Via Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Guest, the pro-War-on-Poor-People Drug Free America Foundation’s poll on whether drug use is a victimless crime. As Robert notes, 2/3 of the poll’s respondents agree or agree strongly.
I voted for “Strongly agree. What a user chooses to do themselves is no one’s business.” But three of the other choices — including “Disagree. Individual drug use affects society” had some appeal too. The question — whether drug use is “a victimless crime” is a stupid one.
I got a call this evening from an 18-year-old who’d been arrested recently. I correctly guessed in the first 15 seconds of the conversation that it was a marijuana case. He just seemed . . . slow. Children should not be smoking marijuana. It delays their emotional development — being 16 is hard enough when you’re 16; it must be even harder when you stop smoking weed years later — and it makes them sound like the gears in their brains are gooey.
Drugs can be harmful. They can harm their users as well as, indirectly, their users’ families’ and society. “Victimless crime” is a terrible description for drug possession. Is drug possession victimless? Often, no. Is drug possession a crime? Yes, but only arbitrarily. If we’re trying to figure out whether to decriminalize drugs, the question of whether their use is a victimless crime is the wrong one to ask.
The fact that drug possession is currently a crime adds nothing to our understanding of whether it should be. The question should not be, “is drug possession victimless” but should drug possession be a crime? My answer to that question is “no.” The WoD is wrong, but not because drug use has no victims; rather, because the cure is much worse than the disease.
Drug use is victimless in the same way that alcohol use, tobacco use, or high-fructose corn syrup use is victimless. It’s a crime only because . . . well, because it is.
There’s got to be a way to describe the use of these harmful substances (which kills more people in America every year, illegal drugs or alcohol? Illegal drugs or tobacco? Illegal drugs or carbohydrates?) that conveys the damage done without implicitly justifying the WoD. In a perfect world, it would be a victimfuil non-crime; we wouldn’t be sticking our noses into each other’s business.