Legalization - Arguments Pro And Con

drugs drug marijuana dea

For Legalization

Most of those who favor legalization in some form (decriminalization, regulation, for medical use) use two arguments in combination. The first is that an approach to drugs based on prohibition and criminalization does not work, produces excessive rates of incarceration, and costs a lot of money that could be more productively spent on treatment and prevention. The second is that drug use is an activity arbitrarily called a crime. It is imposed by law on some drugs and not on others, and can be seen as criminal at one time but perhaps not at another. Murder, rape, and robbery have always been considered inherently criminal acts, but drug use is just a consumption of substances; its control is arbitrary and follows fashions. Alcohol consumption was once prohibited but is now legal. In the early 1900s opiates were sold in pharmacies and Coca-Cola contained small quantities of cocaine.

While some who advocate legalization of drugs come at the issue from a libertarian perspective—the belief that the government has no business telling people what they may and may not ingest—most proponents do not deny that many drugs can be harmful (though many dispute the degree); they merely point out that tobacco use and alcohol abuse are harmful too—more harmful and/or more addictive in fact than some drugs that are illegal. The policy they recommend is based on educational and public health approaches also used vis-à-vis tobacco and alcohol. A greater harm is imposed on society by prohibiting such substances, as evidenced by the consequence of the Prohibition period of the early twentieth century, during which alcohol was banned and crime, racketeering, and homicide rates soared.

HARM REDUCTION.

The general policy as advocated by most mainstream proponents of legalization is sometimes summed up in the phrase "harm reduction." The ACLU's Ira Glasser outlines the issues, in testimony cited above, concisely in three paragraphs:

There are two kinds of harms associated with the use of drugs. One set of harms may be caused by the drugs themselves, and varies widely, depending on the particular drug, its potency, its purity, its dosage, and the circumstances and frequency of its use. Distinctions must be made between the harms caused by heavy, compulsive use (e.g., alcoholism) and occasional, controlled use (e.g., a glass of wine each night with dinner). Distinctions must also be made between medical use (e.g., heavy dosages of morphine prescribed by doctors over a two-week period in a hospital setting or methadone prescribed daily on an outpatient basis as maintenance) and uncontrolled use (e.g., by addicts on the street using unregulated heroin and unclean needles). And distinctions must be made as well between relatively benign drugs (e.g., marijuana) and drugs with more extreme short-term effects (e.g., LSD) or more severe long-term effects (e.g., nicotine when delivered by smoking tobacco).

The second kind of harm associated with the use of drugs is the harm caused not by the drugs themselves but by dysfunctional laws designed to control the availability of the drug. These harms include massive incarceration, much of it racially disparate, and the violation of a wide range of constitutional rights so severe that it has led one Supreme Court justice to speak of a "drug exception" to the Constitution. Dysfunctional laws have also led to reduced availability of treatment by those who desire it (e.g., methadone maintenance), as well as a number of harms created by uncontrolled and unregulated illegal markets (e.g., untaxed and exaggerated subsidies for organized criminals; street crime caused by the settling of commercial disputes with automatic weapons; unregulated dosages and impurities; unclean needles and the spread of disease, etc.)

All laws that address the issue of drugs ought to be evaluated by assessing whether or not they reduce or enhance such harms.

BENEFITS.

Many proponents see the chief benefits of legalization in decreased crime from trafficking, gang wars, and crimes committed to obtain drugs, lower incarceration rates and associated cost savings, and more funds available for treatment from savings and from taxes on legally distributed drugs. Legalization of drugs is also seen as making available marijuana in medical applications, such as relieving the suffering of cancer and AIDS patients.

Against Legalization

The government's case against legalization is summarized in a brochure published by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2003 entitled Speaking Out against Drug Legalization. The ten arguments presented by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are shown in Table 11.2.

TABLE 11.2
Ten facts cited by the Drug Enforcement Administration on legalization of drugs, 2003
SOURCE: "Summary of the Top Ten Facts on Legalization," in Speaking out against Drug Legalization, U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, May 2003

Fact 1: We have made significant progress in fighting drug use and drug trafficking in America. Now is not the time to abandon our efforts.
Fact 2: A balanced approach of prevention, enforcement, and treatment is the key in the fight against drugs.
Fact 3: Illegal drugs are illegal because they are harmful.
Fact 4: Smoked marijuana is not scientifically approved medicine. Marinol, the legal version of medical marijuana, is approved by science.
Fact 5: Drug control spending is a minor portion of the U.S. budget. Compared to the social costs of drug abuse and addiction, government spending on drug control is minimal.
Fact 6: Legalization of drugs will lead to increased use and increased levels of addiction. Legalization has been tried before, and failed miserably.
Fact 7: Crime, violence, and drug use go hand-in-hand.
Fact 8: Alcohol has caused significant health, social, and crime problems in this country, and legalized drugs would only make the situation worse.
Fact 9: Europe's more liberal drug policies are not the right model for America.
Fact 10: Most non-violent drug users get treatment, not jail time.

The DEA's case is also organized around the concept of harm. Drugs are illegal because they cause harm. Legalization of drugs—even if only marijuana—will increase the harm already suffered by the drug-using public by spreading use to ever larger numbers of people. The agency cites Alaska's experience. Marijuana was legalized there in the 1970s and the DEA states that the Alaskan teenage consumption of marijuana at more than twice the rate of teenagers elsewhere was a direct consequence of the Alaska Supreme Court ruling. In 1990 there was a voter initiative that criminalized any possession of marijuana.

Yet despite the DEA's opinion, on August 29, 2003, a state appellate court affirmed the right of Alaskans to possess a small amount of marijuana in their homes; anything under four ounces might be deemed "for personal use." Anything over that amount is still illegal, since it is assumed the person is dealing drugs.

The DEA points to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) studies that show that smoking a marijuana joint introduces four times as much tar into the lungs as a filtered cigarette. The agency makes the point that drugs are much more addictive than alcohol and invites the public to contemplate a situation in which commercial interests might be enabled to promote the sale of presently illegal substances.

The DEA counters the "criminalization" charge by pointing out that only 5% of drug offenders in federal prisons and 27% of drug offenders in state prisons are held for possession, the rest for trafficking. The agency points out that even these numbers are deceptive because those imprisoned for possession are usually imprisoned after repeated offenses, and many of those serving a sentence for possession were arrested for trafficking but reached plea bargains permitting them to plead guilty to the lesser offense of possession.

Would legalization reduce crime? The DEA does not believe it would. Under a regulated drug-use system, age restrictions would apply. A criminal enterprise would continue to supply those under age. If marijuana were legalized, trade in heroin and cocaine would continue. If all three of the major drugs were permitted to be sold legally, other substances, like PCP and methamphetamine, would still support a criminal trade. The DEA does not envision that a black market in drugs could be eliminated entirely, because health authorities would never permit very potent drugs to be sold freely on the open market.

For all of these reasons, the DEA advocates the continuation of a balanced approach to the control of drugs including prevention, enforcement, and treatment.

Contradictions and Inconsistencies

Both proponents and opponents of legalization produce good arguments for their cases, but contradictions and inconsistencies are present in both presentations, suggesting that the ultimate evolution of this issue will turn on political, i.e., pragmatic, issues.

Proponents of legalization sometimes find the question of where to draw the legal line problematic. How harmful must a drug be before it should be made illegal? In an environment where public pressures are mounting against the use of tobacco, legalization of marijuana has a contradictory aspect. Funds expended now on incarcerating drug offenders may have to be expended in some future time on public health programs to treat ills caused by newly legalized drugs, though whether or how much the use of such drugs as marijuana would increase if it were legal remains entirely unknown.

Opponents of legalization fail to coherently address the question of alcohol and tobacco. One must engage in serious logical contortions to justify their legality when consumptions of comparably harmful substances can yield lengthy prison sentences.

Arguments claiming that the war on drugs is succeeding because drug use is down as measured against some point in the past ignore the fact that drug use is a cyclical phenomenon with ebbs and flows. In Speaking Out, for instance, the DEA presents a chart comparing overall drug use between 1979 and 2001, showing a decline in current users from 25.4 to 15.9 million people. In that period, however, current drug use first declined to twelve million persons in 1992 and then rose again to 15.9 million by 2001 while the same policies were being pursued. If the DEA had used 1992 as its base year, it would have had to argue that its programs were not working.

User Comments

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over 3 years ago

just make drugs legal,people who want to do them will and people who dont wont, that simple(;

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almost 4 years ago

If America was not so stubborn on how they would like the United States to be when it should be open to all the possibilities. Its going to be a long while before we open our eys to the bigger picture to all the possibilities instead of what we wanna see. Smoke weed every day! if your leagal

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almost 3 years ago

wooooooooooooow hat crazy smh

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about 3 years ago

Forget about all kind of lost and win stuff and just think for cannabis and marijuana highs and buy drugs for that from given below site name please go on legal-highs !!!!

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almost 4 years ago

The DEA is a direct infringement on the freedom's of American people. Law enforcement has the sole purpose for "protecting" the weak, and helpless that cannot protect themselves. A man or woman consuming illegal narcotics in the privacy of their homes are "not" harming or disturbing the community,adversely, in any way. The fact is this country Treats drug abusers on the level of a murderer when it comes to punishment, social persecution, and socially unfit to be accepted into society. This country strikes fear and "propaganda" such as, over exaggerating the adverse effects, death tolls, and flat out lies. striking fear into American citizens over something that became illegal indirectly through racism. Yes, it wold lower crime and criminal organizations take away their sole purpose of existence and the government should NOT be concerned with a citizen's private matter that does not harm others of the community. Drugs became illegal for the all wrong reasons and this country is wasting billions of dollars to advocate the lunacy and irrational/traditional mindset of this "losing" war on drugs and disrespect for people's free right to consume what they wish. I don't see the country complaining about the death and destruction that alcohol and tobacco cause on a scale much larger than the combined problems of illegal drugs

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almost 4 years ago

Brent is right, an addict will be an addict whether drugs are legal or not. People are always going to do drugs, so you can either legalize drugs and have people use them in clean environments, or you can choose the other lovely option of keeping them illegal and watch people run around your parks, robbing people and selling themselves just to afford their next fix.

Jack: i dont know of any "black markets" that sell alcohol, do you? Oh yeah, Illegal production of alcohol stopped when prohibition ended. So your whole argument against Brock is not only wrong, but it seems like you have also never read a history book either. Also in countries like Switzerland It cost the country less to support their heroin addicts rather than go on a wild goose chase and spend millions and millions to ban drugs that will never go away.

Crystal, It is a free country baby, I'll smoke outside of any mall I want to. Maybe we can just ban everyone that works with asbestos from ever leaving their work place, because that is a carcinogen also. That sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?

On an ending note, Who should care, besides myself what I put into my body?

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over 2 years ago

drugs are good for you :D

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almost 3 years ago

I've been researching substance abuse/effects on Eriksonian stage of adolescent development.My opinion of legalization of weed has not changed.Obviously alcohol creates a hazardous situation in many respects,but weed is useful medically and also I simply feel it is another form of government control.Besides medically, I'd rather hang out and smoke weed than put up with incoherent alcohol abusers.Ever heard of anyone dying directly from a marihuana o.d.?Me either. I am a MATURE student and feel the youth in U.S. today far more conservative than those of us in our 40's.LEGALIZE MARIJUANA. I do agree there's a plethora of substances which adversely affect the emotional development of adolescents...cognition, emotions suppressed which impact behavior negatively..and on and on...I'm tired of this issue and my thesis.

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almost 3 years ago

kiillllllllling them boies stoioooopoooopoop that shitttt

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almost 3 years ago

==================================

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about 3 years ago

Forget about all kind of lost and win stuff and just think for cannabis and marijuana highs and buy drugs for that from given below site name please go on legal-highs !!!!

Vote down Vote up

about 3 years ago

Forget about all kind of lost and win stuff and just think for cannabis and marijuana highs and buy drugs for that from given below site name please go on legal-highs !!!!

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almost 4 years ago

I don't know where everyone is getting all of there research from, but all drugs and alcohol DO INDEED have health effects. Studies have shown that use earlier in life can contribute to early onset alzhiemers Dz. Also, arguing if jow shmo wants to smoke crack then let him?!!! Wait until joe shmo comes and robs your house or kills you for your money because he needs more money to support his habit. Studies have shown that the harder drugs are extremely addictive. Most people DO NOT use them as the occasional something to do. And I used to disagree, but seeing so many around me, Marijuana IS a gateway drug. I have known at least 50 people who have smoked marijuana and guess what -they have ALL tried something harder. If you are open to trying something that alters your mind -which they ALL do, most of the time you WILL go further at some point. ALso, with treatment have you even looked at the statistics of the people who get treatment and how many actually suceed? Or that 90% relapse? And have you ever seen anyone recover from meth addiction? A lot of you must be young -too young to focus on how in the US we are killing ourselves from the inside -forget about someone bombing us -we are doing our own destruction! When I was younger and too stupid to get the facts and to see all the actual danger drugs cause I would have agreed with most of you. And to whoever said they have to adapt and don't have a choice -YOU DO YOU choose your friends!!! And attacking someone with health issues just shows how SELFISH you all are!!! You want to do what you want to do and don't bother with consequences that fall on everyone else! ALso, legallizing will NOT stop black markets or other illegal sale of drugs or cut down on addiction. Look at all the prescription drug abuse from users who do not even have a prescription! The Prescription drug abuse has increased as well so what does that say for what will happen if drugs are legalized even by controlled methods? You have to research sources that argue for AND against something and research MANY sources - proven sources, not just merely your opinion to really get a good look at what you are arguing.

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about 5 years ago

Marijuana is not a victimless crime! As someone who has been unwillingly subjected to second hand smoke (both cigarettes and marijuana) and has NEVER smoked either first hand, I can attest to the fact that it is not a victimless crime. My rights to choose what goes into my body was taken away by second hand smoke. Let's start with some examples on legal smoking product that is already being forced onto others, cigarettes. When I was a child my grandmother would smoke in the car and in her home, I had no choice over it and was punished if I spoke out about my discomfort. So now you are telling me this same situation should be allowed to occur with marijuana as well? I come out of the mall and most of the time and I am subjected to cigarette second hand smoke, and now I'm supposed to be subject to second hand marijuana smoke as well? I'm sorry to tell you this but your liberties end when they infringe on mine.
As far as consistency... you are right they should either ban cigarettes or legalize marijuana, one or the other.

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about 3 years ago

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about 3 years ago

How long is this thin/

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about 3 years ago

If anyone such a interested in buy a marijuana,cannabis drugs and party pills;so! this suggestion give you a interesting information to buy a dagga,weed,seed and other marijuana drugs you can visit the great site that the link here and visit of that; also,you can give suggestion about

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over 3 years ago

ya'll are funny :)

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almost 4 years ago

What people fail to address is that anyone who takes an addictive drug, whether legal or illegal, runs the risk of becoming addicted. Addiction, is a primary, chronic, progressive and if not treated, a fatal illness.
The notion of 'harm' and 'harm reduction' do nothing to deal with the fact that addiction is a disease that high-jacks the brain, messes up thinking.
Young people run the risk of permanent damage to their brains -- permanently alter the brain chemistry -- by taking addictive drugs. But no effort seems to be made to teach that in schools -- to talk about addiction in such a way that it is perceived as not a 'cool' thing to do, but a bloody stupid, moronic thing to do.
Treatment of a chronic illness such as addiction begins when the addict stops taking the drug and starts to learn grown up coping and relating skills. Recovering addicts are the best advocates for drug-free living, yet who is asking them to go into schools and talk to students -- talk to anyone, in government, the law, prisons, hospitals -- about how addiction works and how it acts on the brain and how incredibly stupid it all is.

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about 4 years ago

The issue seems to be drug abuse. The fact is abuse is going to happen legal or not. There is no reason to believe that more people will abuse than we have know. Most will use it with no problem just like alcohol. The difference is that you won't have the criminal aspect fueling the drug trade. The Gov't gets the taxes and can control the quality. Just like alcohol. America realized this in 1933 when it got rid of prohibition. We already know the answer is to this question.

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over 4 years ago

Personally I think that it is a terrible thing that we legalized alcohol and cigarettes. I think that alcohol is a toxic substance that is responsible for much of the abuse and neglect of our country, and I think that if any other product was as toxic as cigarettes it would be pulled off the market. Think for a second about the last time tainted meat was sold at a supermarket, it maybe made a few people sick, killed a couple of already sick people. It was taken off the shelf and it was the company was sued millions of dollars, right, now think of a product like cigarettes which is utterly addictive, marketed (however subtely)at children and kills between 33 to 50 percent of its consumers. This has to be stopped! But it won't be, why because we didn't fight this fight the second we realized that tobacco was killing people and generally messing with our society, and now its too late, now the tobacco comapnies have billions of dollars worth of lawyers to fight anything we can throw at it, except tht maybe after 20 years of court costs and billions of our tax dollars later we might be able to get them not to have there display cases close to the windows. Thats what it all comes down to for me, if we legalize drugs we don't just make them available we give them an advocate, a few multimillion dollar companies that are our in the open and shameless selling this poison and there would be absolutely nothing we could do to stop them.

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over 4 years ago

Drug abuse is never victimless, no matter the drug. All you have to do is consider the kids of all the abusers. Many a mother have let a boyfriend sexually assault their child over drugs, many a prostitute has left her child at home unattended to work the streets to support her habit, and many a drug abused parent has otherwise abused, physically, emotionally, psychologically, their children because of their addiction. And no one has mentioned the taxpayer costs for homelessness/treatment/medical tx for those addicts. Bottom line, it is NEVER victimless. (and yes legalized drugs are also to blame, but why add to that with further legalization?)

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over 4 years ago

I have to agree with Crystal, AJ, primarily because I am physically allergic to the smoke from tobacco and marijuana. I have to carry an epee pen at all times just in case a passerby is smoking something. One whiff will have me choking, I have had to use it as well, on numerous occasions. Although people say that smoking is a victimless crime, I have become a victim. And I don't mean to be self-centered here, but I find it very unfair that I have to worry about my life just by walking outdoors, I am only 16 for goodness sake!! If there was an easier way to regulate its use, I would be all for it. Heck I am for the legalization, but perhaps it can be an activity kept in privacy of others,

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over 4 years ago

Roger: Your "drunks" argument is invalid because you choose to go to bars/party. Crystal has no choice.
I do not know how harmful second-hand smoke is, but I do understand her concern.
Joey your "you can't choose what you breathe in" argument only bolsters Crystal's lack of choice. Also smoking is a purely self-centered activity with no benefits outside your own, where are companies and construction sites contribute some good to the society.
To Brock's point, to think that legalizing pot will shut down the black market is ridiculous, it will simply adapt like any other market and shift to producing more drugs like cocaine, PCP, ect. Even if you legalized all drugs, the black market would find someway to operate amidst the regulations. To think that regulation underage drug abuse would be easier than all drug use is laughable, as no longer would an officer be able to unequivocally enforce drug abuse. Now he/she would have to be selective and would often be unable to enforce the laws because people don't have their ages tattooed on their foreheads. Black market efforts would then be targeted on underage buyers, increasing accessibility from illegal sources as well as legal (look at alcohol on college campuses). Also government-related anything is never cost-effective or cheap, and once you add in taxes you'll still have a large illegal market for non-governmental pot, as the already stable extremely widespread black market will adapt to the regulations. Add in the fact that the government would run another addiction of the people, you would have even less liberty than when you started.
Bottom Line: Drugs are damaging to society and hurt the greater good of our country. I admit there has been an arbitrary line drawn between tobacco/alcohol/caffeine and pot as to what is "too damaging" for society. While some may argue this line is pointless and stupid, abandoning tradition at this stage will only lead to a slippery slope of abuses which ends in a society dependent on the government to satisfy their addictions. If you believe in the principles of preservation of freedom, and enjoy living in a society which currently is one of the most powerful in the world, you will understand that legalization of pot can lead to nothing but unintended, yet fatal consequences for our liberty. Wisdom is found in perspective, and I suggest you broaden yours in order to realize that in obtaining what seems to be a rightful, innocent freedom, you put the rest of you liberties at risk.

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over 4 years ago

Crystal, First of all there would be limits to where you can and can't smoke marijuana as there is with drinking alcohol. Second you inputted nothing into the conversation of drug legalization with your petty cries of nay due to outlandish and false claims of second hand smoke. First of all I believe that drugs should be legalized. An argument that was missed in this article was that of drug cartels and gangs. With the legalization of drugs gangs would have no income and would reduce in numbers and cartels would have nowhere to turn. There is the argument that selling to underage teens would occur but that is a lot easier to stop than to stop all ages of drug buyers. How is it possible that this could happen you ask? Government regulated drug production would be cheaper and more cost effective than any crack head pot growers production in his mom's house. It would also be safer and would introduce, as my teacher has said, "safe-crack". It's not really safe, but it’s safer than someone making some heroin mixed with rat poison. - Written by a 15 year old.

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almost 5 years ago

Crystal, i agree with A.J. You are what's wrong with our country. Cigarette smoke is the least of your problem, you think you choose what you breathe in? Think of all the non visible things that are slowly killing you as well so shut you're mouth, or you can go try to shut down every factory that produces harmful smoke, or any construction site that does the same. And yeah, marijuana doesn't have any harm leading to disease or cancer, it might be worse for your lungs compared to cigarettes but atleast it doesn't kill people. It shouldn't be accompanied with driving or operating machines, but if you want to chill back and smoke it should be allowed.

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about 5 years ago

are you kidding? you're complaining because you have to smell tobacco for five seconds after you come out of the mall? grow up. if i want to socalize with people my own age, I have to go to bars or a party of sometype. guess what? i don't like drunks. i have one beer every couple months. i don't like to be drunk and i don't like drunk people. but i deal with it when i have to. point being; tolerance is something we're all going have to learn. what results from anyone smoking pot? mostly nothing. and who cares if joe smith from trenton, nj smokes crack either. let him. if joe smith smokes crack in and then drives his car, then joe should have a problem.