There, I said it: legalize heroin. For those in a state of shock, let me say it again: legalize heroin. And for those conservative Christians who want to use the power of the state to stamp out sin and vice, let me say it again: legalize heroin.
Diacetylmorphin (or morphine diacetate or diamorphine), better known as heroin (or smack), is an opioid used as both an analgesic drug (to kill pain) and a recreational drug (to get high). I mention these basic facts about heroin because most defenders of the war on drugs, although they are adamant that heroin should be illegal, can neither tell you what it is or how it differs from cocaine, LSD, and crystal meth.
I recently came across two articles in which the authors advocated the legalization of heroin. I agree with them, but not because of anything they wrote in their articles. Nevertheless, here are some things they say.
Writing in Time magazine, Jeffrey Miron, a Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University, makes the “economic and moral case for legalizing cocaine and heroin.” Miron is also a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who has written extensively on the topic of drug legalization.
Miron believes that “even if prohibition could eliminate drug use, at no cost, it would probably do more harm than good.” He explains that “numerous moderate and responsible drug users would be worse off, while only a few abusive users would be better off.” But prohibition, says Miron, “does, in fact, have huge costs, regardless of how harmful drugs might be.” Prohibition of a good does not eliminate the market for it. By raising costs and prices, it may shrink the market, but then a black market emerges that generates numerous unwanted side effects. Enforcement of prohibition also encourages infringements on civil liberties and racial profiling. Miron adroitly points out that “many legal goods cause serious harm, including death.” He specifically mentions skiing, snowboarding, bicycling, automobile, and swimming accidents, plus 20,000 deaths per year from legal drugs and “at least 38,000 from excessive alcohol use.” Marijuana, on the other hand, “appears incapable of causing a lethal overdose.” The most important thing that Miron says appears in his conclusion:
But perhaps the best reason to legalize hard drugs is that people who wish to consume them have the same liberty to determine their own well-being as those who consume alcohol, or marijuana, or anything else. In a free society, the presumption must always be that individuals, not government, get to decide what is in their own best interest.
Writing in the Boston Globe, Jack Cole, a police officer for 26 years who is now board chair of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a nonprofit organization “of criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies.” The mission of LEAP “is to reduce the multitude of harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ending drug prohibition.”
For 14 of the 26 years I served with the New Jersey State Police, I worked undercover narcotics. On the job, I saw first-hand the addictive power of opiates. Yet I also came to understand that the destruction of whole communities did not primarily result from the use or misuse of those drugs. No, the damage came from people—cops—doing what I did: dragging buyers and sellers away from their families and slamming them into the criminal justice system, depriving both them and their neighborhoods of all hope. I witnessed people we disparagingly called “junkies” dying with needles in their arms not because heroin is a poison but because the heroin was poisoned. I did more harm than good, and the harder my colleagues and I tried, the more damage we did.
He goes on to say:
- Prohibition has completely failed to curb either supply or demand for opiates.
- The costs of the drug war have been enormous and with nothing to show in terms of increasing public safety.
- Draconian drug laws have also done little to improve public health.
- It is a brutal irony that our drug policy inadvertently makes already dangerous drugs even more dangerous. And cheap. And available. And the harder we push a prohibitionist approach, the harder our children fall.
Note that Cole is a former cop with firsthand experience in fighting the drug war. He is not some dumb, young libertarian activist who wants to get high without being arrested.
Miron and Cole are right when they call for the legalization of heroin. And so is Ron Paul.
During a Republican presidential debate in 2011, Fox’s Chris Wallace brought up the subject of Paul’s belief that the federal government should stay out of people’s personal habits. He then specifically mentioned the legalization of drugs and then bluntly asked Paul: “Are you suggesting that heroin and prostitution are an exercise of liberty?” Paul replied “Yes,” and then made the case that Americans don’t need government prohibitions against heroin to keep them from using heroin. And in an interview later that year with Jon Stewart, Paul said he feared the war on drugs a lot more than he feared the drugs themselves. After Stewart brought up the dreaded word “heroin,” Paul made the case for freedom of choice when it comes to drug use, including the freedom to use heroin. No member of Congress has ever been such a consistent and uncompromising advocate of a free society.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy has also just issued a report calling for the decriminalization and regulation of heroin and cocaine.
Now, before I continue, let me preface the rest of my remarks with this disclaimer. I have never used heroin. I would never use heroin. If heroin were legal, I still would not use it. If heroin were legal and someone gave me a truckload of it, I would dispose of it. I have never recommended that anyone use heroin. I will never recommend that anyone use heroin. Even if heroin were legal, I would still never recommend that anyone use it. I don’t want my kids to use heroin. I don’t want your kids to use heroin. I don’t want anyone to use heroin. If I could push a button that would take the desire to use heroin away from every person in the world and all of their future descendents I would do it. Using heroin is dangerous, unhealthy, addictive, immoral, and sinful.
But if someone wants to use heroin who am I to try and stop him? And who are you to look to the state to try and stop him? What business is it of mine? What business is it of yours? What business is it of the government?
I said at the beginning of this article that I agreed with the two articles I found in which the authors advocated the legalization of heroin, but not because of anything they wrote in their articles. This is because from the very first time I wrote about the drug war, I have made the case for absolute drug freedom, without compromise or wavering.
So, why do I believe heroin should be legal? It actually has nothing to do with heroin or any other drug.
- I believe in persuasion, not coercion.
- I believe in limited government, not a nanny state.
- I believe in self-ownership, not the collective will.
- I believe in the power of family and friends, not badges and guns.
- I believe in voluntary action, not compulsion.
- I believe in the free market, not the common good.
- I believe in private property, not public opinion.
- I believe in the Constitution, not the Code of Federal Regulations.
- I believe in the power of religion, not law.
- I believe in individual liberty, not majority rule.
- I believe in education, not legislation.
- I believe in personal responsibility, not social costs.
- I believe in toleration, not incarceration.
- I believe in personal freedom, not government tyranny.
- I believe in personal accountability, not government bureaucrats.
- I believe in minding my own business, not being a busybody.
- I believe in a free society, not an authoritarian one.
Legalize freedom; legalize heroin.