So, that video is a 30ish minute recording of the panel I was a part of during the SSDP conference in Denver. I actually haven’t watched it so I am unsure what was removed from the 75-minute session. This session (and the posting of this video) did get me thinking about why I support drug legalization, generally support drug use, and why it is such an important issue to me.
The primary reason I support it is a philosophical belief in self-ownership. I believe your body, your mind, and your labor belong to you and you are free to do with it as you wish unless you infringe on the body, mind, or labor of another. Doing something that society perceives as self-harm is not reason enough to use violence or threat of violence to stop the action. It must be understood and clearly stated that any and all government action is violence. There may be times when violence is justified but to prevent what some consider self-harm is not one of those times.
When someone tries to prevent a someone else from harming their own body or mind what they are saying is that the body and mind does not belong to the individual. Instead, these people (who often have the best intentions) will state that the body or mind belongs to “society”, god, or family. In reality they are exercising control over another person’s body and mind against their will which is the same as a weak form of slavery. Beyond the philosophical view of self-ownership there are also pragmatic reasons to support drug legalization, experimentation, and use.
One of the reasons closest to me personally is medicinal use. The idea that a politician or a bureaucrat could decide a substance has no medicinal value and is highly addictive without any evidence backing it up should disturb every person in this society. Besides marijuana (whose potential medicinal use has been heavily documented and put into practical effect in many states) MDMA, LSD, and many other drugs have many medicinal uses and lack any relative addictive potential. As just a few examples MDMA has been used to treat PTSD, LSD has been used to help with alcoholism at a rate 5-times Alcoholics Anonymous, and both have been used to treat end-of-life pain and psychological stress. Basically, the people who hurt the most in society could have their suffering ended by these drugs but it is nearly impossible thanks to decades of mis-information and political desires. MAPS in particular has been doing great work in this area.
In addition to potential medicinal uses the cost of prohibition is just too damn high. The social and economic costs have ballooned so much that resources are being flushed away to enforce very minor offenses. Every dollar and man-hour spent investigating and arresting drug users is a dollar and man-hour not spent investigating and arresting rapists, murders, and thieves. Priority should be given to fight violent crimes, not vice crimes.
On the social side of things we need to ask ourselves if criminalizing drug use is the best thing for the family and society as a whole. Is a family better off if their drug using parent is getting medical help for addiction but still able to work or at least be with their family, or is the family and society better off with the user in prison? When non-violent offenders go to prison they are surrounded by violent offenders and they receive the stigma of being a “con” which allows for legally authorized discrimination. A family and society is not better off if drug users are treated like criminals, they will be separated from their kids and families, and be unable to provide for their families as effectively in the future leaving everyone worse off. I think everyone would agree that jailing someone for addiction or misuse of alcohol would not help society, but we treat less dangerous drugs differently for some reason.
The last two reasons are somewhat intertwined but I feel are important for our limited time here on earth. I believe drug use can help us each reach our potential and they are incredibly fun. People like Steve Jobs attribute their success and creativity to LSD, Michael Phelps regularly smoked marijuana, and countless other athletes, artists, musicians, philosophers, authors, and economists have used drugs to expand their minds and to just enjoy life. We do lots of crazy things to get the most out of life, some people skydive, some travel, some fish or hunt, some put on pads and run into each other, and some use drugs. Leisure and pleasure is a valid reason for drug use, for without it we would be doomed to a dull and possibly painful existence. These two reasons are why I not only support legalizing drugs, but also recommend people try drugs they are interested in as long as they act safely.
To this day I have not heard a good argument grounded in research to keep drugs illegal. There certainly are logically consistent arguments if people are honest with each themselves though. If you feel that damaging your body through certain drugs is bad because your body belongs to a specific god and some people represent god then it does logically follow that them outlawing drugs is okay. If you believe the current power structure where politicians control lives, imprison peaceful people, lie to the populace, and destroy families and individuals is good then yes, drugs should remain illegal. These arguments may be sound but they are not arguments that represent any concept of “good” that I recognize.