Mill and Substance regulation
After reading about Mill’s interesting and relatively permissive ideal state of regulation, I have wondered how Mill would interpret the regulation of mind-altering substances. Drugs from marijuana to meth-amphetamine are currently illegal in the US both due to potential harm to one self and societal harm that can come from their sale and use. But from Mill’s standpoint harm to one self is a non-issue in the creation of state regulation. This leaves one variable in justifying the legislation: does keeping the tradition of making certain drugs illegal hurt society more than it helps it?
From this standpoint things get interesting, what about illegal drugs is so harmful to society? I ask this because many drug related issues arise from illegal trafficking and sale of the drugs, and the criminal rings that have arisen to do such things. We have to ask, do the crime rackets surrounding illicit drug trafficking really harm society less than the drugs themselves? Can people not learn from heroin addicts, or meth addicts, or any addict and see what they should simply avoid? It is not illegal for people prone to alcoholism or who are prone to violence to drink, and yet it is illegal for anyone to use heroine. Why? Alcohol is one of the most destructive drugs known to man! Drunk drivers alone kill thousands every year, how many other drugs cause a number of fatalities anywhere near that high? Specifically, consider the damage to other’s property, relationships, and loss of life due to alcohol.
What we need to ask is if the “nuisance” (by Mill’s definition) of a greater number drug users from legalization is more dangerous than the nuisance of the illegal organizations that currently feed addictions. The fact of the matter is that Mill would likely not approve of prohibition because of the violence and crime that would then come from illegal alcohol trafficking. The same would apply to currently illegal drugs. Sure addicts cause social harm, degrade the quality of communities, and hurt relationships with people who love them. The fact of the matter is that the crime rings which are currently feeding their addictions are exponentially more dangerous than the drugs or the users themselves.
If we are to listen to Mill we should wholesale legalize and learn. We should find out what drugs are dangerous, see what effects they have, and take action on them case by case. It just doesn’t make sense to blindly follow the tradition of making certain drugs illegal without some kind of testing or proof of concept.
I will leave you with a wonderful study done by Canadian researchers:
We can all learn from the mistakes of the crack spider’s bitch
(Yes the study was fake)
Drug harm chart: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11660210
our book: Modern Political Thought (Edited by: David Wootton)