When I told my friend that I was interested in going to hear the speaker at 8:00 PM, they wanted to know what it was all about. "It's a presentation by that cop, on drugs," I told them. Meaning a presentation on controlled substances, not a cop using them. And although it would be fun to say that, by the end of the evening, the easily misconstrued statement may have held true either way, I concede that would not be fair. The argument presented by retired detective Jack A. Cole was indeed a reasoned one, and presented a very convincing argument for legalizing drugs in America. Yet, I find there are still flaws. Let's explore.
Without going into too great detail (Mr. Cole backed his claims up with graphs, percentages, and quotes), the argument was something like this: Drugs are illegal. This creates a black market. People murder and steal in that market, this leads to crime. People overdose because their drugs are contaminated from that market. Police spend too much time dealing with powder, and not enough time dealing with dangerous criminals. Drug arrests are racist toward African-Americans. Over the years, the "war on drugs" has cost more and more, but done nothing. In countries where drugs are legal, drug use drops. When polled, kids said that if drugs were legal, the vast majority wouldn't be any more likely to try them.
And now, the part where I rebut:
Contradiction: He claims police aren't getting to "violent" criminals...yet argues that drug users/dealers are criminals (murderers, thieves). If they are criminals, police are indeed finding criminals.
Slippery Slope: He argues that, since people are getting hurt from illegal (contaminated) drugs, we should legalize and regulate them. Sounds good, until we think big picture: Should we legalize prostitution? Better; should we legalize theft? Sometimes, theft turns into unintended murder of witnesses. Make it legal, save the lives. Right? Let's legalize everything to destroy the criminality. Legalize copyright infringement. Legalize sexual harassment. Right?
Racism: Let me get this; drug arrests are race-biased, so the solution is to make drugs legal? How about fix the racism?
Cost of Fighting Drugs Rises: That's because the cost of everything rises. Besides, the United States spends more and more on all of its programs each year. The cost of education, the cost of jails, the cost of maintaining the USPS. This statistic is useless.
Around the World: Other countries have different drug policies, and less users. Woa! Have we heard of correlation vs. causality? There are hundreds of variables between countries; just because we can find a few examples of drugs going down and legalization going up doesn't mean the legalization caused the decrease. Any number of factors could cause decrease; better education, different family values, different availability of substances, what is/not classified as a "drug," etc.
If Legalized, Kids Won't Try It: Because that's what they told you in a survey? (1) They lied. (2) They want the drugs legalized, that's part of why they lied. (3) They're afraid of getting in trouble for drug use, that's also why they lied. (4) They don't know what it would be like to grow up in a generation where drugs aren't "bad," but something everyone's parents do! If that were our world, they would try them more and more and more, despite their self-reports to the contrary.
Those are the "arguments." Then, in terms of the presentation, there were some serious problems. We were shown statistics with little comparison; we saw that apartheid South Africa's population of black people in jail is X% of its population, while the United States's population of blacks in jail is Y% of its population. We were told Y>X, so the US is more racist than South Africa. Hold on! You never told us the percent of South Africans in jail! If X% of South Africans are in jail, and 2Y% of Americans are in jail, then 100% of the South African incarcerated are black, while 50% of the American incarcerated are. Big difference.
Then there's the outright hypocrisy. He starts off telling us that Nixon used the politics of fear to get elected, fighting an unnecessary drug war. Later in the presentation, we are told to keep police fighting "VIOLENT" (caps and red font) criminals, not drug abusers. Then we were told to "SAVE OUR CHILDREN." That's not politics of fear?
Worst of all, the officer seems to believe that drug laws stem from the desire to attack the Chinese, African-Americans, Hippies, and Black Panthers. He actually said that the president(s) created these policies to attack these groups that "we don't like." The man is a conspiracy theorist. That's not inherently a bad thing, only, he's wrong. And he's trying to affect policy.
Maybe there's something to legalizing medicinal marijuana. But I think there's a lot more to worry about concerning racism in the criminal justice system, theft and murder rates, and mismanaged tax dollars. In short: the way to stop people from breaking the law isn't to eliminate the law. Especially when that law is the only thing standing between "our children" that we need to save, and a world of substance abuse we do not want them thinking is acceptable. We already allow our society to abuse alcohol and tobacco, are we really going to improve things by introducing more substances into our everyday, acceptable, widely used, as-seen-on-television, all-the-cool-kids-do-it, my-brother-is-21-and-can-get-some lives?
Want to keep our kids safe? Want to stop violent crimes? Go after drug dealers. Not politicians.
The cop on drugs certainly wasn't, but if we turn pharmacies into candy shops, perhaps the next generations of police officers, judges, teachers, doctors, contractors, and anyone else we hope to rely on, will be.