How should we respond to stalled efforts to stem global drug trafficking?
Prisons in the U.S. are filling with non-violent drug offenders, costing tax payers extraordinary amounts of money, and pressing concerns of racial inequality to the forefront (CBS News: 22 Apr 2012); the global availability and consumption of narcotics have not substantively diminished; drug-related violence remains rampant in some parts of the world; and in calling the international “war” on drugs a failure, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has recently declared that governments should explore alternative policy approaches—including legalizing certain controlled substances and reducing or eliminating punitive legal actions against non-violent drug offenses (MSNBC: 2 Jun 2011).
Do you agree with this recommendation? Why or why not? In your answer, you must thoroughly explain at least one potential drawback to this policy alternative.
13 responses to “Prompt 5 (Global Issues: 2014)”
Is Legalization of Drugs Opening Pandora’s Box?
There is no denying that the current prison system is stressed and poses many risks that are detrimental to inmates. In recent decades, the inmate populations have increased by 600 percent in the last 40 years, and in California, is it estimated that the inmate populations have surpassed 200 percent of capacity (Appelbaum 2011, 1121). With numbers so staggering it makes you wonder what is causing such a drastic increase in the number of incarcerations? I agree, prisons are being overcrowded by non-violent drug offenders, but at the same time if courts and municipalities change the way they go after non-violent drug offenders, and if the legalizations of drugs become legal, would those non-violent drug offenders become violent offenders or addicts.
Many believe that “the war on drugs” has failed, with this failed policy it has lead to drugs that are much more common, cheaper, and purity levels that are quite strong; which have led to efforts to curb drug use that more difficult to enforce, thus leading to the idea of legalization of drugs. According to Kevin Sabet, who was a former White House drug policy advisor and author of Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana states that, “globally, drug use has been stable over the past decade, with a 40 percent drop in cocaine use since 2006 and a 68 percent decrease in workplace positive cocaine tests.” Overall, the United States drug use has fallen about 30 percent since 1979 (Sabet 2013). With numbers this great, it makes you wonder why the United States just doesn’t legalize illegal drugs, however this may be opening of Pandora’s box.
Legalization of drugs would lead to more problems. According to Kevin Sabet, legalization would create more drug use and more addiction. He states that the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States is prescription drugs (Sabet 2013). The idea of legalization of drugs would create more problems than it would solve, mainly more addiction. Instead more efforts need to be made to prevention, treatment and the courts.
Appelbaum, P. S. “Law and Psychiatry: Lost in the Crowd: Prison Mental Health, Care, Overcrowding, and the Courts. Psychiatric Services. 1 October 2011: 62.10, 1121.
Sabet, Kevin. “Legalized Pot Would Lead to More Addiction.” CNN. 2 October 2013.
Response to Jason
Jason, although you make great points with your opinion on legalization of drugs, one could argue that with your information about jails and overpopulation it would make it much easier to legalize drugs, allowing the overcrowding of prisons to decrease and save money for taxpayers. However I do agree with you that if drugs became legalized it would cost for more problems than just prison crowding.
However our opinions do not come without backlash, Colorado was among the first states to legalize marijuana, and many believed that this would cause a negative effect on our state, but in fact it is done the exact opposite. According to the Colorado department of revenue recreational marijuana has helped bring the Colorado economy over $6 million in sales tax (Department of Revenue, 2014).
Although the sale of recreational marijuana has helped our economy, and dropped crime, I personally believe the use of marijuana will lead to stronger drug abuse. According to the foundation for a drug-free world due to the tolerance build of marijuana, regular marijuana users will need to consume more or stronger drugs to get the same high (Marijuana Abuse & Addiction, 2014). Nearly 100% of cocaine users begin by first using a gateway drugs like marijuana. Another interesting statistic from the foundation was youth who use marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine the kids who do not use pot (Marijuana Abuse & Addiction, 2014).
With statistics like these it is hard to say that prison overpopulation is our biggest issue when fighting the war on drugs. Although marijuana is now legal in some states, marijuana should be the only drug legalized to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals who live in the US.
Department of Revenue:Colorado Marijuana Tax Data. (2014.). Department of Revenue:Colorado Marijuana Tax Data. Retrieved August 1, 2014, from http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/Revenue-Main/XRM/1251633259746.
Marijuana Abuse & Addiction – Drug-Free World. (2014). Is Marijuana Addictive – Marijuana Abuse & Addiction – Drug-Free World. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/marijuana/on-the-road-to-drug-abuses.html.
Playing the victim or Making the Best of a Bad Situation?
Response to Jason
There is no denying that the drug problem over the years has increased, it seems drugs are becoming stronger, more potent, and easier to access, and since the 1970’s there has been a notable increase in drug related arrests. According to an info graphic given by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, over 50% of inmates in federal prison are incarcerated due to drug related offenses, with the drug of choice being marijuana. Almost 30% of drug arrests were marijuana related (Miles 2014).
American prisons are extremely overpopulated and as a result costing America and its hardworking tax payers billions of dollars. The cost of housing a single inmate can be up to $60,000 a year. That is equal to or greater than what a school teachers or firefighter makes annually. Overall the prison system is costing us more than $63 billion dollars a year (CBS). If as a nation we lessened the repercussions of drug use especially when it comes to certain controlled drugs, we could decrease the amount of drug related arrests and lessen the amount of inmates. This in turn would decrease the amount of tax dollars spent on federal prisons and inmates as well increase state revenue with the taxation of said drugs. Since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, the state has made millions and is expected to earn an estimated $98 million this year in revenue. The majority of that money will go to help Colorado schools (Respaut). Jason, you stated that “legalization would create more drug use and more addiction,” and this may be true to a certain extent, but in the long run I believe it would be more beneficial than harmful. Similar to the issue of guns, people with drugs aren’t necessarily the problem. Its people who don’t know how to use them properly and safely that are the problem .Whether drugs are legalized or not, people are going to use them. And as drugs are just as easy to access in prison as out of it, incarcerating them for the use of it is only hurting the taxpayers.
So while I don’t believe that drugs are good, I know that people are going to continue to use them. So why not make the best out of a bad situation and lessen the strain on the overcrowded prisons and taxpayers by reducing the amount of non violent drug related arrests? The taxation of certain controlled drugs as seen in Colorado and Washington has been successful and I don’t see why it couldn’t be successful in other states as well. Overall, I think that lessening the penalties for drug use and non violent drug related crimes as well as the legalization of certain drugs could be beneficial. Everything has risk, and drugs have a lot, but I think that in this situation we need to make the most out it.
“The Cost of a Nation of Incarceration.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 1 August 2014.
Miles, Kathleen. “Just How Much The War On Drugs Impacts Our Overcrowded Prisons, In One Chart.” Huffington Post. N.p., 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 1 August 2014.
Respaut, Robin. “Colorado Will Bring In More Than $100 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenues This Year.” Business Insider. 2014. Web. 1 August 2014.
Legalizing drugs: If you can’t Beat ‘em, join ‘em
Response to Jason
Jason, I really enjoyed seeing your perception on this topic. I completely agree with most of what you had to say concerning this topic. One point that you had mentioned that had really caught my eye was the fact that this failing war on drugs is opening Pandora’s Box. I honestly could not have put it any better myself. This reference to Pandora’s Box sums up the correlation of drug legalization and prison overcrowding perfectly. Not everyone feels the same way about this concept however.
In one article I had read, it was stated that “the solution is to legalize — to bring illegal drugs out of the shadows where they are controlled by criminal gangs, into the light of the legal market where they can be regulated and taxed by the government” (Porter, 2012). I do see what Porter is getting at when he states this, by making certain drugs legal there is this idea that it would minimize drug use. It will not necessarily limit the use of the drugs, but it would limit the amount of offenses these drugs are causing, which will ultimately resolve the overcrowding of prisons. By making these drugs legal, it could potentially keep the amount a person has in their possession. By legalizing these drugs I can see how some people may think it could help. But that is the thing; this concept is just an idea, to try to justify the fact that people are going to use drugs anyway, so why not make them legal. This opinion is supporting the “if you can’t beat them, join them” claim.
Personally, I have to disagree with what Porter has to say in his article. When it comes to legalizing drugs, I agree with you Jason. I agree that legalizing these drugs will only create more problems, like addiction. I do not believe that just by legalizing certain drugs, it will keep people out of prison for drug related charges. By legalizing them it will cause more use, and it will cause more selling. Both of these will result in incarceration. “Between October 2012 and September 2013, 27.6 percent of drug offenders were locked up for crimes related to marijuana” (Miles, 2014). This statistic shows that what we are saying is true. Marijuana is slowly getting legalized, throughout the United States. This is proof that by legalizing this drug, it is actually increasing the percent of drug related incarcerations, not reducing. Legalizing will only make the “war on drugs” absolutely useless.
One last statement that you had mentioned Jason was that with the failing drug policy drugs are becoming more common and cheaper to buy. “They found that illegal drugs have become cheaper while their potency has increased” (Hunt, 2013). In the years to come, with possible legalization of drugs, it will open up the availability of drugs, causing more incarcerations. My question is how much have these statistics changed in a year, especially with the legalization of marijuana?
Hunt, Katie. “Report: Cheaper, Purer Illegal Substances Suggest Global War on Drugs Is failing.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 30 July 2014. http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/01/world/war-on-drugs-failing/.
Miles, Kathleen. “Just How Much The War On Drugs Impacts Our Overcrowded Prisons, In One Chart.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 July 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/10/war-on-drugs-prisons-infographic_n_4914884.html.
Porter, Eduardo. “Numbers Tell of Failure in Drug War.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 July 2012. Web. 01 Aug. 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/business/in-rethinking-the-war-on-drugs-start-with-the-numbers.html.
A government can’t endorse something while throwing its citizens in jail for doing what they endorse
The “war on drugs” in the United States is a joke. The war on drugs that the United States has tried to pursue globally is also a joke. A terrible, life taking, failure of a joke. A simple internet search of “Afghanistan poppies” yields hundreds of results from pictures of American troops in large poppy fields to news articles about the United States giving subsidies to poppy farmers in Afghanistan (Tilford).
Poppies make opium, heroin, and morphine. Heroin usage is an epidemic in the United States and in Denver. In late 2012 news in Denver focused on this problem, the Denver Post published a series of three articles about a girl who was a homeless heroin user in Denver. In the last part of the three part story she ends up deciding to leave Denver and go live with relatives in Wisconsin to try to get clean because heroin is too easy to get in Denver. The Denver Post did a follow up story outlining how the girl came back to Denver and shortly thereafter overdosed (Booth).
Another article from CBS interviewed a former heroin dealer who came from the demographic of affluent white drug dealers. He never got caught, went to rehab, and is now trying to get people to realize how much of an issue heroin is, especially among bored children (Woodward).
There isn’t exactly a “war on drugs.” There is more of a war that’s funding drugs. According to Tilford’s article, “The considerable increase of the heroin production has become one of the main consequences of the Afghan war.” Later in the article he provides proof that the United States government is giving farmers in Afghanistan subsidies and protection for their poppy endeavors. So, essentially, the United States is funding the heroin trade. Further, kids are dying on the street because of this.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy’s recommendation would probably be fine if there weren’t so many truly nasty drugs floating about that are being endorsed by the government (heroine, alcohol, etc). I think it would be great if everyone could get certain controlled substances, but the fact remains that all substances can be bad if put in the hands of dumb people.
This situation is a massive catch 22 and the government should probably remove its hands from the situation. However, if they do there will be a lot of stupid people doing stupid things (like taking too much of certain drugs). Although, the government could probably save enough money if they stopped incarcerations of mild offender drug dealers to start protecting cocaine overlords in Mexico.
Booth, Michael. 2012. “Heroin in Denver: Angel’s Story” The Denver Post. 30 July. http://www.denverpost.com/HeroinInDenver.
Tilford, Robert. 2014. “’Afghan clarity’ debate continues” Creative Commons. 30 July. http://groundreport.com/afghan-clarity-debate-continues/.
Woodward, Billy. 2012. “Former Addict, Dealer Says Heroin Is Big Business In Colorado” CBS Denver. 30 July. http://denver.cbslocal.com/2012/04/17/former-addict-dealer-says-heroin-is-big-business-in-colorado/.
Marijuana Legalization & Reduced or Alternative Sentences for Drug Offenders
According to information from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 50% of the U.S. prison population is incarcerated on drug charges. 27.6% of these drug offenders were in prison because of marijuana charges, 22.5% of them were for powder cocaine, and 22.5% were for methamphetamines, 11.5% for crack, 8.8% for heroine, and 7.2% for other drugs (Miles 2014). The point that should be noted here is that the largest majority of drug offenders in U.S. prisons are for marijuana. The population of drug offenders could be reduced by almost a third if marijuana was made legal like it is here in Colorado, which has been being sold legally, raising 2 million dollars within the first month of legalization. The money was given to improve Colorado school systems. This is an example of how legalization could greatly reduce the number of inmates in prison, while also making profits from being sold recreationally. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use and sale, and offering alternative sentences for other drugs could reduce the prison population by half. Offering drug rehabilitation for drug offenders rather than prison would be an effective alternative. According to the Wall Street Journal, some states have already started to get offenders into treatment rather than giving them prison time, in order to reduce the cost to tax payers. In Texas, new policies to put offenders in treatment instead of prison have the potential to reduce the state’s inmate population by 5000 within one year (Barrett 2013). This is good news, and it is likely that more states are going to begin following suit in order to curb prison overcrowding and high costs related to incarcerating people. Treatment is much more cost effective and may even have better results at correcting behavior than prison would.
Barrett, Devlin. “Obama Administration Plans Overhaul to Cut Prison Population.”Wall Street Journal. N.p., 12 Aug. 2013. Web. 30 July 2014.
Miles, Kathleen. “Just How Much The War On Drugs Impacts Our Overcrowded Prisons, In One Chart.” Huffington Post. N.p., 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 July 2014.
The Drug Non-Debate
Ever since I was born, the marijuana debate has raged, especially in my home state of Colorado. To legalize or to not legalize – that was the question. However, the debate has always seemed obscured to me. On one side, we have the pro-marijuana groups, who have an inexhaustible list of reasons why it would not only be okay to legalize the substance, but rather it would be extremely beneficial to do so. On the other side, we have the anti-marijuana groups; however, they either did not have a good list of reasons against legalizing the drug, or they simply could not get the word out, since to this day I am not sure just what they are arguing. The recommendation by the GCDP is a good one, and one that will reap many benefits.
Like I said, there are many reasons for legalizing marijuana, but I feel the main reason would be that it cuts down on a lot of the crime surrounding the drug. This would make it easier for recreational users to obtain it without going through illegal channels, and would help those who need it for medical uses get the help they need. Legalizing the drug and cutting down on the legal action taken against users of it would also cut down on the massive amount the U.S. is spending on incarcerating non-violent drug users. According to CBS News, the prison system is costing us upwards of $63 billion dollars a year (Cost). The movement to cut down on legal action is already underway. As you know, marijuana is now legal to buy and use in Colorado and Washington, however it is making major headway elsewhere. In D.C., for example, there is only a small fine if you are caught possessing marijuana (BBC). You can still be jailed for selling or smoking it, but possessing it is no longer the major crime it once was.
Many people still argue against the legalization of marijuana to this day. Why? One potential drawback to legalizing the drug lies with one of the gains – cutting down on crime. While at first glance this seems like a good thing, the rose has thorns. With marijuana taken out of the picture, drug runners and salesmen lose a large chunk of their profits. This will cause a rise in the sales of harder drugs, such as cocaine. Another potential issue is what happens as a result of legalization in a state. In Colorado, for example, there has been an influx of homeless ever since the drug was legalized. While not all of the influx is due to the legalization, many come for the promise of smoking, or the idea that one could get a job in the heavily regulated industry (a felony on record automatically disqualifies you from being able to work in the industry) (Denver Post). There is always the debate of what marijuana does to a person under the influence, however with no substantial evidence of this being a major issue, it is not currently that valid of a debate.
“Washington DC Eases Cannabis Penalty.” BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2014.
McGhee, Tom. “Legal Pot Blamed for Some of Influx of Homeless in Denver This Summer.” Denverpost.com. Denver Post, 25 July 2014. Web. 30 July 2014.
“The Cost of a Nation of Incarceration.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.
Slavery by a Different Name
I’d like to begin with a few statistics found on the NAACP website:
• Blacks constitute nearly 1 million of the 2.3 million incarcerated in the American prison system today.
• 14 million whites and 2.6 million blacks admit to illicit drug use – that is, 5 times the number of white people than black.
• However, blacks are sent to jail for drug offenses 10 times the rate of whites.
• And, “in 2002 blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws, and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did whites, despite the fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the US are white or Hispanic” (NAACP).
I’ve heard it said that prison is America is a modern day form of slavery. While the whipping posts and “Whites Only” signs were taken down years ago, I am inclined to believe that there is something disparagingly and fundamentally racist built into the fabric of the American prison system today. I don’t know that I believe it began that way, but I think asking whether or not slavery, under the guise of a different name, doesn’t still exist in America? Just a little food for thought.
To answer the assigned question, yes, governments need to explore alternative approaches to both the prison system at large, and their “War on Drugs” – because frankly, neither works. According to the New York Times article assigned, over a 10-year period in America there was an increased consumption of opiates by 34.5%, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5% (NYTimes). (On a bit of a side note – it’s curious that during the NPR segment about Brazil and their growing consumption of cocaine was discussed, a female reporter said “Brazil is a victim of it’s own success” (NPR). She reasoned that because Brazil grew so quickly and found success so rapidly, the availability of drugs increased, as did the demand. I wonder then, if the same could not be said of America? More specifically, blacks in America?)
I would like to say I think the American prison system is a lot better than those of some other countries, but I think when the “War on Drugs” began and so much focus was put on stopping the illicit use of drugs, the bigger picture of protecting the country from criminals kind of fell by the way side.
Are legalizing drugs the way to end the “War on Drugs”? Probably not, because so many issues ensue, and the only true way to “legalize” drugs would be to do so on a national level and I doubt that will ever happen in America. I think the problem is that the demand exists and it is huge – and where there is demand, there is supply. However, I also understand the line of reasoning that says if you take away the ‘taboo’ connotation of something, the supply will go down. Much like in Australia where the legal drinking age is 18, they have far less problems with alcoholism and teen death rates due to alcohol abuse because teens don’t need to rebel, because it’s legal.
When it’s all said and done, something is really wrong with our prison system and our approach to the “War on Drugs” but I don’t have the slightest idea what would be necessary to fix it!
Legalization: Loosening Chains?
Response to Keelin
To continue your point regarding racial bias and the “War on Drugs,” here are a few more statistics, this time from the ACLU’s Drug Policy Litigation Project:
• African Americans comprise 74% of those imprisoned for drug possession.
• Black youth are incarcerated 10 times the rate of white youth.
• 13% of adult black men nationwide have lost their right to vote, the numbers reaching as high as 40% in some states, due to felony disenfranchisement laws.
African Americans are far more likely to be imprisoned for drug-related activity, and may subsequently lose their legal voice to protest the “War on Drugs” and bring about change.
Moreover, a 2011 study published in TIME magazine states that despite even controlling “for variables like socioeconomic status,” substance addiction was found at “9.0% for whites, 7.7% for Hispanics, 5% for African Americans,” with Native Americans at the high end and Pacific Islanders with the lowest percentages. The article itself is titled “Study: Whites More Likely To Abuse Drugs Than Blacks.” Countless studies and statistics have found that racial profiling and drug arrests go hand in hand.
But what to do about the supposed “War on Drugs”? While I agree with you completely about the racial bias regarding drug arrests, I disagree with your statement that legalization would not help the problem. The Economist examines both ‘decriminalization’ and ‘legalization’ options regarding marijuana. The article states that while “decriminalization may be a useful first step” towards curbing the harsh sentences and taxpayers’ spending on the prison system, “only legalization takes the business out of the hands of the mafia.” Legalization takes a step towards ensuring a regulated product with tax profits that go back to the community. Moreover, legalization may be necessary to ebb the prevalence of racially-biased drug arrests. From the ACLU’s 2013 article regarding racial bias with marijuana arrests: “The ACLU calls for states to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, which it says would eliminate the unfair racially- and community-targeted selective enforcement of marijuana laws.
The strongest counter to legalization is the argument of greater exposure; that more people are likely to encounter and smoke pot. While this is true, tax profits generated from legal sales “can be invested in community and public health programs, including drug treatment.” Regarding the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, the state is expected to bring in over $100 million in tax revenues this year alone. Business Insider states that, “The funds are slated for treatment, school construction and deterring young people from using the drug.” Furthermore, up to 15 percent of the profits will also go to the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, as the organization needs the funds “to police unlicensed sales of the drug, diversion to other states, and drivers under the influence of marijuana, among other costs.”
“Billions of Dollars Wasted On Racially Biased Arrests.” American Civil Liberties Union. 2013. Web. https://www.aclu.org/billions-dollars-wasted-racially-biased-arrests.
Drug Policy Litigation Project. “Race And The War On Drugs.” American Civil Liberties Union. 2003. Web. https://www.aclu.org/files/FilesPDFs/ACF4F34.pdf.
Respaut, Robin. “Colorado Will Bring In More Than $100 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenues This Year.” Business Insider. 2014. Web. http://www.businessinsider.com/r-colorado-legalized-marijuana-tax-revs-ahead-of-expectations-moodys-2014-11.
Szalavitz, Maia. “Study: Whites More Likely To Abuse Drugs Than Blacks.” TIME Magazine. 2011. Web. http://healthland.time.com/2011/11/07/study-whites-more-likely-to-abuse-drugs-than-blacks/.
“The Difference Between Legalization and Decriminalization” The Economist. 2014. Web. http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/06/economist-explains-10.
The “War” on Drugs: Taking More Efficient Action
The consumption, distribution, and violence attributed to drugs is an ongoing problem for a lot of countries around the world. America’s supposed “crack-down” on drugs is one of the many examples of governments attempting to fix the issue, and though some improvements have been made over the past thirty or so years, the biggest thing the country has to show for it is prisons overcrowded with people from non-violent drug crimes. Hard drug use is a problem that could be easy to curb, however. Reportedly 26% of victims of violence said that their offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, with drugs just by themselves coming in at about 5% (Bureau of Justice Statistics). And then comes into play the idea of the “80-20 ratio,” which states that about 20% of drug users use 80% of the drugs used, much like with alcohol (Will, 2012). While this may not be entirely accurate to the current numbers, it does illustrate that if the 20% of hard drug users were dealt with, then the majority of the drug problem would go away as well.
Some states have taken steps to try and eliminate this problem in their own way. Colorado and Washington have both legalized recreational cannabis. Colorado’s law in particular has the taxes from all types of cannabis sale going towards things the state needs, like public education and funding police. In fact, the weed industry is projected to turn out $98 million this year for the state, and help the crime rate fall even more (Voorhees, 2014). This is good news, though it has come with some downsides. There have been reportedly more weed-induced hospitalizations, mainly in children, due to consumption of edibles, and a few violent crimes that have taken place supposedly due to weed (Voorhees, 2014). But overall, the sky hasn’t fallen in either state. There are no mass riots, like many predicted. Just a lot more people getting (legally) high.
Which brings the question back to hard drugs. Could legalization and more control by the government help undermine its sale by violent drug lords? Would the allure of the “forbidden fruit” be lost from its legalization, meaning there would be far fewer casual users? As talked about in the CNN video, many prisoners would rather benefit from treatment and education, rather than incarceration. If laws were changed to be less harsh on those who were suffering from an addiction and/or drug violence, and more helpful, would the drug problem be on its way to going away? Of course, the drug industry is ever-changing, so there may not be a “win” in sight. And implementing such drug rehabilitation programs over prison may take some money, and society’s mentality may be hard to sway. Legalizing and controlling hard drugs may make the problem worsen. But it has the potential to really hurt the drug lord world like never before.
“Drug Use and Crime.” Bureau of Justice Statistics, Drugs and Crime Facts: Drug Use
and Crime. Bureau of Justice Statistics, n.d. Web. 28 July 2014.
Voorhees, Josh. “The Unintended Consequences of Colorado’s Great Pot Experiment.” \
Slate Magazine. The Slate Group, 21 May 2014. Web. 31 July 2014.
Will, George F. “Should the U.S. Legalize Hard Drugs?” Washington Post. The
Washington Post, 11 Apr. 2012. Web. 31 July 2014.
Response to Jennie
Since the announcement of “public enemy number 1” in 1971, there has been an increase in the incarceration of non-violent offences (Becker & Murphy, 2013). The “crack down” as Jessie mentions, is the primary reason leading to the “cruel and unusual punishment” (as stated by CBS News) inflicted on prisoners due to overcrowding. According to an infographic released by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, over 50 percent of inmates currently in prison are there for drug offenses (Miles, 2014). In 2013, 27.6 of these drug offenders were locked up for crimes related to marijuana (Miles, 2014). With these outrageous statistics it is hard to really see what improvements the ‘war on drugs’ has really made. The overcrowding issue with reference to the ’80-20 ratio’ Jessie mentioned, highlights the need for alternative policies regarding the ‘war on drugs’.
“If you can’t beat them, join them.” With the efforts at controlling the global illegal drug markets failing, it seems this motto is the best solution (Battle & Pinkston, 2013). Both Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use of cannabis, as Jessie already mentioned. With reference to the above statistic, respectively 27.6% less would be crowding prisons, and money once spent on those incarcerations could now be perhaps redistributed and filtered into rehabilitation programs or centers for users of harder drugs (Battle & Pinkston, 2013). Other countries such as Portugal have decriminalized drugs, however maintained the illegality of trafficking. Evidence shows that since Portugal’s decriminalization that imprisonment on drug-related charges was down, and visits to rehab clinics that deal with addiction increased (Becker & Murphy, 2013). Adding to Jessie’s argument, with marijuana being legal, users now can buy from state taxed facilities which have a direct effect on drug dealers. It takes the money out of the hands of dealer and into the states pockets (Battle & Pinkston, 2013). While Jessie notes the increase in the hospitalizations of children due to weed, we also need to keep in mind that this fairly new policy and adjustments will need to be made to make sure that public health and safety is conserved. However, the positives here are definitely outweighing the negatives, seems as if ‘public enemy number 1’ might prove a better friend than foe.
Growing up amidst the ‘war on drugs’ it is hard to imagine what it would be like to all the sudden have all drugs legal and I could assume the same for the rest of society. All I can think of is my primary school years and the “just say no” ads, societies opinions on the matter will be hard to persuade. Limitations are needed for several reasons, including public order (Dalrymple, 1997). The societal problems that could arise are concerning, such as the concerns of public safety. However, I do have to agree with Jessie’s proposition, that the legalization of controlled substances would reduce overcrowding and prove more beneficial for states and nation’s overall, while ultimately hurting drug lords. The proof is in the pudding, and Portugal has begun to demonstrate that this policy alternative has potential.
Battle, D., and Pinkston, Z. (2013, 10 22). Marijuana legalization pros/cons. Retrieved 07 31, 2014, from Liberty Champion: http://www.liberty.edu.
Becker, G. S., & Murphy, K. M. (2013, 01 04). Have We Lost the War on Drugs. Retrieved 07 31, 2014, from The Wall Street Journal: online.wjs.com.
Dalrymple, T. (1997). Don’t Legalize Drugs. Retrieved 07 31, 2014, from City Journal: http://www.city-journal.org.
Miles, K. (2014, 03 10). Just How Much The War On Drugs Impacts Our Overcrowded Prisons. Retrieved 07 31, 2014, from The Huffington Post : http://www.huffingtonpost.com.
The “war” on drugs has been a very hot topic in recent years, especially with the legalization of medical and eventually recreational marijuana. Many of the proponents of legalizing medial and recreational marijuana made the argument that, if passed, this amendment would effectively pull the rug out from under the black market marijuana dealers and force them out of business. Others argued that this legalization would bring in much needed tax revenue, which would eventually go towards improving schools. Both of these factors led to a few states, including Colorado, legalizing recreational marijuana.
However, the passing of this amendment did not go without concern; there were and still are people who call marijuana a gateway drug. That is, marijuana is the first drug that people try and will eventually lead to them trying harder, more dangerous drugs. And even though there has been no proof of this, marijuana is still a drug, and like all drugs, will have an effect on one’s body.
For example, “recent research has shown that [caffeine], in particular, may help prevent diseases like stroke and certain cancers, lower our risk of Parkinson’s and dementia, and boost our concentration and memory” (Sagon 2013). Even though this is a positive long-term outcome, it still reinforces the point that even the “most legal” of drugs can have effects in the long run. So, health concerns would definitely be a consideration when it comes to the legalization of narcotics.
But I digress. Getting back to the main point, and to answer the overarching question, yes, I believe that legalizing some narcotics would be beneficial to the war on drugs. Since the recent marijuana legislations are a perfect example for my argument, I will continue to use them to make my points.
After about half a year with recreational marijuana legalized, many people are concerned with the fact that the black market for marijuana has not subsided. In fact, many police officials are saying that this has made it easier for black market dealers, since their products are tax-free, and thus more appealing (Chumley 2014).
However, this amendment is still in its infancy. Very few stores are open because of the difficulty of getting a license to produce and sell marijuana legally, and so the ratio of legitimate dispensaries to illegitimate dealers is still very unbalanced. A parallel can be drawn that relates marijuana legalization to prohibition back in the 20s and 30s. After prohibition was repealed, the black market for alcohol didn’t merely vanish in a puff of smoke. Just like marijuana’s black market, black market alcohol was still tax-free. However, eventually these black market alcohol dealers faded, and the black market marijuana dealers will follow the same suit.
Chumley, Cheryl K. “Marijuana black market still thrives in Colorado, where pot is legal.” 4 April 2014. 30 July 2014.
Sagon, Carry. “Caffeine For Your Health – Too Good To Be True?” 30 October 2013. 30 July 2014.
Response to Jackson
While I understand where you’re going with comparing the legalization of marijuana and alcohol to the legalization of narcotics, I don’t think the comparison can be accurately made because we’re talking about two very different substances with two very different effects.
Your primary reason for decriminalizing narcotics is that it would pull the rug out from the black market, thereby eliminating the corrupt system that perpetuates other criminal activity. Quite frankly, I think this is the least of our worries when it comes to legalizing highly addictive, highly lethal substances.
The difference between legalizing alcohol/marijuana and legalizing narcotics is that while alcohol and marijuana are addictive to a portion of the population, narcotics are addictive to the vast majority of people who use them. That is their function—to incite addictive chemical reactions in the brain that the user seeks out, again and again.
Next argument—but isn’t this true of the tobacco industry also? Yes, but people don’t kill other people in order to get money to buy cigarettes or chew. People don’t break into houses or sell their bodies in order to buy a can of chew. Both tobacco and cocaine addict the user, but the effects of that addiction are miles apart. People don’t die from nicotine withdrawal—but they can from heroin withdrawal.