Why Support Drug Legalization, Georgian Perspective

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Who has dried water because of some careless men who were drowned in! Only one mindful tutor comes out: let them know never go to water without caution. Instead of telling them this, many people are saying that the water should be dried.

Ilia Chavchavadze (1837-1907), a famous Georgian poet, publicist, politician, and banker

People can be divided into two groups:  those for whom individual freedom is the most important value and the rest, for whom the freedom is not so important. I do not have any objection to the second group, but their position is simply unacceptable for, probably, the other way around.

There is no reason to argue with them because our positions are fundamentally opposite, and it makes no sense to discuss it. These people think that the decision should not be taken by them for their future but by somebody else – a government, a church, non-governmental organizations, or some other external authority that should decide what is better for their future. Such people will likely not continue reading this article.

This article is written for the people who consider themselves to be in favor of individual freedom.

In short, individual freedom is the supreme right of humans. There are differences in understanding of freedom. I agree that a person is completely free to use their body and property as they see fit, but at the same time, they cannot restict the freedom of others.

This means that a person can destroy their own property worth millions of dollars, but do not have the right to damage a property of another person, even if it was worth one dollar, and if they do it anyway, they must take responsibility for their actions.

A person has the right to choose not to inflict harm on their own body, but have no right to hurt others – and, if they do, sagain, they must face consequences.

Smoking

Let’s start with cigarettes. For some reason nobody asks for banning cigarettes, nor wants to put people into jail for smoking. According to some studies, the total damage of tobacco to one’s health is 7-8 times higher than that of all other drugs altogether.

Why not completely prohibit smoking and send smokers to jail if it is so bad? Where are the proponents of such a prohibition?

I am against prohibition, but this does not mean that I want people to smoke. To make it clear, I would advise any smoker to get rid of this bad habit. However, they have the right to accept my advice or not and continue smoking. I do not have the right to prohibit smoking altogether, because it would be a violation of one’s personal liberty, which is more important than health or even life. We all must decide for ourselves.

On the other hand, smokers have no right to inflict harm on me (or other non-smokers), so smoking in public places is prohibited, with places/areas designated exclusively for smokers so as to ensure that the smokers’ rights are protected with no other person’s rights (and/or freedoms) being violated. 

Drinking

Now about alcoholic beverages. According to research, in small quantity, alcohol may be beneficial to one’s health. At the same time, all available data highlight that abuse of alcohol is very harmful.

How to stop people from drinking, then? Send to jail them?

There were attempts to solve this issue by restricting the use of alcohol, but with no positive results.

In this case, again, I am against the prohibition of drinking, regardless of how damaging it is for drinker’s healthy because it would be a limitation their personal liberty which is more important than their health and even their own lives. Instead, after a person receives an excessive dose of alcohol, the law restricts certain rights, such as car driving. Is it a violence of their rights? – It is not because we can not allow anybody to risk the health or property of another person. Moreover, we can not allow to anybody to make any discomfort to someone else when he/she satisfies his/her wishes. It can be forbidden to do somethings in the street: to drink, to make noise etc. But if anyone wants drink, he has a choice – to go to a restaurant and drink as much as he wants and then to go home by taxi. I think there’s nothing to dispute here.

Drugs

Any drugs that are prohibited today may be considered in a similar manner. If a person wants to use drugs, I have no right to prohibit it, because the ban will be a violation of one’s personal liberty, which is more important than health or even life itself.

If a person wishes to use drugs, let them go to the appropriate institution, which will be created after the legalization, and buy as much as they would like.

No one should be able to restrict drug use, but no one should also put anyone else in a danger. Full legalization of drugs makes sense only if a set of rules is implemented simultaneously.

The same goes for tobacco and alcohol, which should be regulated with smart legislation.

What and how to do this is another issue. The main goal is not to ban something, because prohibition always limits one’s personal liberty.

The fact that I’m strongly against prohibition does not mean that I advise anybody to use drugs or alcohol excessively. On the contrary, I advise everyone to follow a healthy lifestyle. But we must always remember that we do not have the right to tell anyone what to do or not.

We can consider the following: If a person is not allowed to be free, regardless of whether they understand this or not, they would either object it or simply break the law. In other words, such prohibitions are increasing the numbers of people who are disobedient.

It is clear that drug addiction is a problem and it is necessary to think about the ways to remedy it. There are two possible paths available:

a. Full legalization of drugs and introduction of the rules of their use, or;

b. Intensifying the fight against drugs.

The possible results of choosing one or the other path will be, most likely, as follows:

a. In the case of drugs legalization and regulation:

  1. Drug mafias disappear;

  2. Budgetary expenditure directed towards fightining illegal drugs will be reduced;

  3. The number of drug addicts will be reduced;

b. In the case of intensifying the fighting against drugs:

1. The role of drug mafias  increases;

2. Budgetary expenditure will be increased to intensify the fight against drugs;

3. The number of drug addicts will increase.

And so, it becomes clear that option a. is preferable, because:

  1. When something is illegal but there is still a demand for it, only the people with criminal minds can satisfy this demand. If it becomes legal, many people can enter the market and criminals have a smaller chance of staying in business. Moreover, criminals cannot afford low profits that are typical in legal business environment. Eventually drug mafias will disappear.

  2. If there is no drug prohibition, it will not be necessary to spend any money from the budget to execute the law. But if you prohibit the drugs, these expenses not only will occur, but also this may increase the demand for financing the actions against drugs. Plus we cannot avoid any further corruption, bribing officials by drug mafias.

  3. When the legal ways of access to drugs appear, drugs become cheaper due to competition. There will, therefore, be no need for addicts to involve first-time-users as s source of “income”. Freedom to use drugs legally may also mean that the use will not be interesting, it will no longer be a sign of “being cool”; as a result, some of the current users may quit using them altogether. Another positive outcome might also be reducing the death rate among drug users (if we adopt a rule that drugs should be used in places like healthcare institutions only, with medical staff).

To summarize, if anyone does not want to solve the problem of drug abuse, they shouldn’t legalize drugs. What is more important today is supporting drugs legalization as a means to support individual freedom.

Support for drug legalization cannot, of course, be expected from:

  • criminals who operate in drug business, because they will lose huge income.

  • politicians, officials, religious leaders, etc., because they will lose huge profits coming in from issues related to this problem (profit can be monetary or non-monetary).

  • ignorant people, who think that after legalization they would not be able to control themselves and will thus, eventually, begin using drugs.

Let us look at the drugs mafia’s problem carefully. What is its base, where does it come from? We can recall that there existed (for example) alcohol mafia. Why mafias appear and why they disappear?

It’s clear that it is not spontaneous process - for this there should be suitable conditions. If we make suitable condition, there would be mafia specialized to this subject. For example, we can create bread mafia! How?here’s how:

  • Let’s begin to show up the researches who show how bad is bread for healthy of human’s body.

  • As a result, in society there will appear groups of organizations who can speculate on this subject that government should do something to restrict using the bread (there can be slogans: government should do something!)

  • There can be done draft of law on that bases about restricting bread use and this draft can pass the parliament. There will be criminal responsibility who disobey this rule.

  • As a result, existing bread companies will stop to work, and there appears demand which cannot be satisfied legally. Prices will go up.

  • As the legal supply is prohibited, criminals will begin to supply the market with bread. They will step by step make groups for getting full control on market fully. Profit is too high not to try to control market fully.

  • Criminal business groups can have conflict and war and peace periodically.

  • Conflicts between these groups will be heavier if the government strictly acts against the bread business.

  • Bread mafia will try to find cover in government…

Is this scenario unreal? Unfortunately not.

Individual freedom is most important, but we should not think there is no other arguments against drug prohibition. For example, let say few words about like this drug as cannabis:

This is a plant which was used to produce oil for food and, also was used as fiber source (weaved ropes, weaving canvas and so on). It was cultivated in many places in Georgia, especially in Svaneti region. Georgians were using to roast cannabis’ grains, crushing it in pestle, sifting it and kneading the gotten paste by hand or putting it into bag and mashing. It is known that cannabis grain had the purpose of cult.

Pastry with cannabis ingredients was used for rituals and was considered as a traditional food. This breads were in Svaneti “gimbshar lukvne” (გიმბშარ ლუკვნე“) and “ghimimbash qut” („ღიმიმბაშ ქუთ“). Cannabis was widely used also in popular medicine.

Quite hard to imagine how many employments this plant had! All these was unknown for us, we knew only most undesirable use of it. Let us think, we (society) forgot every use except the one what is prohibited. That means we should throw away every use of this plant away because of some people who use this plant for damaging themselves!…

Cannabis is prohibited and currently it is not used for weaving canvas, produce oil, make medicine and so on, it is halted to use it for all the other directions it was used during the past centuries. And why? – because some people use it as drugs to damage themselves and as a result all other members of the society should lose all profits because of that “some people”.

They use this plant for damaging themselves, but does anyone force them to do so? Let them give choice to take care about themselves or not as they would like! We should not dry the well because of them.

Using same logic, we can prohibit so many things – hard to imagine: some drug addicts found a way how to produce drug from glue, which we use for home purposes. What to do now, prohibit using the glue?

In the future, they may find a way to produce drugs from other products, let say from bread, vegetables, or fruits, … let begin and prohibit using everything for all people? – totally nonsense!

It was noted above that addressing the drug problem requires finding the right way to go about it, and this right way is full legalization and regulation, because

mankind will profit more, if humans will leave each other to live as they themselves count better, than with trying to force to other person to live so as they think it’s better for this person.” (John Stuart Mill, Freedom)

Give to everyone the right to decide for themselves what is best for them. Why should we intervene in anybody’s private life? We should understand (admit?) that if a person does no harm to others, then, to prohibit anything is a violation of one’s personal liberty.

Nodar Chinchaladze
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