The foundation of the entire war on drugs is the notion that the personal opinions of some should have the force of law for all. Some people don’t think others should smoke marijuana, so laws are passed to make it illegal for anyone to use marijuana.
The major problem with this is obvious: where does it end? Once the line from opinion to law is crossed, any opinion can end up being enforced by law. The results of this are predictable and easy to see from the utter failure of the war on drugs.
Worse still, the longer this state of affairs exists, the more people get used to it. Many don’t hesitate to say “there ought to be a law” whenever they see someone doing something they don’t like, even if that action doesn’t affect them in any way.
This brings us to a recent interview with Special Agent Timothy McMahon from the New Jersey Division of the DEA by ROI-NJ. His view of the war on drugs is a quaint mixture of legislating morality and an attempt to stress education as a new tool to fight the scourge of drug use.
“I don’t understand the thought process of well, because there is a drug issue, let’s just legalize it,” he said. “Robberies and homicides still go on, do we turn around and say, ‘Let’s just let it happen?’ No. We still have to continue to try and put a stop to this.”
Here we see the classic prohibitionist attempt to link drug use with robberies and homicide in the minds of the public while completely ignoring the fact that robbing or murdering someone is a clear-cut violation of the rights of another, whereas drug use is not. The thinking goes, “Well, murder is bad and we make that illegal and drug use is bad so we should make that illegal, too.” The case can be made that eating at McDonald’s every day is far more dangerous than drug use, but McDonald’s sells burgers with the consent of the customer; those who are robbed and murdered don’t give consent to have their rights violated.
In any case, Agent McMahon is free to think whatever he wants about drugs. Being ignorant and thinking you can stem the demand people have always had for mild-alteration is fine, as long as it goes no further. Once his – or anyone’s – personal opinion takes the form of a law all have to follow, we have crossed a red line.
Forcing someone to do what you want them to do is never okay if they are not infringing on the rights of someone else.