Drug Legalazation A LOOK AT DRUG LEGALIZATION John Hardwick Philosophy 305 Louisiana Tech University February 21, 2000 TABLE OF CONTENTS Page Table of Contents 1 A Look at Drug Legalization 2 Bibliography 9 1 2 A LOOK AT DRUG LEGALIZATION The United States is by far the richest and most powerful country in the world. We citizens take for granted luxuries that people of other countries can only dream. Yet in our society there are serious social issues that for reasons unknown are not being addressed. One of the most important issues that typical politicians are afraid to address is that of what to do with the nations illegal drug problems. Although we hear terms like The War on Drugs and Drug Treatment, a fresh approach to this issue is overdue.
The country should take a new look at drug legalization as a solution to a problem that has been long out of control. Addiction and drug abuse are such buzzwords these days that a clear clarification is needed of what is meant by these terms. Addiction has crossed the line from being defined as a physical dependency on drugs to include such classifications as religious addiction, shopping addiction, food addiction, work addiction, television addiction, and love addiction. Although a person may feel that he or she cant live without their particular addiction, there is no scientific proof or medical test for an addict. To keep things in the broadest perspective, addiction will be defined here as the continual repetition of a normally non-problematic behavior to self-destructive access.
This 3 definition leaves room for a broad range of behaviors without physical cause that will allow for a search of the real problem behind the behavior and not the excuse of saying that it is the result of a disease. Since addiction is believed to be a social problem then an attempt at cutting off the source of addiction, drugs in this case, is thought to cure the problem. If that be the case then gambling and food abusers should be treated the same as addicts. Since drug legalization is the topic of this essay let us focus on alternatives to the War on Drugs. One possibility for controlling drug abuse is to legalize illegal drugs.
In the 1920s alcohol was made illegal by the eighteenth amendment better know as prohibition. This experiment at cutting off the source of alcohol to alleviate alcohol abuse was a dismal failure. From it stemmed all sort of crime, illegal alcohol sales, gang controlled territories, police shootings and above all, most people continued to drink. In contrast to todays society where drugs are illegal there is not much difference. We have the same type of violent crime and gang control as in the roaring twenties, and people continue to use drugs.
Another result of prohibition was an increase in binge drinking, much the same as we have the binge drug user today. Countries where alcohol is considered a normal part of life, such as Greece and Italy, have low occurrences of alcoholism. However, where alcohol is looked upon as a moral problem, such as the United States or Finland, alcoholism is rampant. This is the result of social conditioning much like Pavlovs dogs. Since drugs are considered the demon here in America, citizens use as a method of rebelling as well as out of curiosity of 4 what the big deal is.
Contrary to popular belief, using a drug for its euphoric effect is not a bad thing and dates back historically to the beginning of time. Hundreds of test have been conducted on addicts and the result is that the setting and mind set are the reasons for addiction. For example, a patient in a hospital may be given large doses of drugs over a long period of time but when he is released he suffers no withdrawal symptoms nor drug cravings. This is the result of the attitude that it is ok to take drugs in the hospital. However, taking the same drugs out of a hospital for recreation purposes causes a person to become hooked because this is what he has subconsciously learned.
What should be done is to build a cultural setting of more tolerance and less guilt. Legalizing drugs is a viable alternative to the current policy on drugs in America. If the government would legalize and regulate drugs a substantial industry and tax income would result. The jail overcrowding problem would be reduced by fifty per-cent in some estimates and violent crime would decline. Of course there are those who believe that legalization will turn our whole country into drug addicts.
There is no evidence to support this. In fact, the drugs that are legal in the United States such as alcohol and nicotine are used in the lower dosage form. The alcohol distribution method of choice is beer or wine which contain low doses of alcohol while cigarettes are the most popular form of nicotine distribution which also contains a very low dose. These Americans are not considered addicts although they may drink or smoke everyday and are damaging their bodies a great deal. Making something illegal only creates a taboo, which people challenge and break because they know its wrong.
It is morally wrong to arrest and jail people for taking drugs. This is invasion of our right to privacy guaranteed us by the fourth amendment. 5 Advocates of incarcerating people for using drugs say that this is a deterrent to drug use and an effective way of controlling drug usage. Studies show that this is not true. Of the people that are arrested and jailed for using drugs, eighty per-cent go back to using again once they are released.
The government should not be allowed to prosecute non-violent offenders for consensual crimes committed in their own homes thus complying with the U.S. Constitution. It seems that our government is in the business of drugs. The Iran/Contra affair showed how deeply involved we are in the illegal drug business. Even President Clinton, Vice-President Gore and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have admitted to experimenting with marijuana and presidential hopeful George W. Bush, Jr. has been said to have used cocaine not to mention ex-mayor Marion Barry of Washington D.C.
It seems the government is saying one thing and doing another. If such a negative attitude of drugs is really what the country wants why then drugs should not be glamorized by celebrities and politicians. Perhaps the criminal justice system wants to keep collecting fines and politicians kickbacks for building new prisons. Capitalism is not known to turned down easy money such as would be created by legalization. If the government believes it can win the war on drugs then it has failed to provide hard proof.
Should drugs be legalized, we can expect several immediate results. First, the government will be forced into taking a look at the real issues. For too long policy makers have used prohibition as a smoke screen to avoid addressing the social and economic factors that lead people to use drugs. Most illegal and legal drug use is recreational. Poverty and despair are at the root of most problematic drug use and its only by 6 addressing these underlying causes that we can hope to significantly decrease the number of problematic users. Opponents believe that deterrence will do the trick, but drug use continues to increase even though tougher laws have been passed.
Next, the criminal drug market will dry up. The market for drugs is one of supply and demand and people demand illegal drugs. Organized crime has moved in to fill this vacuum and is making billions of dollars. Legislation will force organized crime from the drug business. In return, the government can regulate the market by licensing, enacting laws on sales to minors, and monitor the quality of the product.
Besides that, taxes similar to alcohol and tobacco, could be implemented bringing in billions of dollars. Crime would be dramatically reduced by legalization. Most of the violence associated with illegal drug dealing is caused by its illegality and disputes over territory. Dependent users would not have to resort to crime to get their supply since it will be regulated and the price lowered. Since they are often cheated by street drug dealers they would be less likely to need extra money through crime to try another buy to get what they want.
Our legal system would be freed up and our prison population dramatically reduced saving billions and leaving law enforcement to catch and prosecute violent criminals. This would be similar to the cigarette market. Smokers do not have to steal to support their habits. Critics complain that this will cause a nation of drug addicts, but this is a half truth. Remember that most users prefer the low dosage that doesnt interfere with their personal lives.
Face it, a drug dealer faced with killing a cop or 25 years in jail for drug distribution may prefer to kill the cop. 7 Legalization will send the message that drug use is normal and that its a social issue, not a criminal justice one. How it is dealt with is up to the society. We must face the fact that drug use is already up among every age group and that legislation for decriminalization would change the setting for drug use and thus the setting will change the mind set resulting in lower addiction rates. Drug laws have led to stigmatization and marginalization of drug users.
Countries that have ultra conservative drug policies, like the United States, have the highest rates of HIV and Hepatitis C infection. Regulating drugs would give users access to clean needles and a known drug potency reducing overdose chances. There is no argument to this except that the myth that more people will become addicts which has not been proven. In Holland, where drugs laws are more flexible, drug usage has not gone up. The current drug laws makes criminals out of millions of otherwise law-abiding people who choose to use drugs in the privacy of their homes. Legalization restores our right to use drugs responsibly to change the way we think and feel. It puts controls and regulation in the hands of the government to protect the vulnerable from dangerous drug dealers. The argument that drug users are criminals does not hold up since these law-abiding citizens dont break other laws.
One more area that legalization will affect is that of race. Black people are ten times more likely to be imprisoned for drug offences than whites. Police officers discriminate and use racial stereotyping in whom they arrest. Legislation removes a whole 8 set of laws that are used to disproportionately bring black people into the criminal justice system. It would force blacks into other enterprises to make legal money and change society as a whole.
Opponents say lock up drug dealers but we are running out of room in our prisons. Its time to take away drug dealers source of income and force government to address the underlying poverty in our country among minorities and the uneducated. Legalization is not a cure all but it does allow us to address many of the problems associated with drug use, and those created by drug prohibition. The time has come for an effective and pragmatic drug policy. Its time to take a look at legalization, end the war on drugs, and approach it from a point of what is best for society and humanity as a whole.
Bibliography BIBLIOGRAPHY Kronenwetter, Michael 1995. The Users, The Suppliers, The War on Drugs Prentice Hall Ragge, Ken 1998. The Real AA Sea Sharp Press Silverberg, Ivan 1998. BBC News On Line Network The Drug Reform Coordination Network 2000. http://www.drcnet.org Social Issues.