|This is not mine, I borrowed it off of ThoughtCrime, check out the link sometime for some excellent reading.|
Why Drugs Should be Legalized
© 1998 Mike Benham (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The amount of misinformation and false anti-drug propaganda in the United States is disturbing. Bill McCaffrey is about to waste a few more billion of your dollars on commercials designed to convey even more misinformation and blatant propaganda. Well, don't believe everything you see on TV. Prohibition is not the answer. Expensive television commercials will not effectively assuage the problems that surround drug usage in America today. For the past 15 years the government has adopted a policy of drug prohibition that has been a complete and total failure. I will attempt to explore the aspects of this colossal failure, carefully avoiding rampant propaganda and lies. Although there are many aspects of failure to explore, I will concentrate on prohibition's waste of money and funds, detrimental health effects, deterioration of civil liberties, and rise to a black market of crime and violence.
A. The IRS wastes the taxpayer's time and money chasing suspected drug dealers rather than attending to the affairs of the ordinary tax payer. As a component of president Nixon's war on drugs - the IRS spent 12 million dollars targeting 1,011 suspected dealers. Only 238 of these investigations were even completed, 43 of which were actually followed by indictments. Of these 43 cases only 13 resulted in conviction - roughly 1.5% of the initial target.
B. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - in 1996, the latest year for available information, the government spent over $100 billion dollars on a drug war that has been largely unsuccessful. They also issued a survey in the same year which revealed that 74 million or 34.8% of the American population aged 12 and older uses illegal drugs. And according to the state department, several more billion dollars have already been allocated for the war on drugs in 1999.
C. Due to the war on drugs, State and Federal prisons can no longer afford to house violent criminals for appropriate amounts of time. The estimated cost of housing the increasing number of non-violent drug offenders is some $315 million a year. As a result, dangerous violent criminals are being set free while non-violent drug offenders are being locked up for outrageous minimum jail sentences.
1. In 1997 Lamar Gray purchased one pound of marijuana in a hotel room in Alabama. Unfortunately the supplier was an informant for the Morgan County Drug Task Force. Lamar Grey was arrested, tried, convicted, fined $25,000 and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
2. Larry Singleton raped a teenage girl, mutilated her, chopped off her arms, and left her in the desert to die. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and received the maximum penalty of 14 years in prison - of which he only served 8.
3. Non-violent drug offenders receive an average of 60 months jail time. This is five times the average 12 month jail time sentence for convicted man slaughters.
II. Civil Liberties
A. The war on drugs often subjects law abiding citizens to arrest, search, and seizure for what they do in the privacy of their own homes. Drug use interferes with the rights of no other individual.
B. The war on drugs has led to what people often refer to as the "war on drugs exception to the bill of rights." Dennis Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation was quoted as saying: "You can get away with abusing anyone's civil rights in a courtroom just by saying the magic words 'drug-related crime'."
C. The fourth amendment states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches, and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
D. The war on drugs has continually deteriorated the integrity of the fourth amendment. In the 1980's the Supreme Court allowed kidnapping of foreign citizens who were suspected of drug related crime, allowed the use of low-flying aircraft to survey neighborhoods and homes, permitted the search of trash without a warrant or cause, permitted the search of automobiles without a warrant, allowed the search of private homes on the basis of an anonymous tip, and allowed both highway and airport searches on the basis of a certain drug 'profile.'
1. Profile characteristics includes a person: walking quickly, walking slowly, using cash to pay for a motel room, looking at a police officer, not looking at a police officer, having new luggage, having no luggage, acting nervous, acting calm, having a pale complexion, having a dark complexion, wearing "a lot of gold jewelry.", and the list goes on...
E. The war on drugs also permits and encourages random drug testing without probable cause.
A. The legalization of drugs would decrease health problems, adultered drugs, overdoses, and slow the AIDS epidemic. Lack of information regarding contaminants, dosage, allergies, and drug interaction are the leading causes of drug related harm.
B. Legalized drugs would include precise dosage measurements, pure drugs free of contamination and adulteration, clean needles, and warning labels.
1. Right now the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 prohibits any federal funds from providing clean needles to drug users. This contributes significantly to the spread of the AIDS epidemic - as drug users are often forced to convene in "shooting galleries" to share needles for intravenous drug use. 25% of all AIDS cases are believed to be contracted by intravenous drug use.
2. According to the NIDA, pure heroin is not as dangerous as it is perceived. Its most detrimental effect is constipation. Contamination and lack of dosage information are the cause of its health risks. Legalized heroin would lead to the availability of a tablet form and appropriate dosage information.
C. Drug legalization would allow drug users to seek medical attention without heavy repercussions. Many drug users are arrested at hospitals when seeking medical attention.
1. Len Bias, the basketball player, died of a cocaine overdose. During the incident, his friends waited until after he had had his third seizure before calling an ambulance. They were most likely afraid of attracting legal ramifications.
D. The cost and lack of available drugs often leads to usage of household items such as paint thinner, butane, and scotchguard. All of which are considerably more dangerous.
A. Drug legalization would also lead to a decrease in drug related crime.
B. Drug usage does not cause crime, but rather the circumstances surrounding its illegality do.
1. Reprimanding people for the use of illegal drugs can create disrespect for the law.
2. Drug criminalization forces drug users into contact with real criminals and the underground market.
3. High prices caused by drug prohibition force individuals to abandon legitimate employment for the need to steal for drugs.
4. Drug prohibition entices young individuals into the crime arena by creating an extremely lucrative black market.
5. Drug prohibition removes the possibility of resolving drug disputes through a legal process and leaves people to their own violence oriented solutions.
C. Legalization would remove the crime and violence surrounding the drug business. It would move an underground economy to a legitimate economy, and provide a safe means for the buying and selling of drugs - taking the power back from professional criminals who now control the drug trade.
D. It would reduce drug prices and hence make it un-necessary for people to steal or resort to theft in order to buy drugs.
E. Legalization would result in the destruction of the black market for drugs. No longer would drug dealers have the incentive to push drugs on children because it would no longer be profitable.
The complete elimination of illegal drugs in the United States is an unreasonable goal. To try to achieve this goal through prohibition merely puts control of a substance that can be potentially dangerous into the hands of criminals. Instead of attempting to eliminate drugs all together, the government should focus money that would be otherwise wasted toward a safe and effective means of regulation and distribution. Prices will go down, drug related crime will dissipate, people will be able to seek the medical attention they desire, and the rights of the people will be restored. I know of a country that championed the prohibition of alcohol once; they ended up with Al Capone.