Legalization is about safety, standards to protect and treat users

Libertarians have this one wrong. I know that because I’ve been one for about 20 years.

Legalizing drugs is not about freedom and the ability to do what you want with your body. Maybe a little it is, but it is really about keeping kids alive, and that is where so many of my dear readers have it so drastically wrong.

Most of you think it is the pills’ fault, so you send guys with guns to catch who they can and put them in cages. The U.S. now has the highest incarceration rate in the world by far, and we can’t even keep drugs out of the Hancock County Jail. We’ve been serious about the drug war since alcohol prohibition and then extra-serious about drugs since Nixon was president.

How is that working for you?

A thought experiment.

You are in pain. The doctor agrees and prescribes a painkiller. At some point in time the law will start looking at your local doctors who prescribe what is considered too much, so the doctor backs off and tells his patient no more OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, etc. If that doesn’t happen, the peace officers and prosecutors may just put the doctor in jail.

You are still in the process of being a productive citizen, but you are also still in pain. Do you tough it out? If you can’t, you start looking for alternatives, and here comes this shady guy to offer you something that looks like what you were taking. Unfortunately, too often it isn’t, and it’s made of all kinds of stuff you don’t want in your body, and it may just kill you.

If it doesn’t kill you but also doesn’t relieve the pain, he has an alternative: Heroin. But we already know this guy couldn’t pass a BBB inspection, and he’s selling you something that isn’t quite heroin, so you don’t know how much to take, and eventually it is going to kill you.

If you live long enough, you might go back to the peace officer, but they are still going to put you in a cage at least long enough to ruin your reputation and chances of getting a job for the rest of your life … and he can’t fix the pain.

How is that working for you?

Another experiment: You’re a high school kid, and life isn’t perfect (just like it isn’t for so many). The relationships in your life suck. It could be family, it could be friends or it could be the absence of either. You look for something to make it better. Do you tough it out? Many do, but possibly not you. That shady guy who was so helpful above shows up with pills or injectables. Again, no one knows what these are made from, so you are playing Russian roulette each and every time you finally find an escape. One day the barrel is loaded.

These aren’t thought experiments. This is real life for way too many people in the world … and in Hancock County.

All of the above because you, dear reader, think punishment is more effective than treatment. It turns out that if you want to kill your kids with drugs, the best system to encourage it is the United States legal system.

How do we fix this?

First you need to take a look at Switzerland, Portugal and Vancouver. Are any of them perfect? No, but all of them are a heck of a lot better than you are doing, and with a dramatic drop in deaths.

Second, you take the money you are putting into drug law enforcement and open clinics. You then tell people who need the drug to come to the clinic for a free fix. I know you just shuddered, but stay with me because by doing this, you keep your kids out of the alley, where they will die alone. You keep crack babies from happening because there is a nurse on hand to work with the 16-year-old about to be a mom. Up to 10 years and most will be off the drug naturally, as they’ve found the meaning in life they were looking for: a good job, a spouse who cares and maybe even a cure for the pain.

Over the last few weeks we’ve heard about six heroin deaths and more from painkillers in Hancock County alone. Over the last week we’ve heard about dozens of heroin overdoses in just a small portion of Indiana. Very few of these people wanted to die.

We. Can. Stop. That. Now. If. You. Are. Willing.

Phil Miller of Greenfield is the former chair of the Hancock County Libertarian Party. He also served on the Greenfield City Council.