groups rats did not use the drug a second time. The case was much different for the rats raised in isolation. Nearly all were completely addicted- all they did was the drug. This study supports the idea that addiction is mostly always present with some kind of depression, and that socially well adjusted individuals may be more resilient toward addiction. The other key study was done by Dr. Karl Hart from Columbia University. He found that crack addicts were able to make rational decisions involving economic. The study showed that when addicts were given a choice between a hit of crack and a food voucher worth much less than the hit of crack, the addicts almost always chose the food voucher. This showed that for a drug as addictive as crack, the ability to make reasonable decisions is not compromised for addicts. Thus drugs are not a special case which must be made illegal.    

It’s possible to picture, if a drug were legal, well adjusted people avoiding addiction as they encounter different substances. They would have an altered experience, but also have a strong connection toward others, so the allure of an artificial and isolated paradise is much less appealing. Because of this, we can see drug addiction handled in much the same way as jerks or cheap people are in this society. We can imagine some people who choose to be addicts like some choose to be jerks. No matter how much one dislikes or maybe even hates an asshole, it is wrong to throw them into a metal cage with violent people (i.e. prison). It does no use to fill prisons with nonviolent offenders who only burden the system. They do it by wasting resources and time away from real crimes which have victims. A victimless crime is an oxymoron. And as long as a person is aware of what drug they are taking and its side effects, which is impossible for many under prohibition, they are not a victim if they happen to suffer some undesired effects. Much how we have resources to help those with other kinds of lifestyle problems, we can help them without treating them like criminals. Note, for those who argue this point with the contention that adding more vices to society isn’t good, they are fail to recognize that these vices already exist and are made worse by prohibition. That is, much of the problems associated with drug use come from the simple fact that they’re illegal. With that said, having drug use curtailed by social norms as opposed to laws is the more ethical decision.

People are smarter than proponents of prohibition would have us believe. Everyday we see examples of ordinary people taking incentive to live healthier or be better people toward others. They are not motivated by any law, they are motivated by their own mortality and the opinions of others. Therefore we can see how legality is not equated with a prescription for use. Drug use is not special and deserves to be treated like other social behaviors which are better left regulated organically via social norms and not governmental authorities.