Drug Legalization
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
First Aired: 
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

What is it

Ken and John discuss the philosophical issues underlying arguments for and against the legalization of drugs.  Does America's drug problem rest on confused philosophy?  Listen in and get more confused.

Listening Notes

How are drugs defined? The official government list does not have a clear definition. What're the arguments against having drugs be illegal? The libertarian argument says that I can do whatever I want to my body, so the government should not interfere. Ken introduces Peter de Marneffe, professor at Arizona State University. What benefit does society reap from punishing drug use? De Marneffe makes a distinction in drug legalization: use and production. He thinks good arguments can be made for legalizing drug use. John asks if legalizing illegal drugs would make them as disruptive to life as alcohol is. Should the penalty structure for drugs be revised?

Is it fair that alcohol is legal while marijuana is not? De Marneffe says that we need to consider how heavy a burden not using certain substances are on the individuals that want to use them. Has the pot legalization experiment in Holland worked? De Marneffe thinks the case for legalization of marijuana is the strongest of all illegal drugs. One defense of current drug policies is that legalization of hard drugs would have the most damaging effects on youth. Lots of substances are dangerous or damaging, but they are not illegal. Why shouldn't things like fatty foods and sugar be made illegal?

Should research be done to produce drugs with no negative effects? What aspects of the current drug policy should be changed? Does drug prohibition decrease drug abuse substantially? De Marneffe thinks that if it does not, then there is no case for drug prohibition. John points out that we need to distinguish between hard and soft drugs.

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 04:32): Amy Standen interviews Quentin, a former drug addict.
  • Sixty Second Philosopher (Seek to 37:00): Ian Shoales gives a brief biography of Aldous Huxley, author of The Doors of Perception and Brave New World.
  • Conundrum (Seek to 48:30): Janice asks, if you are interviewing an extremely qualified applicant for a job but she or he creeps you out, are you justified in hiring a less qualified person with whom you are comfortable? Are we justified in trusting first impressions?

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Peter De Marneffe, Professor of Philosophy, Arizona State University

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