Is Legalization A Realistic Alternative To The War On Drugs

.. use of the effects of their use, they would continue to engage in stealing and prostitution to pay for drugs and would continue to subject their families and friends to abuse. (Lynch and Blotner 139-144) While there have not been any narcotic legalization experiments in the United States, international experiments support Lynch and Blotner in their claim that legalization would not lead to a reduction in crime. The aforementioned failed experiments in Switzerland and the Netherlands are evidence of the effects legalization would have on crime. The Netherlands became the most crime-prone country in Europe as a result of their experiment, and the Zurich crime rate soared to an all time high.

While there is impossible to be positive whether results would be the same in America as in these European countries, there is absolutely no indication that it would be any better. (Olson 112-117) Drug legalization would not eliminate crime. Proponents of legalization state their case strongly, but optimism never equals factual evidence. While the increased availability and lower prices would probably make predatory crimes less necessary at first, increased availability would indubitably result in an increase in use. An increase in use would mean users would be going through what little income they already had at an increasingly rapid rate meaning predatory crimes would eventually become a quick and logical alternative to addicts.

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The effects of narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana are proven to make addicts more violent and, in some cases, suicidal. Increase in use would mean an increase in violent, homicidal or suicidal addicts. Just because legalization would redefine some crimes, those crimes would still be committed. Legalization would undoubtedly lead to an increase in crime. Proponents of legalization do not understand why narcotics are labeled as illegal when, as they claim, narcotics are no more harmful than legalized drugs. Benson B. Roe, professor emeritus and former chair of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of California at San Francisco, states that, since drugs cannot be eradicated from society, and since drugs are no more harmful than many legal substances such as alcohol or tobacco, most illegal drugs should be legalized (107).

In Roe’s line of work, he came across many destroyed heart valves in infected intravenous drug users. Deciding to ascertain what proportion of serious fatal drug-related disease this group represented, he spoke to the San Francisco Coroner. The coroner reported that infections from contaminated intravenous injections were the only cause of drug-related deaths [he] had seen except for occasional deaths from overdoses (108). He confirmed the inference that clean, reasonable dosages of heroin, cocaine and marijuana are pathologically harmless. As Roe reports, it is frequently stated that illicit drugs are bad, dangerous, destructive, or addictive, and that society has an obligation to keep them from the public. But nowhere can be found reliable, objective scientific evidence that they are any more harmful than other substances and activities that are legal.

The prevailing complaint put forth by legalization advocates is that why certain (illegal) substances are singularly more evil than legal substances like alcohol has not been explained (108). In the eyes of these advocates, legislation has never successfully addressed the complex question of right and wrong outside of making some drugs legal while leaving others illegal. Although it is widely known that the nicotine found in most tobacco products is probably the most addictive harmful substance in our society, no one has suggested making it illegal even though tobacco kills more people every year than any illicit drug. Roe’s last point is that illegal drugs have gotten a bad wrap as poisonous when in actuality, there is little medical evidence of long term ill effects from sustained, moderate consumption of uncontaminated marijuana, cocaine, or heroin (109). As legalization proponents state, narcotics do not cause the adverse long-term effects of diseases or disturbances like alcohol, tobacco, and even caffeine do.

(Roe 107-111) Those who strive against legalization such as Doctor James A. Inciardi refute proponents claims that narcotics are relatively harmless by citing factual scientific evidence. Professor Inciardi is director of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies at the University of Delaware. He has performed extensive clinical and scientific research to discover the truth about narcotics such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. (Inciardi 165) While many marijuana addicts claim that smoking just a few joints daily is less harmful than regularly smoking as many cigarettes, Inciardi has found that the respiratory burden in smoke particles and absorption of carbon monoxide from smoking just one marijuana ‘joint’ is some four times greater than from smoking a single tobacco cigarette (Inciardi 166). Additionally, it was found that one toke of marijuana delivers three times more tar to the mouth in lungs than one puff of a filter-tipped cigarette.

Marijuana deposits four times more tar in the throat and lungs and increases carbon monoxide levels in the blood fourfold to fivefold. With these statistics, marijuana is unquestionably more detrimental than tobacco (Inciardi 166-168). Cocaine, commonly referred to as an all-American drug has few of the life-threatening side effects associated with other pleasure drugs. Snorting cocaine gives the user a twenty minute high which is immediate, intensively vivid, and sensation enhancing. The user has no hangover, no lung cancer, and no holes in the arms or burned-out cells in the brain.

With all these positives to cocaine use, it is easy to wonder why it is looked down upon. As Inciardi describes cocaine highs, the euphoric lift that comes from but a few brief snorts is short-lived and invariably followed by a letdown. More specifically, when the grandiose feelings begin to wane, a corresponding deep depression is often felt, which is in such marked contrast to users’ previous states that they are strongly motivated to repeat the dose and restore the euphoria (168). This leads to chronic, compulsive use. When chronic users try to stop using cocaine, they typically fall into a severe depression, which only another dose of cocaine can bring them out of. This becomes a constant chronic cycle.

The physiological consequences of cocaine use include increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. In terms of numbers of overdose deaths, cocaine ranks higher than any other drug-legal or illegal. (Inciardi 168-169) Heroin is a highly addictive drug. As Inciardi states, for the addict, it becomes life consuming: it becomes mother, father, spouse, lover, counselor, and confessor (171). Because heroin has depressant effects, a portion of the user’s day is spent in a semi-stupefied state.

Collectively, these attributes result in a user more concerned with drug-taking and drug-seeking than health, family, work, relationships, responsibility, or anything else. Heroin slowly dominates the user’s life and then eventually takes it. (Inciardi 171-172) Regardless of what legalization advocates argue about how narcotics are no worse than legal drugs, one cannot turn their back on the fact that now-illegal drugs are harmful to the user and the user’s loved ones. Although more people die each year of complications pertaining to alcohol or tobacco, one must take into account the varying degree in use between legal drugs and narcotics. What legalization advocates fail to acknowledge is that the only reason statistics about alcohol and tobacco users are greater than statistics on narcotics user is because there are more legalized drug users than illegal drug users. The data supplied by legalization proponents is not objective and is therefore preventative for one to draw a concrete conclusion.

With many people criticizing the cost-effectiveness of the war on drugs, a question arises as to how legalization would affect funds used for programs involving drugs. As Dr. Jefferson Fish reports, billions of dollars are spent annually in the war on drugs. Government organizations ranging from Washington to local police forces are funded with millions upon millions of dollars to work towards drug prevention. Prisons are overcrowded with criminals convicted of drug use and possession. Fish states that under legalization the funds put towards to war on drugs would be freed-up to be put towards more deserving causes such as rehabilitation programs for addicts or those with drug abuse problems.

The annual costs of healthcare and loss of productivity to employers are estimated at $600 billion for alcoholism, $60 billion for tobacco-related ailments, and only $40 billion for users of illegal drugs. Advocates for legalization such as Dr. Fish argue that because narcotics do not produce healthcare and productivity costs on the scale of those produced by alcohol and tobacco, the funds moved from drug-prevention would be better spent deterring the use of alcohol and tobacco. (Fish 539-541) Opponents of legalization argue from the other side of the spectrum, stating that legalization would cost the government and the American taxpayers more than prohibition. Doctor Ethan Nadelmann, a professor at Princeton University, has done extensive research on this particular issue.

His argument is that alcohol and tobacco, the drugs that are legal for adults, cause more harm than do all currently illegal drugs combined, indicating legalization of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana would only cause an increase in those costs. As Nadelmann puts it, The net costs to society would rise substantially under legalization. The human costs of legalization would be paid be those most vulnerable to addiction: the young and the disadvantaged (303). Also, while legalization advocates claim narcotics do not produce health and productivity costs on the scale of those produced by alcohol and tobacco users, they fail to acknowledge the higher level of health and productivity costs per user by narcotic users compared to alcohol and tobacco users. (Nadelmann 299-310) As discussed previously, the increase in availability under legalization would lead to an increase in use.

More users means more abusers, and more abusers means more money is going to be needed for costs stemming from healthcare and loss of productivity. The drug problem in the United States in costly to the American taxpayer, and while legalization may allow cost cuts in policing against narcotic use, money is still going to be needed for drug prevention for the youth of this country and for the healthcare of drug users. Legalization is not the cost-effective answer to the war on drugs. In addition to all aspects of legalization previously discussed, each side of the legalization argument has further statements as to how legalization would affect society as a whole. Advocates of legalization have three main points on benefits for society. The first is that legalization would bring about drug purity assurance.

The vast majority of drug-related deaths come as a result of contaminated needles or overdoses: two things legalization would take measures to prevent. In addition, marijuana is, strictly medically speaking, actually safer than most processed foods. In its untampered form, marijuana is one of the safest therapeutic substances. Under legalization, marijuana would remain untampered and would not pose the negative side effects it does today. The second point made by legalization proponents is that Legalization would lead to a decrease in alcohol abuse. Substance abusers would turn to the less-harmful narcotics over the more-harmful alcohol.

Death rates would drop, as people are less likely to kill themselves on narcotics than alcohol. Probably the most important of these three points is the third one where legalization advocates state that drug users would be more willing to seek help in a system of legalization. People would be more willing to get drug intervention if it didn’t mean they would have to admit to committing a felony in order to do so. Also, pre-natal babies would receive proper care, as mothers would not fear becoming criminals by seeking proper pre-natal medical care. These three points, if met under legalization, would serve to benefit society. (Roe 107-110) The opponents of legalization also present three points as to how legalization would affect society.

Drug abuse is not a victimless crime, and herein lies the first of their three points. Job productivity and effectiveness is greatly decreased when the worker is under the influence of narcotics or other drugs. An increase in use under legalization would mean a decrease in productivity and effectiveness. The second of these points is that families are destroyed by drug use, and the increase in use would inevitably mean an increase in destroyed families. Thirdly, while prenatal medical care to babies of drug-using mothers can benefit them and make their lives slightly better, no amount of prenatal medical care can make up for having a baby affected by drug use. Unquestionably, these three results of legalization would be utterly detrimental to society.

(Olson 112-117) It is common belief that the war on drugs has been a failure, but legalization is not the answer to this problem. There is no catchall positive that could possibly arise from legalization. Use will undoubtedly rise as prices drop and availability increases. Crime will eventually increase, as narcotics users will need means of supporting their habit. The American people will have to pay more as a result of losses sustained by legalization.

It is absolutely risible for advocates of legalization to defend their argument stating that since alcohol and tobacco are already such a problem, then adding narcotics to the list of legal drugs would not complicate matters. The fact of the matter is that legalization would be making a bad problem worse. There is no reason for heroin, cocaine, and marijuana to add to the problems already caused by alcohol and tobacco. Legalization is not a step towards prevention because it lacks the elements of education, intervention, and provisions of positive alternatives and training. The laws we have in place today were put there for a reason. Prohibition is not the problem. Prohibition did not cause widespread drug use; widespread drug use caused prohibition.

Laws are made for the purpose of restricting behavior that is not good for mankind. Prohibition was put into effect for the good of society. Legalization would prove utterly detrimental to society and drug prevention. Legal Issues.


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