View RSS Feed

Memories of the 28th Century

What We Would Lose

Rating: 5 votes, 5.00 average.
On an online forum that I belong to someone asked for information about how a major illegal drug purchase might be done for a work of fiction that he is working on. I just realized that when we legalize everything he will lose the subject matter of his novel. There may still be a few things written about historical drug activities, but the ordinary businesses of drug companies like Pfizer, Sandoz, and so on arenít as interesting for fiction as the illegal things that go on. A whole swath of fiction will be a thing of the past when we legalize drugs, and there are other things that we will lose.

The main thing weíll lose is a large collection of criminals. People who were criminals because they used, transported, sold, or had other dealings with illegal drugs. We donít know how many people are included in the group, but it would be some millions of people. A subgroup of those is those who are presently in prison includes 1,725,000 people, or 78.9% of the total prison population.

That drop in prison population would mean that a substantial number of guards and administrators in the federal and state prisons systems would be unnecessary. There are about 1.7 million people in that and related job classifications (see link), and some of those categories would not lose as many personnel. It would take a great deal of research to determine how many jobs would disappear, so I will punt and guess that roughly half of the jobs would go or 850,000 jobs would be lost from that category..

Guards and prison personnel arenít the only ones who would lose their jobs. The judicial system has many people who would be unnecessary if drugs were legal. Those would include judges, defense attorneys, clerical personnel, and guards and bailiffs. The guards and bailiffs probably are included in the gross numbers for prison guards and related, so I will ignore them in this section. There are about 840,000 lawyers in the U.S., but I canít set how many are public defenders, so I will just wing it here and guess that 50,000 positions in public defense would disappear. On the other side of the court roughly the same number of public prosecutors would lose their jobs. Some number of judges would also become unnecessary, but most of them would retain their jobs and handle other cases.

Then there are the police jobs that would be unnecessary, and thatís an even more difficult number to come up with. There were only 780,000 police in 2012, and that number seems rather low, but it only includes city, county, and state police; the federal agencies Iíll look at later. As to how many would lose their jobs, I will have to guess that few will, at least initially, because there will be demands that they do other things. A reasonable guess is that about 80,000 would become redundant immediately.

Among federal agencies, the DEA will have no reason to exist when drugs become legal, so all 11,055 staff would go; that includes both agents and support staff. There may be some people in other federal agencies who would become redundant, but they probably would be assigned to other positions.

Taken together about 1,041,055 jobs will be lost when drugs become legal, but remember that number is a guess based on what presently exists to service drug crime. I have never seen estimates, and an online search failed to find any guesses. Considering how widespread illegal drugs are in the U.S. there are people involved in the sales in every city and town. For security reasons the numbers of personnel are usually kept to a minimum, and many of the people are independent operators. Due to the nature of the business the wages and hours are unregulated, so people often work all day and night. There certainly are more people involved in fast food sales, but the two industries have similar levels of market penetration. Guessing that there are 500,000 people involved in the retail wholesale, and manufacturing of illegal drugs would seem reasonable.

On the other side are jobs that will be gained, when drugs become legal. Most of the jobs gained will be in retails sales, agriculture, transportation, and processing, and the numbers probably will be larger than the number of illegal jobs that will be lost. I donít believe that there is any way to make an accurate estimate of this number, but we should also consider that most of the money expended for personnel in regard to illegal drugs is from the public coffers, so legalizing drugs would lower taxes. If people were so inclined, then public funds could be used for other purposes. Government usually is inefficient in its use of money, so lowering taxes and allowing individuals to spend their own money would be a more effective use for the money.

Then there are the people who will complain that legalizing drugs will mean that more people will die from drugs. They may be right, but they would die by their own hands, and they would not die from tainted drugs, as is often the case now. The higher quality and accurate specifications of legal drugs would make it less likely that people would die by accident. Those people who use illegal drugs to kill themselves would have an easier job if illegal drugs were legal, but most of them would have the same end result in either case.

What would we really lose, if all drugs were to become legal? Some of our chains are all that would be lost.

Updated 11-20-2015 at 08:26 AM by PeterL