Mark Kleiman notes an awful lot of dubious arguments in the new document (PDF) from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Here’s my (least) favorite, from their argument that legalized drugs wouldn’t reduce the level of violence and disorder in Mexico:
Criminals won’t stop being criminals if we make drugs legal. Individuals who have chosen to pursue a life of crime and violence aren’t likely to change course, get legitimate jobs, and become honest, tax-paying citizens just because we legalize drugs. The individuals and organizations that smuggle drugs don’t do so because they enjoy the challenge of “making a sale.” They sell drugs because that’s what makes them the most money.
The final sentence here is insightful. The rest is ridiculous. People sell drugs to make money. They don’t sell drugs because they’ve “chosen to pursue a life of crime,” they’re trying to pursue a life of money-making. They’re criminals because the thing they’re trying to do to make money is illegal. If it were legal for them to sell drugs they’d be thrilled! But they wouldn’t be criminals. This seems perfectly obvious. If drugs were legal, it’d be like cigarettes or beer—sold on the retail level by regular retailers, and produced and wholesaled by large multinational corporations that lobby for light taxation and engage in large scale advertising to grow market share. Like all vendors of addictive substances, whether legal or illegal, they’d depend for their profits largely on growing the population of addicts and this would have bad public health consequences. But like most businessmen, they’d shy away from settling disputes via armed battles.
Is anyone really fooled by denying this? I’m not eager to see fully commercialized heroin sold at the corner store, but turning drug distribution into a serious criminal act has very clearly served to create a largish economic sector full of serious criminals.