Drugs Essay, Research Paper
Legalization of Drugs Such an issue stirs up moral and religious beliefs; beliefs that
are contrary to what America should “believe”. However, such a debate has been apparent
in the American marketplace of ideas before with the prohibition of alcohol in the
1920’s. With the illegality of alcohol the Mafia could produce liquor and therefore had
considerable control over those who wanted their substance and service. The role that the
Mafia played in the 1920’s has transformed into the corner drug dealers and
drug cartel of the 1990’s. The justification that legalized alcohol under Amendment 21 in
1933 should also legalize drugs in 1999. With the legalization of drugs a decrease in
deaths related to drug deals would occur and also the price would lessen because
bigger businesses could produce drugs at a cheaper price. Thus, reducing crimes that are
committed to support a drug habit.
Another drug that has played a major role in American society is nicotine. For
hundreds of years, cigarettes have been a popular legal drug within the United States.
Only through legalization and education has the popularity and the use of cigarettes
declined within the past ten years. Physically, the actual consequences of using illicit drugs
is much less than of using drugs like alcohol or cigarettes and the consequences will be
diminished. Illicit drugs can and will be made safer than they are in the present system. In
making comparisons, the best is to look at how countries are functioning that have less
enforcement on drugs and what the statistics were after drugs were decriminalized. Within
the last thirty years many groups have their attempts. The use of drugs is a victimless
crime much like homosexuality. Homosexuals have fought for a great deal of freedom that
is based on their basic human rights; the right to make decisions and act freely based on
what is protected under the Constitution, so long as anyone else is not affected.
Economically, the production of drugs in the United States would benefit the financial well
being of the American government and people. Taxes should immediately be placed on
drugs thus resulting in a significant increase in government income. The more money that
government receives is more money that they can put towards the education of how drugs
effect the human mind and body.
Prohibition breeds disrespect for law enforcement; the agency that “should” hold
the highest respect of the American society. Money spent on prohibition is an
overwhelming figure that is not needed and is obviously accomplishing
little. Those who want to be controlled by a substance should have every right to do so,
because this right has equal jurisdiction as any other human right that has emerged from
the sea of oppression and persecuted freedoms. The deaths resulting in the acquiring
of alcohol have all but disappeared. When all non medical dealings in alcohol were
prohibited in the United States in 1919, the results were very similar to today’s drug trade.
Alcohol quality was brewed illicitly; importers were considered criminals and
behaved as such; protection rackets, bribes and gang warfare organized crime in the
United States. (Boaz, p.118) The enforcement budget rose from $7 million in 1921 to $15
million in 1930, $108 million in 1988 dollars. In 1926, the Senate
Judiciary Committee produced a 1,650-page report evaluating enforcement efforts and
proposing reforms. In 1927, the Bureau of Prohibition was created to streamline
enforcement efforts, and agents were brought under civil service protection to eliminate
corruption and improve professionalism. In that same year, President Hoover appointed a
blue-ribbon commission to evaluate enforcement efforts and recommend reforms. Three
years later Prohibition was over and alcohol was legalized. Immediately, the bootlegger
stopped running around the streets supplying illicit contraband. People stopped worrying
about drunks mugging them in the streets or breaking into their apartments to get funds to
buy a pint of wine. We now
deal with alcohol abuse as a medical problem. Let us deal with the drug problem in the
same way. Let us try not to repeat the mistakes of the past by continuing to escalate a war
that is totally unnecessary. The repeal of alcohol prohibition
provides the perfect analogy. Repeal did not end alcoholism as indeed Prohibition did
not–but it did solve many of the problems created by Prohibition, such as corruption,
murder, and poisoned alcohol.
We can expect no more and no less from drug legalization today. United States
has not tried to ban the use of tobacco on cigarette smoking is one of America’s most
dangerous drug habits. Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, is exceedingly
poisonous. When isolated and taken orally, it can bring death in a matter of minutes.
Cigarette tobacco contains about 1.5 percent nicotine; an average cigarette yields six to
eight milligrams of the drug. Cigar tobacco is potentially more lethal; a standard size cigar
contains about 120 milligrams of nicotine, twice the amount of a lethal dose. What
apparently irony is that tobacco which can be seen as just of a danger if not more so than
many illicit drugs of today is considered a “good” and perfectly legal drug among the
American society. A terrible, controlling substance that alters the mind and kills. This is a
true statement; however lead to more deaths in the United States than do illicit drugs. The
National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that the official 1988 toll of drug-caused deaths
in 27 US cities, the best available measure of the nation’s “drug problems” was, for
cocaine products, 3,308; for heroin and morphine, 2,480; course, for marijuana, zero.
“Emergency-room mentions” for cocaine in the same cities totaled only 62,141. For
comparison, smoking killed 390,000 last year and alcohol killed at least 100,000. Alcohol
is responsible for more fetal damage than crack and remains the major menace on our
highways. States that approximately 57 million people in this country are addicted to
cigarettes, 18 million are addicted to alcohol and 10 million are abusing psychotherapeutic
drugs. By comparison, crack, heroin and hallucinogens each accounts for one million
addicts. Further, the report states that every day in this country 1,000 people die of
smoking-related illnesses, 550 die of alcohol-related accidents and diseases, while 20 die
of drug overdoses and drug related homicides.
The war on drugs might as well be non existent; supporters argue that the
government’s needs to be focused on more abused drugs that do more harm to the
American people, such as alcohol. Therefore drug decriminalization, gives his views on
governmental involvement in drug related issues. Nadelmann believes that the government
should use the tax system to discourage consumption among kids, and even among adults
to some extent. Nadelmann states, “I think it’s legitimate for government to play a role in
trying to discourage people from using cigarettes. If they want to put the information out
there, that sounds fine. But I find incredibly distasteful is the way that they’re demonizing
cigarette users now.
What’s happening now, with [FDA Commissioner David] Kessler, is they’re
heading in a prohibitionist direction, which is something I would regard as
very bad on both policy grounds and ethical grounds.” Nadelmann continues to point out
that, “Progress in the rights of technology sophisticated environment, may redound to the
benefit of the drug issue. I think also that the war on cigarette users if you want to call it
that–is raising the issue of individual autonomy vis- -vis drug use in a context to which
tens of millions of Americans still relate. And the more that cigarettes get tarred as a drug,
the more the connection is going to be prominent. You’re going to have tens of millions of
Americans beginning to identify more and more with the heroin, cocaine and marijuana
users. At the same time, you’re going to have these arguments about individual rights and
the freedom to use drugs in your own home. The personal rights and freedoms issue is a
pressing point that supporters of prohibition must
look towards and decide on what their beliefs are on how deeply government should
interact and limit the actions of people. Call for a crusade or an exterminatory witch hunt.
In the Netherlands, the focus is pragmatically centered on minimizing the harm that
addict population does to itself and the rest of society. The record speaks for itself:
American adolescents use marijuana at about twice the rate of their counterparts in
Holland, where marijuana and hashish have been freely available for more than 17 years.
The only drug that causes traffic fatalities and violence in Holland is the same one that
causes these problems here–alcohol. Over a 17-year period in Holland, during which
possession and use of hard drugs have been treated under 22 years of age who use
heroin or cocaine has dropped from 15 percent to less than three percent. In Holland, a
Dutch reformed parish operate a methadone dispensary and a needle exchange. There are
designated areas where drugs can be used, and permitting
such areas is controversial, even in tolerant Holland. Drug legalization in England and
Holland has had mixed results. While there has been a slight increase in drug use in those
countries, the number of crimes associated with drugs has decreased. However
disagreeable, the visible presence of junkies in countries like England and Holland plays its
part. Dutch adolescents have no problem seeing that this is hardly a glamorous and
exciting life-style and that it does not even provide much pleasure. Reality, even
disagreeable reality, is remarkably educational; and the attempt to legislate reality out of
existence is remarkably counterproductive.
In the US there were eleven states that decriminalized the personal use of
marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse(1992), there was no
increase in its use in those states. Anti drug supporters argue that corollations cannot be
made between the United States and other countries; however, the way in which people
conduct themselves and how society responds to this is very similar around the world.
Heightened awareness of the destructiveness of drugs, and in self-pride programs for
society’s “have knots.” The United States has cut back drastically on its alcohol and
tobacco consumption are dangerous. The same thing must be done for other drugs.
Pragmatically, the legal and controlled sale of drugs would not only reduce crime but
channel valuable resources into treatment.
With the treatment of drugs as a medical problem, we can then and only then
focus on the real problem: people and adulteration of supplies of drugs.
Without some system of control, it is argued, that there is no way to guarantee the purity
or strength of any given cannabis preparation. Wide variations in
THC(delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol) concentration could have deleterious effects on users.
Inexperienced smokers, accustomed to low grade domestic pot, could be adversely
affected by the unexpected introduction of high potency Colombian or Jamaican supplies.
Today’s drug consumer literally does not know what he is
buying. The drugs are so valuable that the sellers have an incentive to “cut” or dilute the
product with foreign substances that look like the real thing. Most street heroin is only
three to six percent pure; street cocaine ten to fifteen percent. Since purity varies
greatly, consumers can produce the desired effects. If a person percent heroin and take a
five percent dose, suddenly he has nearly doubled his open market would face different
incentives than pushers. They rely on name brand recognition to build market
share, and on incentive to provide a product of uniform quality; killing customers or losing
them to competitors is not a proven way to success.
With major how drugs should be made and what they should be cut with
dangerous approach may be taken. As well be the schism that has been created in the
American society. Prohibition has set generation against generation, law enforcement
officials against users, and the system of criminal justice against millions of otherwise
law-abiding citizens. The effect of prohibition has not been a decreased marijuana
consumption–statistics show that the opposite is true. Rather, prohibition has bred
disrespect for the law and the institutions of government, and many have argued that is
too high a price to pay for even a successful program. A loss of respect for governmental
agencies can be seen as one terrible event that has occurred within America. Plans that
would breed and boost respect for these agencies should be desired and sought after. As
the prohibition of drugs yearly is an unnecessary and overwhelming figure. The total
annual cost of the drug war, are about $100 billion dollars annually.
For instance, the Air Force spent $3.3 million on drug interdiction, using
sophisticated AWACS surveillance planes, over a 15 month period ending in 1987. The
grand total of drug seizures from that of the Coast Guard and Navy, sailing for 2,500 ship
days at a cost of $40 million, resulted in the seizure of a mere 20 drug-carrying
They were not enough, domestic production of marijuana continues to increase. It
is the largest cash crop in ten states and second largest in the nation, second only to corn.
Revenues from drug trafficking in Miami, Florida, are greater than
those from tourism, exports, health care, and all other legitimate businesses combined.
They have a lower cost than throwing people in prison. It costs $52,000 a year to detain
someone at Riker’s Island. However, a years stay at Phoenix House in New York, for
example, costs $15,000. If it is not already obvious, the way in which the government
goes about it’s drug war is inoperative. Money that is spent is a waste; education and
treatment. If politicians cannot see this, than we are
losing the drug war in our policies and in the minds of our “greatest” law makers, not on
the streets. As I concluded that the prohibition of drugs criminalised users, forced them
into contact with professional criminals, tempted entrepreneurial young people
from impoverished backgrounds into a lucrative criminal life, encouraged gang warfare,
resulted in people taking impure mixtures in often dangerous methods, and created heavy
policing costs. It is, in short, not drug abuse itself which creates the most havoc,
but the crime resulting from other Western governments, to contemplate some form of
licensed sale of drugs which would deprive the pushers of their market while obliging
registered addicts to take treatment. The key to beating the traffic is to remove its
prodigious profitability and to deglamorise drug abuse by a heavy program of public
The government can continue harassing, humiliating and jailing drug users in the
name of helping them stay away from evil. It can continue fostering
violence and corruption in the name of protecting our society. Or, America can begin
fighting drugs through peaceful means, taking the problem away from police and jailers
doctors and educators. Legalizing drug use with certain restrictions would
eliminate the terrible collateral damage wreaked by the war on drugs. It would respect the
right of individuals to make personal choices about what they consume, while still holding
them responsible for the harm they cause others. It would free up real money
for prevention and treatment programs that currently enjoy more lip service than funding.
And it would encourage people with problems to seek help rather than take them
underground. Any new approach to drugs must begin by replacing hype and
demagoguery with information and analysis. It must discriminate between the uses and
misuses of drugs. It must also account for paternalistic moralizing for hypocritical double
standards. Legalizing drugs would not be a panacea. Many people
would continue to use them recklessly and join their ranks. But scare scenarios of a
prostrate, addicted nation have no basis. Clearly, there will be some increase in drug use if
drugs are made legal and accessible at a reasonable price. Yet the benefits of
legalization will outweigh the negatives: less crime, less available for greater rehabilitation
efforts, fewer jail cells and prisoners, better utilization of law enforcement personnel,
greater respect for the law, fewer corrupted policeman, and fewer deaths from
impure substances. Furthermore, taxes from these legalized substances will fund treatment
centers and educational outreach. If we can distribute condoms and clean needles to
control the spread of diseases, why can’t we bring ourselves to distribute drugs
cheaply and legally? The same arguments made about cause and effect ought to be made
here as well. Granted, America has a vast and terrible problem with the issue on drugs in
the 1990s, but as Robert Kennedy opined, “If the alternatives [are] disorder
or injustice, the rational choice is injustice. For when there is disorder, we cannot obtain or
Throughout history marijuana has been used to serve various purposes in many
different cultures. The purposes have changed over time to fit in with the current
lifestyles. This pattern is also true in American history. The use of marijuana has
adapted to the social climate of the time.
Marijuana, whose scientific name is cannabis sativa, was mentioned in
historical manuscripts as early as 2700 B. C. in China. (Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia,
1995). The cultivation of the marijuana plant began as far back as the Jamestown
settlers, around 1611, who used hemp produced from the marijuana plant’s fibers to
make rope and canvas. It was also used in making clothing because of it’s durability.
These uses fit in with the social climate of the time, because the main focus was on
survival rather than for psychoactive purposes.
In 1937 the government issued the Marijuana Tax Act, which levied a dollar an
ounce tax on marijuana, coupled with fines of $2,000 for drug possession and jail
sentences for evasion of the tax. For this reason marijuana use in the United States
appears to have gone into decline in the late 30’s (Grolier Wellness Encyclopedia,
pg. 54). Then marijuana was outlawed in 1937 as a repressive measure against
Mexican workers who crossed the border seeking jobs during the Depression. The
specific reason given for the outlawing of the hemp plant was it’s supposed violent
“effect on the degenerate races” (Schaffer, pg. 86).
Beginning in the 60’s marijuana use saw a resurgence which may be attributed to
many causes. One of the main causes was the rebellion of youth against the Vietnam
War. They used marijuana as an escape from war to peace. It was easy at this time
to depict marijuana as a beneficial and completely harmless substance whose effects
were far less harmful than those of legal drugs such as alcohol and nicotine because
there was not enough scientific research done during the 60’s (Grolier Wellness
Encyclopedia, pg. 54).
Another cause may have been the discovery of the psychoactive component
marijuana- tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. Users found the
relation between the doses and the effects (Grolier Electronic Publishing, 1995).
The current atmosphere provides for doctors to suggest synthetic marijuana
(THC) in a pure and standardized form by prescription (called Marinol) for the treatment
of nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy. Also, although there is no scientific
evidence that shows marijuana is beneficial in the treatment of glaucoma, it may
prevent the progression of visual loss. Marijuana, along with alcohol and a host of
other substances, can actually lower intraocular eye pressure. The medication
however, must be carefully tailored to the individual to prevent further eye damage.
The evidence has clearly shown that marijuana has been around for a great deal
of time and has served multiple purposes throughout history.
Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia, Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995
Grolier Wellness Encyclopedia, Drugs, Society & Behavior. Vol. 3, 1992.
Ethan A. Nadelmann, American Heritage Magazine, Feb-Mar, 1993.
Sam Robertson, High Times Magazine, Jan, 1997
Marco Garcia, Issue Bridge (Drug Addition), vol. 1,3,4
Mike Grossman, http://www.pot.com/
Rita Titori, http://www.drugs.com/
Medical Marijuana, http://www.lec.org/Drug_Watch/
Tobacco Control Archives, http://www.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco/
Alcohol Related Issues, http://www.miph.org/miph_alcohol.html