Sunday, March 15, 2009


I was a good boy growing up. I never smoked cigarettes, and I didn't drink a beer until my 21st birthday. If I ever did marijuana, it wouldn't have been until after college and I wouldn't have done it often. I still believe most of what my 5th grade D.A.R.E. officer told me about the unhealthy physical effects of drugs, the risks of acting under the influence, and the danger of addiction.


But I don't think all drugs are so dangerous that they should be illegal. In some cases I think that the effects of drug prohibition are worse than the effects of the drugs themselves. Here I've described how I think we should deal with some of the popular mind-altering substances in our culture.

1. Sugar- Yes, sugar. Our love of sweetness evolved when sugar could only be obtained through laborious collection of wholesome fruits and berries. Getting too much was never a problem until we learned how to refine sugar on an industrial scale. Now we can easily "overdose", leading to cavities, fatness, diabetes, and other problems (see video). I certainly don't think we should ban sugar, but I do think high-sugar foods and drinks should have surgeon-general's warnings like cigarettes, and shouldn't be sold in schools.

2. Caffeine- It's not dangerous in typical doses, but it's definitely addictive, and it's easy to build a tolerance and dependency, such that you need a lot just to feel normal. Plus there are some negative physical and mental affects associated with chronic use, and withdrawal is nasty. No need to make it illegal, but it's probably better to have it as a special treat than a daily routine.

3. Alcohol- We're all familiar with it so we sometimes forget that it's a very strong, potentially dangerous and addictive, drug. But it's fairly well-managed in our culture. People know what it does and can look out for themselves, their friends, customers, etc. We could probably do a better job of preventing drunk driving and treating alcoholism, but I think most people would agree that the current legal status of alcohol is working better than the 1930s prohibition.

4. Tobacco- Nicotine is one of the worst drugs, in my opinion, because it's highly addictive, unhealthy, and gross, while only giving a weak buzz. It's like it's only as fun as caffeine, but a lot more harmful to users. I don't think it needs to be illegal, but I think it should be illegal to advertise it in any way. Also, I support bans on smoking in indoor public places where non-smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke.

5. Marijuana- I think pot should be legalized, not because I think its totally safe, but because I think its dangers and health effects are comparable with alcohol and tobacco, and that it could be managed similarly to those drugs. I think the current illegality of marijuana leads to unsafe use, in the same way abstinence-only sex education leads to unsafe sex. If pot was legal, then we could transition from just saying "don't ever do it", to more detailed guidance like "if/when you do it, don't try to drive, go to work or school, or hit on a member of the preferred sex".

(I'm not sure if this video is serious or facetious, but it's pretty funny.)

Those are all the drugs that I'm pretty sure about. With the next ones, I'm going more out on a limb with my ideas...

6. Stronger Psychedelic Drugs- Things like LSD and Psilocybin spp. mushrooms range widely in their effects, health risks, and safe dosages. I think people might be safer if they were legal, because then you could have standard ingredients and doses accompanied by the appropriate health warnings. There would still be intentional misuse, but maybe less accidental overdosing.

7. Hard Drugs- Cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and barbiturates are obviously very unhealthy and addictive, and have bad social consequences. On those bases they should be banned. The thing is that they ARE banned, but the ban isn't working well. Hard drugs are still being used a lot, which supports a sketchy, corrupting, and violent drug trade. Making hard drugs legal and taxing them might reduce drug-dealing violence and cut off the revenue going to bad guys, although it wouldn't stop the tragedy of addiction. Nor would legalization stop the problem of addicts robbing and stealing and prostituting themselves for money to buy drugs. Some kind of system of free dispensaries combined with treatment centers might help solve that.

Anyway, those are just my opinions. I know there are a lot of other ideas out there. In fact, one paper I read comparing the dangerousness of several different kinds of drugs versus their legality was very interesting. You can check it out here.


Frank said...

Well James did you remove my last post? If you are saying here that people should take personal responsibility for their own well being. Then I totally agree with you.
But warnings have been on tobacco and alcohol products as long as I have been alive and people still sue. Lets take Maryjane as it was called in my school days.The manufacturer could guarantee the quality of the product but not what it would do to you.

James Douglass said...

Frank- Nope, all your comments are still here, as far as I know. And yep, I do think individuals should take responsibility for what they consume. As long as they are fairly warned and not purposely mislead by advertising.

Johnny Douglass said...

Yes, I remember your first beer. It was a Corona that your Mom and I gave you for your 21st birthday present. The last I heard Corona was still your favorite beer. Thanks for being a good boy.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PeconicPuffin said...

Legalize marijuana. Cut out the criminals, create an honest business, and tax the heck out of it.