Liberty Across the Board: Ron Paul vs Boston Globe on The Right to Use Heroin

by | Aug 28, 2014

The Boston Globe published this week a guest editorial arguing, as RPI Chairman and Founder Ron Paul memorably did during a 2011 Republican presidential primary debate in South Carolina, that heroin should be legalized. While the Globe editorial presents strong arguments for heroin legalization, it shies away from discussing the right to use heroin. In contrast, when asked in the debate about legalizing heroin, Paul zeroed in on individual rights, saying that protecting the right to use heroin is part of his commitment to protecting liberty “across-the-board”:

The Globe editorial by Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition presents valuable arguments for ending heroin prohibition and merits reading. But, the editorial fails to address the important issue of individuals’ right to choose what they put into their bodies, including substances that alter their perceptions.

The individual rights argument for legalizing heroin is also in conflict with the Cole editorial’s support for government regulation of heroin purity and the establishment of special places where people would consume heroin.

Considering the patchwork quilt of laws governing alcohol in the US, it would be rather Pollyannaish to assume that heroin will be legalized soon in a manner that does not include some government interferences such as “quality control” regulations, restrictions on where the drug may be used, and taxes. Nevertheless, when you make the case for legalization while excluding a discussion of the freedom to use — and especially when you couple that exclusion with an inclusion of recommended government powers — you invite reform efforts that, far from true legalization, involve a lot of tinkering but little overall increased respect for liberty.

Practically speaking, practical arguments alone stacked from here to the moon will be of little persuasive value so long as the rights argument is not widely accepted. Dramatic reductions in government restrictions regarding heroin or another “hard drug” cannot be expected before a large percentage of the American people (for a national law change) or of people living in a state or local government’s jurisdiction (for a state or local law change) respect that people have a right to use the drug.


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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