Legalization of Drugs

The drug connection is one that continues to resist analysis, both because cause
and effect are so difficult to distinguish and because the role of the drug-
prohibition laws in causing and labeling "drug-related crime" is so often
ignored. There are four possible connections between drugs and crime, at least
three of which would be much diminished if the drug-prohibition laws were
repealed. "First, producing, selling, buying, and consuming strictly controlled
and banned substances is itself a crime that occurs billions of times each year
in the United States alone" (Lindsmith Center). In the absence of drug-
prohibition laws, these activities would obviously stop being crimes. "Selling
drugs to children would continue to be criminal, and other evasions of
government regulation of a legal market would continue to be prosecuted; but by
and large the drug connection that now accounts for all of the criminal-justice
costs noted above would be severed" (Lindsmith Center).

Second, many illicit-drug users commit crimes such as robbery and burglary, as
well as drug dealing, prostitution, and many others, to earn enough money to
purchase the relatively high-priced illicit drugs. "Unlike the millions of
alcoholics who can support their habits for relatively modest amounts, many
cocaine and heroin addicts spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars a week"
(Lindsmith Center). If the drugs to which they are addicted were much cheaper-
which would be the case if they were legalized-the number of crimes committed by
drug addicts to pay for their habits would, in all likelihood, decline. Even if
a legal-drug policy included the a demand of relatively high taxes in order to
discourage consumption, drug prices would probably still be lower than they are
today.

The third drug connection is the commission of crimes- violent crimes in
particular-by people under the influence of illicit drugs. "This connection
seems to have the greatest impact upon the popular imagination" (Lindsmith
Center). Clearly, some drugs do "cause" some people to commit crimes by reducing
normal control, unleashing aggressive and other antisocial tendencies, and
lessening the sense of responsibility. "Cocaine, particularly in the form of
crack, has gained such a reputation in recent years, just as heroin did in the
1960s and 1970s, and marijuana did in the years before that. Crack\'s reputation
for inspiring violent behavior may or may not be more deserved than those of
marijuana and heroin. No illicit drug, however, is as widely associated with
violent behavior as alcohol. According to Justice Department statistics, 54
percent of all jail inmates convicted of violent crimes in 1983 reported having
used alcohol just prior to committing their offense. The impact of drug
legalization on this drug connection is the most difficult to predict. Much
would depend on overall rates of drug abuse and changes in the nature of
consumption, both of which are impossible to predict. It is worth noting,
however, that a shift in consumption from alcohol to marijuana would almost
certainly contribute to a decline in violent behavior" (Lindsmith Center).

The fourth drug link is the violent, intimidating, and corrupting behavior of
the drug traffickers. Illegal markets tend to breed violence not only because
they attract criminally-minded individuals, but also because participants in the
market have no resort to legal institutions to resolve their disputes.
According to the Lindsmith Center "During Prohibition, violent struggles between
bootlegging gangs and hijackings of booze-laden trucks and sea vessels were
frequent and notorious occurrences. Today\'s equivalents are the booby traps that
surround some marijuana fields, the pirates of the Caribbean looking to rip off
drug-laden vessels en route to the shores of the United States, and the machine
gun battles and executions carried out by drug lords -- all of which
occasionally kill innocent people. Most law-enforcement officials agree that the
dramatic increases in urban murder rates during the past few years can be
explained almost entirely by the rise in drug-dealer killings" (Lindsmith
Center).

Perhaps the most unfortunate victims of the drug-prohibition policies have been
the law-abiding residents of America s ghettos. These policies have largely
proven futile in deterring large numbers of ghetto dwellers from becoming drug
abusers, but they do account for much of what ghetto residents identify as the
drug problem. In many neighborhoods, it often seems to be the aggressive gun-
toting drug dealers who upset law abiding residents far more than the addicts
nodding out in doorways. Other residents, however, perceive the drug dealers as
heroes and successful role models. In impoverished neighborhoods, they often
stand out as symbols of success to children who see no other options. "The
increasingly harsh criminal penalties imposed on adult drug dealers have led to
the widespread recruitment of juveniles by drug traffickers. Children