Everyone”s second favorite Friend, Matthew Perry, was on the cover of a plethora of gossip magazines this week. Apparently the quick-witted Perry is in rehab, being treated for his addiction to painkillers.

Paul Wong
Hornography<br><br>David Horn

I”m not a big painkillers fan, myself. I am, however, a big Brett Favre fan. Green Bay Packers quarterback Favre sought treatment for his painkiller addiction after winning the Super Bowl four years ago. I can understand why Brett got hooked on Vicodin (and other similar drugs). He gets pummeled for 16 games by guys three times his size. That”s pain and you treat it as necessary. Do it up, Brett.

Matthew Perry, on the other hand, I can”t quite understand. It must be rough taking in $750,000 an episode and crashing your Porsches all over L.A. But I guess when you have to act opposite Courtney Cox, you look for the easiest way to dull your senses after the show. Whatever his reasons, I don”t condemn his “irresponsible” use of Vicodin.

If Perry and Favre (or any one else) want to use painkillers to the point of addiction, I don”t believe there to be anything wrong with that. Obviously there are more “damaging” drugs out there, and I don”t believe there to be anything wrong with using them, either. As a matter of fact, I believe they should be legalized. That”s cocaine, marijuana, heroin, crack, ecstasy and everything else.

For a time, I felt somewhat nave and uninformed about my belief in the legalization of drugs. What helped affirm that belief for me, however, was the Oscar-nominated “Traffic,” which I had the pleasure of seeing during the break. “Traffic” follows three stories all related to the practice of drug trafficking from Mexico to the States. I believe “Traffic” was an accurate portrayal of the drug trade and its message was clear and effective: the drug trade can”t be stopped, and at this point, we shouldn”t try. We can”t do any worse in the area of drugs than we are doing now.

Our country has made an expensive effort over the last 20 years to slow the trade of drugs into this country. It hasn”t worked. Drug use has not fallen significantly for consecutive years in that time, either. Our prisons are overpopulated, mostly by drug users and distributors. The amount of money that goes into running those prisons, guarding our southern border, and policing the streets for perpetrators of victimless crimes is astronomical and can be used so much more effectively.

The dangers associated with drug use and trade aren”t in the actual drugs. Certainly there are dangers in the abuse of drugs like cocaine, but no more than alcohol abuse. The dangers in the drug trade are on the streets. Kids get involved with dealers who protect their product with guns. Inferior qualities of drugs exist that are laced with God knows what. These dangers would be lost by the regulation of the drug trade, but the only products the government can regulate are legal ones.

Think prohibition of alcohol, circa 1920. Things got out of hand until the government stepped back in and regulated. Today alcohol use is, for the most part, responsible and safe. People tell me that, upon legalization, drug use would skyrocket, and our society would become a collection of lazy, brain-dead idiots. More so, even.

But no one who wants to use drugs now isn”t. Nobody is kept from shooting up or smoking up or popping pills because they”re illegal. No one is going to, upon the day that cocaine is legalized, become an addict. Drugs are easy enough to get now by regulating them they at least become safer, and may be distributed in safer environments.

Regulation is only half of the benefit of legalization, from the government”s point of view. Taxation would be another advantage, and that money can go to treatment of and education for the prevention of addiction. Treatment and prevention are necessary regardless of whether drugs are legal or not, so the use of drugs may as well fund its repercussions.

I”m aware of the dangers that are presented in legalization, and I”m not so nave to think that they don”t exist. But as a society, we spend a lot of time, effort and money thinking of all the bad things that are caused by illegal drugs, without seriously considering the possible benefits in a very simple alternative. There is a sort of taboo about drugs, and the issue is not often brought up by legislators because of that taboo, that stigma attached to it.

Obviously we are a long way from seeing drugs legalized, and that”s fine. The important thing is that we realize that the solutions we have implemented have failed, and continue to fail. They are expensive and ineffective, and considerations of legalization ought to be taken seriously.

David Horn”s column runs every other Friday.Give him feedback at http://www.michigandaily.com/forum or via e-mail at hornd@umich.edu.

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