Drug addiction is a problem for the abusers themselves and for the people close to them. We must try to fight this problem as best we can, but prohibition seems to only make things worse. Mafia power is a far greater problem than the abuse of drugs, especially in areas where drugs are produced. Legalization would weaken one of their most important sources of income. Corruption would also decrease, when corrupt politicians stack up well on mafia activities.
The Mafia in the United States settled up largely because of the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s. A product people wanted, but was refused. Soon authorities understood the ban did not work and it was revoked. Mafia progress stopped for a while, but the increasingly stringent drug laws were their opportunity of reappearance. Once again a popular product the state denied them. A product which mainly hurt the user himself.
Mafia and terrorism.
South America supplies the world with cocaine and the only people who can exploit the economic opportunities are criminal organizations. If the drug had been legal worldwide it would become a resource for these countries instead of the curse it is today. World mafia groups earn mainly on two things: weapons and drugs. Had we legalized drugs, and thus deprived them of one of them, their influence would be greatly weakened.
Heroin has a different story and comes from other areas. Afghanistan has once again become the world’s largest opium producer, and much of the income goes to Islamist groups. Islamist war against the rest of the world is partly financed by heroin abuse in the West. Terrorism has also been a major problem in Columbia, also funded by drug revenues.
Neither the Mafia or the Islamists are going to disappear in any foreseeable future, as it is with most forms of crime and destructive ideologies. These problems need to be reduced, they can not be eliminated, at least not from one day to another. They must be kept down with the means we have. Fighting fire with fire alone usually have more negative than positive effects.
In competition with state and legitimate private firms mafia usually comes out badly. Legal unregulated goods we buy mostly from legitimate parties because they win on security, availability and quality in most cases. Cocaine mixed with known innocuous substances would be far more interesting for a user than illegal cocaine. No users want rodenticide mixed into their drugs and one can never be sure that this is not what you get.
A form of toll collection would probably make sense. We are benefited by keeping consumption down and there are good reasons why users themselves should pay for the economic charge on society. The price can be much higher than today, and most users will still buy it legally, as it is today with both alcohol and tobacco. The mafia has major problems in competition with far more powerful players such as the legal sector we call public and private.
The problem isn’t people trying drugs or using it once in a while. The problems are abuse, addiction and damage to health and society. In job related situations it can still be forbidden in the same way it often is with alcohol, and in situations where someone has the responsibility for children you may also have restrictions. Most countries already have such laws regarding delectation and so on.
It could often be a good idea to make big changes step by step. The best thing in this context would probably be to start with cannabis and other natural drugs and then to use this experience when one begins to ease prohibitions of stronger substances. Criminalization increases both addiction and adverse effects, when users are forced to stay in contact with a criminal environment prone to extreme lifestyle and it is difficult to change attitudes in closed environments where skepticism to authority is dominant.
Different drugs need different policies. Heroin and other chemical opiates are more problematic than most other drugs on the illicit market today prone to big overdose risk and extreme addiction. Cocaine poses in a different class since the majority of those using the drug has a relative control on the use and deaths are rare. Of those I’ve known through adolescence and adulthood who have tried heroin some are dead and more have had problems with addiction. I have known far more people who have tried cocaine, but very few have ever used it on a daily basis. These substances should therefore have different regulations.
The best start on the process to unillegalize heroin would probably be to give the heaviest addicts free heroin to inject in a safe environment with medical supervision. This would break the core of the illegal market and make it harder for teens to get hold of it. In most cities today it’s very easy to find, you just go ask the junkies. Several other strong chemical opiates are already easy to get a doctor to write out if you tell him you’re in pain. It hasn’t stopped society so far.