If We Legalised Drugs Would More People Take Them?

One of the main arguments against the legalisation of drugs is that it will encourage more people to take them. Where does this argument come from?

Government intervention is used to communicate what is considered desirable and undesirable; undesirable products are either made illegal or taxed heavily. Desirable products and services are often subsidised (ie: public schooling).

Tobacco is a great example. It is considered undesirable from society’s point of view due to its scientifically proven healthy ramifications. For this reason, it is heavily taxed with regular increases in the tax include in a pack of cigarettes. The Government also spends millions each year educating the public on the health risks associated with smoking.

The Government is extremely successful in reducing the number of people smoking. Tobacco use in Australia is declining each and every year. From just 2001 to 2012 the percentage of the population that smokes decreased by 20%*. The fact that tobacco is legal is not encouraging more people to take up smoking, according to ABS statistics.

Alcohol and junk food are also legal, but do people go out and eat rubbish and get intoxicated because they legally can?

Lets take a look at Portugal.

Portugal decriminialised personal possession of all illicit drugs in 2001. If you are caught with a personal amount of an illegal drug in Portugal you will get a fine, equivalent to a parking fine – no longer is it a criminal offense.“It [decriminalisation] has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.”

A report was prepared five years after decriminalisation, it found that the number of addicts seeking help doubled, rates of HIV infection dropped by 17% and drug use among teenagers declined by almost 30%.**

Perhaps initially there would be some increased drug use, but if this means a few more people are smoking joints rather than getting drunk, is this such a bad thing?

When heroin and other ‘hard drugs’ are legal it is hard to imagine more people will be shooting up and smoking crack in the alleyways.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Why do people think that more people will take drugs just because they are legal?

* Source: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4125.0main+features3320Jan%202013

** Source: http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html

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