Montréal, 10 septembre 2006 • No 192




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          Vous irez dire aux soldats canadiens qui se font tuer avec des armes achetées avec l'argent de l'héroïne que les gens qui se droguent ne commettent pas un acte violent!

          Une belle société libre qu'une bande de drogués.

          Ne confondez pas libertinage et liberté.

J.-F. Racicot


Answer by Bradley Doucet:

          Let me begin by thanking Mr. Racicot for taking the time to respond to my article calling for the elimination of drug laws, and thereby giving me the opportunity to clarify and expand upon the issues he raises.

          To address his last point first, I do appreciate the difference between libertinage and liberty. The primary definition of a libertine in the Second Edition of the Canadian Oxford is "a man who behaves without moral principles or a sense of responsibility, esp. in sexual matters." I most definitely believe in taking personal, individual responsibility for my own actions and their consequences, and acting according to those moral principles that make sense to me. I do believe that drug abuse is harmful to the abuser, and I personally wish to avoid that harm. I have no desire to squander my life overindulging in drugs. It was certainly not my intention to promote libertinage. I am simply arguing that it is up to each individual to determine his or her own parameters with respect to potentially harmful substances. My "representatives" in government have no business making that determination on my behalf, or on anyone else's behalf.

          Mr. Racicot's more substantive point, however, is that drug use has negative consequences that extend beyond the harm to the user himself from overindulgence. Specifically, he implies that drug users are responsible, at least in part, for the deaths of Canadian soldiers who are killed by weapons bought with the proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs. He implies that drug use is a violent act because it leads to the deaths of those soldiers, even if drug users are not the ones pulling the triggers.

          Let me first state that I appreciate the risks soldiers take in the process of doing their jobs, at least insofar as those jobs involve fighting to protect and defend others from the initiation of violence. With all due respect to them and their families, however, Mr. Racicot's argument just does not hold up under closer scrutiny.

          A drug user does not resort to the use of force when he takes drugs. (A drunk who goes home and beats his wife after a night of bingeing is another story: he is guilty of a crime for the act of beating, but this does not make the drinking itself a crime, nor does it make the vast majority of peaceful drinkers into automatic criminals, as if by association.) A buyer and a retailer of drugs do not engage in the use of force either. They engage in a voluntary exchange, as do a wholesaler and a retailer, and again a producer and a wholesaler.

          In our current circumstances, these different players may resort to the use of force because they are defending their property from legalized theft by various authorities, or from unscrupulous business associates. The undeniably violent nature of the drug trade, however, is not inherent in the business, but is caused by the government restrictions themselves. To borrow a phrase from the gun rights lobby, if you outlaw drugs, only outlaws will risk getting involved in supplying the demand for drugs.

          Furthermore, as I stated in my article, it is the very criminality of the drug trade that makes it so profitable. The danger of being incarcerated or killed, the risk of having one's property expropriated, and the lack of recourse to the legal system to defend oneself against aggression from the less scrupulous all combine to inflate profits for those willing to take on these risks. Criminals and terrorists have a higher than average risk threshold, but eliminating drug laws would rob them of the exorbitant profits used to finance their destructive acts. Were it not for the criminalization of the drug trade, this industry would be perfectly capable of functioning without resorting to the use of force, just like any other business. It is this very criminalization that is to be blamed for the deaths of our soldiers in Afghanistan, as well as the deaths of our children caught in the crossfire on the streets of Toronto and other cities. Every additional needless death is one more good reason to end the tragically flawed human experiment that is our ongoing war on drugs.

          In closing, let me reiterate my appreciation of the fact that drug abuse can have terrible consequences for drug abusers themselves. The terrible consequences of the war on drugs, however, are far more wide-ranging. They pose a serious danger to both our liberty and our security that we ignore at our own peril.

B. D.