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Hypocrisy and drugs

September 30th, 2002

William Burton has a well-thought out post, drawing on personal experience, arguing that currently illegal drugs should be regulated in the same way as alcohol. In an AFR Review Piece, I considered the same question from an opposite point of view. Suppose we accept the case that ‘legalisation of marijuana, cocaine etc. will send the wrong message’. Shouldn’t we then prohibit alcohol and tobacco as well as the currently illegal drugs. This would, of course, turn millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals, but our existing laws do that already. And it’s at least arguable, based on US experience in the 1920s, that there would be a net saving in lives. Although I started out with the intention of writing a reductio ad absurdam, I found that the case for consistent prohibitionism can’t be dismissed as easily as you might think. What is clear is that our existing policy is a hypocritical failure.

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