Legalizing Drugs. Has the Moment Finally Come? Part 2 of 2

Part 1

That argument I described in Part 1 is apparently gaining ground. (Mine was a decidedly minority view thirty years ago, which means the rest of the world is getting smarter, or I was dumb long before it was fashionable.)

I mention this because legalization is in the news, thanks to our economic woes. Federal lawmakers are pondering ways to raise revenues, and as is always the case when times are tough, they’re turning their attention to “sin” in all its forms. (As I noted a few days ago, Senators recently heard arguments in favor of raising taxes on a legal ”drug,” alcohol.)

In the past few days, the New York Times has run two op-ed pieces worth reading. One is a terrific short piece by Nick Gillespie, who is with the Reason Foundation. Do yourself a favor and read it.

The other is also interesting, but problematic. The author is Michael Winerip, who writes the “Generation B” column in the Times’ Sunday Styles section. (*1) (The “B” refers to “boomer.” Winerip is a Baby Boomer and comments on life for us middle-aged types.)

The essay is worth reading, if only for the comments of Ethan Nadelman, a legalization advocate. But the gist of his essay is the conundrum that drugs pose for many boomers: They did drugs; they’re not sure they want their kids to do them. He muses about his own experience, and his worries about his kids’ fondness for alcohol.

He also interviews David Sheff, who wrote a memoir about his son’s drug addiction. Sheff apparently opposes, or at least fears, legalization because he believes, based on his son’s experience, that “soft” drugs lead to “hard” drugs.

I understand his pain --- no one wants to their kid to become a drug addict. But it doesn’t make sense for him to extrapolate from one case to every case.

The reality is that some people can’t handle drugs, probably because their genes are wired that way. Some people can’t handle alcohol; again, it’s likely the culprit is their genes rather than some character flaw. I can’t handle caffeine. My son-in-law is lactose intolerant. Should we outlaw diary products? Or coffee? I don’t think so.

Here’s the point, such as it is: When it comes to alcohol and drugs, we humans (or, more specifically, we Americans) throw reason out the window.

The facts are that millions of people consume alcohol every day, and they’re not degenerate drunks.

I’ve known, what?, several thousand people in my life? I’d say that most of them drink. But I’ve only known two people who drank themselves to death. And in the case of both, it was clear when they were teen-agers that their relationship to alcohol was, well, different than everyone else’s. They weren’t bad people; they simply couldn’t handle alcohol. That’s sad, and I’m sorry they both died young (age fifty).

But that’s not a reason for me to stop drinking.

Ditto for drugs: I’ve done lots of ‘em. So have many people I know. And nearly all the people I know who did drugs stopped doing them. Only a tiny percentage had a “drug problem.”

Our illegal “drug” problem, however, is gargantuan and harms every member of society. People who want drugs will get them People who want to shoot guns are gonna find, buy, and use guns. All the laws in the world won’t stop them from doing so.

So let’s do the rational thing and legalize drugs. You’ll be safer, your kids will be safer, and we could use those tax dollars to fund schools, parks, libraries, and other good stuff.


*1: “Eh?” you say. “The Styles section? What the hell you doing reading the Styles section??” Answer: It’s my weekly anthropological expedition into the world of the shallow, the vain, the neurotic, the terminally rich-hip, and the fashion-fascists. The inhabitants of the Styles section live in a world remote from my o own, and so their lives are, anthropologically speaking, fascinating. (Well, okay, I'm shallow and neurotic. But not vain. Or hip. And, as anyone who's seen me in the 3-D world knowns, definitely not, um, fashion-oriented.)