Sun, 30 Oct 2005

Do drugs come with violence?

Jay Warran insists, in a letter to the Daily Courier-Observer published 10/29, that we should "Remember, with drugs comes violence. Period." I'm sure that the manager of the local P&C would be surprised, since he has an entire aisle-full of drugs, and sells them daily with nary a hint of violence. The pharmacist in the nearly Eckerd's would be equally surprised, since he sells drugs non-violently all day long.

Clearly, Jay means "With illegal drugs comes violence" even though he didn't say so. And yet I have to question this too. Which came first, the drugs or the violence? If one person is peacefully selling drugs to another, and society pulls a gun on both of them to force them to stop, it seems to me that society has created violence out of peace. So yes, I agree that illegal drugs are associated with violence, but that violence has been created by the laws that made the drugs illegal.

You may think that drugs are inherently bad, and this causes the violence, but you might be wrong. Imagine if use of the number five was absurdly made illegal. Everyone can see from their life experience that they can use the number five successfully without violence. If, after the start of the War on Fives, they needed to use a five every day, they would continue to do so in spite of the ban. Any violence used to stop the use of five would clearly be caused by the law, not by the five itself. If there were profits to be had from the use of five, they would have to be distributed without recourse to the law. Any conflicts would be escalated into outright violence.

What can we do about it here in St. Lawrence County? We can't make drugs legal on our own. We can, however, instruct the county sheriff to tolerate the use of drugs in certain socially-acceptable contexts. The drugs would still be illegal, and the state troopers might cause trouble, but at least we wouldn't be wasting tax dollars creating violence where none exists naturally.

Update 11/21: Richard Gadsden points out that a drug may very well be associated with violence, e.g. some people get aggressive when they get drunk. Clearly a designer drug formulated to enrage someone would be likely to come with violence. I think that Jay Warran was referring to drug sales, so I restricted my discussion similarly.

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