I'm sure that many of you have heard the ages-old argument that certain drugs, (eg: marijuana) should be legalised because they are in many ways milder than some legal forms of drug (such as alcohol), and that the money spent enforcing their illegal status could be better used elsewhere. Is this statement valid? Are there other arguments for and against the decriminalisation of drugs? Or for that matter the re-criminalisation of legal drugs, such as nicotine and tobacco?
I'm assuming you're referring to recreational use and self medication. The useful chemical compounds in marijuana are already legal for doctors to prescribe as are amphetamines, opiates, etc.
With the same regulation and heavy taxation as alcohol I think it would be better for the government. It would bring a huge income from taxation and licensing fees; distributors would be subject to warning label requirements, packaging requirements, and liability for health conditions similar to tobacco lawsuits; it would lower the prosecutorial standards from criminal to regulatory giving law enforcement more tools in dealing with unlicensed dealers and underage consumption and allow LEO's to clean up the city streets of street dealers and school pushers by forcing people to licensed centers of distribution; import and export violations also have a lower legal standard than criminal drug smugglers, so tariffs would bring in a huge income; politically the government would have huge diplomatic advantages in dealing with illegal importation of drugs; Health and safety lawsuits against dealers would engulf the court systems making some people really rich.
On the societal front I don't believe it would have a good effect. Judging from the last substance abuse/ban we dealt with in America. The only ones positioned to provide liquor after prohibition were hard core organized crime. Organized crime was bankrolled by prohibition. Current drug cartels will not turn into legitimate corporations that will be filled with CEO's concerned about the welfare of their customers. Associated crime would increase exponentially. With the current problem we already have with rampant alcoholism and over the counter drug abuse, I think adding more drugs with less medical viability would just increase the problem.
I wish I could be more philosophical about this but I have a lot of first hand experience with drug abusers. I'm less apt to be philosophical about it than I am pragmatic.
The comparitive strength of one narcotic versus another is irrelevant - the affect uncontrolled consumption of one thing can have on a human being should be the sole measure.
For example, it is illegal to take ecstasy because users are found to lose control of their mental and physical capabilities, although it is more often than not non-lethal. However, if you drank bleach, it would probably kill you but is legal to do.
Therefore, we have to realise that the legality or illegality of certain things is totally subjective to;
a) the traditional morals of the society - cultural, religious, etc.
b) the personal opinions of the politicians - and, to a lesser degree, the pressure groups / individuals that lobby the politicians.
I was the perfect age to experience the "sixties" (I was 18 in 1968) War protests, free love, Woodstock, and of course, DRUGS... I saw it all... the good, bad and yes, the ugly. And now, forty years later, I can look back, and among other things, I can clearly see all the damage caused by "recreational" or "casual" drug use. I've personally seen so many lives ruined, either by drug addiction or by the U.S. position on the legalization of those drugs. Every member of my family... a family of six, has been adversely affected by drug use, abuse, and/or the legal system. I've seen nothing good come from drugs.
BUT, believe it or not, knowing all that I know, and after being negatively impacted in so many ways, I AM in favor of the legalization of marijuana. It's time to take some real action. We lost "the war on drugs" years ago. We can't keep doing thngs the same way, expecting different results. I vote yes!
I think Robert hit on the head. The practicalities of legalizing some drugs just make sense. In the U.S. we're spending way to much of tax payer's money fighting the war on drugs. It's a sink hole. Plus, it has just turned the drug market into an unregulated black market. Legalizing drugs would take out the incentive for criminals and would also start generating tax money for the government.
Personally, I think that legalizing marijuana should be legalized. There are legal substances out there that can do as much, if not more damage than marijuana. Of course, the two that immediately come to mind are smoking and alcohol. In thehuhman's excellent post, I dare say that the word "drugs" and "alcohol" can be interchangeable with many families in the United States. Well, why don't they ban alcohol? They tried and they created an environment similar to the marijuana environment today with prohibition. People who really want it will find a way to get it, through criminal outlets. Does marijuana dull your senses? Yes. Can you get various kinds of cancer from smoking it? Yup. But those same pitfalls are associated with other substances that are deemed "safe to use."
So, what makes marijuana so much worse? Now that's the $64,000 question.
Now that I have given you my opinion, here is what I think is going to happen. Marijuana is still going to remain illegal. Why? Well, mostly for stubborn reasons. First off, as long as many can remember, marijuana has been illegal. Politically and in the court of public opinion, how does someone legalize it saying, it is ok to use? Why now? What has changed? These are all questions that will be asked and it is a very slippery slope if your answer is "that it will generate revenue." Ok, fair answer, so why not legalize cocaine, crack, meth, and all the other drugs that can generate revenue. He also can't mention anything regarding the War on Drugs, because associating legalization would lead people to the conclusion that the War on Drugs isn't working, and if you can't beat them, join them. For decades, we have constantly been bombarded with reports of varying ferocity of the "badness" of marijuana (impotence, worse for you than cigarettes, a gateway drug). How does someone do a full 180 with all that information. That is a path littered with mines for a public servant, and must be navigated carefully.
Legalizing marijuana should only make sense because it is ok to legalize. Not to generate revenue, not to remove a criminal element, just because it is ok to do so. I believe that will ONLY happen when there is a groundbreaking medical report(s) debunking the previous decades worth of research condemning marijuana use. That would give a politician foothold in legalizing it. Until that happens, it will be same old, same old.
It may be that marijuana is not as harmful as alcohol, although that is debatable. But when someone suggests decriminalizing pot, I remember what Joe Friday said about it in an old "Dragnet" episode: "With all the problems we have with alcohol, do we really need pot?"
Another problem we would have to deal with is where to draw the line. When we blur the line on marijuana, why don't we make prescription drugs legal for recreational use? The reason we started regulating narcotics and requiring a physicians prescription is because many were sold as cure all medicines. People believed the advertising and a lot of people died and were seriously injured. If people started marketing bleach as a medicinal cure bleach would be regulated. But where do we draw the line? Granted alcohol is culturally acceptable by the majority of the country. That's why prohibition didn't work. But, what about huffing? Huffing is huge among natives on reservations and kids in suburbia. It is immediately damaging to the human body. Recreational drugs were foreign to Caucasian cultures. Racism and cultural ignorance caused drugs to be morally questionable in American society. There's is a really great documentary on the cultural and legal evolution of drugs in America on the History Channel. Where do we draw the line, and how?