No Dope for the Pope: Francis Decries Marijuana Legalization.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has declared his opposition to the legalization of recreational drugs such as Marijuana. He made this pronouncement while speaking at the International Drug Enforcement conference in Rome, Italy.

As CNN reports:

“Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” he told participants at the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome. The Pope’s call isn’t shocking. Francis has spoken of the dangers of drug use before.

In January, a CNN/ORC International survey found that 55% of respondents wanted to see marijuana made legal. That’s up from 16% in 1987, according to the CNN poll and numbers from the General Social Survey.

But Francis said such policies are “not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.”

“To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem,” he said.

I agree that Drug Addiction is an evil. I agree that it destroys lives and causes harm to others. So does alcohol. Alcohol addiction has probably ruined more lives than drug addiction ever will, considering alcohol usage has a few thousand years’ head start on drugs. But why isn’t the Pope decrying the availability of legalized alcohol?

Francis calls the legalization of marijuana “highly questionable from a legislative standpoint.” I presume he means “immoral”. He is saying that he does not think governments should pass legislation that enables immoral behavior. Why stop at drug legalization? Alcohol addiction seems just as bad to me, if not maybe even worse. Visit any college town on a Friday night to see what I mean.  Why aren’t we hearing calls for the illegalization of alcohol consumption? Maybe because that was already tried once, to disastrous effect.

Let’s move beyond drugs and alcohol, even. Facebook is addictive. Video Games are addictive. Sugary foods are addictive. These things are destructive and can wreck your life. Drugs seem worse mainly because they are connected to dangerous black markets. If the aforementioned were illegal, I’m sure they’d also be connected to dangerous black markets. So I presume that he refers mainly to the evil of the addiction, and not the actual object of addiction. Or is he? Is he referring only to specifically DRUG addiction? If so, what makes drugs so special? Why should only addictive recreational drugs be banned, and not alcohol and sugary snacks?

Pope Francis claims that drug legalization policies “fail to produce the desired effects.” I suppose this viewpoint depends on what effects he was hoping to see. He may be under the impression that legalizing marijuana is supposed to reduce marijuana usage somehow. I sometimes meet fellow anti-War on Drugs people who make this claim. This is total baloney. All other things equal, “When the price is lowered, more will be demanded”. If recreational drugs were legalized, this would increase their availability and most likely bring their price down. Therefore, you should expect that drug usage will rise after legalization. Bottom line: legalizing marijuana will lead to more marijuana use. I don’t understand how some people convince themselves otherwise. It’s like thinking that less people would have sex with children if it were legalized. It just ain’t true.

I am not exactly certain what the Pope refers to when he says “they fail to produce the desired effects.” But I can tell you a few undesirable effects that drug laws already produce: the creation of dangerous black markets and destruction of society inside urban ghettos. One of the single most destructive unintended effects of anti-drug policies are the rise of drug cartels and gangs. These criminal organizations make all of their big money on the drug trade. There is a large demand for drugs, but the supply is artificially restricted by government policy. This drives up the price and makes it profitable. Furthermore, the illegalization of drugs is basically an unofficial monopoly which gives the market over to the drug gangs. Their only competition is other gangs. This is where the violence comes from: turf wars.

Gang members are frequently incarcerated or killed. They need replacement members. Do they set up recruitment booths at Harvard and Yale? Of course not. They prey on the young men in ghettos, which are mostly black or latino. These are young men who often feel like they have no future otherwise. The drug gangs offer them something that nobody else generally will (thanks in no small part to Minimum Wage laws and child labor regulations): “gainful” employment, so long as they can avoid getting arrested or shot. A lot of these men end up in jail. This is one major contributing factor to the disintegration of society in ghettos: the incarceration of these men for either selling or using drugs. My view on that is this: A dad might wreck his family if he smokes a lot of weed, but it’ll definitely wreck the family if he gets sent to jail for it.

It seems to me that the War on Drugs has clearly not “resolved the problem” that Pope Francis is referring to. I think most people agree with me; recent polls have shown record numbers of Americans thinking that marijuana should be legalized. I think this is because they are finally admitting to themselves that the rabid violence and disintegration of society in neighborhoods associated with the drug trade is not something inherent in the nature of drugs, but inherent in the nature of the War on Drugs. The major problems that we see with drugs – the gang violence and destruction of society – are not due to drugs themselves, but to policies against drugs.

I can understand why the Pope dislikes drugs and their usage. Legalized or not, millions of people around the world will continue to use them. If recreational drugs were heavily legalized internationally, their usage would increase. But a lot of the insane violence and disintegration of society associated with the drug trade would either cease or be severely curtailed. Surely, the extreme violence would practically disappear. The disintegration of society in ghettos would still hold true, but for other reasons not associated with drugs. It would be a big step towards healing the misery of the ghettos.

If the Pope is only concerned about the number of drug addicts in the world, then I suppose the reigning status quo is best for him. His current outlook is “World governments should stick latex-gloved hands up rectal passages and send kids to rot in jail, if it will keep the total number of drug users down.” It ain’t worth it, I say.

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