SHOULD DRUGS BE LEGALIZED?
The case for legalizing drugs has been argued strongly in the past three decades mainly due to an over crowded prison system. In the last thirty years the United States prison population has grown immensely. As of 2008 there were more than two million prisoners in the United States prison system. A lot of this may be due to our punitive approach as opposed to rehabilitative approach to drugs. Today, more and more of our tax dollars are going to fighting drug related crimes and keeping people convicted of drug related offenses in our prison system. With the economy still faltering, budgets are tightening in cities and towns all across the nation.Today's alarming drug statistics and faltering city budgets bring up an important question to be asked. Should drugs be legalized?
The get tough on drugs laws have been a failure. The only result of our big war on drugs has been a huge increase in incarceration of American citizens as well as billions of dollars spent. Approximately one-quarter of people held in U.S. prisons or jails has been convicted of a drug offense. The United States incarcerates more people for drug offenses than any other country. Unless you are part of the prison building business or lobby (A very lucrative venture), these laws have just taken valuable resources away from the police to fight serious violent crime. However, I am not sure total legalization is the answer to this question. Legalzing drugs might open up a whole new set of problems.
There are many proponents of the case to legalize drugs. People say that the war on drugs has failed because it has not made an impact on usage in the United States. In fact, today's percentage of hard drug use is almost identical to the percentage of use in the beginning of the so called drug prohibition(1914).
The supporters of drug legalization feel that funds will be freed up for police to be able to focus on more serious crimes and the amount of people incarcerated will go significantly down. Moreover, proponents argue that education, health care, road building, and a wide array of worthwhile causes would benefit from the taxes that could be raised by legalizing and then taxing drugs (Hanson, Venturelli, Fleckenstein. 2009). Proponents also think that the quality of drugs could be regulated and overdose deaths would go down.
Some people feel that drug addiction itself is very overestimated. Benson B. Roe a MD and professor at the University of California at San Francisco makes an interesting point on the subject. "Media focus on the junkie has generated a mistaken impression that all users of illegal drugs are devastated by their habit. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that the small population of visible addicts must constitute only a fraction of the $150 billion per year illegal drug market. This industry is so huge that it necessarily encompasses a very large portion of the ordinary population who are typically employed, productive, responsible and not significantly impaired from leading conventional lives."(www.druglibrary.org.). To sum it up, proponents of legalizing drugs feel that this measure will relieve the burden on our prison system, provide tax dollars and increase the quality of product available to use.
People who believe that we should not legalize drugs usually focus on usage, healthcare costs, and basic morals. People on this side of the issue believe if drugs were legalized that there would be an increase in drug usage(particularly hard drugs). They also believe that health care costs associated with drug abuse would skyrocket as the result of more users. A belief that our morals will be compromised is also big among people against drug legalization because in today's world people who use drugs are looked down upon. People against the legalization of drugs also believe that there would be an actual increase in drug related crimes and that the black market of drugs would never go away.
I believe in practical terms that there is a strong case for the legalization of drugs. Are we going to keep pouring billions of dollars into a war we are not winning? I do believe that legalizing drugs will cut down on crime and our prison population. I also think that more people would be able to be treated for substance abuse because they would not feel as ashamed and looked down upon. I believe some people will use drugs whether or not they are legal or not. Shouldn't people be allowed to ruin their life if they want to?
Ethically and morally I am a little conflicted. I am big on people's right to do just about anything. I think a lot of our liberties have been taken away. I even believe people should have the right to smoke just about anywhere and I don't even smoke.
But...... Don't we have enough problems already in society? Are we not already taking enough legal drugs, let alone illegal ones? I realize that there have been studies that say that if legalization occurs there would be just a little increase in actual usage. However, over time would this still be the case? Most of us have grown up in a day in age where it has been routinely preached that drugs are bad. Will this erode over time? Will our great grandchildren think it is normal to see people using drugs? Will there come a day when we will routinely see people shooting up? I realize that this already happens but in today's society it is viewed as unacceptable.
I have two children and would be devastated if they started to use drugs. I just think ethically and morally I would have to oppose it. I also have another concern. What is going to happen to the drug trade once big business gets a hold of it? Are we going to be saturated with ads for even more drugs? Isn't bad already? Will there be several brands of every drug? Maybe we can all snort a line in the morning instead of drinking our morning coffee(yes i know caffeine is a drug). I can hear the ad now-(insert brand name) Cocaine the real morning eye opener, ten times as good and effective as your normal cup of coffee. All kidding aside, legalizing drugs will create many questions and problems that would have to be ironed out for it to work.
In conclusion, I believe that this topic is one that can be debated for hours. I think there are a lot of pros and cons either way. I conclude in my research that most of the drug legalization arguments deal with Marijuana use not some of the harder drugs. This might be something to explore. Maybe the government can test this out and see how it goes. However, I have heard that they legalized Marijuana in Alaska before and the usage went way up.
Some people always cite cigarette use and deaths involved with it when debating drug legalization. The fact that cigarette smoking kills more people than all other drugs combined is interesting but I have never heard of any one's daily life being destroyed by them smoking cigarettes. Also, if we do legalize all other drugs are we not going to have to back track on tobacco as well? Thus, after doing research on this topic I do believe that our policy on drugs does have to be changed, but a compromise between the two might be the better answer.