Essay, Research Paper
For Better or Worse?
America has been plagued with drug problems for years, and in recent years it isn t proving to get much better. Society has been left to deal with the pain, fear, terror, and crime that the drug world has brought upon us. Many believe that America s problems with drugs, crime, and the drug trade economy could be easily decreased if America turned to the legalization of illicit drugs. If someone chooses to kill themselves with drugs let them.
In the 1920 s, alcohol was made illegal by Prohibition. The result: Organized Crime. Criminals jumped at the chance to supply the demand for liquor. The streets became battlegrounds. The criminals bought off law enforcement and judges. Adulterated booze blinded and killed people. Civil rights were trampled in the hopeless attempt to keep people from drinking (Schmoke 1). Sound familiar? It s very true when people say that history repeats itself. Now drugs, which are currently illegal, have raised the same problems as alcohol did when it was prohibited. However, it is safe to say that drugs have taken this country by force, and that it s effects on society are much more harsh than alcohol. It is also probably safe to say that prohibition resulted in more people drinking than ever before, including many children and many who were poisoned by bad booze (Wayburn 1).
When America saw what prohibition was doing to them, they supported its repeal. When they succeeded, most states legalized liquor and criminal gangs were out of the liquor business (Schmoke 1). If that is taken into consideration and placed into our modern world of drugs, crime would have a tremendous decrease. About 75% of our robberies, thefts, burglaries, and related assaults are committed by drug abusers. Numerous studies show that drug users commit far fewer crimes when undergoing outpatient drug therapy or even when the price of drugs drops (Duke 2). Now just picture if even half of that 75% of drug related crime was cut. Our society would be a much more peaceful place. Approximately 40 million Americans are occasional, peaceful users of some illegal drug who are no threat to anyone (Schmoke 1).
As for the so-called junkies that are thrown in jail, most of them are first time law offenders that have been caught with a small amount of drugs. Of course some of those 40 million peaceful users are going to get caught eventually, but what is the real crime? They are not looting stores, robbing houses, or mugging people on the street. Chances are that they got pulled over for speeding while they had a little marijuana or cocaine in their possession. As a result of all these little offenders that are made out to be full-blown criminals our prison systems are over flowing, but yet we still continue to pile people in them. We should be filling them (prisons) with the people we built them for the violent predator and repeat offenders. Not the guy who got caught with a few bucks worth of crack. The law currently has the identical 8 to 25 year maximum sentencing range, for a person who commits a forcible rape and for a person who sells a dollars worth of cocaine I believe it would tell you that our legal sense of priorities is totally out of whack (Coughlin 1-2). So why do we continue to fill our prisons with small time drug offenders when the people who are locked up for murder are getting the same sentence?
It would be logical to keep the rapist, murderer, or robber in the prison system for a longer period of time as opposed to spending the money to keep the small time drug offender in the prison. There is no room in our prisons: 40 states are under court order for overcrowding. Violent criminals are being paroled early or are having their sentences chopped to make space for drug users and dealers (Duke 2). I firmly believe that drug addiction affecting the street level addict can be far more successfully treated in community settings, instead of the prison environment. It used to be that offenders came to prison and got the high school diploma they never earned on the outside. Now, street addicts are coming to $100,000 prison cells that cost $27,000 a year to operate to get the same drug treatment that could be available at $5,000 to $10,000 per person on the street (Coughlin 2).
The total annual costs of the drug war are about $100 billion. If drugs were legalized, most of this money could be spent on long-term crime prevention (Duke 2). The saved money could also be put towards drug rehabilitation programs for abusers who are actually seeking help, as opposed to locking them up were very little rehabilitation is ever achieved. If people are allowed to drink publicly, which in reality cause more physically aggressive crimes than drugs do, why shouldn t people be able to use drugs legally as well? It is easy to prove that the laws against drugs are unconstitutional. The Declaration of Independence states that the rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness are unalienable rights, rights that are incapable of being sold or transferred. Clearly, the rights of liberty and to the pursuit of happiness, specifically mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, are retained by the people. Many people take drugs to pursue happiness. Thus, any law that denies them the liberty to take drugs is unconstitutional (Wayburn 1). The personal choice of individuals to take drugs in the privacy of their own homes or in other places set aside for that purpose does not interfere with the personal liberty of anyone. If a heroin addict wants to take his life slowly through sticking needles in his arms, then that heroin addict should have the right to do so.
With or with out laws hovering over a drug user, the user will most likely continue to use drugs regardless. However, if illicit drugs such as heroin are legalized, the user may live a little longer because there would be money available to provide that user with sterile needles, reducing the risk of the HIV virus. Among the many other benefits of legalization would be the reduction of AIDS and other diseases transmitted by drug abusers, less risk of drug overdose or poisoning, better prenatal care for pregnant women with drug problems and restoration of our civil liberties, to name a few (Duke 3).
However, there are those that strongly disagree with the legalization theory, and think that it advocates drug use to this society. Legalization sends the societal message of public approval, eroding the anti-drugs attitudes of our youth and encouraging them to try and use illegal drugs. What we need to do is the reverse establishing the unequivocal message that our public behavior standard and social norm is no-use, continuously reinforced through the attitudes of harm/risk and social disapproval that are prevent inhibitors to our youth trying and using these substances (Partnership 1). Which is exactly what we have been doing since we realized that drugs were a problem, especially among the youth in society. So far the no-use method has proved that it is not effective, in the sense that use and abuse rates among youths have been on the rise this entire decade. In reality, most kids or young adults begin to experiment with drugs to get a sense of rebellion in the first place. The legalization of drugs will remove the thrill of breaking the law and the incentive to get hooked ; it will end the suffering caused by unmetered doses, impurities, substitutes, and substandard paraphernalia (Wayburn 4). Some Americans will always use alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, or other drugs. Most are not addicts, they are social drinkers or occasional users. Legal drugs would be inexpensive, so even addicts could support their habits with honest work, rather than by crime. Organized crime would be deprived of its profits. The police could return to protecting us from the real criminals; and there would be room enough in existing prisons for them (Schmoke 2).
Whenever there is a demand for an illegal product, a black market always appears to supply the demand. The price of the product rises and opportunity knocks with huge profits for the dealer. This is where criminal gangs move in, making millions. There is a growing number of people, in addition to the dealers, who profit from the multibillion-dollar industry created by the laws against drugs. The drug problem is not likely to disappear until the profit is removed (Wayburn 4). It s time to re-legalize drugs and let people take responsibility for themselves. Criminal laws only drive the problem underground and put money into the pockets of the criminal class. With drugs legal, compassionate people could do more to educate and rehabilitate drug users who seek help. Drugs should be legal. Individuals have the right to decide for themselves what to put in their bodies, so long as they take responsibility for their actions (Schmoke 2). Drugs and its effects will always be around, but why should we spend money that produces very little effects such as with the drug war; instead, we should be making money and distributing that money towards a safer user environment, and more effective drug rehabilitation centers.