The idea of legalizing all illicit drugs represents a radical change from the status quo, and while no country has yet taken this drastic step, a new paper in the journal Drug Science, Policy and Law suggests that it may be the only way to address some drug-related harms. According to the authors, legalization would regulate all aspects of drug use, thereby addressing safety concerns, expanding access to drug treatment, and eliminating the violence associated with black market trafficking. Especially with regard to the drug debate, the “free choice” hypothesis is even more problematic: drug users may act under social pressure (e.g. when they first discuss drugs with their peers at school) or they may already act under the influence of drug addiction. In both cases, they are not free to make a rational choice. In the United States, for example, “85% of smokers say they have actually tried to quit smoking at least once in their lives, including 45% who have tried at least three times.” (Gallup 6) Drugs remain one of the biggest public health problems. Although the use of some substances has decreased over time, new drugs have entered the market and become popular. There is currently a prescription opioid crisis in the United States as a result of the crack epidemic in the 80s and early 90s and the rise of methamphetamine in the 90s and early 21st century. The number of victims of these opioids, mostly purchased from pharmacies, has exceeded the combined deaths from cocaine and heroin overdoses.
There are millions of addicts to these substances, which are usually prescribed by a doctor. This is a relevant twist on the drug problem, as it shows that legalization or criminalization cannot always provide the desired solution to the problem of drug use. On the other hand, there is also evidence of success in reducing drug abuse through legislative reform. This is the case with the Portuguese decriminalisation of drug use, which has shown a dramatic decrease in drug-related crime, overdoses and HIV infection. But amid these cultural and political shifts, U.S. attitudes and policies toward other drugs have remained static. No state has decriminalized, medicated or legalized cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine. And a recent poll suggests that only about 10 percent of Americans favor legalizing cocaine or heroin. Many who advocate the legalization of marijuana make a sharp distinction between marijuana and “hard drugs.” Even as the country moves toward broader decriminalization of drugs, drug legalization remains a contentious issue.
For every argument for why drugs should be legal, there is one that focuses on why drugs should not be legalized. And there are statistics on drug legalization that support both sides of the problem. What do you think recreational drugs should legalize or decriminalize? Which of them? Is drug legalization lax on crime? Does drug prohibition complicate police work and divert resources from other, more important issues? Join the discussion and share arguments and resources in the forum below. Many arguments seem to make legalization a convincing alternative to today`s prohibitionist policies. In addition to undermining black market incentives to produce and sell drugs, legalization could eliminate or at least significantly reduce the very problems that most concern the public: the crime, corruption and violence that accompany the functioning of illicit drug markets. It would also likely reduce the damage caused by the lack of quality controls for illicit drugs and slow the spread of infectious diseases due to needle parts and other unsanitary practices. In addition, governments could abandon costly and largely futile efforts to suppress the supply of illicit drugs and imprison offenders by spending the money saved to educate people not to use drugs and to treat those who become addicted. The question of whether Bill Clinton “inhaled” when he tried marijuana as a college student came closest to the drug problem during the last presidential campaign. However, the current one could be very different.
For the fourth year in a row, a federally backed national survey of U.S. high school students conducted by the University of Michigan found an increase in drug use. After a decade or more of declining drug use, Republicans are certain to blame President Clinton for the bad news and attack him for failing to maintain the high-profile stance of the Bush and Reagan administrations on drugs. The extent of this problem is less certain, but if the worrying trend of drug use among young people continues, the public debate on how best to address the drug problem will clearly not end with the elections. Indeed, there are already growing fears that the large wave of adolescents – the group most at risk of drugs – that will peak at the turn of the century will be accompanied by a further increase in drug use. Should drugs be legalized? What for? Is it time to lift the ban on recreational drugs like marijuana and cocaine? Can drug trafficking be stopped? If so, what would be the best way to reduce consumption? The following film DrugFree Idaho`s Chronic State documents the impact of marijuana legalization and normalization on local communities: A regulated recreational drug market would provide states with tax revenue that could be used to better control drugs or support addicts. A 1994 document estimates marijuana tax revenues in the United States at only between $3 billion and $9 billion per year.1 In comparison, the budget of the U.S. Department of Education in 1992 was about $30 billion; and in 1993, U.S. tobacco tax revenues were about $12 billion.2 Finally, the prospect of legalization is discussed, as well as strategies to regulate a legal drug market.