Cure better than prevention

Matthew White

Just as good fences make good neighbors, good laws make good citizens.

The laws that make substances illegal protect the innocent and provide addicts a way out of their lifestyle. Admittedly, not every law is equally effective and not every drug is equally harmful, but making drugs illegal makes society a better — rather than worse — place.

In a perfect world, such laws wouldn’t be necessary. Your everyday, average supernothing named “John” could sit in his parent’s basement and smoke all the marijuana, crack cocaine and heroin he could handle. He wouldn’t have to worry about being employed, going to school or any of the other annoying things in a normal 20-something’s life.

“Supernothing” John could ignore the fact that his parents still paid for his food and shelter while he sat on the couch and watched pirated Adult Swim cartoons, burned incense and occasionally freaked out at the crazy designs on his Bob Marley poster.

It would be a pretty easy life. If he “tweaked” the paperwork enough, Supernothing John might even be able to manipulate the system so that he could receive government aid. He could tell people, “I’m unemployed right now, but I’m really trying,” while he waited for his dealer.

Someone not as comfortable with Supernothing John’s lifestyle is his father — a man who worked hard every day so that his son could grow up in a nice home and have nice things.

Or, Supernothing John’s mother who worked with him every night on his homework and met with his teachers to make sure he was doing well in school.

Even if Supernothing John’s parents didn’t care, maybe someone did — a teacher, a friend, a significant other.

But, instead of doing them proud, Supernothing John sits at home and does drugs, betraying his parents and all the other people who gave of themselves to help him grow up right and do well in life.

The point is: Drug laws wouldn’t have stopped John from starting his habit, but that doesn’t mean their intended purpose is bad. If a law can help someone out of a bad lifestyle, I’ll take it.

Government regulation rarely accomplishes the goal that it sets out to do, and this is the case with the various laws that make drugs illegal. People might hesitate to use a “softcore” drug because they’re afraid of the consequences, but not forever. Eventually, if they really want to try it — they will. And, if you believe drug laws are aimed at preventing drug use, the law has failed.

Drug laws are necessary because they force people to quit — either through jail or rehab. These are people who aren’t intimidated by the legal consequences of using, but laws make them clean themselves up and begin living responsibly.

Supernothing John might be able to get away with doing drugs in his parent’s basement for a while, but eventually he’s going to get addicted. He’s going to have to find a source of money to feed his habit, and a 9-to-5 job probably isn’t on the menu. And, more than likely, he’s going to start taking risks, like using in public because he can only “go so long without it, man.”

But, when — not if — Supernothing John gets busted, someone is finally going to be checking up on him. Someone, probably a police officer, is going to be holding him accountable. Without drug laws, Supernothing John would fall through the cracks.

Matthew White is a senior magazine journalism major and point/counterpoint columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].