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Drug Laws Increase Possession Among Minors

The goal of government is to do as the people wish it to. However, like everyone else, the government creates consequences whenever it decides to enact laws. Some of these consequences are very much intentional: laws against murder, for example, are intended to stop people from killing others. Other consequences, however, are completely unintended, and can cause havoc with people’s lives as well as various societal and economic institutions. One law in India that paid a bounty for rat pelts, intended to reduce the number of rats, has ended up encouraging rat farming. These problems are categorized under the law of unintended consequences: despite the best efforts of any organization or government, certain consequences of their actions will be unintended and will end up having adverse affects on people. This is especially true in the case of laws preventing individuals from engaging in voluntary behavior that may harm them.

The most obvious case of laws intended to protect people going wrong is that of anti-drug legislation. While intended to prevent people from using drugs, which have adverse health effects, the current “War on Drugs” and anti-drug legislation has ended up creating a bigger drug problem, with stronger cartels, more sales to minors, and a host of unintended consequences. While intended to decrease the amount of illegal drugs sold and to stop its trade, the War on Drugs has failed. By making the drugs illegal, it has limited the sale of such substances to only those involved in already illegal activities, giving gangs a new source of funding.

One unintended consequence of anti-drug legislation has been the increased sale of drugs to minors. Because drug sales are illegal to both adults and minors alike, dealers have no incentive to avoid selling to children. In fact, they have a greater incentive to sell it to minors, because minors are less likely to rat them out, since minors have very few avenues of recourse against the dealers. Because youths are unable to legally purchase weapons, or pursue other judicial means, it becomes much harder for them to retaliate against drug dealers. As such, it becomes safer for drug dealers to sell to minors rather than adults, because it is safer for them personally. If anti-drug legislation were replaced merely with laws allowing only the sale of drugs to adults, dealers have an incentive to not sell to young people. However, because anti-drug legislation considers all sales equally, dealers sell more drugs to minors.

With the increase in drug trade, people are made worse off by the law. Increased drug sales means increased revenue for criminal organizations and gangs. Like in the era of Prohibition, criminal cartels make vast amounts of money selling drugs and circumventing the law. More funding for criminals means more crimes, more murders, deaths, and violence. The problem is especially bad in areas such as the cities, and has even crept into places normally considered far removed from drug problems. Even suburban areas and rural towns now face a drug problem.

There are, of course, better alternatives. Legalizing the sale of drugs will cut off drug dealing as a source of revenue for criminals. Drug users can get treatment, since using drugs will no longer be a crime that they are punished for. People who sell drugs will not sell to minors, because it would be disadvantageous and unprofitable. Legislation that doesn’t restrict drugs entirely, but rather sets a minimum age, would increase individual freedom to use drugs. It would also reduce the current drug problem in the United States, by mitigating the effects of shady criminal dealers with unsafe drugs and ties to members of gangs. The end result is greater freedom for the individual, and a better life for all.