By Robert Verbruggen for Real Clear Policy. For as long as I can remember, I’ve thought all drugs should be legal. In a nutshell, I believe that people should be allowed to put themselves at risk if they want to.

There are limits. Like everyone, I’m glad when a police officer tackles someone before they can jump off a bridge. But absent a good reason to think that a specific individual will greatly harm himself if allowed his freedom, the government should butt out. And no, wanting to try a drug, even a hard drug, is not such a reason.

This opinion doesn’t depend on any particular set of facts. Comfortingly, though, I also thought the negative consequences of legalization would be mild. I’m feeling less comfortable these days.

I was never so naive as to think there would be no increase in drug use or abuse if drugs were legal. But I did think legalization would easily pass a practical cost-benefit test: reduce incarceration, if perhaps not as much as some might think; end an illegal market whose violence spills far beyond our borders; and expand personal freedom, all for the acceptable price of an extra overdose or other health problem here and there, plus maybe some extra property crimes by addicts stealing to feed their habit.

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