Drawing the Line: The Harm Principle in the Debate on Cocaine Use and Trade
Werumeus Buning, N.
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In this thesis, I question the current prohibition policies of cocaine use, production, and trade. I use John Stuart Mill’s harm principle to assess whether this principle could provide arguments for the decriminalization of cocaine use and legalization of cocaine production and trade. I examine this harm principle and propose an alternative interpretation concerning consensual harm and autonomy. Regarding cocaine use, it turns out that it is hard to defend the current prohibition policies on it, as one cannot be certain that cocaine use diminishes one’s autonomy. Even if it does, prohibition is not necessarily the right answer. As for cocaine production and trade, the issue meets two problems: first, it is not clear to which extent the current violent nature of the cocaine market is caused precisely because of prohibition policies. Therefore, it is incredibly difficult to predict the expected changes in a hypothetical situation of a legal cocaine market. Second, though the cocaine market causes harm that diminishes one’s autonomy, people living in such poor, dire circumstances suffer from diminished autonomy to begin with. It can therefore be questioned whether the issue is not only about harm, but about the state’s negligence to reduce poverty-related issues as well.