For a relatively brief time while I was in the Navy, I worked in a drug and alcohol counseling center. It was perhaps the most eye-opening experience of my life.
There, I learned that drug abusers weren’t a demographic. They are young, old, rich, poor, officers, enlisteds, civilians, dependents.
Not surprisingly, most of those who came to our office did so because they had gotten in trouble, usually as the result of an OWI or public intoxication. And, usually, our counselors were able to discover a multifaceted problem.
Those with drug abuse problems never intended to become abusers or addicts. They were attempting recreational use with the expectation it would be a “one-time deal,” or certainly infrequent. And they certainly didn’t intend to harm anyone else with their drug use.
But, all too often, they did hurt someone, whether it was friends and family or innocent people they just happened upon by chance. And, more times than not, their “one-time deal” quickly turned into full-blown addiction, which impacted even more lives.
There are many stated reasons why non-pharmaceutical use of drugs is illegal. But, mostly, it’s because too many people are incapable of personal restraint and in a highly integrated society, that can be extremely dangerous to others.
Back to the late-19th and early-20th centuries, when most “recreational” drug use was still legal, there was far less social integration. As society became more integrated, the actions of one more quickly and deeply affected the lives of others, thus necessitating the protection of the people’s rights to life and property.
Now, as some have correctly pointed out, even if drug and alcohol abuse was “decriminalized,” it’s still wrong in God’s eyes. As Jesus himself stated, we are to treat our bodies as temples to the Lord. Pumping it full of drugs and alcohol certainly defiles that temple.
But, here in Iowa, a number of politicians have tried to push the “decriminalization” – let’s call it what it really is, legalization — of currently illegal drugs. To make their point, they parade out every “worst case” they can find where only medicinal use of marijuana helps ease pain and suffering.
Others have jumped on board, making the argument government has no right to legislate what we do with our bodies. I think it’s a little too easy to say, “It doesn’t harm anyone. The only person affected is the user. We should decriminalize it,” when you’ve never used or abused drugs and alcohol.
The correct answer, however, is that it does harm people, and not just the user.
That’s why it’s illegal, and I don’t see any reason why it needs to be made legal.
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If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading it in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.