Can Someone Please Explain To Me Why Illegal Drugs Are, Well, Illegal?

As a person who attempted to smoke weed twice, never felt anything from it, and was never compelled to do it again has somehow managed to go through high school, college, and adulthood without once even trying an illegal drug, I should have had no dog in Colorado’s fight for the non-criminalization of recreational marijuana. Yet, on Election Day, aside from Obama’s victory and the hours moments I spent on right-leaning websites and blogs that night and the following morning, gleefully reading the distressed comments, there was nothing that made me happier than learning that Amendment 64 had passed.

I even surprised myself by how interested I was in that story, catching myself saying “Oh shit!” aloud when first hearing about it like I had a jet to Denver, a pound of haze, and a Wiz Khalifa CD — not to listen to (God, heavens no), but to chop the weed on — waiting on stand-by.

My investment is based on a simple principle. It just never made sense to me why some drugs (alcohol, nicotine, etc) are legal as hell (and deadly as hell) while others remained illegal.  I’ve heard every possible “legitimate” argument about this, but none of them have ever been able to make me say “You know what? You’re right.” The more I think about it, the more I think that some drugs are illegal because, well, some drugs are just illegal and that’s just the way it is.

What exactly are these legitimate arguments? Well, I’ve heard several, but three seem to pop up more than others

1. “Wait a second. Have you actually seen the effect drugs like meth, crack, and heroin have on people? You actually want to make that legal?

Look, I’m a Black American, which means I have (at most) a 1.5 degree of separation between myself and at least a couple dozen crackheads. I also live a half mile away from a methadone clinic, and driving past there while some of the meth addicts are hanging around, smoking cigarettes makes me feel like I’m driving through a scene from “28 Days Later.” There are some drugs that will f*ck your shit up. They will f*ck your shit up so badly that you can be alive and not really look all that human.

You know what else would f*ck your shit up? If you licked a hot frying pan. Or if you decided to snort a line of dried up bleach. Or if you ate a bowl of cat litter every morning for three months straight. Or if you injected a pint of Grey Poupon into your veins. Or if you f*cked a stink bug.

Yet, despite the fact that each of these things would f*ck your shit up, it’s perfectly legal to do each of them. Perfectly stupid? Definitely! But, stupid doesn’t necessarily mean illegal.

My point in bringing this up is that I just don’t get the rationale in someone telling me what I can and can’t do with my own body. It just doesn’t make sense to arbitrarily decide which stupid shit is legal and what stupid shit is illegal. The government’s role should be to protect me from Russians, aliens, and malaria and shit, but not my own stupidity.

2. “If you make it legal, everyone will start using.”

Out of all the pro-drug prohibition statements, this is the one that annoys me the most. It assumes that illegalness of crack or smack or whatever is what’s causing people not to use, not the fact that most people just don’t want to turn into Bubbles from “The Wire.” I might be wrong, but if crack was sold in Target tomorrow, I just can’t envision cats waiting in line for the store to open like it was Black Friday. I’m not saying that 99.9% of the people who want to do crack are probably already doing crack, but 99.9% of the people who want to do crack and probably already doing crack, legality be damned.

3. “So, lets say you legalize hardcore drugs. Are you going to be okay with a getting on a bus with a high bus driver or sending your kids to school to be taught by someone who does meth in the teacher’s lounge?”

Ok. Let’s pretend that we live in a utopian society where shit like this doesn’t already happen. If you can’t come to work drunk now, and if you can’t actually smoke a cigarette anywhere but Mars now, whar makes people think that we’d allow people to come to work while high? I mean, just because a drug is legal doesn’t mean that companies can’t enact policies where drug use while at work or being under the influence while at the job is grounds for termination.

Sure, you can smoke all the crack you want at home, but try coming to work high and see if you don’t lose your job.

With all this being said, I concede it’s likely I haven’t grasped the full complexity of this argument. There are people much smarter than me who have devoted their entire lives to solving America’s drug problem, and I’m sure some of these people may be able to provide me a convincing answer.

But, from where I stand right now, all I see are some very clear benefits — legalizing drugs could put a severe dent in much of the gang related crime going on in our cities, and for a country deep in debt, making drugs a federal business could add a multi-billion dollar yearly revenue stream — and no real drawbacks. Until someone can provides me with a compelling (and legitimate) argument, I’ll continue to believe Chris Rock (paraphrasing)

“They’re illegal cause the best shit aint grown here”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

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