Why Drugs Should Be Legalized Essay Research

Why Drugs Should Be Legalized!!!! Essay, Research Paper Why Drugs Should Be Legalized!!!! Man, as a creature, is inherently bored. Since the dawn of time, it has been the

Why Drugs Should Be Legalized!!!! Essay, Research Paper

Why Drugs Should Be Legalized!!!!

Man, as a creature, is inherently bored. Since the dawn of time, it has been the

natural instinct of man to find alternative methods to enhance his being. The

many means by which man has turned to include sex, gambling, and the consumption

of substances beyond the requirements of nutrition. The consumption of

substances can be further broken down into legal and illegal substances. The

question then becomes, who are we to place labels on certain substances by

deeming them legal and prohibit others by creating penalties for their use?

The issue of prohibition is certainly not a new one to our nation. In 1919, the

18th Amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic

beverages. “Suddenly honest, responsible Americans who just wanted a drink, were

turned into criminals. Respectable bars became underground speak-easys, and

legitimate liquor manufacturers were replaced by criminal bootleggers.” Gang

warfare, bribery, and criminal activity reached an all-time high. Standards on

illegal alcohol were much lower than those on the previously legal alcohol which

led to the blinding or death of many consumers. Finally in 1933, politicians

buckled and repealed the 18th Amendment. The Prohibition attempt of the early

20th century provides the perfect historical support for the decriminalization

of drugs.

“Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species

of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that

it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of

things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very

principles upon which our government was founded.”

The rise in violent crime over the years has been a concern to most. A major

cause of this increase in crime is the illegal trafficking of drugs. As violent

crime continues to increase, we are unable to devote our financial resources and

time into preventing and prosecuting those who commit crimes such as murder,

rape, and assault. The reason we are unable to devote these resources where they

are needed is because we are foolishly spending them on a battle that we cannot

win-the “War on Drugs.”

Prior to Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs,” America’s crime rate had been declining.

Since the introduction of the new wave drug laws, violent crimes have increased

32% between 1976 and 1985. Eighty percent of all violent street crimes are now

drug related.

Most of the violent crime associated with drugs can be traced directly to the

drug dealers and not the users. “The ‘war on drugs’ drives up prices, which

attracts more people to the drug trade. When potential profit increases, drug

dealers resort to greater extremes, including violence.” For example, the street

price of heroin has risen 5,000 times that of hospital costs. These artificial

prices lead to turf wars in which one dealer attempts to protect his sales from

another. These turf wars cause dealers to kill each other, law enforcement

officials, and often innocent bystanders. The rising cost of the drugs causes

desperate addicts to commit robberies in order to keep up with the inflating


If the importation, sale and use of drugs were legal, the open competition would

eliminate the profitability of drug dealing. Without the economic incentive to

commit violent crimes, the violence of drug dealing would be dramatically

reduced. In addition to the elimination of the economic incentive, the health

risk factor would help to reduce the role of the drug dealer. A potential

customer would probably choose to buy a market-tested product from a pharmacy as

opposed to buying a product of unknown dosage and quality from a corner dealer.

Without the lure of potential profits, the drug dealing profession would lose

its luster. A major problem is that children in lower-class areas see selling

drugs as the only way to make money. Minimum wage salaries can not compare to

the huge profits associated with dealing. Failing to acquire job skills at an

early age, they run the risk of never finding a real job and living off welfare

their entire lives. In a lower-class area, the drug dealers are seen as the

center of the community. They become role models for the children, replacing

their parents. Eliminating the drug dealer will force these young children into

the reality that education is the way out of the ghetto-not selling drugs.

Prohibition laws cannot be effectively enforced. In a free society, if people

want a product, they will be able to find a way to get it, whether or not it is

legal. “No matter how many Americans are arrested for drug use, no matter how

many pushers are put in jail, the War on Drugs cannot succeed. Look at any major

American prison with its human cages, iron gates, armed guards, and continual

surveillance. Drugs are still readily available in prison. If brutal repression

cannot keep drugs out of our prisons, then turning our entire country into a

prison will not keep drugs off our streets.”

Decriminalization would not necessarily endorse drug use, but instead it would

at least accept the notion that government action in a free country cannot

prevent it. The economic law of supply and demand states that if a product is

demanded, someone is always willing to supply it for the right price. The

problem with criminalizing a product is that it drives down the supply which

increases price and, as mentioned earlier, leads to more violence.

“The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the

prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government

and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an

open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely

connected with this.”

The next issue becomes one of safety. A major danger of drug use in today’s

society is the potentially harmful effects. Such problems as the spread of

HIV/AIDS, overdoses, and physical withdrawal could be curbed if drugs were kept

under the watchful eye of law. Take for example the issue of HIV/AIDS. This

arises mainly from the circulation of dirty hypodermic needles. By legalizing

the sale of injection drugs, clean, unused hypodermic needles could be supplied.

This would greatly reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. In parts of the Netherlands

and France, safe houses are provided that give addicts a safe environment to

shoot up their drugs. While sounding absurd, it provides a clean, safe area for

the addict to use while kept under strict observation.

Another big problem associated with illegal drug use is the likelihood of an

overdose, whether intentional or not. While there is no way to prevent overdose

suicides, many overdoses can be attributed to the fact that some drugs are made

too strong. Should the government choose to legalize the sale of drugs, they can

then take it one step further and regulate these drugs. They can inspect the

dosages applied and can confirm the relative safety of drugs to be sold on the

open market. Similar to the manner in which the Food and Drug Administration

operates, an organization could be set up to monitor the quality of the drugs.

This would not only make certain drugs a lot safer, but it could also regulate

quantities in which they are sold. Drugs could only be sold in certain amounts

and would come with instructions as to how much it is safe to consume.

In 1988, over 48,000 Americans died from alcohol abuse, 400,000 from cigarette-

related illnesses and less than 3,000 from illegal drugs. Former Surgeon General

C. Everett Koop testified that tobacco is just as addictive as heroin and less

so than marijuana. Illegal drugs are by no means good or safe, but they cause

far less medical damage than either alcohol and nicotine-legal intoxicants. Over

40 million Americans now use drugs occasionally, but most do so responsibly and

in moderation. The small percentage who are addicts deserve our help, not our

judicial persecution.

Drug use cannot be prevented and the most rational solution would be to educate

the people about the risks, and encourage moderate use. Criminalization makes

this kind of rational behavior impossible. By legalizing drugs, education could

accompany the purchase of the drugs in the form of a Surgeon General’s Warning

or an educational pamphlet.

The potential payoffs of the decriminalizing of drugs goes way beyond simple,

obvious results. Currently, addicts often refrain from seeking medical attention

due to the fear of possible legal complications. This most often occurs with

pregnant women, which subsequently effects their drug-addicted babies. The war

on drugs also costs the government a tremendous amount of money in the hiring of

police and all judicial players. The courts become backed up with ridiculous

cases. Without drug-related cases, our judicial system could run a lot more

efficiently and effectively. Drug hunting often leads to unnecessary death of

innocent police officers killed in the line of duty. This fear of death causes

police to often incite brutality or harass honest citizens.

There is no evidence to support the notion that legalization would cause an

increase in drug use. “In Europe, several countries have decriminalized drugs

and actually seen a significant drop in drug use.” The “forbidden fruit” appeal

would be taken away. Part of the attraction of using drugs is the idea that the

action is illegal and goes against authority. Without the “rebel element,” drugs

no longer have the attraction and lure that they previously did. For every

person encouraged by the removal of possible incarceration, one will be

discouraged by the legality of using drugs.

Take for example the decriminalization acts taken in Switzerland. In 1975, major

provisions were made to the Swiss Narcotics Law in which penalties for

trafficking were increased and penalties for consumption were drastically

reduced. According to Richard J. Bonnie, there was no correlation between the

laxative laws and increased use. The only drug that saw any kind of increased

use was marijuana, a basically harmless drug.

One must also consider the economic possibilities that accompany the

decriminalization of drugs. The nation’s GNP (Gross National Product) only

counts legal transactions. If drugs were legalized, a significant effect could

be seen on the GNP helping to make our economy stronger in relation to other

countries. Profits could be taken out of the drug dealers hands and into the

hands of an honest entrepreneur. Companies could manufacture and market their

drug-related products and pharmacists could sell the products allowing both to

make a considerable profit. The advent of drug stores, similar to liquor stores,

would help the economy by introducing new businesses into the society. The

government could levy a high excise tax on the drugs and could thereby make a

considerable amount of money that they could put into education or something

more important.

The War on Drugs is also a strict violation of our rights as Americans. One of

the greatest things about this country is our ability to live our lives as we

see fit. The War on Drugs directly threatens this right. Under “zero tolerance”

laws, the government has seized thousands of cars, boats, and other vehicles.

These seizures take place without search warrants, probable cause, and due

process. This property is then sold at public auctions with the proceeds going

to hire more police and to buy more weapons.

The War on Drugs has become just that-a war. In December 1989, 20,000 U.S.

troops invaded Panama, capturing Manuel Noreiga, at a cost of 1,000 innocent

Panamanians killed. This action was in total disregard of international law and

policy. In July 1990, Newsweek ran an expose on a secret Pentagon plan to invade

South America in an attempt to destroy the drug trade. Such an action could have

led to the death of many innocent civilians, the economic destruction on South

America, an increase of taxes and an increase of inflation in the states.

Most of the major arguments applied against the decriminalization of drugs deal

with the notion that drugs are bad, dangerous, and harmful to society. It

becomes difficult to praise the use of such drugs as crack, heroin, and cocaine.

Instead, looking at it objectively, one can come to understand that without

legalization, the drug use will still exist. Decriminalizing drugs is just a

form of damage control that will hopefully lessen the negative externalities on

society. The aforementioned arguments, however, cannot even be applied to the

case for the decriminalization of marijuana and hemp products.

Marijuana does nor cause crime or aggressive behavior. In fact, the use of

marijuana makes an individual more passive and less likely to engage in any form

of violent behavior. Marijuana is not physically addictive and its psychological

dependence is less than that of most legal drugs in use now. It does not lead to

the use of harder drugs. In fact, most marijuana users use no other drugs except


“At least forty million Americans have tried marijuana at least once and at

least fifteen million Americans continue to use it on a regular basis. . .The

overwhelming percentage (perhaps ninety percent) of marijuana users use the drug

only for recreational purposes. . .It is well established that the moderate,

recreational use of marijuana-in the doses and frequencies with which it is

customarily used-presents no risk of physical or psychological harm to the user,

over either the short or the long term.”

Putting aside the fact that marijuana is not a bad or even dangerous drug, one

must look at what marijuana and hemp can do for our society. When posed with the

question, “if you could have any choice, what would be the ideal way to stop or

reverse the greenhouse effect?” Steve Rawlings, the highest ranking officer in

the U.S. Department of Agriculture, responded, “Stop cutting down the trees and

stop using fossil fuels.” The problem that Rawlings foresaw was the lack of a

viable substitute for wood, for paper, and for fossil fuels.

The solution? There is “such a plant that could substitute for all wood pulp,

paper, all fossil fuels, would make most of our fibers naturally, would make

everything from dynamite to plastic, grows in all 50 states, and that 1 acre of

it would replace 4.1 acres of trees, and that if you used about 6% of the land

to raise it as an energy crop-even on our marginal lands, this plant would

produce all 75 quadrillion billion BTU’s needed to run America each year.”

The problem? This plant is the hemp plant-the very plant that marijuana comes

from. Marijuana, and thusly, the hemp plant is illegal. The absurd fact is that

the plant that could possibly save the world from global warming cannot be grown

because of a harmless drug. The response given by Dr. Gary Evans of the U.S.

Dept of Agriculture and Science, the man in charge of stopping the global

warming trend, was, “if you really want to save the planet with hemp, then [hemp

activists] would find a way to grow it without the narcotic top-and then you

could use it.” This ignorance by the U.S. government is not only frightening but


Marijuana also has many practical medical purposes. The Medical Plant Garden, a

part of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, is currently working

on a medicine that is made from the active ingredient in marijuana (THC)}. This

capsule, consisting of 95% THC could be used to replace Marinol, which combats

nausea and vomiting problems in cancer patients and fights the wasting sickness

suffered by most AIDS patients. Marijuana can also be used to alleviate symptoms

of certain diseases such as glaucoma, cancer, and AIDS. Only a small handful of

the people, though, have been prescribed the drug when thousands have applied.

DEA administrative law Judge Francis L. Young called marijuana “one of the

safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” He recommended that

marijuana be made legally available for medical purposes. This would be a

considerable change in the drugs legal status. Young feels that the drug could

aid many patients suffering from nausea-inducing chemotherapy and muscle spasms

of multiple sclerosis. Young wrote in a 69 page ruling, “The evidence in this

record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving

the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under

medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA

to continue to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of

this substance in light of the evidence in this record.”

Israeli scientists had recently found a skeleton of a fourth century woman who

they believed died in childbirth. Scientists found what they believe to be ashes

or the burned remains of a cannabis plant, suggesting that the ancient woman

used marijuana as a method of reducing labor pains.

N.O.R.M.L (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) is a fully

recognized organization that lobbies for the “removal of criminal penalties for

the individual who uses marijuana in private” as it is “consistent with

traditional American values of the right to privacy, personal choice, and

individual freedom.” N.O.R.M.L.’s Board of Directors reads like a “Who’s Who” in

the world of science. Such distinguished members include Dr. Kary Mullis, the

winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry; Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Harvard

Medical School Professor; Dr. Louis Lasagna, chairman of the National Academy of

Sciences committee and dean of the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at

Tufts University; Ann Druyan, secretary of the Federation of Scientists;

Druyan’s husband, Carl Sagan, co-producer of the PBS series Cosmos; and many


Marijuana, in addition to not being a dangerous drug, has been documented to

have practical medical purposes and environmental purposes. The legalization of

marijuana-a drug that the criminalization of is so impossible to enforce-would

not only not harm society, but could actually benefit it.

The question then becomes, how should legalization be approached? In addition to

decriminalization, the government must understand that education is also of the

utmost importance. Rehabilitation and prevention awareness programs are very

important in preventing widespread drug use. One must understand that the drug

addict is not a criminal but a victim. Incarceration is not the solution. “The

limits of criminal sanctions must be recognized and not applied to private

social conduct that constitutes no direct harm to others.”

Legalizing drugs would allow them to be available to those who would benefit

from their medical use. Research would also be encouraged as scientists could

search for new and practical uses of drugs. There are many wonderful uses of

drugs that have not yet been identified or perfected and with expanded research,

we could discover these new possibilities.

Of course, some restrictions would have to be set. Likely, an age restriction

would have to be adopted. Restricting the use of drugs to adults only, and

educating the youth of the potential dangers should help curb adolescent abuse.

Prohibiting acts such as driving a vehicle under the influence of a mind-

altering substance would likewise be necessary. Another necessity would be the

destruction of all those with prior criminal records due to the arrest or

conviction on drug-related charges. Of course, the right of the non-smoker would

have to be paramount. In a public facility, non-smoking areas would have to be

set up.

A system of drug regulation that would include the above provisions, public

health and agricultural regulations, and a form of taxation would discourage

abuse, protect public health and safety, reduce crime, and raise revenue.

“Regulation is the inevitable replacement of prohibition.”