Last week I wrote a column that strongly rejected New Mexico Governor
Gary Johnson’s call for an America where all drugs are legal. Within
hours after WND posted my column, drug legalization advocates in the
U.S. and Canada unleashed a vulgar, personal e-mail attack against me.
Some claimed that my column was riddled with lies. Others called me a
“brainwashed agent for government storm troopers.”
One reader called me a black Nazi. Several readers equated the
prosecution of marijuana smokers with the murder of Jews during World
War II. Some even attacked me for being a Christian and exercising my
First Amendment right of free speech and free thought. What was most
fascinating was that most drug legalization supporters claimed to have a
constitutional right to do darn well what they wanted.
More than one shared their hope that some deranged drug addict would
kill me. Some drug legalization advocates even admitted that they had
organized an e-mail campaign to attempt to intimidate me into silence.
Now that is real Nazism for you.
The good news is that my column also generated some of the most
thoughtful arguments for the legalization, decriminalization or
regulation of drugs that I have ever read. Because of these reasoned
responses, I am continuing this important conversation about what
America should do about drugs.
My base question is this: What about the addicts? Does America get
the better end of the deal if the cost of legalizing all drugs is more
drug addicts? Will, on the other hand, we destroy those constitutionally
guaranteed liberties that make America special if we continue the War on
The specter of the legal sale and use of drugs deeply troubles most
Americans. This week, Phillip Morris finally admitted that cigarettes
will give you cancer and kill you. Their defense to selling a deadly
product was that “Everyone knows cigarettes are harmful. Since no one
makes you smoke, we shouldn’t be responsible for what you do of your own
free will.” Isn’t it ironic that Big Tobacco is using the same argument
as the drug legalization folks? Do we want to replace Big Tobacco with
The problem with the “free choice” argument is that it ignores the
reality of addiction. It ignores the billions of advertising dollars
that attempt to convince us that it’s cool to smoke. Do we really think
that the same thing won’t happen if we legalize drugs? We cannot let Big
Tobacco off the hook or seriously consider changing our drug policy
until we look at the true cost of addiction.
Let me be clear about the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs is deeply
flawed. Drug raids that target the wrong home violate the very fabric of
America. Mistakes like the recent confiscation of sterile hemp birdseed
cause many to believe that the idea is out of touch with reality.
Drug prosecution policies that send two-bit pushers and users to prison
while allowing drug kingpins to buy out of the system are destroying the
credibility of our legal system. Sending disturbed addicts to prison
instead of treating them is no solution.
Nevertheless, most Americans do not want the government to make money
off the suffering of drug addicts. Most Americans do not want drugs sold
in grocery stores, drug stores or in vending machines.
Drug legalization advocates argue that a regulated drug market, where
drugs are only available in “government drugstores,” would be better
than what we have now. However, the experiences of Japan with its sexual
addiction problem are not comforting.
In Japan, a disturbingly large number of men are addicted to school
girl sex fantasies. The Japanese government regulates child pornography.
In Japan, the government says that it is OK to have vending machines at
train stations that sell “school girl panties.” Do we want an America
where pot, crack and LSD are sold in vending machines? I don’t.
The biggest problem with legalization or decriminalization is the
terrible toll America pays for drug addiction.
Many drug legalization advocates believe that the drug lords will
just walk away from America if the government takes over the
distribution of drugs. They believe that if we take the “excessive
profits” out of drugs by legalizing them, the market for illicit drugs
will evaporate. They believe that if drugs are “cheap,” drug addiction
These arguments ignore human nature. The only way to get drug lords
to stop preying on the American people is to stop buying drugs. If we
legalize drugs, some drug lords will become legal suppliers of drugs. If
we prevent that by giving the government a monopoly on the sale of
drugs, the illegal market will continue to flourish. Because government
drug stores will not be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If we let anyone sell drugs, many drug lords will go into that
business. Others will sell their drugs at a discount or for credit. They
will make up for the small profit margin by selling more and cutting
their criminal defense lawyer costs.
Many have told me that if the government regulates the sale of drugs,
the number of people addicted to drugs will plummet. Many drug
legalization advocates say that America’s experience with Prohibition
supports their position. The first problem with that argument is that
I’ve seen evidence that suggests that the number of alcoholics declined
The second problem of using the experiences of Prohibition is that
the America of the Prohibition era no longer exists. Back then, America
was profoundly rural. Segregation was legal and the television, the
interstate freeway system, computers, copiers, cell phones, and air
conditioning were not a part of everyone’s life.
If we want a better example of the potential impact of the
legalization of drugs on America, let’s look at gambling. In the past 20
years, legalized and regulated gambling has spread from Nevada and New
Jersey to 47 states.
Every study that I have seen, including those of state lottery
commissions, says that legalized gambling has increased the number of
gambling addicts across America.
Every study I have seen says that instead of getting the mob out of
gambling, legalization has unleashed an epidemic of bribery and
corruption of public officials. If you doubt my words, look at what has
happened in Louisiana. Amazingly, legalized gambling has made politics
in Louisiana more corrupt, not less. So if we use our experience with
gambling, the one thing we don’t want to do is legalize drugs.
Unfortunately, using examples doesn’t end the debate. Because the
reality is that tens of millions of Americans consume drugs every day
although they know that they are breaking the law. Most of these people
never become addicts. Their continued use of illegal drugs argues that
the War on Drugs will never end. So, if we can’t win the war, should we
keep fighting a losing cause? If most drug users don’t become addicts,
should we give drug use our blessing?
I am a Christian, so for me, the answer is simple. If you truly
believe in God, you don’t need drugs. In fact, all major religions
believe that the only way to a higher consciousness is through a deep
and profound relationship with God, not by using drugs.
However, you don’t have to be a Christian to be deeply troubled by
the addiction issue. You don’t have to believe in God to have serious
concerns about a society that profits from the addiction and destruction
of a significant portion of our people.
If you think that the term “significant portion” is extreme, consider
this. There are more drug addicts in America than there are Americans of
Asian or Jewish heritage. For me, drug addiction is a scourge of
holocaust proportions. I cannot accept any argument for legalization
that ignores the human and spiritual cost of increased drug addiction.
On July 16, 1998, The Dallas Morning News ran a chilling Associated
Press story about Portland, Oregon’s heroin epidemic. I saved this
article because it touched me deeply.
Some of the most vulgar drug legalization supporters claimed that I
had no right to have my own opinion unless “facts” supported it. Well,
smoke on these “facts”:
- Oregon couple’s public suicides put spotlight on heroin
Officials lament scarcity of assistance for addicts in area hit by
high rate of drug use.
PORTLAND, Ore. — As afternoon traffic rumbled by, a young couple in
grunge clothes and combat boots climbed over the rail of the downtown
Steel Bridge, slipped twin nooses from a single rope around their necks
and jumped to their deaths.
For nearly an hour, the bodies dangled side by side about 50 feet
above the Willamette River. Cars slowed. A crowd gathered on the banks.
Workers in office buildings rushed toward the windows. Amtrak passengers
were warned to close their curtains as their train drew near the lower
level of the bridge, where the bodies hung at eye level until police
could remove them.
The couple, 29-year-old Michael Douglas and his 25-year-old fiancée,
Mora McGowan, were heroin addicts whose habit left them broke, tormented
“I think I’ve decided on an old-fashioned public hanging,” Mr.
Douglas wrote in a 13-page journal found in the book bag slung over his
shoulder. “The Steel Bridge shall be my gallows … Mora and I go
together on the Steel Bridge.”
The public suicide July 1 shocked this city, at least for a moment,
into the realization that many of the young people who live on the
streets in Portland are addicts and there is little help available for
“A lot of us really took this to heart,” said Donna Mulcare, a
volunteer at the Oregon Partnership’s drug and alcohol HelpLine. “This
issue hits many more people than you realize — chances are you know
somebody or work with somebody or passed someone on the street who is
Heroin is responsible for more deaths in Oregon than any other drug,
said Dr. Larry Lewman, state medical examiner. In 1997, there were 221
drug-related deaths in Oregon; of those, 161 involved heroin.
In a study released this month by the Office of National Drug Control
Policy, nearly 14 percent of the men arrested in Portland and 27 percent
of the women tested positive for heroin or related opiates. The rate
among the Portland women was the highest of all 23 major U.S. cities
studied. Just over 1 million people live in the Portland metropolitan
Oregon has the nation’s 10th highest suicide rate, at 17 suicides per
Mr. Douglas had once worked as a tattoo artist and landscaper, Ms.
McGowan as an assistant manager for a downtown beauty salon. They got
engaged and moved in together a year and a half ago and had been
responsible about paying their rent until last August.
Those who knew Mr. Douglas said drugs were always a part of his life.
When he and Ms. McGowan began using heroin, they started pawning
everything they owned of any value to feed their habit. They were
eventually kicked out of the friend’s apartment where they had been
staying and put out on the streets.
At least once, Ms. McGowan tried treatment but failed. In despair,
she tried suicide by cutting her wrists, but her mother rushed her to
the hospital. Mr. Douglas tried to come up with the money to buy enough
heroin for an overdose, but he couldn’t.
Police Sgt. Kent Perry said Mr. Douglas wrote in his journal about
the grind of having to raise $200 every day to pay for his fix and how
he considered other ways of ending his life, including shooting himself
or lying down on the train tracks.
“It was a waste of life,” said Isaac Frankel, an analyst at Northwest
Natural Gas who saw the twin suicide from his office building. “I
thought it was just a prank, until the police came.”
Every weekday morning, on the scrubby fringe of Portland’s downtown,
where black tar heroin sells for about $50 per quarter gram, at least 20
people line up for a chance at the few daily slots in the Hooper Center
for Alcohol and Drug Intervention, the city’s biggest detoxification
“There are far fewer treatment resources than are needed — probably
for every 10 addicts that have wanted treatment, only one is admitted,”
said Richard Harris, executive director of Central City Concern, which
oversees the clinic.
Some of those who waited in line said news of the double suicide
spread quickly on the streets.
“It seemed like people should have taken it harder,” said a slender
22-year-old heroin addict who asked to be identified only as Margaret.
“When you are a junkie, your options are limited. You just have to keep
doing what you are doing.”
For three years now, Margaret has been scrounging for the $50 a day
she needs to stay high selling everything she owns, even her body. She
and more than 10 others were turned away at the treatment center.
Portland is a very “progressive” city. What would Portland look
like if we legalized drugs? Do we really believe that people with
co-dependent personalities will be less likely to become addicts if we
legalize drugs? I know people in every part of this country who struggle
with drug addiction every day. I know people who have died of drug
overdoses. I know people who have been robbed, beaten and murdered by
drug addicts. I don’t want their numbers to increase.
My question for all of us is this: Given the horrors of drug
addiction, is legalization the best solution? If legalization with
regulation included full treatment for all addicts, would America be
better off than it is now? Or is the real problem that in America, we
have become addicted to the idea that if it feels good, we should be
able to do it?
Some drug legalization supporters have told me that the “only good
addict is a dead addict.” I reject any attempt to dehumanize drug
addicts. I am also sympathetic to the argument that the current War on
Drugs criminalizes drug addiction instead of treating it as an emotional
Many drug legalization advocates say that we should separate
marijuana from other drugs. They cite medical studies that refute my
contention that marijuana is a gateway drug. They point to convincing
evidence that marijuana has legitimate medicinal uses. However, Governor
Johnson and his supporters are not talking about just legalizing,
decriminalizing or regulating pot. They want to include all drugs,
including the hardest and most addictive drugs.
If complete legalization of all drugs is our only choice, most
Americans will reject any attempt to scale back our War on Drugs.
Instead, we will insist that the constitutional rights of all of our
citizens be protected. We will insist that more resources be targeted
towards the cure and treatment of addicts. However, we will reject an
American government that says it’s all right to use heroin, cocaine, LSD
and other hard drugs.
Every country and empire that turned its back on drug addiction lost
its soul and eventually lost its freedom. If the drug legalization
community wants to make any headway, it must address the legitimate,
serious concerns of the majority of Americans. The drug legalization
community must also disown and discipline those who would attempt to
silence opponents by threats of violence. Protecting everyone’s right to
have their own opinion is one of the rights that makes America the
greatest country in the history of the world.