The question of drug legalization brings with it the question of culture and whether our laws should reflect our norms and aspirations.
The drug debate in the 60’s focused a lot on the moral social question of the effect of narcotics on the moral fiber of society. The consensus among the majority was that narcotized people were behaving immorally by failing to maintain sober and engaged mentalities. In short it was the Protestant Work Ethic vs a foreign ethic of inebriation and self centered withdrawal from work and social engagement. Underlying this was the idea that people under the influence were more likely to engage in crimes and irresponsible behavior.
This language is absent now in the legalization debate. We have simply given up on segments of our society. We no longer hope to integrate black people, particularly black males into the world of work and civic engagement. This was also the thinking behind the welfare reform measures of the 1990’s. We focus on black female participation in the workforce and give up on black males. So now we are re-thinking drug enforcement in order to reduce incarceration rates.
I’m somewhat agnostic regarding legalization but I do think we need to think through what society will look like if this is done. With large numbers of people at the lower end of the social pyramid legally narcotized, we will have to adjust our thinking around a great many social policies.
Once one officially recognizes that a whole swath of society will be unable to function, but legally so, you invite follow-on effects. For instance, narcotic drug drugs are addictive. It follows that persons taking these drugs will become dependent on them and will then become dependent on the taxpayers. It is hard for me to envision a regime where these dependent persons, a large number of whom will be black men, will not become truly second class citizens. Can they hold drivers licenses? Can they engage in many forms of employment?
If drugs become legal, does one therefore have a right to them? We have a long history of dealing with alcohol but how will be deal with the heroin addict who claims his addiction is stable and asserts a right to employment as a pilot? Why not a seat on the supreme court, or a commission in the army? Surely in our rights obsessed culture drug takers will seek to expand the boundaries of their freedoms to take drugs and to interact with the rest of us. Detecting alcohol inebriation is easy and under given circumstances, chargeable under law. But these is no breath test for cocaine or heroin.
My point is that our debate about hard drugs and marijuana have always had a racial-cultural component, pitting our Protestant European expectation of virtue and reticence against a tropical culture of inebriation and license. Don’t expect to legalize drugs and retain any vestige of the Western Culture we once were. Legalizing drugs only further normalizes non-western traits in an already declining society.There is much more to be said about this.
I’m not sure that we might not legalize in the long run. Personally I think legalization is a form of washing our hands of the underclass. Perhaps this is justified but it doesn’t mean that the effects of their presence ceases.
Personally I take the radical approach of suggesting that persons who want to legally take drugs should be licensed. That license should be a two way street. Free or very cheap drugs in exchange for giving up their franchise. They certainly should not procreate. Perhaps other disabilities should apply. This sounds extreme but to be frank, the addict is a parasite not a true citizen.