Hard Drugs

When I was young and single, I agreed with the libertarian position on drugs: legalize them all. Now that I am older and a parent, I must admit that I don’t want a crack house down the street — legal or illegal. Some of the hard drugs, especially the uppers like cocaine and meth, can induce violence even without the black market component. Marijuana users, on the other hand, present no extra danger to others. So I want to separate marijuana from the hard drugs issue.

That said, making the hard drugs universally illegal does subsidize a criminal underground, an underground dangerous enough to turn Mexico into a failed state. There are good arguments for legalization other than natural rights arguments.

So, for the next edition of the Quiz, I want to go fine grained on the options, to see if people are interested in attempting to balance between the dangers of criminal gangs vs. out of control neighbors.


Hard drugs such as cocaine and opiates are dangerous, both to the users and those around the users. They are addictive as well, so the “right to choose” argument is weaker than it is for softer drugs like marijuana. On the other hand, making these drugs illegal subsidizes dangerous criminal gangs, and diverts users from the dilute forms (coca leaf tea, smoked opium gum) to the more concentrated forms (crack, heroin). Finally, because discrete drug use is operationally a victimless crime, we require police state tactics in order to have any chance at successful enforcement.

Should we change our laws against hard drugs?

  • No. Keep the laws we have on the books, and enforce at current levels.
  • No. Keep existing laws and extend vigorous enforcement. Treat rich white users as harshly as minorities caught with hard drugs.
  • Increase the penalties for possession to those for dealing so the courts don’t have to prove intention to distribute.
  • In addition to existing enforcement, seal the borders so cocaine and opium cannot get into the country.
  • Keep the laws, but back off on some of the more aggressive police state tactics. Instead, seal the borders and search for the drugs at border crossings instead of doing dangerous no-knock searches on citizens.
  • Yes. but legalize the more dilute forms only (cf. coca leaf, smokeable opium).
  • Legalize hard drugs for licensed users only. (Like Timothy Leary’s proposal. License drug use like we license drivers and pilots.)
  • Legalize dilute forms for licensed users only.
  • Legalize hard drugs for limited jurisdictions only (Nevada, Indian reservations…), like we do for casino gambling today.
  • Legalize dilute forms of hard drugs for limited jurisdictions only.
  • Legalize dilute forms for licensed users within limited jurisdictions.
  • Legalize all forms but to licensed users within limited jurisdictions.
  • Legalize all hard drugs period. Punish those who cannot handle their highs and hurt others.

What important permutations have I missed? What bias needs to be removed?


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