War on Drugs a misguided pursuit

By Kyle Young

Western nations are fighting a war. A war they started against a largely passive and non-offensive bunch. A war they claim to be losing. A war against drugs.

How many resources do our governments expend in this war every year, and why did they start it in the first place? On giving thought to the war on drugs, we must wonder why a society normally opposed to blindly stereotyping does so to the world of narcotics. Sure, cocaine addicts aren’t very fun people, nor are meth abusers, or any other abuser for that matter. But certainly not all drug users are the socially destructive ingrates that governments paint them to be.

In a culture that permits, even encourages the use of potentially addictive substances such as alcohol, tobacco, coffee, X-Box or chocolate, why should we prevent the use of substances such as marijuana? The Dutch have proven that not only will the legalization of this cash crop not result in the social anarchy forecasted by our own politicians, but it would in effect lower the crime rate and introduce a whole new, lucrative business. Imagine if the G-8 summit were held in Holland. What percentage of the protesters would likely be far too mellowed out to commit acts of social violence?

Of course, pot is only the shallow end of the issue. What of the more potent substances, the "mind-expanding drugs" like LSD, "magic mushrooms" and their ilk? Why is it that we ban the substances that have bred some of the most interesting and creative works of humanity? Their users accredit these substances as allowing them access to different and interesting perspectives in life, a process particularly encouraged by our society of so many different cultures and beliefs. Perhaps these substances should be legalized. What would be the dangers?

According to the critics we would only be creating another source of potential addiction. But doesn’t everything have the potential to be abused? From cars to computers to Internet porn to high calorie foods to education.

That argument is flawed.

Others argue that drugs like LSD cause people to behave irrationally and potentially dangerously. However, there are a number of things that can cause people to behave irrationally, such as power or religion, without the aid of foreign substances. In fact, many people behave irrationally with no particular motivation other than the need to be an individual.

As for behaving dangerously, once again, people behave destructively and dangerously all the time, from the simple back-alley mugger to the abusive parent, all without the benefit-or detriment-of mind-altering substances.

And what then of the positive impacts such substances have had on society? Are you a music fan? If so you’ve probably borne witness to the creative marvels produced by experience with mind-altering substances. From Keats to The Doors, countless artists have found inspiration in hallucinogens and mind-altering drugs.

And what of the Oracle at Delphi, the historic mandrake-eating shamans of ancient Europe or the peyote worshipping tribes of central America? We cannot deny that narcotics have had a significant artistic and cultural impact on society, an impact we have acknowledged as insightful and inspired ever since.

So the issue remains: why does government invest its resources in a battle against a completely unnecessary foe? A foe which it will likely never defeat?

Feedback on this article can be sent to opinions@gauntlet.ucalgary.ca.

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