Bar Council Chairman, Nicholas Green QC publically considered the rationality of decriminalising personal drug use according to the Telegraph. He began a new and much needed serious discussion on drug policy. Current drug laws encroach on individual rights and suck resources out of the economy.
Green points out the high cost of enforcement and punishment. He states, “If the prison population could be reduced from circa 85,000 to 80,000 it could save over £200million per annum.” The article quotes a dissenter with an excellent point: "It is a ludicrous argument to say let’s legalise drugs to take pressure off the police and the courts. That is an argument to legalise everything.” There is another side to the coin. Drugs like marijuana is proven to show little harm. Most favour its illegality because it’s seen to lead to worse drugs that do cause a great deal of harm. Are we saving society from enough harm to where it’s worth the time and money spent?
If some drugs are legalized, the state could regulate accordingly. There would obviously be an age requirement and special taxes. This would increase tax revenue and decrease costs to the justice system. Although I don’t support this, the state could even hold monopoly rights to sell the drugs. Despite a strong black market, the state would still profit off the setup.
This issue is not just about cost-benefit analysis though. It’s also a matter of individual rights. A grown man or woman should be able to use personal discretion to make lifestyle choices. Drug use that does not harm any third parties directly needs no state intervention. Take alcohol, driving under the influence and bar brawls can be dangerous but we trust adults to make good decisions.
Green is not alone. The Economist writes how in America some states have begun serious reforms in their approach to recreational drug use. California, the pioneer state of the matter, has already legalized medical marijuana. Several states soon followed. Now, recreational use is being considered. Yes, the price of marijuana will fall. And yes, perhaps more people will try it. But jails will be filled instead with harmful criminals, budgets will be healthier, and individual rights restored.