28/06/2013 11:42 BST | Updated 28/08/2013 06:12 BST

Drug Legalization Revisited - Time to Get Serious About What That Means


Many who oppose the legalization of harder drugs (e.g., heroin, cocaine) paint some pretty farfetched images. Take a ten year old walking over to a candy dispenser, and then walking away with some crack. Or, less farfetched: people buying what they please over the counter at convenience stores.

Well, antibiotics are legal, and yet none of these scenarios take place. There is a reason for that: a product can be legal yet strictly controlled. You can't get antibiotics at a candy dispenser. In fact, you need a script from a doctor.

Let's get serious about what drug legalization - here and now - is likely to mean.

Marijuana, and probably hashish, will be readily available - and about time too.

Hard drugs? Probably not.

True, till the early twentieth century opiates and cocaine were readily accessible. However, our civilization is not ready for over the counter crack, heroin or crystal meth. Future generations might make those decisions, but our own policy considerations and objectives would be far more humble.

To legalize heroin and cocaine would, today in the West, involve some form of control. Odds are, most countries would opt for medical control, similar to what is currently in place for antibiotics other medicines. Either way, addicts in need - and possibly non-addicted users -- may be supplied by professionals with expertise in such matters.

So you put the gangsters out of business, and give addicted people a chance to function in legitimate surroundings rather than constantly lurking in the shadows, stealing and prostituting themselves. Non-addicted users would no longer be exposed to seedy scenarios - erratic and predatory - that are far more conducive to addiction and overdose than legitimate dispensation.

Some may object to that as well. They are wrong to do so, by my purpose in this article has more to do with clearing the air. Objecting to maintenance and other options that could emerge upon legalization is one thing, talking nonsense about over the counter availability of crack and heroin is quite another. Far less troublesome drugs are legal, and yet require a script from your doctor. So, when discussing legalization, let's deal with realistic issues rather than nonsense.

No time soon will crystal meth be available in grocery stores. That approach to 'legalization' is not on the table, and is not worth mentioning in rational debates.

Repeat: most often, the purpose for raising such options is to undermine far less radical, and more realistic, approaches to legalization likely to surface in the coming years.

It is time for us all to get realistic about what drug legalization will really entail. Upon such a foundation, truly rational debates can surface.