I recently read an article in PC World about the sale of psychedelic drugs online. Interestingly, there are numerous substances that are potent, legal and readily accessible via the web.
Not surprisingly, some people are rather opposed to the sale of such substances online and one person has even claimed that one such substance, salvia , killed her son. Other people defend the sale of such substances. At this point, a few American states have taken steps to regulate the sales of such substances. However, the industry is largely unregulated.
On one hand, there are excellent reasons to believe that the sale of such substances should be regulated by the state.
First, there is the general concern that anything that people ingest should be under government regulation so as to help protect people from potential harm. While regulation and supervision obviously does not prevent all such harm (see, for example, the recent peanut butter contamination problems) it does much to reduce them.
Second, to the degree that there are good reasons to regulate access to other psychedelic drugs (LSD, Ecstasy and so on), there are good reasons to regulate these other substances. While most might lack the power of drugs such as LSD, the same logic (or lack thereof) would apply to these drugs as well.
Third, such drugs generally do not seem to be beneficial to people and it seems reasonable to deny people access to such substances “for their own good.” While some people find “getting high” appealing, it does not seem to make them better people or improve their existence in meaningful and significant ways. Rather, the use and abuse of such substances seems to degrade the quality of a person’s existence. Naturally, I admit this can be a mere bias on my part. My preference is for physical and mental health and I, like Aristotle, regard these as goods superior to mere pleasure. But, as Aristotle notes, many people value pleasure greatly and hence it is something worth considering.
Having said the above, there are also reasons why such drugs should remain freely accessible.
First, there is the matter of freedom. As Mill argued in his essay on liberty, there are good reasons to let people do as they will, provided that they do not harm others. If people wish to impede their faculties and waste their lives away doing such drugs, then they should be allowed to do so.
Second, there is the fact that rather potent drugs are legally available. After all, enough alcohol will get a person adequately high. Naturally, alcohol is somewhat regulated; but if we allow people to get drunk, then there seems to be less moral ground to stand on to condemn people who use salvia or other such substances. Consistency should seem to require that we regulate in a consistent manner.
Third, such regulation fails to address the real cause of the problem-namely the reason why people seek out and use such substances. While there is something to be said in curbing supply, as long as the desire to “get high” remains, then people will find something with which to satisfy that desire whether it is beer, pot, salvia or fermented yak milk. It makes more sense to try to figure out why people have this desire and focus on solving that underlying problem. After all, we can see how successful the “war on drugs” has been in the past and I think we can expect the same success in the future/.