We’ve had a number of discussions recently regarding Drug WarRant’s position on legalization and the definition of legalization so I thought it was a good time to re-cap the official stance of this site (individual readers’ mileage may vary).
Drug WarRant supports and fights for the legalization of all recreational drugs.
Ah, but what does that mean? Here are our definitions.
Legalization: A status where responsible adults may legally acquire, possess, and use a particular drug, although there may be restrictions on time, place and manner.
Legal does not mean unregulated. In fact, when it comes to drugs, most supporters of legalization call for some regulation and control.
Consider gasoline. It is an extremely dangerous substance — it can cause severe health problems or death if inhaled, can be fashioned into an explosive and can cause damaging fires. It is a legal substance (responsible adults may acquire, possess, and use it), but it is subject to control and regulation. It can only be sold by licensed dealers, and there are regulations as to how it may be used, in what kind of containers it may be stored, and so forth.
Legalization of drugs is fully compatible with regulatory efforts restricting access to children, forbidding use while driving or while working in safety-sensitive jobs, banning use in certain locations or situations, controlling the means for manufacture and distribution (including taxation and labeling), and creating standards for purity and potency.
Criminalization: A status where the manufacture, distribution, and/or possession of a particular drug is likely to result in criminal penalties if caught (ie, felony or misdemeanor charges, jail, fines, probation, criminal record), regardless of time, place, or manner.
Prohibition: The combined efforts by government entities and others to enforce and promote criminalization.
Decriminalization: American Heritage dictionary defines it as “to reduce or abolish criminal penalties for.” Theoretically, decriminalization could mean legalization (and is preferred by some drug policy reformers), except for the “reduce” option. Decriminalization is sometimes used to describe contradictory legal situations where marijuana, for example, is legal to possess and use, but not to acquire — this is a partial legalization that leaves intact certain destructive aspects of prohibition’s side-effects. Because of these confusions, for the purpose of this site, we tend to prefer the terms criminalized and legalized.
The default status of any substance is legal.
Obviously, this means that legalization is a huge field. There is everything from completely unrestricted to extremely heavily regulated within the realm of legalization. While we certainly have opinions as to what the proper set of policies may be for any particular drug, the one certain thing is that we must start with a position of “legal.”
Drug WarRant supports and fights for a legal regime that dramatically reduces the destructive effects of prohibition.
While we have opinions as to the ideal set of regulations for any particular drug, the most important thing is to reduce the many harms of prohibition. A legalized regime is only proper if it makes the black market largely unprofitable. This doesn’t mean that we have to eliminate the black (or grey) market altogether, but regulations must not be so strict (or taxes so high) as to be, from a market perspective, indistinguishable from prohibition.
Even ridiculous taxation on cigarettes by some states has largely managed to avoid a black market explosion. Most people prefer to buy legally and are willing to pay a premium to do so, and the black market has costs that the legal market does not.
This leaves a fairly large set of options open regarding taxation and regulation without returning to the violent black market fueled by prohibition. We look forward to the day when we can have the inevitable discussions (and arguments) about what the appropriate amount of regulation is for each drug.
But first, legalization.