I'd like to hear some arguments in favour of drug prohibiton. Specifically, I'm interested in the precise specifics of why
prohibitionists believe that some recreational drugs ought to be outlawed. To help get things rolling, I put forward the following argument against prohibition on ethical grounds.
Given the following premises:
1. The act of ingesting a drug (be it aspirin, caffeine, alcohol, cannabis, or heroin) is not unethical per se
2. The act of breaking the law is not unethical per se
, i.e. the law is not self-justifying.
3. A person who has behaved ethically in all respects is innocent of wrongdoing.
4. To deliberately harm an innocent person is unethical.
1. The prohibition of drug use entails the deliberate incarceration and punishment of innocent people.
1. The prohibition of drug use is unethical and should be stopped.
To address a couple of possible counterpoints:
- It's generally accepted that the social contract involves giving up certain freedoms in exchange for increased safety (or 'freedom from harm'). For example, I give up the right to carry a weapon, in exchange for a greatly reduced likelihood of being shot. Other people's drug use, however, does not pose a threat to me, so I get nothing in exchange for giving up my freedom. It's true that drug users may pose a threat to themselves, but self-destructive behaviour is a health issue, not a criminal one.
- A utilarian argument might be that, since some drug users harm themselves, it's acceptable to persecute some innocent people if it results in a sufficiently reduced rate of drug addiction that the overall harm is less than it would be if drugs were decriminalised; i.e. the ends justify the means. Assuming that argument is valid, and assuming you propose it, it would then be your responsibility to prove that a program of arrest and persecution results in less harm than a program of regulation and healthcare. Also, it's not acceptable to simply continue the program indefinitely with no real thought given to decriminalisation. If the program exists for utilarian reasons, then it should be reviewed regularly and critically on utilarian grounds, and if it can't be shown that it is and continues to be the optimal solution, should be modified or discontinued. There is no such rigorous review of the current legislation.
Prohibitionists, I invite you to take issue with any of my premises or conclusions. Or, if you prefer, ignore the above and post your own arguments in favour of prohibition. (Anti-prohibitionists' opinions are welcome too, of course.)