Atanu Dey On India's Development

Decriminalizing Drugs — Part 2

My previous post (Decriminalize and de-governmentize India) generated interesting comments. Half of them agreed with me, and the other half stopped short of telling me that I had finally lost it. One commenter, Shiboo, wrote his opinion which I feel deserves to be read. Here it is for the record.

I agree with your position that prohibition does not work. As someone who has worked in healthcare in India and in the US, I have come to the conclusion that the solution the Drug problem is blanket decriminalization coupled with legal taxation, the way we do with alcohol and cigarettes. Of course legalization and taxation will not prevent people from using drugs (neither does “the war on drugs”), but it will dramatically reduce or eliminate the massive illegal profits that drug lords and distributors currently make.

Currently, since these profits are illegal, they are most easily used to fund more illegal activities such as bigger shipments of drugs and violence in the producing countries and end-markets. When drugs are decriminalized and taxed these profits transform into revenue which can then be used to fund otherwise perenially fiscally starved treatment and rehabilitation programs for those drug abusers volunteering for them. This revenue stream can also fund enforcement programs for those who cannot keep the negative consequences of their drug use to themselves e.g., intoxicated drivers.

Of course, in countries like the US, where a substantial number of folks have life insurance and health insurance, decriminalization will lead to fairer insurance premiums for those who do not abuse drugs. For instance, in the current state of affairs the insurance companies can legally have and advertise the vast difference in rates for smokers and non-smokers, so that the latter are not subsidizing the former. As India continues to progress she will also find increasing numbers of her citizens using insurance that the same logic would apply.

Drugs, by themselves, don’t damage society.

Individual people who use drugs are not evil people. It is the behavior that they engage in and systems they knowingly and unknowingly support (the whole procurement and distribution system, the gangs, the mafias) that damages society. The experience of the US during prohibition is so instructive. It is the only time in US history that alcohol generated such huge illegal profits that it funded other illegal activities including criminal violence on a grand societal scale. Without prohibition, alcohol has never been able to regain the same infamous place. It still ruins individual lives, but it no longer funds violent mafias. Same would be true for all other drugs.

If you wish to write to Shiboo, please email me and I will forward it to him.

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