NEW YORK (MainStreet) Now that the legalization of recreational marijuana is a reality in two states and gaining momentum in others, there is a nascent movement to legalize heroin. Three high-profile politicians - former Representative Ron Paul (R-Tex), former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and former Republican Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson - support it.
Why would someone want to legalize heroin? For many of the same reasons put forward to legalize marijuana or prostitution or just about any other vice. It can be regulated and made safer, it can be taxed, it will free up limited prison resources for real criminals and on and on ad nauseam.
"Legalizing heroin - and all other drugs - is a terrific idea," said Jeff Miron, director of economic policy studies for the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C. libertarian think-tank. "The most important beneficiaries...would be heroin users themselves: they would face lower prices, predictable purity and the availability to buy from reliable, non-criminal sources."
Miron said that lower prices would reduce the incentives to inject heroin. He added that eliminating restrictions would diminish dirty needle use which would in turn prevent the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases. Users would not face the risk of arrest, and police could turn their efforts more fully to deterring non-drug crime.
"More broadly, non-users would benefit from reduced crime and corruption," Miron opined. "Violent crime between participants in the illegal heroin market should disappear. And income-generating crime committed by users should diminish as prices decline, allowing users to support their use on less income."
Miron also alleges that tax revenue from legal heroin would be about $7 billion per year according to his 2010 Cato study. It "would be modest but nevertheless beneficial for the public purse."
Of course, not everyone greets the introduction of heroin to society with open arms.