Ganja, LSD, Salvia, MDMA.

Those are not dangerous at all.

What about coffee? Why coffee is legal and MDMA isn't?

I suspected that it has a lot to do with the market value of those substance. The more enjoyable the substance the more people are willing to pay for it. That means some corrupt officials will make more money if the drugs are illegal.

If that's the case, it'll also explain why many expensive stuffs are "controlled substance", such as spices during colonization. Also beef importation in Indonesia to maintain high price of beef meat in Indonesia.

However, this doesn't fly in democratic countries. Why would so many voters support criminalization of safe drugs? Why don't they just let the market decide?

Even skydiving that's infinitely more dangerous than LSD is legal. Why people think it should be illegal? And who are profited out of that criminalization that it goes all the way to trick people to criminalize things?

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    There's no simple answer to this as each drug has a different history of legality and politics behind it. – user1530 Jan 24 '16 at 22:52
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    Freakonomics podcast did an episode on this. Short answer: accident of history. – user4012 Jan 25 '16 at 19:25
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    Skydiving is actually pretty safe when done properly and responsibly (dangerous when done irresponsibly, but the same is true of all the drugs listed). But there are plenty of other examples that are objectively always dangerous - for example, boxing, high-altitude mountaineering, deep sea diving, wingsuit flying... And of course cigarette smoking is in a whole league of its own - believed to cause the deaths of half its long term users. – user568458 Jan 26 '16 at 14:23
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    "Those are not dangerous at all." No, Marijuana, LSD, and MDMA are serious drugs with significant side effects, much like many prescription drugs. – Colin Apr 15 at 8:22


The state tries to protect its citizens from taking drugs because they don't want them to become addicted. Drug addiction can cause people to stop working efficiently, consume resources in form of rehabilitation programs, lose their jobs and if they can't pay for drugs turn to criminal activity. I am not claiming these are good reasons - I am pro legalization myself - but these are the reasons prohibition supporters have.

Then why are certain drugs like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine legal even though they have the same drawbacks?

Because they have been an integral part of our society for centuries. Taking them is socially acceptable, and in some cases even socially expected (like celebrating an event by drinking champagne together). This means you can not outlaw them over night. We have a really good question about why the government doesn't outlaw tobacco smoking over night. The same reasoning can be applied to caffeine and alcohol.

Other drugs like those you mentioned, have a rather small group of consumers which don't represent an important part of the society. That means suppressing them without facing considerable resistance is easier.

Our laws are supposed to mirror the standards of our society. They are supposed to codify what kind of behavior is acceptable in our society and what behavior is not. I am not claiming they are always doing a good job, but that's what they are supposed to be.

An interesting case is Cannabis. It used to be one of the fringe-drugs which were suppressed, but now that more and more people consume it, it starts to become one of the "socially accepted" drugs too. You can see that mirrored in legislation: More and more countries start to legalize it.

  • The thing is the drugs are not even addicting at all. LSD, xtc, is not addictive in anyway. What incentive do they have to criminalize it? – user4951 Mar 10 '18 at 21:34
  • So does that mean when drug users improve then they will have more right? – user4951 Mar 13 '18 at 14:15
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    @J.Chang What do you mean with "improve"? Dress better and eat healthier? If you mean "become more numerous": Drug users have votes too, so they are more likely to vote for parties and candidates with a pro-legalisation stance. – Philipp Mar 13 '18 at 14:52

Outlawing some commonplace or relatively innocuous object or habit can be a subterfuge used to weaken groups that might eventually pose a threat to an unscrupulous administration.

Harper's Dan Baum reports that he'd heard the following confession from John Ehrlichman:

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

I must have looked shocked. Ehrlichman just shrugged. Then he looked at his watch, handed me a signed copy of his steamy spy novel, The Company, and led me to the door.

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