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Opposing Drug Views circa 1988; Similar Issues Still Debated Today

Updated on November 3, 2016

Alan M. Dershowitz's essay The Case For Medicalizing Heroin

The legalization of drugs in the United States is a topic that has been the subject of debate for decades. In 1988 Alan M. Dershowitz and Charles B. Rangel held opposing views on the decision to legalize drugs. In Dershowitz’s essay The Case for Medicalizing Heroin, he explains using three modes of persuasion; ethos, pathos and logos. Mainly Dershowitz utilizes logos, a logical standpoint, to explain the political problems that are associated with the legalization of drugs. He explains that politicians are reluctant to stand on the decriminalization of drugs in fear of how voters will think of them. Dershowitz also explains the downfalls of the now current approach healthcare uses to reduce harm in heroin abusers. The congressman’s argument is simply that there will always be people who go against the law to get their fix. Dershowitz mentions that the legalization of alcohol and nicotine have not alleviated the problems that originate from them. He suggests that the decriminalization of alcohol and nicotine that resulted when these were legalized are what will expect to see from the legalization of heroin. The approach that we use to help those individuals that abuse drugs is complex and subjective to the individual it affects.

Charles B. Rangel's Legalize Drugs? Not on Your Life

In Charles B. Rangel’s article Legalize Drugs? Not on Your Life featured in the New York Times on May 17,1988 brings up similar arguments that are currently debated in this year’s election. Rangel argues his point by simply using a logical standpoint. Rangel mentions that the legalization of drugs is not as simple a solution as many people think. He probes supporters of legalization by comparing them to baseball fans sitting in the cheat seats who think they know everything but lack the ability the judge the actions. Rangel questions his readers that if drugs were to be legalized would they be limited to the commonly abused ones? Rangel uses ethos, an emotional appeal, to persuade his readers that legalization of drugs may do more harm than good. Rangel includes the affect the legalization of drugs has on children in his article. He explains that a decriminalized atmosphere would undermine the educational efforts that have been made to sway children from drugs. He also points out that the legalization would result in a reduction of fear of a health threat from drug addiction. Rangel’s view is that the benefit of the legalization of drugs would not outweigh the harm and that society is going in the wrong direction in fighting the war on drugs.

How Rangel's & Dershowitz Views Are Applied Today

Congressman Rangel’s and Dershowitz’s opinions still hold validity in today’s debate on the legalization of drugs. Today’s heroin epidemic is sky rocketing and becoming more prevalent in younger age groups. The harm reduction strategies that are in place today are questioned in the effectiveness of the overall outcomes. The implementation of non-healthcare professionals to administer Narcan has significantly reduced the incidence of death from drug overdoses. However, many argue that this harm reduction tactic does not influence drug addicts to reduce their drug use. I find that Dershowitz’s argument about which direction we take to conquer the debate on drugs in the US is that neither direction is better than the other and both sides have negative outcomes. No one knows the outcome of a United States where drugs are legalized and nearly thirty years later we are still at a loss as to how to fix the drug epidemic.


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