Many risks associated with illicit drugs exist due to their legal status. Opponents of legalising the possession and sale of drugs believe they’re actually making the world a safer place for their children, but they are not. They believe there’s some disagreement in principle with those who support liberal drug laws, but there is not. Perhaps when addressing those who seem to oppose us, we should investigate the root cause of their fear, and provide genuine reasons why they’d be more likely to achieve the best results by changing their stance.
So which are the main causes for concern, and how do the wishes of parents coincide with the reality of regulated drug sales?
A regulated system removes the need for street dealers, and ensures that consumers have ID. While there are ways around every system, this is a significant improvement on the situation we currently have, where children are able to purchase drugs on the black market without any checks. We can back this by talking about harm reduction when taking drugs, as opposed to not engaging on the subject beyond warnings and threats. We know that advocating abstinence doesn’t work when it comes to avoiding unwanted pregnancies, so we shouldn’t follow the same failed idea.
If children take drugs it’s not a sign that they’re going to ruin their lives, or drop out of school. Experimentation is indeed aligned with children who have a higher IQ. Neither are they criminals just because they choose a different way to enjoy their spare time. Indeed, every President of the United States in recent memory has admitted taking drugs. They were just fortunate enough not to be caught by the police. If this happens to your child they stand a good chance of being given a criminal record, which would potentially end their chances of a number of careers, and even limit which countries they can enter.
This is clearly overkill for what is no more than people being inquisitive or wanting to enjoy themselves. It serves nobody to imprison people who pose no threat to society. If Barack Obama were the same pot-smoking college student today, under his own policies he’d most likely get arrested and never have a chance at becoming President. Is that what would have been best for Obama? Would his life have been better if he’d been criminalised? Would society be better having people’s dreams crushed by charges for non-violent crime?
Making the sale and possession of something illegal only works if everybody – or at least, the overwhelming majority – is on-board with it being a fair and reasonable idea. Legislating against drugs does not stop children using them – it instead makes them easier to purchase and less safe to consume. If they were subject to proper quality controls and labelling we’d ensure that when people choose to indulge, they do so knowing it’s the substance they expect, at the advertised dosage and purity. This is a basic right we demand when it comes to food or any other item we consume, and it’s wholly negligent to ignore it with respect to psychoactive substances.
The topic of drugs and children is a very emotive one, and hence we need to move people by showing the gruesome reality of prohibition, and that we too want the best for our children. You fight fear with even scarier stories. You fight fear with lashings of the truth, supported by verifiable sources. There is no need to engage in philosophical reasoning around freedoms when we can provide direct assurances to individual concern groups, that their worst fears are in fact unjustified. When trying to get people to support our side it’s often fruitful (and ultimately, most honest) to address their fears and understand where they’re coming from, rather than simply repeating a mantra about why something generally matters to us. The majority of people who oppose government-regulated drug sales have simply arrived at a different decision than we have, based on many factors, including not having the right information presented to them in the right way. They can be educated on these topics so as to improve our support and do what is genuinely the right thing for children and adults all across the globe.