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Why Good Parents Should Support Drug Legalization

As an ex-junkie, I know how harmful addiction is.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/asife


A friend of mine used to laugh when I said I was in favor of legalizing all drugs. He just couldn’t fathom such a position. He told me that if they legalized drugs, “It would take all of the fun out of it.”

Three years after he died of a heroin overdose, I wonder whether he’d be alive now if drugs had been legal.

As a father, I sometimes find myself on the receiving end of an argument that’s a perennial favorite of the hardened drug warrior: Why would I, the father of a nine-year-old girl, advocate for a society awash with legally available drugs?

The answer is simple: My daughter is already growing up in a society in which illegal drugs are easier to procure than alcohol. Unlike the guy behind the counter of my local liquor store, I’ve never known a drug dealer who checked IDs.

Of course, as an ex-addict, the idea of my daughter using drugs is disquieting. But let’s be honest: The idea of her dating boys is disquieting. I’m not about to campaign to ban co-ed schools. It is hard to remain detached and logical when I’m talking about the little girl I tuck into bed every night. But I truly believe that ending prohibition would protect her, not expose her to harm.

The horrors of drug addiction are the last thing I’d ever want her to experience. But if it did happen, I’d prefer it to happen in a society that treated addiction as a medical issue, rather than a reason to lock her up. And frankly, I’m more at ease with the idea of her smoking a joint when she’s old enough, rather than exposing herself to the greater potential harms of alcohol. That doesn't mean I'm going to head off with her to my local 420 rally this weekend.

Maybe it’s easier for me than most parents because the cat, as it were, is already out of the bag. I've written about my experiences with heroin and crack in great detail in my books. She'll no doubt read them when she's old enough. But even without the paper trail, I've always felt that I have a duty to be honest with my daughter about drugs. Especially when she's growing up in a society that will be bombarding her with politically motivated propaganda via police-led “educational” programs like DARE, and a media that often prefers hysteria and controversy to cold hard facts.

I truly believe that we're moving toward a society in which it is no longer acceptable to persecute drug users, and it's my duty to prepare my child for that.

The movement to legalize marijuana is gathering unprecedented momentum. In the US, it’s now legal in two states for adults to buy pot just like tobacco or alcohol. In many other states, all it takes is a doctor’s prescription. There is a steady shift in public attitudes to the War on Drugs: According to one recent poll, only one in five Americans feels it has been worth the cost. Suddenly, it seems everything is up for grabs.

Taking a stand against prohibition—whether by how we vote, where we donate or simply being “out and proud” about our beliefs—is one thing that our unique, fractured and excluded community should do with one voice. If we don’t, others will make their own assumptions about where we stand. 

Addiction and recovery issues have for years been moving out of the shadows and into the media spotlight. Celebrities openly discuss going to rehab; in a weird way, recovery has become trendy. We can seize this high profile to speak out against the injustices of the drug war.