What would we do without drug prohibition? Well, we’d probably have to think for ourselves, make informed choices about drug use, and behave responsibly. A scary thought.
But in a sense, we already have to do these things, because prohibition has completely failed at keeping illegal drugs out of American life. Making wise decisions is already important, and prohibition hasn’t changed much about the need to be informed and responsible. Prohibition has, however, encouraged a great deal of misinformation about drugs, harmed our civil liberties, promoted violence, wrecked the usual market safeguards that apply to consumer goods, and made the most dangerous drugs more prevalent.
After admitting that “just ban them all” is not a viable answer, the next step in getting past drug prohibition is the search for sensible ways to interact with psychoactive drugs. The real choice isn’t between prohibition and a final drug binge that wipes out America once and for all. It’s between prohibition and individual responsibility — a responsibility that might mean saying “no,” but could sometimes mean saying “yes.”
This isn’t an easy message to sell, but two people have been trying for more than a decade, and their efforts have been extraordinary. They are the pseudonymous authors Earth and Fire Erowid, who together maintain the Erowid.org drug information archive, the largest and most often visited drug information site on the Internet.
They are also the lead authors at Cato Unbound this month, and they’ve produced a remarkable essay criticizing drug prohibition, encouraging free inquiry, and insisting that sound drug policy begins with individual choice and individual responsibility.