Illicit drugs should be legal
Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MP Cheryl Gallant recently came under fire for some comments she made with regards to the Liberal Party of Canada. Speaking to campus Conservatives at Queen’s University, she said, “They want all illicit drugs to be legal. They want anything goes in every aspect of life.”
The resulting insinuation is that the Liberals are endangering human lives with their eagerness to loosen laws around recreational drugs. Much more likely is that the reverse is true instead: that the Liberals endanger human lives with their willingness to keep existing recreational drug criminal laws in place.
Ms. Gallant is evidently appealing to the popular notion in society that “soft” drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis should be legal due to their being reasonably safe, and that “hard” drugs by comparison ought to remain illegal and criminalized due to how dangerous they are. This notion is mistaken: the more dangerous that a recreational drug is, the more necessary is the regulation, taxation, and mandatory safety labelling of that specific drug.
Perversely, many people confuse the outcomes of drug criminalization to be justification of drug criminalization: thousands of drug users die under the existing criminal laws, so the existing laws are proven to be necessary! Never mind that the existing drug laws, enforced by hundreds of billions of dollars in policing costs worldwide, simply fail to eliminate recreational drug use or the black markets that supply it. Never mind that some of those citizens who die consuming illegal drugs might not have died if they had been informed with government oversight rather than shunned with government persecution. Never mind that the failures of 1920s alcohol Prohibition apply equally to prohibition of other drugs in the present day.
Drug criminalization kills recreational drug users by giving black market dealers a monopoly on supply, but it kills people in other ways too. With Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Anthony Aust in Ottawa, we have seen no-knock police raids escalate to fatalities in the cause of investigating black drug markets. Shock home invasions by the police are an inevitable and logical consequence of hopelessly attempting to track down and eliminate substances that can be easily hidden in any nook and cranny of almost any room in almost any building.
Most criminal laws target behaviour that is considered destructive to society and against basic ethics. Yet countless citizens - who would never report their brother, sister, mother, father, or cousin to the police for having tried hard drugs - somehow also get the idea that criminal drug sanctions ought to affect families other than their own.
It is long past time that drug criminal laws be scrutinized with basic critical thinking. History will not look kindly on those who loudly and proudly demand drug criminalization, and it may judge these reactionaries as even more out of touch with facts and reality than the drug users whom they purport to protect.