Skip to main content

The Drug Debate

June 2024
1min read

The two articles in “Should We Legalize Drugs? History Answers” in your February/March issue laid out the arguments on both sides of this issue in a compelling manner.

The advocates of drug legalization often frame their case by discussing the need to allow somebody else to become enslaved by addiction. But think about it on a personal level. Would you want your son or daughter or spouse to spend their days smoking crack, or injecting heroin, or hallucinating on LSD? Is this the way you would choose to spend your own life?

I remain convinced that the drugs we outlaw today must remain illegal, because I have personally witnessed the effects of drugs too often and too painfully. I have seen crack babies, trembling, their minds and bodies damaged by their mothers’ drug abuse. I have seen people dying of AIDS they contracted by sharing needles to inject drugs. I have seen innocent victims maimed and murdered by drug addicts.

No state does more than New York to fight drug abuse. We spend $1.4 billion a year in the campaign against drugs, and our efforts in education, treatment, and law enforcement are having positive effects. I look forward to increased emphasis on drug education and treatment on the federal level to help us.

Candidly, no society has ever or will ever succeed in abolishing the use of all mind-altering drugs, just as no society in the foreseeable future will succeed in abolishing all cancer. But that doesn’t mean we can simply throw up our hands and say we won’t even defend ourselves against these plagues. While the cost of prohibiting drugs is high, the cost of legalizing them would be much, much higher.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.