Reform Drug Laws Essay, Research Paper
REFORM DRUG LAWS
This paper will prove that America?s drug laws are ineffective and cause more
harm than good. The notion that a state of freedom exists in America is completely
voided by narcotic laws. Narcotic laws cause a black market, which raises the prices of
drugs to astronomical levels. These high prices cause drug addicts to turn to crime in
order to support their habit. There exists substantial evidence that marijuana is less
harmful than legal product like alcohol or nicotine. The war on drugs is comparable to
the Vietnam War in its harm on the current generation of minorities. The government
avoids ending anti-narcotic legislation because of the vast amount of capital which is spent
on the war on drugs in terms of law enforcement and prison systems. Also there are
many legislators whose campaign corner stones are often getting tough on drugs, to make
an about face would mean political suicide.
Yes, drugs are illegal. This very fact is what discourages many Americans from
using drugs. However the illegality of the substances in question do not stop all people
from using.Despite the severe punishment users of illicit drugs face if caught, illicit
drug use is widespread in the United States. ?According to the National Institute on Drug
Abuse’s 1992 National Household Survey, more than one in three Americans (36.2%)
have used illegal drugs at least once in their lifetime, nearly 28 million Americans (11.1%)
used them in the previous year, and almost 14 million Americans (5.5%) used them during
the past month? (Skolnick 3). This is clear evidence that the war is not working. Drug
addicts will continue using drugs regardless of the penalties associated with procession,
simply because they are addicted to these dangerous substances and that takes precedence
over fear or respect of the law. ?The White House Office of Drug Control Policy
estimate that 20 percent of the nations cocaine users consume 66 percent of the nations
cocaine? (Eldredge 9). For these addicts, attainment of drugs takes precedence over
possible jail time.
The attainment of these drugs is a problem for these addicts. Considering that the
entirety of drug trade is done on an illegal black market, prices are astronomical. ?A
typical heroin addict is spending 200 dollars a day on drugs? (Horrowitz 2). Many of
these addicts are at a point where they are so addicted, that they can no longer function in
a workplace environment. In order to obtain narcotics the user will often turn to crime.
?In a 2 1/2-year study of Detroit crime, Lester P. Silverman, former associate director of
the National Academy of Sciences’ Assembly of Behavior and Social Sciences, found that
a 10 percent increase in the price of heroin alone produced an increase of 3.1 percent
total property crimes in poor nonwhite neighborhoods. Armed robbery jumped 6.4
percent and simple assault by 5.6 percent throughout the city? (Miller 3). The street
crime, which most political candidates pledge to clean up, is a direct result of the measures
which the United States has taken in order to make it a so called better place.
The War on Drugs costs the United States billions of dollars. ?Fifteen billion
dollars are fed into the federal drug control budget annually? (Norml). This money would
be better spent on schools, roads, and other things that the people of America could use.
Instead it is spent on prisons, police forces, and other government institutions.
The reason why people become involved in the drug trade is no different than why
people became involved in the bootlegging trade during prohibition, money. There are
phenomenal amounts of cash which can be earned in the drug trade. ?In 1984 a kilogram
of cocaine sold for $4,000 in Columbia. That same kilogram sold for $300,000 on the
streets of the United States? (Scott 82). That is a 75% increase in the price of the
product. With a little organization you can create an intertwined network of buyers,
wholesalers, transporters, and sellers. ?This business which you created can run on very
little overhead. You pay no taxes, no benefits, no rent. You handle your own insurance
and you take your own collections?(Gray 13). The only problem that you face is
someone in your organization being caught by law enforcement. If this happens though,
there are plenty of people who can step up and take the persons job.
Today the people involved in the business of drugs have gotten smarter. ?In
Illinois it is a Class X felony to sell crack cocaine within one thousand yards of a church,
school, or park, that carries a six to sixty year sentence. But the maximum you can give a
juvenile is thirty days in the Audy Home? (Gray 4). Therefore in Chicago a number of the
people selling crack on the streets are under eighteen. Most people would agree that one
thing they don?t want to see children involved in is drugs. However, the current laws on
the books create a system where it is beneficial for children to deal drugs, especially in
urban areas with large minority populations.
?The drug war has driven people to harder drugs. As marijuana is a substance
which is bulky and harder to transport than say cocaine. Therefore the DEA has been
more successful in finding marijuana than say cocaine. This creates a shortage on the
streets, following the law of supply and demand, this drives the price of marijuana up.
This will invariably lead people to harder substances?(Bertram 134).
?There are seventy million people in America who have used marijuana, ten million
continue to use regularly? (Buckley 1). Marijuana is the third most popular drug in
America. It comes in only slightly behind nicotine and alcohol. ?However, it accounted
for 695,200 arrests in 1997? (Norml). So a physically non addictive substance which
does not cause its users to become violent is illegal. While two substances that are
addictive and can cause their users to become violent are legal. This doesn?t make sense.
As for the health problems associated with marijuana. ?The myth is that a single
marijuana cigarette equals sixteen cigarettes in terms of the amount of tar consumed.
This has been shown to be false. A more widely accepted estimate is that a marijuana
cigarette has about four times the tar of tobacco?(Norml). The dangers associated with
consuming tar can be lessened with the use of vaporizer smoking devices. It can be
completely eradicated through orally consuming the cannabis. Toxicity wise there has
never been a reported death of a person by marijuana alone. ?This is compared to
400,000 tobacco related deaths, and 100,000 alcohol related deaths, as of Jan 1997
?(Norml). ?Though it is harmful to drive a car or operate heavy machinery under the
influence of marijuana, numerous studies have been shown to find that it is not as harmful
as driving under the influence of alcohol?(Norml). ?Marijuana does not kill brain cells.
This widely believed notion was from one study involving three monkeys. The study has
never been duplicated again, and further studies with larger test populace has debunked
this myth? (Norml).
?A 1991 study found that there were 6,001 deaths due to illicit drugs? (Skolnick
1). However many of these deaths were a direct result of drug policies. The potency of
drugs varies widely between each batch. A heroin user becomes accustomed to using a
certain amount of heroin in order to get high. If a shipment of high quality heroin hits the
street, then that same user will use the same amount of drugs and invariably over dose. If
the drug was offered in a legal fashion, where quality would be equilateral, accidental
overdoses would happen with much less frequency.
One of the prices of the war on drugs is larger prisoner populations than ever
before. With nearly five in every 1,000 Americans behind bars on any given day, the
United States has the dubious distinction of incarcerating a higher percentage of its
citizens than any country in the world. Thanks in large part to the country’s war on
drugs, US prison and jail populations are 2-1/2 times larger than they were in 1980. That
growth has outpaced all attempts to house and care for the inmates. Each week the United
States must add nearly 1,000 prison beds for its rapidly growing inmate population.
?Prisoners incarcerated for drug offenses cost the American tax payers more than 315
million dollars a year?(Horowitz 6). ?New York spends 30,000 a year to keep a prisoner.
Even the most expensive in patient treatment programs cost no more than $20,000 a year.
The typical outpatient program costs no more than $3,600 a year?(Horowitz 4). The
numbers show that it is cheaper to treat people for drugs than it is to incarcerate them.
Drug laws target minority populations. ?Blacks and Hispanics make up
approximately 20% of the US population, they make up nearly 75% of the men and
women in jails and prisons for drug violations?(Skolnick 2). ?Five grams of crack
cocaine carries a mandatory minimum five year sentence. Whereas it takes more than a
pound of powdered cocaine to get a five year sentence? (Horowitz 7). Crack and
powdered cocaine are chemically the same. Crack is the cheaper version of this drug and
because of this it has flooded urban non-white areas of the country. Whereas cocaine is an
expensive drug that is normally used by white wealthy people. This is a direct attack on
minority populations. They can?t afford decent attorneys, therefore they invariably end
up in prison. Whereas rich white people usually don?t go to jail simply because they can
afford decent legal counsel.
Once the addicts are in prison they adopt a violent lifestyle in order to survive the
environment. They don?t always just go back to normal when they get out. So what you
have are legions of people addicted to drugs and angry at the same time, walking the
streets. Those two are not a good combination. ?According to a 1989 and 1990
American Jail Association survey, less than 20% of jails reported having drug treatment
programs involving paid staff and 75% provided no group therapy, drug education,
transition planning, or referral to community drug treatment agencies? (Skolnick 5).
What is the point of sending people to jail simply because they are addicted to a
substance? Furthermore why, once they are in jail would we not look towards
rehabilitation which is the supposed point of incarceration, instead of straight forward
punishment? Jail is not the answer for addicts, treatment is.
Politicians form their entire campaigns around the notion of getting tough on
crime. Quite often tougher drug laws fall into this category. This is shown by the
emergence of laws such as smoke a joint, lose your liscense, which exist in some areas of
the country. While even if the candidate had a change of heart, he would not be able to
do anything about it. He must remain true to both his platforms, and his party, or face the
possibility of not being reelected. The only time a politician will come out and say
anything about reform of drug laws, or legalization is when he is on his way out of office.
This is shown in the case of New Mexico?s Governor Gary Johnson, who just recently
spoke out for reformation of drug laws. He did this while at the end of his last term in
The United States government knows all the problems which drug legalization
would alleviate. However they do not legalize drugs because it would cause various
sectors of the government to lose money. Most of the money spent in the drug war is
spent on law enforcement, and the correctional system. To legalize drugs, would mean
that thousands of law enforcement and correctional officers would lose their jobs, because
the crime created by the war would simply not be there. Also in the case of some
agencies, they would probably be completely eradicated, such as the DEA. This would
mean that these thousands of registered voters would be out of jobs. Come election day,
they probably wouldn?t vote for the politicians which caused the loss of their livelihood.
The politicians know this and put their own needs ahead of the needs of the country at
The drug war is causing a great strain on the constitution, and the freedom of
Americans. The hysteria which has been created around drugs has allowed such things as
drug tests to be implemented in work places. Drug tests do nothing to detect the usage
of narcotics in the workplace. All that they do is test to see if there are drugs in the users
system. ?A marijuana user can test positive for up to 30 days after last using the drug.
Cocaine and opiate users can test positive for up to four days after using? (Norml). The
time when the user is actually under the influence of these drugs is normally no longer than
about five hours after usage. Therefore the test does nothing at all to aleviate the
problem associated with drugs in this situation, which is employees being high in the work
place. Also there supposedly exists a notion of freedom which exists in the United States.
What you put into your body while not in the workplace should be no business of your
employer. One can still be a good employee and a casual drug user.
One issue that lawmakers continue to ignore is the fact that marijuana is a useful
medication for a variety of aliments. ?From wasting syndrome, which is associated with
AIDS patients, to relieving some side effects of chemotherapy, to being the best natural
bronchial dilator known to man? (Meyer 56). In response to the known benefits of
marijuana, the government has sanctioned for the creation of marinol. Marinol is pill
which contains artificial THC which is the active ingredient in marijuana. However, most
patients prefer marijuana to marinol. This is because marinol is very strong substance, it
knocks out its users, it can cause hallucinations. ?Marijuana is a substance that patients
can use in low doses and reap tremendous benefits? (Norml). If marijuana was
reclassified from a schedule one (prohibited), to a schedule two(regulated) drug, doctors
could prescribe it easily. ?Now however, there are about six people in the United States
which are legally allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes?(Norml). It takes an
extreme amount of paperwork and various other inconveniences to even be considered for
the federal program.
Because of the current drug laws, hemp, the leaves and stalk portion of the
cannabis plant, is illegal. Hemp has been used for thousands of years in order to make
rope for sailing vessels. Do to the 1937 marijuana tax act which criminalized marijuana,
hemp is included in the substances which are illegal to posses. Hemp is a substances that
has the potential to be a wonderful cash crop for farmers. It doesn?t rape the soil of
nutrients like other cash crops such as tobacco, or cotton do. It can be planted in the
same soil year after year. ?It produces fibers which are fifteen times the length of wood
fibers, which are the only natural comparatives to hemp?(Norml).
The optimum system in which drugs would be legalized would be in a sort of
system where there would be a government run store where drugs would be sold only to
adults. Much the same as the way liquor is sold in many areas of the country today.
Drugs would for the most part be out of the reach of children. Drugs would be relatively
inexpensive, and within the reach of addicts, who would no longer have to turn to crime in
order to obtain them (when was the last time you heard of someone getting mugged in
order for the perpetrator to buy beer). People would be allowed to freely grow marijuana
and or hemp. Treatment for addicts would be free and easily obtainable. Money would
be spent on improving the conditions of schools, roads and other things that Americans
really need. There would exist much the same laws for operating a vehicle under the
influence of drugs as exist for operating under the influence of alcohol today. There
would once again be a state of freedom in America.