Criminalization of drugs

Drugs stunt young lives, break up families, injure babies before they are even born. There are those in Britain who say we should legalize certain drugs. As though burglary could be defeated by legalizing theft. How typical of the muddled thinking of the so-called progressives. In fact, such action would expose many more of our young people to the danger of drugs.

—Margaret Thatcher. Speech to the Conservative Party conference, Blackpool, October 13, 1989.

It is not because drugs are illegal that drug addicts commit crime. Rather, when a person is addicted to drugs, everything good in his character is bypassed by the urges of his addiction. He steals from family and friends, does violence to innocent strangers, lies and cheats—and not just for drugs but for other pleasures such as smoking, drinking and indolence. He loses his self-respect, ambition, compassion, concern for the future, capacity to love, and ultimately his soul. Legalizing narcotics would not change these symptoms; it would simply surrender human beings, without a fight, to a fate worse than death.

Taking drug addicts off the streets

Drug-related crime is committed by, or for the benefit of, drug addicts. Therefore, the police should focus their efforts on catching drug addicts, and lawmakers should ensure that convicted drug addicts are incarcerated for a significant period—no less than two years. This would make catching addicts a meaningful exercise for the police. The exercise would also stand a good chance of breaking the addiction and reforming the addict’s character.

The current catch-and-release policy for drug addicts makes apprehending them pointless. It undermines the rule of law to criminalize drugs but allow drug addicts to walk free. Drug addicts don’t need five days in jail or community service. They need help to escape the clutches of the demons that torment them. Drug addicts’ brain chemistry prevents them from helping themselves. The urge to feed their addiction overpowers their reason. They need to be forcibly separated from their supply. The state is uniquely positioned to reform drug addicts. Families and charities cannot do it because they lack coercive power.

Teenagers are rebellious and vulnerable. They need to be ushered into adulthood with a firm hand, not abandoned to evil, insidious, murdering drug dealers. Gaze upon the angelic face of a 14-year-old child and consider whether it would be better to give her up to prostitution and heroin addiction, or to send her to reform school for two years. The very act of raising a child is always a struggle; the whole process involves infringing their liberties, whether it be toilet training, dealing with temper tantrums, making them clean their room, or grounding them for not doing their chores. It is a struggle of wills and a testament to the patience and love of parents. Parents would give their lives to shield their children from the destruction caused by drugs. But they cannot. It is one area where love and patience are useless, and where the coercion of the state is needed.

Drug dealers

By all means, prosecute drug traffickers—but supply caters to demand. As long as people take drugs, there will be drug traffickers. Eliminate the demand and you eliminate the supply. After all, there are no underground suppliers of plague-infected rat corpses for the simple reason that: there is no demand for them.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove