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Drugs R Us 

A surefire solution to the state budget crisis

It hasn't taken me long to grow bored of the state budget crunch. Once you get used to hearing the word "crunch" on the news, a budget crunch simply doesn't make for interesting drama. Government officials having affairs or making loopy decisions -- now that's drama. This year I'm voting only for people who seem capable of stirring up a decent controversy or scandal every now and then.What makes the budget shortfall even more boring and annoying is that it could be so easily remedied. Spend Less Money. There, problem solved. If we were dealing with a household budget, we'd simply decide what was essential and what was nonessential, then cut the nonessential spending. Example: groceries are essential, but a new wardrobe is not. So we keep the groceries in the budget and kick the clothes out. Of course, when you're talking about government it can never be that simple. Everything is essential to somebody. I suppose I should just be grateful that Dillard's doesn't send lobbyists over to my house to take me out for expensive lunches trying to persuade me to blow my budget on clothes.

The point is that somebody needs to have the balls to draw the line and cut the spending. But this isn't the only solution; in fact, there's an enormous untapped source of revenue just waiting to be used by our government. It's one "luxury" item (luxury in the sense that it's unnecessary for survival) that remains completely tax-free, and people spend thousands and thousands of dollars purchasing it each year. Pass the doob, man. Drugs.

Legalize drugs and pop a nice sales tax on those bad boys, and our budget would be up and running, ready to return to the bloated state it hasn't seen since the 80s.

But drugs are like a national fart. We've let loose with a big stinky one, and we're not about to acknowledge the fact. The thing we haven't been willing to talk about is that the War on Drugs rivals only Vietnam as the country's least successful war. We've been telling our kids to "just say no" for over 20 years, and yet American youths are saying "hell yes!" and have been for those 20 years.

The news reports drug busts every now and then, and I guess that some people think, "Oh, good, now they've got those drug dealers on the run," but nothing could be further from the truth. Drugs continue to be ubiquitous to the extent that I expect it may be easier for high school students to obtain drugs than soda during lunch (schools aren't allowed to offer soda at school during lunch, although machines are available at other times of the day).

As it is, the propagation of drugs is impossible to stem. Law enforcement officers do everything they can, short of ignoring all other crimes, to stop the drug trade. But they're tiny surfers in the giant tidal wave of illegal drugs. If drugs were legalized, law enforcement would become that much easier. After all, there are two kinds of people doing drugs: rebels who are looking to be "bad," and people who simply want to do drugs. The rebels will have to find some other road to hell, and the people who want to do drugs can become law-abiding citizens. Most people will take the law-abiding route if it's available to them. Then the government can reap the benefits of all those sales tax dollars that are otherwise hurled into the abyss of the illegal drug trade.

As a side note, making drugs legal would likely have the positive side effect of making drugs more difficult for kids to obtain. Of course, kids who put their minds to it will be able to get ahold of whatever they want -- just as they do now. But many kids will be daunted by the ID requirements and additional strictures that would be placed on legal drug sales.

Heck, the state would be rolling in money if it could tax all of the vices it's trying to eliminate. A state education lottery could appeal to the gamblers and bring in plenty of money for education, money that with luck we could put to better use than they do in South Carolina (not that that would be difficult). Prostitution could be legalized and strictly monitored, not only encouraging safer sexual practices but providing money to fix roads maintained by the state.

Prohibition once completely outlawed alcohol, yet now we have state-run ABC stores everywhere. So the legalization of vice isn't just a pipe dream, unlikely as it may seem around here. But just think: instead of the fruitless battle to make people be good, which will never happen anyway, we could just build a better society with the money earned from vice. Better roads, better schools, you name it -- we could improve those people who desire improvement using the cash of those who could care less. Poetic justice and an ideal system. Sadly, since the state feels the need to foster good by bullying people into it, we'll have to stay poor.

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