Further Reading

Should drug abuse be illegal?


In your view, is drug abuse a crime?


Dear Francis:

The answer to the question depends on what you mean by drug abuse—whether any use of illicit drugs, extreme or addictive drug use, or illegal behavior associated with drug use or extreme drug use:

  1. I do not think think that drugs which are currently illegal should be illegal for personal usage. I simply am not convinced that by the simple fact of drug use people are harming society.
  2. I do not think that people who are addicted to drugs should be guilty of a crime, as indeed the Supreme Court decided in Robinson v. California, 370 US 660 (1962). However, since drug addicts often have drugs, which are illegal, in fact many drug addicts, along with nonaddicted drug users, are in a state of readiness to be arrested. This serves no purpose, since addicts may need other kinds of assistance and drug users who are not addicted are harmed more by the legal penalties for their use than they are by their drug use itself. This is one reason I don't like the movement in drug laws (represented by drug courts, for example) towards arresting people for drug use, then sentencing them to treatment and claiming that this whole process is to help people. Overall, I think the idea of replacing legal penalties for drug use with treatment is a bad idea, unhelpful to either casual or addicted users.
  3. I do think that addicts—or any drug users—should be liable for any crimes they commit, whether committed while intoxicated, in the pursuit of their addiction, or under any other conditions. In this regard, I differ from many advocates for addicts, who may say that—since addicts are out of control of their behavior—they should not be liable for their actions, at least while intoxicated. I have testified to this effect in several cases, such as one where a man killed a woman in a traffic accident while on a planned drunken relapse.

Yours best,