When I want to buy marijuana, I call my weed guy and meet him at a coffee shop. I treat him to an espresso, and we talk about classical albums we've recently enjoyed. He used to own a record store. Then we take a walk around the block.
When I want to buy cocaine, I send a text message to my coke guy asking him if he's out and about. If he is, I meet him at a bar we both like. If he's not, I meet him at his house. It's a nice little house in the near suburbs. We talk about jazz. He's a musician and just does this on the side.
Heroin's a little more troublesome, and I don't indulge in it myself, but all you have to do is cross Penn Avenue and drive into Homestead. It isn't The Wire. The guys who sell are basically regular guys, and polite, if somewhat amused by the cultural whiteness, such as it is, of their clientele.
So when Matthew Yglesias, who's good on foreign policy, writes--
I guess this is something liberals and libertarians are supposed to agree about, but I consistently find it bizarre that there are some people who seem to think it would be a good idea if you could just walk into your local convenience store and pick up some heroin or crack along with your Fritos and Diet Coke--I guess I find it bizarre that he's under the impression that it is currently somehow less convenient or more difficult for an intending buyer to purchase those products than if his proposed situation were the case. It's more expensive, but by no means harder to find. Plus, in a pinch, drug dealers make deliveries, which no 7-11 has done for me lately.
Pennsylvania has crazy blue laws, and you can't buy beer in a convenience store or liquor after 9pm at the State Stores, but just about everywhere else in the country, you can walk into a gas station market and walk out with two chilled six packs. And if you believe that two sixers split among two buddies is more dangerous behind the wheel than a gram of coke, you, my friend, are what a prior generation would've called square.
Meanwhile, from a public health perspective, it seems to me that America's Frito addiction is a bigger problem than its cocaine addiction, and the criminal problems and violence stemming from the latter are uniquely and entirely the result of prohibition. I can't recall the last time a liquor store owner shot another for moving in on his territory, though presumably it's happened.
As Yglesias' commenters point out besides, the state stands to gain from legal-but-regulated narcotics. The word, my liberal friends, is Tax, and while we libertarian types are no great fan of taxation, we're certainly fonder of taxes on consumption than taxes on income, particularly when what's being consumed is quite clearly a non-essential luxury item.
When we talk about legalizing drugs, that's what we're talking about. We're talking about treating proscribed recreational drugs like currently legal ones, particularly alcohol. We're saying: alcohol addiction is just as debilitating as heroin addiction, and the recidivism rates for alcoholics are just as high, if not higher, than for many other addictions to illegal drugs. But for the most part, responsible adults can act responsibly, and the prohibitory regime currently in place only drives the sale and purchase of a desirable commodity underground, with all the black-market perversions that thereby obtain.