It seems to be the default position in liberal and libertarian circles that the decriminalization or all out legalization of drugs is not only moral, but would also reduce crime (since most of the "crimes" for which we send people to prison are drug offences). Certainly this would not be good for business if your livelihood depends on hosting as many inmates as can be crammed into your penitentiary. I think there isn't much question that cutting off a huge supply of prisoners would go a long way to curbing the out of control use of for profit prisons. After all, if they aren't profitable, lots of people are going to pack up and go home.
But there is a dark side to legalizing drugs. We need only look at the food industry (and tobacco before them) to know how dangerous it is to let people have unfettered access to products that may be great in the immediate term, but that slowly kill you over the years of abuse. Sugar is awesome, but its easy to see what happens when there's a buck to be made off getting every last ounce of sugar into every single bite of food we take. Obesity, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, to name a few. These diseases are going to be a trillion dollar industry in the next couple decades, thanks entirely to the farm bill, the biggest piece of garbage that our government force feeds us (pun shamefully intended).
My supposition is that if drugs were legalized the same thing would happen. Pfizer or Merck, or some genius startup (by genius I mean in the way we use it colloquially: one who figures out how to make the most money with the least possible effort--hence a financial genius is the guy who figured out that bots can buy stocks faster than humans) would figure out a way to make marijuana the most addictive substance known to man (let's not forget, a lot of research went into tobacco; when you light up you aren't smoking anything that remotely resembles native or natural tobacco). They would then use their lobbying power to ensure that only government approved drugs could be legally bought and sold, and these lobbyists would naturally "help" craft what constitutes government approval; you know, as a time saving favor for the sponsoring legislator. Then 10 years down the road when we have a new wave on cancer and a whacked out populous from smoking way too much super weed, we'll get to hear about all the jobs that will be lost if we start regulating what can go into marijuana (or cocaine, or whatever). Its a vicious cycle that has happened time and again in this country. The almighty dollar can fool and legislator into signing any piece of shit legislation. Sometimes it doesn't even take that much. I knew some city council members in the town I grew up in that sold out pubic land at pennies on the dollar to an upscale golf course developer for nothing more than a nice meal and a bottle of fine whiskey each. True story, but sad.
So what is worse, the closing of our awful prisons, or the prospect of letting mega companies pump kids full of hyper addictive drugs? Currently, in MI where I live, one can get a prescription for marijuana, like many states. A few of my friends and family have prescriptions, and they love it; they get good quality weed from local growers who care tons about their product. I don't think this is the bliss that we would enjoy if lots of these people got their wish and drugs were just legal for anyone to buy. I think its a necessary evil to keep drugs illegal to keep companies from finding a way to exploit them (us).
But what is the alternative? Our prison system clearly isn't sustainable long term. We spend more on prisons collectively than on higher education. The war on drugs is terrible and getting worse, as well. I think we've proven--as if there was any doubt in the first place--that there is no military solution to drug addiction. It is my contention that the best compromise would be to keep laws on the books against drugs, but never prosecute anyone who is only using. Keep sending large scale dealers to prison, even for life for all I care. What do you all think? Certainly this isn't an original topic, so forgive me for that, but its been on my mind lately for this or that reason.
I think your supposition about the inevitable regulation of pot has a cogent and sequential logic to it that makes it easier for me to critically think about such a complex topic. One of the arguments that I hear for legalization is that the government can tax it and make money on it, which I used to think was a good point, but then that starts us down your rabbit hole of the government as potential dealer. Reminds me of Chris Rock's brilliant rant on doctors and drugs. Let me say that I am absolutely for the legalization of pot. I think a more libertarian stance on drugs in the U.S. would send a message that the country believes strongly in giving it's citizens personal freedom and choice. It would also, like you said, lower the number of incarcerations and maybe even make people feel safer in their own neighborhoods - which would be the ultimate benefit.
Quick little story: In Vancouver, with it's famous BC Bud, there is a little area called the Downtown Eastside (DTES). I went to school right in the center of it all, in a ground floor studio with huge windows you could look out to see some crazy shit. The DTES has a highly concentrated amount of dealer, users, homeless, and prostitution. It's where Robert Pickton not long ago did his dirty work. It is also home to North America's one and only safe injection site. Anyway, On the first day of school the prof stands up, welcomes us all, and the first thing he says is 'don't be scared of what you see out there, they will not hurt or harass you, and they are no different than us, just move along and you'll be fine.' The thing is he was totally right. It is safe (unless you're an idiot). Granted it sucks to see that lifestyle , but the truth is that it is going to exist anyway and the benefit of allowing it to happen in the open is that these people get regular treatment. I can walk through there at 2 in the morning and be fine. Usually the people are so sedated that they don't even know what's going on. I'm getting off track. My point is that there are potentially all kinds of benefits to having a more liberal agenda towards drugs. You won't get less crackheads, but you will get less violent crime. And that's huge.
Going back to regulation, I'm not so convinced that a complete government stranglehold on pot would happen. I think the small batch pot head would really make that impossible. Sure, tobacco is like you said before, but I've never met anyone who grows their own tobacco yet I've met a ton of dudes that have had one or two plants. Weed is just so easy because it's like growing basil - pluck the bud off and smoke that shit. Easier than alchohol too. I also think the typical anti-government pot smoker might stay a little savvy as to how their particular herb blend is grown and produced. Of course this doesn't address the medical side of weed which is maybe more where you were coming from...
My knee-jerk reaction has long been legalization, but I could see a dark future there, and not because people would abuse drugs more. The dealers would not only be better organized, but they'd have lobbyists.
People have their liberty to acquire and smoke, and this eliminates a lot of the evils of massively sophisticated capitalization.
Would not have to be exactly that, but maybe something like it. Government could even get their tax on by making a mandatory license to grow.
In dutch, this structure is called 'gedogen'. It means that when it comes to marijuana, the police doesn't prosecute, within certain bounds that is. So you can have max 5 grams of weed on your person and have max 1 plant for personal use. Also, while selling weed is OK, growing more than one plant isn't. The problem with this structure is that there is no way to regulate, since it still is, in essence, illegal to deal in these drugs. Unregulated markets can go horribly wrong. By allowing people to sell and consume drugs and not regulating the cultivation, you are in essence creating a low risk illegal market, since the investors are quite certain they can sell their goods.
Legalizing indeed has its dark side, but so has keeping it in the books...
Edit: I actually don't think its peripheral to the topic. Its really important, because each of these things is about the government acting as shills for a very small number of people, while destroying the world for the rest of us.
But no, I don't think there is any benefit to the government overseeing organic production. Most organic milk still comes from factory farms. Its not really any better than the regular shit, for the most part.
- I don't think there is any benefit to the government overseeing organic production