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Dec 1, 1975

The Case for Legalizing Hard Drugs

“In his brilliant speech, The Case for Legalizing Hard Drugs, Roy Childs demonstrates that virtually every belief held about opiate users is false.”

Every generation seems to have its own peculiar myths, its own unique irrationalities, and its own despised minority. In turn, Jews, Catholics, Chinese, Irish, Japanese, and Negroes have been stereotyped, discriminated against, and harassed by the State. Gradually the sterotypes have been dispelled, the discrimination ameliorated, the legal sanctions eliminated. Now religious, ethnic, and racial tolerance are all but taken for granted as social standards, if not as complete social realities. However, irrational intolerance itself has not disappeared but merely been redirected. In 1975 America there is a new sterotyped and oppressed class: the drug users.

In his brilliant speech, The Case for Legalizing Hard Drugs, Roy Childs demonstrates that virtually every belief held about opiate users is false. Using extensive medical and historical evidence, Childs shows exactly why drug use is mounting and exactly how that use is a social problem. While Childs does not deny health and crime problems associated with drugs, Childs does question that those problems are caused by drug use per se. Rather he demonstrates that all of those problems are the product of the legal sanctions against drugs.

Speaking principally of the opiates, Childs begins his discussion by pointing out that what “the drug problem” is depends upon who is defining it. Further, he points out that legal sanctions as a method of dealing with “the problem” are at best ineffectual: Since 1960 drug laws have bcome much more severe, but opiate (mainly heroin) users have increased from 54,000 to an estimated 300,000-500,000 today in the United States. Childs then goes on to establish his thesis that: “There is no political drug problem, except that which is created by the law. The only way to solve the problem then is to abolish the drug laws.”

Rather than beginning his case with ethical arguments well known to libertarians, Childs instead begins with and spends the bulk of his time presenting medical and historical evidence on the effects of drug use and drug criminalization. At the outset, Childs explains, in the nineteenth century there were no drug laws (drugs were then easily purchasible at pharmacies, grocery stores, or through the mail) and there was no drug problem. “The drug problem”—including everything from physical deterioration of addicts, the involvement of organized crime, a drug subculture, the commission of crimes by addicts to support their habits, and the destruction of families through drug use—is coincident with criminal sanction against drugs. Childs goes on to show exactly why this is the case, discussing in the process a host of relevant issues, including: the history of American drug laws, the effect of opiates on intellectual performance, why authorities are helpless to prevent smuggling of opiates, harmful effects of drug laws upon foreign policy, prominent Americans who were opiate users and the effects upon them, the real reason why the medical profession turned against opiates, astonomical price increases (up to 225,000%!) caused by criminalization of drug use, and ways in which anti-drug laws encourage drug use.

Childs concludes his speech with a passionate ethical statement on the right of self-medication and the implications of the ability of the state to prohibit drug use.

This is a brilliant, meticulously reasoned speech. It deserves to be heard by every libertarian who is interested in defending the right of self-medication, as well as by every conservative who is intent upon saving drug users from themselves. I sincerely hope that The Case for Legalizing Hard Drugs reaches the wide audience that it deserves. Reviewed by Jarret B. Wollstein / Cassette Tape 336 (40 min.) / $9.95 / Order from Audio-Forum, 410 First St, SE, Washington, DC 20003