Legalization of Drugs
The debate over the legalization of drugs continues to disturb society as time progresses. All of us have in some way or another, directly or indirectly, been affected by drugs, whether it be from a family member or the economic burden on society. Morton. M. Kondracke, author of the essay “Don’t Legalize Drugs,” begins by stating “the next time you hear that a drunk driver had slammed into a school bus full of children or that a stoned railroad engineer killed sixteen people in a train wreck, think about this: if advocates of legalization have their way, there will be more of this” (Kondracke, 358).
Supporters of legalization, on the other hand, often look towards the financial benefits and insist that drugs, particularly marijuana, be legalized and taxed; therefore, the government makes revenue, and helps towards the economy financially. Gore Vidal, supporter of legalization and author of the essay “Drugs,” states that all drugs should be made available and sold at a cost (Vidal, 355).
All of this may be true and helpful in a sense for a short while, but looking towards the long run many other aspects also need to be put into consideration. Aspects include increases in addiction rates, crime rates, as well as drug abuse. America is a consumer culture which often abuses its freedoms. Knowing this crucial fact a conclusion can be reached that it too would abuse drugs resulting in devastating outcomes. There is no a way to stop drug use realistically for there are those few that choose to disobey the law, however it can be enforced, and legalizing it is not the best option. If prohibited and enforced most people would fear the consequences and would think twice before using an illegal substance. While the legalization of drugs may sound sensible and have some positive results, they are only temporary and overall it is illogical and only leads to more corruption, leaving a negative impact on the American culture.
Today we live in a culture where due to drugs, crimes and addiction rates have escalated. Drugs are related to crimes in various ways. It can be considered a crime to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute drugs classified as having a potential for abuse (such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines). Drugs are also related to crime through the effects they have on a user’s behavior and by generating violence and other illegal activity in connection with drug trafficking (Spiess, n.pag.). Individuals who produce, sell, traffic, or use illegal drugs have already established themselves as people who will break the law, and are likely committing other felonies, such as robbery, rape, and murder. If such individuals are in prison because of these felonies, they are not able to go out and commit other crimes; however, if they are set free due to the legalization of drugs who knows the outcome that would result. At a minimum, they are at least off the streets, unable to wreak more havoc. Statistics have shown that crime rates in countries that have legalized drugs, such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Switzerland have skyrocketed. Switzerland, ended their experiment with decriminalization after experiencing an unacceptable increase in use, violence, crime, health costs, and consequences. Allowing a city park to be used as a “drug legalized” area of Zurich, the number of addicts escalated from a few hundred to over 20,000 within several years (Cohen, n.pag.). Take a moment and think about this; that was only a park, imagine the effects on a whole country. America is already known for its crime and drug rates. Imagine the effects of legalizing drugs and what that would result in.
Alongside crime rates, addiction rates for teens and adults have shot up as well. Drugs can be closely related and compared to cigarettes and alcohol for they have all resulted similarly in negative effects that have impacted the world greatly. As Kondracke discusses in his argument towards drugs, ten to fifteen percent of all drinkers turn into alcoholics (10-17 million), costing the economy an estimated $117 billion dollars. Similarly, according to Dr. David I. McDonald, Ronald Reagan’s drug abuse policy advisor, studies indicate that marijuana is as habit-forming as alcohol. They conclude that 6 million people will become potheads and 8.5 million will become coke addicts (Kondracke, 360). These are just estimates, but the results could be much greater. When British physicians were allowed to prescribe heroin to certain addicts, the number skyrocketed from 68 British addicts in the program to an estimated 20,000 heroin users in London alone (Walters, A10). We have already seen the affects and abuses of alcohol and cigarettes from a daily standpoint than why would we encourage or even think about adding and legalizing any other substances. In a way the point of drugs is to get a “high” or some sort of intoxication. Unlike alcohol, which may take a while to kick in or get a buzz, marijuana and other substances are almost instant. “Of the 115 million Americans who consume alcohol, 85 percent rarely become intoxicated; with drugs, intoxication is the whole ideal” (Kondracke, 359). Based solely from basic knowledge one can without doubt realize why legalization of drugs would be an irrational action.
Drug abuse plays a major role as a part of this debate as well. People take drugs, in comparison to alcohol, to certain extents resulting in serious conditions to even deaths. Aside from illegal drugs, people are also abusing prescribed drugs as well, such as cold and cough medications to pain relievers. “Drug abuse alone costs an estimated $55 billion in 1998 (excluding criminal justice costs), and deaths directly related to drug use have more than doubled since 1980” (Walters, A10). Though medicinal drugs are made for a good cause they still are abused and have side effects that can result in a variety of issues. Medical marijuana, for example, has documented potential side effects including insomnia, depression, facial tics and stunted growth (Katherine, 39A). “In 2006, 2.1 million teens abused prescription drugs” (Alcohol and Drug Use, n.pag.). If teens are abusing legal prescribed drugs at this age imagine what they would do if illegal drugs were legalized. To give present day examples we can take famous figures such as Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, and Anna Nicole Smith who are only a few examples of individuals who have been involved with drug abuse resulting in their deaths. “Michael Jackson’s shocking accidental death in June was only the latest in a string of high-profile fatalities from the abuse of multiple prescription medications. Actor Heath Ledger and the model and sex symbol Anna Nicole Smith died recently in comparable circumstances “(Clemmit, n.pag.). The above mentioned examples are only a few of many to come if drugs are legalized.
Supporters of legalization have certain circumstances in which they argue can result in a positive impact if drugs were legalized and feel that drug issues arise due to the fact of them being illegal. These circumstances include legalizing marijuana to make it a social drug, and in turn would help in benefiting the government financially. Also, legalization would lead to a decrease in crimes. So far this year, about 4000 people have died in Mexico’s drug war – a horrifying toll. Most of the problems stem not from drugs themselves, but from the fact that they are illegal. The obvious answer, then, is to make them legal (Wilson, 32). Supporters agree that if drugs are made legal like alcohol and cigarettes society will adapt and grow tedious of it, putting it aside. It will be common and there won’t be much hype about it. According to Vidal, as stated before, all drugs should be made legal and sold at a cost (Vidal, 355). A vast amount of money is raised through government taxation from alcohol and cigarettes. Supporters feel that the legalization of drugs, mainly marijuana, would create another item that could be taxed and can be beneficial financially to the government. “Tax boss Betty T. Yee, chairwoman of the State Board of Equalization, backs the plan and says it could produce annual tax revenues of $1.4 billion. “I think the tide is starting to turn in terms of marijuana being part of the mainstream” (Katel, 19). They believe this can be a strategy to help raise economic growth financially. As for the crimes, supporters agree that since the drugs would be allowed, there would not be any issues of robbery or fights since the drug cartels would be ran out of business. They argue that prohibition of drugs is what causes those crimes. “Prohibition as a policy has failed. Just look at the US, where hundreds of thousands of people have been jailed and, despite billions of pounds of funding for draconian policies, higher purity drugs continue to flood the market” (Chand, n.pag.). These assertions are valid to a certain extent, but overall fail and lead to more issues.
In opposition to the assertions made above, it can be argued that none of those circumstances would result in a positive impact. Marijuana would not become a social drug, for the fact being that it would be adapted by many people. In addition, though taxes could be charged, there would be other costs aside of it, and crimes would still continue to spiral up. Marijuana would not become a social drug because though many may get tired of it, the newer and newer generations would adapt it and continue it as a trend. Also before it could fade away, there would be another drug. In addition, to compare it with cigarettes and alcohol, both of those are still alive and well abused today, so what’s the chance that marijuana would differ.
The Indiana University Prevention Resource Center youth drug use survey shows students use alcohol and other drugs more frequently and at younger ages. For the third straight year, marijuana use increased among all students in grades 6-12 and in all measures of prevalence -lifetime, annual, monthly and daily use (Drug, alcohol use increases among Indiana students, 8). Now imagine, that is only one school out of thousands across the US. Harder and harder drugs are being abused more seriously as the ages increase and the results are devastating. Prior research based on representative samples drawn from the general population suggests that people tend to follow a common developmental pathway from use of alcohol as youths through possible use of marijuana as teens potentially leading to use of more serious substances as adults (Golub, 607). As for the costs, they too would definitely rise due to a necessity of new treatment facilities and clinics. If legalizing drugs save $30 billion now being spent on law enforcement and crime, a doubling of use and abuse means that other costs would rise to $140 billion or $210 billion” (Kondracke, 360). The money would come out of our pockets for the government would not be able to fund and provide for all of the facilities and who knows how worse the economy could get.
Furthermore, while the legalization of drugs may decrease crime rates in some areas, it will increase crime rates in others. Traffic violations and accidents are likely to increase. Also, many people are incarcerated due to a crime that they have committed while intoxicated, so how will the legalization of these substances aid in anyone’s good behavior? Legalization could result in an increase in crimes because the cartels would be jobless and looking for revenge. Aside from the cartels, many people while intoxicated may drive, or commit felonies that may result in injuries, or deaths which too are considered crimes. A recent example in July involving a woman intoxicated and under the influence killed eight including her daughter and three nieces due to the fact that she had smoked marijuana right before driving. The toxicology tests revealed that Schuler had twice the legal limit of alcohol in her blood stream and had smoked marijuana shortly before the accident (Tresniowski, 80). These are only a few of many examples of what legalization of drugs could result in and leaving a negative impact on America.
While the legalization of drugs may sound sensible, it is full of faults which may greatly affect the society and those around it. Drug issues continue to elevate and expand, and legalizing drugs will no further result in a benefit. Legalizing drugs can lead to an increase in addiction rates, crime rates, and abuse. These issues will continue and should be further enforced. The debate on whether or not drugs should be legalized is everlasting, but this can be changed. Statistics as well as everyday examples have proven the affects drugs have on a society, than why further encourage them. Enforcing drugs and prohibiting them will help keep a balance between those who have already been affected and those unaffected.
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