Drug legalization advocates often predict that regulating and taxing drugs like cocaine and heroin would lower usage and create a new and lucrative source of government revenue. Their optimism seems ill founded, however, given that the government can scarcely control the abuse of the legal drugs available at Walgreens.The WSJ lays out the grim facts:
Some seven million people use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons, the Drug Enforcement Administration says, dwarfing the 1.5 million addicted to cocaine. Annual deaths from painkillers have quadrupled in a decade to nearly 15,000, and now surpass those from heroin and cocaine combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These are the pitfalls of drug legalization. Even if a drug is regulated, its consumption controlled through a system of medical prescriptions and taxed, it can easily find its way to the black market. Prescriptions don’t curb destructive behavior. Legalization doesn’t stop deaths or abuse, nor negate the necessity of prosecuting dealers.Legally prescribed drugs are now regulated the way many legalization advocates think illegal drugs should be. The flourishing black market in prescription painkillers and the thousands of deaths associated with their use demonstrate that drug use will not be magically fixed by regulating currently illegal drugs. While legalization advocates argue that putting heroin and similar drugs on a prescription basis would reduce fatalities associated with their use, the high toll from overdoses of legal painkillers suggests that this argument is weaker than often believed.The more radical step of completely legalizing drugs like heroin and cocaine, making them available to adults on a purely commercial basis like alcohol, would have to include a similar plan for prescription painkillers. All this would result in fewer prosecutions (though not zero prosecutions as black market sales of addictive drugs to minors would skyrocket, much to the rage, anguish and fury of parents across the country), but many more deaths from overdose.Marijuana is in a different category from killer drugs like heroin and cocaine, but overall, evidence continues to mount that legalization will not solve America’s drug problems.