Drug use and abuse is an expensive problem in the United States, both financially and socially. The War on Drugs has been an ongoing effort to combat drug abuse, drug use and crime associated with the drug trade. It’s a war without a clear enemy. Anything waged against a shapeless, intangible noun can never truly be won — President Clinton’s drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey said as much in 1996. (TIME 2009) Despite the trillions of dollars waged on the war on drugs and the countless arrest made related to drugs, it appears that we are fighting a losing battle.
The drug battle is not a new concept it’s a battle that has been around since President Eisenhower coined the phrase “War on Drugs”. In 1954, President Eisenhower established the U. S. Interdepartmental Committee on Narcotics, made up of 5 committee members to battle drugs nationwide. Since his reign, many Presidents that followed took an oath to stop the drug trade and gain control of drug entry into the states. President Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1973, which was initially created to eliminate drug smuggling in the US.
Today, as the number one agency in drug combats their sole responsibility is to combat drug rings and domestic drug rings both at home and overseas along with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). With a long list of anti-drug agencies and programs, drugs continue to play a major role in our society. So much so that recent polls show that the consensus is we have officially lost the “War on Drugs”. On drug policy, 76% believe the US war on drugs is failing. That included the vast majority of Democrats (86%) and Independents (81%) and even a majority of Republicans (61%).
The most current statistic shows that among President Barack Obama supporters, 89% agreed, and among John McCain supporters 61% agreed. While it is clear that a belief that the war on drugs is failing suggests support for drug reform — (Zogby 2008) Legalization of drugs, has become a hot topic among politicians and law enforcement. It is with this attitude that many are suggesting the legalization of drugs, namely the “if you can’t beat’em, join’em” drug reform tactic. There are several legitimate arguments for and against the legalization of drugs and both with valid issues at hand.
The drug legalization debate is being fought long and hard by both sides, with one goal in mind, to stop illegal distribution of narcotics. Proponents of the legalization of drugs are not just the drug users; proponents include both politicians and law enforcement. As with abused substances such as tobacco and alcohol, should other illicit drugs be legalized? Yes, by legalizing drugs the United States could single handedly combat over 70% of legal problems caused by the illegal use of drugs.
Problems such as the crime rate, and the economy and a backlogged judicial system stem from the illegal use of drugs and stiff penalties on drug crimes. All of these problems are genetically linked to one another. Through the legalization of drugs, trillions of dollars could be made to continue to combat drug abuse, homelessness, and crime. As we all know it there is a large supply and demand for drugs, the drug market exists and is a very profitable business. By legalizing drugs the stigma is removed and those who use drugs for recreation and sell drugs can be taxed and regulated.
The regulation and sale of recreational drugs would create jobs and raise money at both the federal and state levels. In addition, money allotted to combat the “War on Drugs” could be made available for possible use toward health care, education, social welfare programs, and alleviating the national debt. Drug dealers will no longer lead a lucrative lifestyle based on illegal drug sales; hence this decreases the crime rate and does what the drug laws are put in place to do. Put dealers out of business. Legalization will automatically eliminate direct and indirect costs resulting from drug charges.
There are billions of dollars spent each year on arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of Americans, government funds and resources that could be well spent dealing with other crimes that are far more harmful. In most high crime areas in big cities, law enforcement and judicial systems spend a majority of their day combating drug related crimes, whether staking out a dealer on the corner or convicting a dealer for possession, too many of our tax dollars are wasted combating drug crimes. Over half of the prison inmates incarcerated between 2009 -10 are there due to drug related offenses, costing an average of 6. billion dollars annually. And more than half of those were non-violent offenses (sales, possessions, and attempt to distribute). As noted in the textbook, Drugs and Society, Chapter 3; proponents contend that if drugs were legalized, violence and crime would become less. Many crimes such as robbery, assault and murder are often linked to drugs. Perpetrators, rob, steal and kill for the purpose of buying drugs. However, if drugs were legal any and all profits made via the sale of a drug would directly benefit the economy and stimulate growth for health reform, funding new medical research and abuse prevention programs.
The legalization of drugs would require full governmental control of controlled substances. Just as with alcohol and tobacco government would control age limits, designated amounts and warnings. Critics of legalization believe that by legalizing drugs the government sends a negative message to youths that drug use is acceptable and that by doing so drug use will increase, while proponents disagree. However, in 1975 the state of Alaska ruled that the government would no longer interfere in an adult’s right to use marijuana for personal use at home.
Other countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, and England have all experimented with the legalization of marijuana all seemingly with the same outcome. Increased drug use, crime and violence. Critics believe that the same results will occur in the United States if legalizations passed despite governmental controls that may be affixed to the problem. The relationship between legalization and increased use becomes evident by considering two current “legal drugs,” tobacco and alcohol. The number of users of these “legal drugs” is far greater than the number of users of illegal drugs.
The numbers were explored by the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Roughly 109 million Americans used alcohol at least once a month. About 66 million Americans used tobacco at the same rate. But less than 16 million Americans used illegal drugs at least once a month. (DEA. org) This statistic leaves question to the relationship between legalization and increased drug use and the belief that legalization would in fact result in an enormous increase in addiction cases. As the study, progressed it further sought out information in regards to the violence and its connection to drug abuse.
Critics feel that drug users are not only harming themselves, they are harming anyone who may come in contact with a drug user either as a family member affecting them personally or through a violent act. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) argues that drug use is not a victimless crime, another argument that goes against proponents for drug legalization. Proponents believe that drug users are making a personal choice and should be held accountable for their actions; their choice to use recreational drugs will not affect others if drugs are made legal.
Their argument being that the only crime drug users are committing the use of drugs and in isolated cases violent crimes as a means of acquiring illegal drugs. Critics and the ONDCP suggest that drug use is not a victimless crime and believe that there is a link between the relationship of drugs and violence. And while proponents agree, they compare drug substances with that of tobacco and alcohol, both of which are linked to violence and crime. As recently as four days ago the former Mexican President proposed the legalization of drugs, in an effort to curtail drug cartels in the country.
He agrees that the violent crimes and drugs are linked however, that the legalization and regulation of drugs will eliminate the drug cartels as well as positively affect their economy through legal sales. Rather than allow the drug cartels to continue to gain financial wealth, allow the country to benefit from the sale of drugs legally. This proposal of legalization may directly affect the United States, the current President Felipe Calderon stated that he is open to legalizing drugs although he doesn’t like the idea. If there isn’t a generalized, universal legalization policy across the world, and mainly in the main drug consumer, the United States, there won’t even be any economic benefits, because the price is determined by the American market. (Calderon 2010) The Mexican government appears to be waiting to take some leadership from the US, pending the upcoming November election as it relates to Proposition 19 in California that will allow adults to possess marijuana and allow the government to tax its sales.
Should Proposition 19, pass in California it could open discussions not only in Mexico but in the United States about the legalization of other illicit drugs. Currently, with the current Administration in the White House the focus is on drug prevention and treatment rather than the legalization of drugs. There is little support for the idea of drug legalization however there are two common proposals, drug re-legalization and drug decriminalization.
By re-legalizing drugs, the government will no longer enforce the ban on distributing, sale or personal use of current illicit drugs. Suggestions range from full legalization of drugs, or the complete removal of government control, to a variety of regulations that govern the availability of drugs. This proposal similar to tobacco and alcohol regulations, will restrict marketing and advertising, require a legal age limit for purchase, require a special license to buy certain drugs and ban the sale of drugs to intoxicated individuals to name a few. Drug Policy Foundation 2009) The proposed regulated legalization system would have a wide range of restrictions for different drugs, depending on their risk, therefore some drugs would be sold over the counter in pharmacies, more harmful or high risk drugs will only be available in licensed locations where medical monitoring is available. Decriminalization wants people to be held accountable for their actions. People should be afforded the civilized justice that our country was based on. Our current inhumane treatment of individuals who are non-violent drug offenders, to keep them locked up for years, even for life, is terrifying.
We need to address the real criminal activity that is tearing down the financial stability of the nation, white-collar crime, terrorism, environmental laws, and the crimes that disturb the economy by diminishing our resources and the means by which to obtain them. (Powell 2005) Decriminalization is the reduction of the penalty for an act deemed criminal by statute law, but not actually legalizing it. (Powell 2005) It removes criminal penalties associated with drug use and implements fines rather than jail time for illegal sale and possession.
Although drug users who are caught would be fined, they would not receive a permanent criminal record. Critics of decriminalization believe that its “the worst of both worlds”, being that drug sales would still be illegal, and the same problems associated with production and distribution of drugs being a criminal underworld, fails to discourage illegal drug use and removing the criminal penalties might encourage some people to choose to use drugs that might not have otherwise. (Transform Drug Policy Foundation 2010) “Imagine… hat Congress passed a law granting the freedom of drug consumption and even production and distribution the same legal protections as the rights of freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly. And imagine that ‘supermarkets’ existed all around the country in which drugs of every variety could be purchased at prices reflecting nothing more than retailers’ costs plus reasonable profit margins and sales taxes. This is, of course, the nightmare scenario portrayed by the opponents of legalization-even if it is not the policy favored by virtually any of those identified as proponents of legalization apart from the most hardcore libertarians…
Simply the scarce governmental resources from dealing with other, more immediately harmful, criminal activities, the tens of billions earned each year by organized and unorganized criminals, much of the violence, corruption and other criminal activity associated with the illicit drug markets, the distortion of economic incentives for inner city residents, the severe problems posed by adulterated and otherwise unregulated drugs, the inadequate prescription of drugs for the treatment of pain, the abundant infringements on Americans’ civil liberties, and all the other costs detailed in the extant literature on drug prohibition and legalization. The great disadvantage of the ‘supermarket’ model is its invitation to substantial increases in both the amount and the diversity of psychoactive drug consumption. What needs to be determined as best as possible are the magnitude and nature of that increase as well as its consequences. Among the more explicit assumptions of the legalization analysis is that the vast majority of Americans do not need drug prohibition laws to prevent them from becoming drug abusers.
Prohibitionists typically assume, by contrast, that most Americans, and at the very least a substantial minority, do in fact need such laws-that but for drug prohibition, tens of millions more Americans would surely become drug abusers. ” (Nadelman 1995) Legalization of drugs is a question of morality, ethics and personal choice, ultimately, who decides?
Bibliography Transform Drug Policy Foundation. (2009, November 12). Retrieved August 12, 2010, from After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation: http://www. tdpf. org. uk/blueprint%20download. htm Transform Drug Policy Foundation. (2010, February 3). Retrieved August 13, 2010, from Regulations: Safe livings vs. Personal Freedom: http://transform-drugs. blogspot. com/2010/02/regulation-saves-lives. html Nadelman, E. (1995, Spring). Rethinking the War on Drugs: New Approaches to Local Policy. NASRO Brief, 1(1). Powell, K. (2005, November 18). Retrieved August 12, 2010 Smith, P. (2008, October 3). Stop the Drug War. Drug War Chronicle(554). TIME. (2009, March 25). (C. Suddath, Ed. ) Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www. time. com/time/world/article/0,8599,1887488,00. html#ixzz0wW3XIK4L New York Times (2010, August 9). Mexico President Seeks Crime Answers. Associated Press.