The legalization of drugs in America has been under contemplation for many years and yet it has not changed for many obvious reasons. Drugs have several side effects that cause people to do bad things that they maybe normally would not do. The decriminalization of drugs would create an up rise in the amount of users committing worse crimes than if they were just arrested for the drugs. One of the arguments of advocates for legalization is that they have the right to do what they want to their body but using drugs affects not only themselves but everyone around them, whether it be friends, family or strangers.
The use of illicit drugs is illegal because of their mind-altering effects on the brain, damaging impact on the body, inimical impact on behavior, and potential for abuse. The use of these kinds of drugs threatens the health, welfare, and safety of all people – users and non-users alike. Illegal drugs can cause damage to the major organs such as the brain and the heart, and really change the way a person behaves. Adults that use drugs usually have problems with their memory, paying attention and thinking clearly. This will hurt their ability to work and their relationships with other people. Teenage drug users will often act out, not be able to pay attention in school and eventually drop out. A parents’ drug abuse often causes hectic, stress-filled homes that can include child abuse and neglect. This harms the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the child and introduction to this behavior can set the stage for repeated acts in the next generation. Unborn babies exposed to drugs may be born premature, underweight and possibly addicted to the drug(s) that its mother used. This can slow the development and behavior of the child in the future. There are already so many broken homes in America, with children rightfully being taken from their parents for one reason or another and being placed into foster care. This would only continue to increase and overload Child Protective Services.
These are some of the health reasons why drugs are illegal and should stay that way.
The influence that drugs have on people is astonishing and very dangerous. Many drug users commit violent crimes while on drugs. These crimes can range from property damage and theft to rape, assault, murder and abuse. Others, who cannot hold a job, will commit robberies to pay not only for their drugs, but things such as food, clothing, and some other necessities. As Joseph Califano, a member of the previous president Johnson’s cabinet, once stated, “Drugs like marijuana and cocaine are not dangerous because they are illegal, they are illegal because they are dangerous.”
Some people begin with casual drug use or experimenting with a drug but eventually they become addicted with continued use. One in eight illicit drug users will develop drug dependency which is a person requiring a drug to function normally and stopping it abruptly would cause withdrawal symptoms. Sooner or later, for most people, the drug they are using will not be enough and they will have to get their high from a more hardcore drug.
Drugged driving or driving under the influence is the use of any drug that affects the brain and impairs one’s motor skills, reaction time, and judgment. It can also affect perception, cognition, attention, balance, and coordination. This is a concern because it has the same effects of drunk driving – putting everyone on the road in danger. If drugs were made legal, then how could we justify the lives taken by ‘drugged’ drivers? One reason that officials have not acknowledged this as that big of a problem is because there are restrictions in our current technology to determine drug levels and impairment. In the results of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2007 National Roadside Survey, more than sixteen percent of nighttime, weekend drivers tested positive for illegal drugs. Another study done by the NHTSA showed that among fatally injured drivers, eighteen percent tested positive for at least one drug in 2009. This was increase from thirteen percent in 2005. These numbers would more than likely increase even more with the legalization of drugs.
Drug decriminalization is opposed by a majority of Americans and people around the world as well as leaders in drug prevention, education, treatment, law enforcement, and many political leaders. President Obama flat out said “legalization is not the answer” at the summit meeting that took place in Colombia in April of 2012. He pointed out that drug operations could come to “dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint.” He admitted that there is room for discussion on whether what’s being done now is really helping or harming in certain areas. Two former police chiefs, whose experience included protecting five of America’s largest cities and serving on the nation’s largest professional police associations, after interacting with tens of thousands of officers found that the vast amount of law enforcement officers did not support legalization.
An argument made by advocates for drug decriminalization is that drugs would be a financial bonus for the American economy. They believe that the public funds that are now being spent on the enforcement of drug laws could instead be used for other things such as education, health care, and social services. And then, drugs could eventually be taxed to bring in more revenue. The DEA’s responded to this with, “Ask legalization proponents if the alleged profits from drug legalization would be enough to pay for the increased fetal defects, loss of workplace productivity, increased domestic violence, increased traffic fatalities and industrial accidents, and the myriad of other problems that would not only be high cost items, but extremely expensive in terms of social decay.” Kerlikowske, a member of the Obama Administration, clarified that the tax revenue from cigarettes is far outweighed by their social costs: “Tobacco also does not carry its economic weight when we tax it; each year we spend more than $200 billion and collect only about $25 billion in taxes.” If the large tax on cigarettes is not able to even come close to making up for health and other costs associated with their use, it seems unlikely that the tax on drugs would make up for all their costs either. In addition, insurance premiums would inevitably increase due to health care costs, automobile accidents, and premature deaths which in turn gives citizens less discretionary income and would negatively affect our economy.
Some believe that the illegality of drugs is the cause of criminality surrounding their distribution. Just as the illegality of stealing cars is what creates car thieves. The impossibility of winning the ‘war’ against murder, robbery, fraud, etc. has never been used as an argument that the laws against these crimes should be abandoned. It does suggest that we will need law enforcement for many years to come. At any rate, there are causes to doubt that the legalization of drugs would even slightly diminish the amount of crime taking place. Amsterdam, where access to drugs is quite uncomplicated, is among the most violent and filthy cities in Europe. The idea of crime is unlikely to disappear once drugs are available to anyone who wants them. In fact, of the seven billion people in the world today, an estimated 230 million used an illicit drug in the last year according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. This number would more than likely increase if drugs were easier to get a hold of.
Plus, the United States would be in violation of an international treaty if they created a legal market in hard drugs, marijuana, etc. We are signed to the Single Convention on Narcotics and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, along with other members of the United Nations. The Single Convention of 1961 aims to contest abuse by coordinated international action. First of all, it looks to limit the possession, use, trade in, distribution, import, export, manufacture, and production of drugs exclusively for medical and scientific purposes. Secondly, it fights against drug trafficking through international cooperation to deter and discourage drug traffickers. It was later amended by the 1972 Protocol that allowed treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation, and social reintegration as an alternative to incarceration of drug abusers. If we legalized drugs our country would be viewed as weak and traitors in the international war on drugs.
If we decriminalized drugs now, after all this time, we not only lose respect with other countries, but citizens within our own country would lose respect for, and confidence in, our system of government. We will have wasted substantial resources on drug education and the ill effects they have on our society. In 2010, the United States federal government spent over $15 billion on the war on drugs, approximately $500 per second. Not to mention, another $25 billion spent by local and state governments. D.A.R.E. or Drug Abuse Resistance Education is used in an estimated eighty percent of school districts nationwide. The most recent statistics show that in the year 2000, approximately $9.7 million was spent on this program. President Obama requested $5.6 billion for drug treatment and prevention in 2011. We have invested all this time and money into teaching people about drugs, and by legalizing them we would contradict all the efforts we have made.
The costs of legalizing drugs outweigh the costs of keeping them illegal. There are too many health risks and dangerous things that are associated with drugs. There are the damaging effects to the body, ‘drugged’ driving, dangers placed on family and friends of users, health care costs, and crime rates. These are some of the many factors that need to be looked at when assessing if drugs should be legalized. We have a duty to keep America and the world safe from all the dangers that would follow the widespread expansion of illicit drug production, use, and sale if it were decriminalized.
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