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Bill Harrison

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Should we legalize hard drugs in the US and elsewhere? If not, what pragmatic (not moralistic) arguments justify continued criminalization?

Elizabeth Pisani, a self-described "public health nerd", makes an extremely persuasive case that governments should make the highly cost-effective decision to pass out needles and condoms in order to prevent HIV.

Today, I read that a mass grave was found with 116 dead bodies, victims of drug-traffickers in Mexico.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-mexico-bodies-20110413,0,1508583.story

So, should we legalize hard drugs in order to take away some of the financial power from drug lords and reduce the incentive for violence in the drug trade?

Argument from reason:
Profit from drugs is extremely high because they can only be obtained illegally. Because drug sellers cannot use the legal system to enforce deals, they must enforce contracts extra-legally (with guns, violence, etc.) By financing drug-traffickers' weapons and operations, the drug trade makes other crimes more possible/likely. Legalizing hard drugs in the US a) removes the major market for drug cartels in Mexico, thus removing a huge source of financing for violent, organized crime, and b) provides a non-violent method of dispute resolution for the distributors in the US, possibly saving lives.

Argument by analogy/history:
So, given that ending Prohibition took a huge chunk out of the finances of organized crime:
http://www.umich.edu/~eng217/student_projects/nkazmers/organizedcrime2.html

Argument from authority:
And given that very smart Harvard professors think drugs should be legalized:
http://www.businessinsider.com/all-drugs-should-be-legalized-immediately-says-harvard-prof-2010-10?comments_page=2

I take it as self-evident/overwhelmingly obvious that we should pass out needles and condoms to prevent disease, as Ms. Pisani suggests. But given the aforementioned reasons, should we legalize hard drugs in the US and elsewhere? If so, are there other/better arguments for legalization than the ones I've given? If not, what pragmatic arguments justify continued criminalization?

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