Man, as a creature, is inherently bored. Since the dawn of time, it has been the natural instinct of man to find alternative methods to enhance his being. The many means by which man has turned to include sex, gambling, and the consumption of substances beyond the requirements of nutrition. The consumption of substances can be further broken down into legal and illegal substances. The question then becomes, who are we to place labels on certain substances by deeming them legal and prohibit others by creating penalties for their use? The issue of prohibition is certainly not a new one to our nation.
In 1919, the 8th Amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages. “Suddenly honest, responsible Americans who just wanted a drink, were turned into criminals. Respectable bars became underground speak-easys, and legitimate liquor manufacturers were replaced by criminal bootleggers. ” Gang warfare, bribery, and criminal activity reached an all-time high. Standards on illegal alcohol were much lower than those on the previously legal alcohol which led to the blinding or death of many consumers. Finally in 1933, politicians buckled and repealed the 18th Amendment.
The Prohibition attempt of the early 0th century provides the perfect historical support for the decriminalization of drugs. “Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded. ” The rise in violent crime over the years has been a concern to most.
A major cause of this increase in crime is the illegal trafficking of drugs. As violent crime continues to increase, we are unable to devote our financial resources and time into preventing and prosecuting those who commit crimes such as murder, rape, and assault. The reason we are unable to devote these resources where they are needed is because we are foolishly spending them on a battle that we cannot win-the “War on Drugs. ” Prior to Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs,” America’s crime rate had been declining. Since the introduction of the new wave drug laws, violent crimes have increased 32% between 1976 and 1985.
Eighty percent of all violent street crimes are now rug related. Most of the violent crime associated with drugs can be traced directly to the drug dealers and not the users. “The ‘war on drugs’ drives up prices, which attracts more people to the drug trade. When potential profit increases, drug dealers resort to greater extremes, including violence. ” For example, the street price of heroin has risen 5,000 times that of hospital costs. These artificial prices lead to turf wars in which one dealer attempts to protect his sales from another.
These turf wars cause dealers to kill each other, law enforcement officials, and often innocent bystanders. The rising cost of the drugs causes desperate addicts to commit robberies in order to keep up with the inflating prices. If the importation, sale and use of drugs were legal, the open competition would eliminate the profitability of drug dealing. Without the economic incentive to commit violent crimes, the violence of drug dealing would be dramatically reduced. In addition to the elimination of the economic incentive, the health risk factor would help to reduce the role of the drug dealer.
A potential customer would probably choose to buy a market-tested product from a pharmacy as pposed to buying a product of unknown dosage and quality from a corner dealer. Without the lure of potential profits, the drug dealing profession would lose its luster. A major problem is that children in lower-class areas see selling drugs as the only way to make money. Minimum wage salaries can not compare to the huge profits associated with dealing. Failing to acquire job skills at an early age, they run the risk of never finding a real job and living off welfare their entire lives.
In a lower-class area, the drug dealers are seen as the center of the community. They become role models for the children, replacing heir parents. Eliminating the drug dealer will force these young children into the reality that education is the way out of the ghetto-not selling drugs. Prohibition laws cannot be effectively enforced. In a free society, if people want a product, they will be able to find a way to get it, whether or not it is legal. “No matter how many Americans are arrested for drug use, no matter how many pushers are put in jail, the War on Drugs cannot succeed.
Look at any major American prison with its human cages, iron gates, armed guards, and continual surveillance. Drugs are still readily available in prison. If brutal repression cannot keep drugs out of our prisons, then turning our entire country into a prison will not keep drugs off our streets. ” Decriminalization would not necessarily endorse drug use, but instead it would at least accept the notion that government action in a free country cannot prevent it. The economic law of supply and demand states that if a product is demanded, someone is always willing to supply it for the right price.
The problem with criminalizing a product is that it drives down the supply which increases price and, as mentioned earlier, leads to more violence. The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this. ” The next issue becomes one of safety. A major danger of drug use in today’s society is the potentially harmful effects.
Such problems as the spread of HIV/AIDS, overdoses, and physical withdrawal could be curbed if drugs were kept under the watchful eye of law. Take for example the issue of HIV/AIDS. This arises mainly from the circulation of dirty hypodermic needles. By legalizing the sale of injection drugs, clean, unused hypodermic needles could be supplied. This would greatly reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. In parts of the Netherlands and France, safe houses are provided that give addicts a safe environment to shoot up their drugs. While sounding absurd, it provides a clean, safe area for the addict to use while kept under strict observation.
Another big problem associated with illegal drug use is the likelihood of an overdose, whether intentional or not. While there is no way to prevent overdose suicides, many overdoses can be attributed to the fact that some drugs are made too strong. Should the government choose to legalize the sale of drugs, they can then take it one step further and regulate these drugs. They can inspect the dosages applied and can confirm the relative safety of drugs to be sold on the open market. Similar to the manner in which the Food and Drug Administration operates, an organization could be set up to monitor the quality of the drugs.
This would not only make certain drugs a lot safer, but it could also regulate quantities in which they are sold. Drugs could only be sold in certain amounts and would come with instructions as to how much it is safe to consume. In 1988, over 48,000 Americans died from alcohol abuse, 400,000 from cigarette- related illnesses and less than 3,000 from illegal drugs. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop testified that tobacco is just as addictive as heroin and less so than marijuana. Illegal drugs are by no means good or safe, but they cause far less medical damage than either alcohol and nicotine-legal intoxicants.
Over 40 million Americans now use drugs occasionally, but most do so responsibly and n moderation. The small percentage who are addicts deserve our help, not our judicial persecution. Drug use cannot be prevented and the most rational solution would be to educate the people about the risks, and encourage moderate use. Criminalization makes this kind of rational behavior impossible. By legalizing drugs, education could accompany the purchase of the drugs in the form of a Surgeon General’s Warning or an educational pamphlet. The potential payoffs of the decriminalizing of drugs goes way beyond simple, obvious results.
Currently, addicts often refrain from seeking medical attention ue to the fear of possible legal complications. This most often occurs with pregnant women, which subsequently effects their drug-addicted babies. The war on drugs also costs the government a tremendous amount of money in the hiring of police and all judicial players. The courts become backed up with ridiculous cases. Without drug-related cases, our judicial system could run a lot more efficiently and effectively. Drug hunting often leads to unnecessary death of innocent police officers killed in the line of duty.
This fear of death causes police to often incite brutality or harass honest citizens. There is no evidence to support the notion that legalization would cause an increase in drug use. “In Europe, several countries have decriminalized drugs and actually seen a significant drop in drug use. ” The “forbidden fruit” appeal would be taken away. Part of the attraction of using drugs is the idea that the action is illegal and goes against authority. Without the “rebel element,” drugs no longer have the attraction and lure that they previously did.
For every person encouraged by the removal of possible incarceration, one will be discouraged by the legality of using drugs. Take for example the decriminalization acts taken in Switzerland. In 1975, major provisions were made to the Swiss Narcotics Law in which penalties for trafficking were increased and penalties for consumption were drastically reduced. According to Richard J. Bonnie, there was no correlation between the laxative laws and increased use. The only drug that saw any kind of increased use was marijuana, a basically harmless drug.
One must also consider the economic possibilities that accompany the decriminalization of drugs. The nation’s GNP (Gross National Product) only counts legal transactions. If drugs were legalized, a significant effect could be seen on the GNP helping to make our economy stronger in relation to other countries. Profits could be taken out of the drug dealers hands and into the hands of an honest entrepreneur. Companies could manufacture and market their drug-related products and pharmacists could sell the products allowing both to make a considerable profit.
The advent of drug stores, similar to liquor stores, would help the economy by introducing new businesses into the society. The government could levy a high excise tax on the drugs and could thereby make a onsiderable amount of money that they could put into education or something more important. The War on Drugs is also a strict violation of our rights as Americans. One of the greatest things about this country is our ability to live our lives as we see fit. The War on Drugs directly threatens this right. Under “zero tolerance” laws, the government has seized thousands of cars, boats, and other vehicles.
These seizures take place without search warrants, probable cause, and due process. This property is then sold at public auctions with the proceeds going to hire more police and to buy more weapons. The War on Drugs has become just that-a war. In December 1989, 20,000 U. S. troops invaded Panama, capturing Manuel Noreiga, at a cost of 1,000 innocent Panamanians killed. This action was in total disregard of international law and policy. In July 1990, Newsweek ran an expose on a secret Pentagon plan to invade South America in an attempt to destroy the drug trade.
Such an action could have led to the death of many innocent civilians, the economic destruction on South America, an increase of taxes and an increase of inflation in the states. Most of the major arguments applied against the decriminalization of drugs deal ith the notion that drugs are bad, dangerous, and harmful to society. It becomes difficult to praise the use of such drugs as crack, heroin, and cocaine. Instead, looking at it objectively, one can come to understand that without legalization, the drug use will still exist.
Decriminalizing drugs is just a form of damage control that will hopefully lessen the negative externalities on society. The aforementioned arguments, however, cannot even be applied to the case for the decriminalization of marijuana and hemp products. Marijuana does nor cause crime or aggressive behavior. In fact, the use of marijuana makes an individual more passive and less likely to engage in any form of violent behavior. Marijuana is not physically addictive and its psychological dependence is less than that of most legal drugs in use now. It does not lead to the use of harder drugs.
In fact, most marijuana users use no other drugs except alcohol. “At least forty million Americans have tried marijuana at least once and at least fifteen million Americans continue to use it on a regular basis.. .The overwhelming percentage (perhaps ninety percent) of marijuana users use the drug nly for recreational purposes.. .It is well established that the moderate, recreational use of marijuana-in the doses and frequencies with which it is customarily used-presents no risk of physical or psychological harm to the user, over either the short or the long term.
Putting aside the fact that marijuana is not a bad or even dangerous drug, one must look at what marijuana and hemp can do for our society. When posed with the question, “if you could have any choice, what would be the ideal way to stop or reverse the greenhouse effect? ” Steve Rawlings, the highest ranking officer in the U. S. Department of Agriculture, responded, “Stop cutting down the trees and stop using fossil fuels. ” The problem that Rawlings foresaw was the lack of a viable substitute for wood, for paper, and for fossil fuels. The solution?
There is “such a plant that could substitute for all wood pulp, paper, all fossil fuels, would make most of our fibers naturally, would make everything from dynamite to plastic, grows in all 50 states, and that 1 acre of it would replace 4. 1 acres of trees, and that if you used about 6% of the land to raise it as an energy crop-even on our marginal lands, this plant would roduce all 75 quadrillion billion BTU’s needed to run America each year. ” The problem? This plant is the hemp plant-the very plant that marijuana comes from. Marijuana, and thusly, the hemp plant is illegal.
The absurd fact is that the plant that could possibly save the world from global warming cannot be grown because of a harmless drug. The response given by Dr. Gary Evans of the U. S. Dept of Agriculture and Science, the man in charge of stopping the global warming trend, was, “if you really want to save the planet with hemp, then [hemp activists] would find a way to grow it without the narcotic top-and then you ould use it. ” This ignorance by the U. S. government is not only frightening but discerning. Marijuana also has many practical medical purposes.
The Medical Plant Garden, a part of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, is currently working on a medicine that is made from the active ingredient in marijuana (THC)}. This capsule, consisting of 95% THC could be used to replace Marinol, which combats nausea and vomiting problems in cancer patients and fights the wasting sickness suffered by most AIDS patients. Marijuana can also be used to alleviate symptoms f certain diseases such as glaucoma, cancer, and AIDS. Only a small handful of the people, though, have been prescribed the drug when thousands have applied.
DEA administrative law Judge Francis L. Young called marijuana “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. ” He recommended that marijuana be made legally available for medical purposes. This would be a considerable change in the drugs legal status. Young feels that the drug could aid many patients suffering from nausea-inducing chemotherapy and muscle spasms of multiple sclerosis. Young wrote in a 69 page ruling, “The evidence in this ecord clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision.
It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record. ” Israeli scientists had recently found a skeleton of a fourth century woman who they believed died in childbirth. Scientists found what they believe to be ashes or the burned remains of a cannabis plant, suggesting that the ancient woman sed marijuana as a method of reducing labor pains.
N. O. R. M. L (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) is a fully recognized organization that lobbies for the “removal of criminal penalties for the individual who uses marijuana in private” as it is “consistent with traditional American values of the right to privacy, personal choice, and individual freedom. ” N. O. R. M. L. ’s Board of Directors reads like a “Who’s Who” in the world of science.
Such distinguished members include Dr. Kary Mullis, the winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry; Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Harvard Medical School Professor; Dr. Louis Lasagna, chairman of the National Academy of Sciences committee and dean of the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University; Ann Druyan, secretary of the Federation of Scientists; Druyan’s husband, Carl Sagan, co-producer of the PBS series Cosmos; and many more. Marijuana, in addition to not being a dangerous drug, has been documented to have practical medical purposes and environmental purposes.
The legalization of marijuana-a drug that the criminalization of is so impossible to enforce-would not only not harm society, but could actually benefit it. The question then becomes, how should legalization be approached? In addition to decriminalization, the government must understand that education is also of the utmost importance. Rehabilitation and prevention awareness programs are very important in preventing widespread drug use. One must understand that the drug addict is not a criminal but a victim. Incarceration is not the solution. “The limits of criminal sanctions must be recognized and not applied to private social conduct that constitutes no direct harm to others. ” Legalizing drugs would allow them to be available to those who would benefit rom their medical use.
Research would also be encouraged as scientists could search for new and practical uses of drugs. There are many wonderful uses of drugs that have not yet been identified or perfected and with expanded research, we could discover these new possibilities. Of course, some restrictions would have to be set. Likely, an age restriction would have to be adopted. Restricting the use of drugs to adults only, and educating the youth of the potential dangers should help curb adolescent abuse. Prohibiting acts such as driving a vehicle under the influence of a mind- ltering substance would likewise be necessary.
Another necessity would be the destruction of all those with prior criminal records due to the arrest or conviction on drug-related charges. Of course, the right of the non-smoker would have to be paramount. In a public facility, non-smoking areas would have to be set up. A system of drug regulation that would include the above provisions, public health and agricultural regulations, and a form of taxation would discourage abuse, protect public health and safety, reduce crime, and raise revenue. “Regulation is the inevitable replacement of prohibition. ”