Should Harmful Drugs be Legalized?

Larson Fisketjon, Stewart AM, Honorbound

The continued legalization of drugs has brought safety as well as health problems to the surface. Besides this, the question of the ethics behind the non-drug users reaping the economics benefits that drug users create. In the book Naked Economics, it is said that smokers create both negative and positive externalities: cigarette smoke is harmful not only to the smokers themselves, but also to the people around them. This is the negative externality that smokers create. But, in contrast, smokers die young, benefiting the rest of us in that  “the average smoker dies seven years earlier than the average nonsmoker, which means that smokers pay into Social Security and private pension for all of their working lives, but don’t stick around very long to collect the benefits” [1]. This means that nonsmokers get more back from their social security and payments than they would have before. But is it ethical for the nonsmokers to get all of these benefits from the smoker’s demise?

Many have contemplated this question in Czechoslovakia and in the United States. For example, in Czechoslovakia, “premature deaths from smoking save the Czech government roughly $28 million a year in pension and old-age housing benefits” [1].While they don’t reap the benefits of old-age housing benefits, more money is needed to put into their health care during their lives because of the health problems caused by smoking. In this sense, the economic advantages and disadvantages cancel each other out, in the end leaving nonsmokers virtually unaffected, or with a small advantage over what they had before.

Though it may seems that the legalization of drugs does not affect the economics of non-drug users, many believe that drugs should be made more difficult to gain access to. This is in the hope that struggling citizens will ask for help instead of resorting to drugs that are harmful to themselves and others. According to America’s Quarterly, “criminal sanctions against drugs are not a purely punitive tool. Penalties, or even the threat of them, frequently spur individuals struggling with addiction or substance abuse to get the treatment they might never seek or receive on their own” [2]. This means that if the government keeps certain harmful drugs illegal then it will motivate those abusing drugs to get help to resolve their addiction thus making them more willing and able to sustain a stable job, improving the economy. This is the argument against the legalization of harmful drugs.

Both of these viewpoints show the advantages and disadvantages of the legalization of harmful drugs. One viewpoint says that legalizing drugs provides minor benefits to non smokers and drug users. This is due to the large amount of money used by smokers in their life time that goes into health care to cure the diseases they now have that were caused by smoking and drug use in their lifetime. This is a benefit to non smokers and drug users because these people leave more social security to them that the smokers were never able to reap the benefits of. But the other viewpoint on this issue says that not legalizing drugs will benefit the whole economy, not just non drug users because they will now be rid of their addiction and able to work a stable job, which improves the economy.

In conclusion, harmful drugs should be prohibited from legalization in order to improve all people’s economic lives, not just non drug users.

[1]  Wheelan, Charles J., and Burton G. Malkiel. Naked economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.

[2]  AmerQuarterly. “Decriminalization would increase the use and the economic and social costs of drugs.” Americas Quarterly. Accessed June 19, 2017. http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/1915.

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