By now, even the most ardent of drug warriors has to admit that the drug war has been a manifest failure, at least if the goal was to eradicate drug use in America. At the same time, most everyone must now acknowledge the widespread violence, death, suffering, mass incarceration, infringements on civil liberties, asset forfeiture, and racial bigotry that have come with the drug war.
But we also must never forget that America’s drug laws have helped to destroy the liberty of the American people. That’s because liberty necessarily entails the right to possess, distribute, and ingest anything you want, including dangerous and damaging drugs. Anyone who lives in a society that criminalizes such things cannot possibly be considered to be living in a free society.
Consider alcohol and tobacco. They both can be damaging to one’s health. But liberty necessarily entails the right to drink booze and smoke cigarettes. Sure, people might approach a beer drinker and a smoker and warn him about how he’s harming himself, but no one has the right to initiate force, either directly or indirectly through the state, to stop someone from drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes.
When alcohol was made illegal, the results were much like they have been with drug illegality — massive violence and official corruption. When Prohibition was repealed, the violence and official corruption from Prohibition disappeared too.
The principal is the same with marijuana, cocaine, heroin, opioids, or any other type of drug. No matter how harmful they might be considered by some people, no one has the right to initiate force, either directly or indirectly, to prevent a person from possessing, distributing, or ingesting such substances.
Thus, the restoration of liberty to the American people necessarily entails bringing the drug war to an end. Not only would it be a good first step toward restoring freedom to our society, it would also mean an end to the violence, death, suffering, mass incarceration, infringements on civil liberty, asset forfeiture, and racial bigotry that come with drug laws.