Should We Legalize Drugs in the US?

The title of this article sums it up pretty well.  Should we legalize drugs in the US?  Pretty simple question on the front end, but then when we look into the subject a little more, it becomes more complex.  Questions like why, at what age, what restrictions, and so on and so forth come into the field.

The Gateway Drug

Marijuana has long been called a gateway drug and has been demonized as such for decades, but is it really as bad as they say it is?  If you believe the government, Marijuana is a gateway drug that leads you down a road to heavy narcotics like heroin and cocaine.  If you believe most users, it’s just the opposite.  However, if you subscribe the science side of the debate, then the answer can go either way.  Who should you believe?  Why should you believe them?  How do you know what to believe?

Those are hard questions to answer.  I don’t have the exact answer either, but I have my theory that says it really doesn’t matter either way.  Whoa, hold up!  Yes, I said it doesn’t matter.  It’s your body.  Would you allow a law to pass that says you can’t eat certain foods?  What about wear certain clothes?  What makes it alright for the government to tell us how to treat our own bodies?  Some say it keeps drug related crime down by making it illegal, but does it really?

Again, who are you to believe when it comes to the actual effects of marijuana?  Well, according to scientist at the University of New Hampshire, the role of marijuana as a gateway is overblown.  In fact, a teen’s race/ethnicity, along with other factors, has more to do with the chances of illicit drug abuse than the use of marijuana[1].

Narcotics

Now once the question of marijuana has been asked, then that leads to other drugs.  Should cocaine be legal?  What about heroin and other opiates?  Again, it’s your body.  You should have the right to choose what you do with it, right?  After all, we all know that chemically produced drugs such as cocaine, crystal meth, and heroin are very dangerous and can kill the user.  So can smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol.  However, as adults, we should be capable of making such decisions.  Do we really need the federal government, any government for that matter, telling us that we aren’t mature enough, smart enough, or otherwise capable of making such decisions?  The government is already been down this road with alcohol in the past and it didn’t do any good at all.  Hell, because of prohibition, we got Al Capone and the Kennedy’s.  See?  Very little good came from prohibition.  In fact, the only good was that it taught us not to tell a country of free people they can’t do something they really want to do.

Crime and (de-)Criminalization

We’ve seen the War on Drugs go on since the 1980s and have we made any ground?  Not really.  The most we do is take some of the players off the field, but they’re replace by new ones just as fast.  The US spent over $15 billion dollars in 2010 on the War on Drugs, at a rate of about $500 per second [2].  That’s just federal spending.  Factor in the states’ spending and the total skyrockets past that by at least another $25 billion[3].

Police arrested an estimated 858,408 persons for cannabis violations in 2009. Of those charged with cannabis violations, approximately 89 percent were charged with possession only. An American is arrested for violating cannabis laws every 30 seconds[4]. So far this year, the number is at over 337,000 arrests for Marijuana drug law offenses.  Since December 31, 1995, the U.S. prison population has grown an average of 43,266 inmates per year. About 25 per cent are sentenced for drug law violations[5]. This year alone so far, there have been over 4200 convictions.

Another thing to think of is the results of the war on drugs in terms of lives cost.  While alcohol was illegal during the US prohibition murder had a 78% increase over pre-prohibition years; a 24% increase between 1920 and 1921 alone.  Think about that.  What is the difference between drugs and alcohol?  The method in which they are taken and the effects on the body and mind.  It is still an intoxicant that people seem to enjoy.

With our current drug laws, international drug cartels make most of the products shipped around the world.  Crime, as you may have seen, in cartel-ridden countries are at amazingly high numbers.  They violent crimes are just as terrifyingly brutal, too.  So what happens if you take the crime out of drug use.  Even if the use is just decriminalized, rather than legalized, crime rates should drop drastically.  People could buy regulated weed and narcotics just as they do tobacco and alcohol now.  The federal and state governments can tax it just as they do tobacco and alcohol.  The people will still buy it.

As far addiction is concerned, sure there will be problems, but aren’t there already addiction issues with tobacco and alcohol?  Yes, there are.  So what’s the difference between drug addiction and alcohol addiction? They both debilitate the addict, they both can harm and kill.  The difference is that alcohol and tobacco addicts don’t go on crime sprees to obtain them.  Making drugs legal will simply lower drug related crime rates, just as repealing prohibition lowered alcohol related crime rates

Punishments for Crimes Committed While Under the Influence

Now here’s the tricky part, too many people right now get out and drive drunk.  They get caught and punished.  The same should be the case for drug users.  If good ol’ Bubba drinks a pint of whiskey and hops in his truck only to mow some poor sap down, he goes to prison.  Well, the same punishment should be handed down if he were to snort some meth and kill someone, too.  In fact, I’m in favor of of more severe punishment for anyone who gets behind the wheel while intoxicated and maims or kills someone.  No excuses, a drunk knows they’re drunk and they take the chance of ruining someone’s life, or worse taking it, when they drive.

Medical Uses for Marijuana

Now you know big pharma is deeply ingrained in the US political structure when you’re allowed to take chemicals for pain, but not a natural plant.  For example, UC, San Diego did a study in 2009 that took men with HIV and gave them Cannabis and placebo joints that looked like the real thing.  Most of the subjects in the test had a noticeable difference in the amount of pain they felt from distal sensory predominant polyneuropathy (DSPN), and were already taking standard painkillers such as aspirin and/or opiates such as morphine. All the men in the study suffered from DSPN.  This was pain that wouldn’t go away [6]. So from what I read of the study, a combination of marijuana and standard pain medication could, in fact, make life bearable for those suffering from this disease.

All Things being Equal

With all things being equal when it comes to choice and personal decisions, why not just legalize the stuff?  Make it all legal and severely punish those who commit crimes while on it.  Seriously, at least make marijuana legal.  It’s a natural plant put here by God.  Who are we to burn it to extinction?

I’m looking for some serious thoughts on the subject here, folks.  What’s your opinion?

Sources and References

[1]Source: Science Daily: “Risk of Marijuana’s ‘Gateway Effect’ Overblown, Research Shows,” 2010.

[2]Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy.

[3]Source: Jeffrey A. Miron & Kathrine Waldock: “The Budgetary Impact of Drug Prohibition,” 2010.

[4]Source: Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

[5]Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

[6]Source: Medical Marijuana Helps HIV Pain, 2009.

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