In today’s world, illegal drugs seem to be everywhere. Illegal drugs are prominent among adults, youth, the poor, and the rich. The United States spends billions of dollars each year trying to keep drugs from entering the country, but with limited success. Several politicians and other individuals question the way in which our country handles the problem of illegal drugs. Some believe that we should keep fighting the drug war by keeping drugs illegal which includes sending people to prison for buying, selling, transporting, and being in possession of drugs. Others believe that we should legalize drugs, or decriminalize the charges brought about by drugs in some way. The legalization of drugs will only create new problems, and create more chaos among the criminals who buy, sell, transport, and use drugs. Cases such as this come up often in our country, and it is important to look at all of the effects of each opinion before making the correct decision or law.
Yes to legalization. What have we done about the increasing drug problem? The government has enlarged its funding and resources and has tried to declare war, but it has not helped much. Many people ignore the law that says drugs are illegal. In the previous year, about thirty million people in America have had something to do with illegal drugs and have violated drug laws. I have seen the effects personally, in which drugs have torn relationships apart between my friends and their families. Many have fought their own war with drugs, and others continue to use drugs. Few are able to afford the expense of treatment centers. Today places that used to treat people for drug problems with open arms are now overcrowded and are sending people elsewhere, or just simply giving them no service at all. The same problem of overcrowding is happening in our prisons. Drug law violators make up about 1/3 of the population in federal prisons.
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $10
Drug violators rather than more serious offenders such as robbers and sex offenders are using more of our prison space. The number of drug law violators in prisons is going to continue to increase. The cost of maintaining and building as many prisons as needed for the enormous increase in population can amount to large sums of money for taxpayers, and this idea is not very appealing to any taxpayer. We cannot keep building more and more prisons to accommodate the millions of drug offenders. The alternative would be to make drugs legal and to not prosecute those who use or sell drugs. Drug policies have been falling rapidly. United States agencies such as the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs Service to the U.S. military, have come to their senses and do know that they will never achieve catching every aspect of someone or something having to do with drugs being brought into the United States.
The drug prohibition laws tied together with a minimal level of law enforcement resources have caused the price of drugs to become higher than if there were no such laws. In the last couple of years, drug enforcement efforts should have made drugs harder to find, increased the prices, and made the purity of drugs lower. But yet the drug market has barely been affected at all. Today cocaine sells for about one hundred dollars a gram, and it sold for just about the same in the 1980s. However, the purity of the drug has jumped from 12 to 60 percent. Similar statistics apply to heroin and other illegal drugs. Doing away with drug prohibition laws would cause police, prosecutors, and courts to focus mainly on more serious crimes, and would dramatically decrease the amount of money spent by the government for enforcing drug laws. There is no doubt that legalization is a major risk, but sometimes taking a risk proves to be effective.
No to legalization. Yet, on the other hand, drugs have caused people to do the unthinkable. Drugs influence the mental wellness of a person and often cause a person to do things such as commit crimes or engage in other dangerous situations. Crime and drugs are closely related in that crime is often a means of financing drug use (Inciardi, Lockwood, Potteiger 107). One specific case that was told to me by my father, Randall Mack, Chief of Police in Bellaire, Texas, was a police report that said a man had beaten a three-year-old child to death because the child would not stop crying. The man was high on crack cocaine at the time and was later sent to prison. Crimes such as this happen nearly every day, and a high number of criminals are affiliated with illegal substances. Another serious problem is women who use drugs and continue to use them even if they become pregnant.
A highly respected medical doctor by the name of Josette Mondanaro made an important statement when she said, “Chemically dependent women are among the most wounded and needy members of our society, yet their special problems have long gone underrecognized and undertreated.” If it were legal to use drugs imagine how many more babies would be born to parents addicted to drugs. Should this be something we as a society accept? It is not morally right in any way to allow the fate of a young child to be set in the hands of an individual who smokes crack cocaine or shoots up heroin on a regular everyday basis. Just imagine if drugs were available at the nearest corner store located about a block from your house. Would you want the drug-crazed addicts that go to buy their daily dosage of heroin hanging around your house and/or your children? If we give up the war against drugs and instead offer to supply the public with drugs we would be setting a low standard for us and especially our children.
Governor Mario Cuomo was exactly right when he described the severity of drug abuse in our society, he states, “[drug abuse] is the single most ominous phenomenon of our times” and “the most severe threat to our future.” (Belenko 18). If the United States made drugs legal we as a country would be enabling this severe problem of drug abuse to grow out of control. It is already pretty easy for a minor to get a hold of tobacco and alcohol; do we want to make it just as easy for them to get mind-destroying drugs also? It has already been proven that teenagers and young adults are using drugs excessively and the use is growing at an alarming rate (Reinerman and Levine 26). To offer life-destroying substances to the public is completely disrespectful.
It’s like saying, “here, have some heroin would you like to die?” Just because drugs are still so prominent in America does not mean we should give up the war. We should not do away with the drug laws just because of the amount of money that the government spends on enforcing them. It is completely worth spending money if we can save lives and reduce the number of babies born to addicted mothers. We should try everything we can do to wake people up. If it takes putting more police on the streets, paying more money to educate people, and create more jobs, we should be all for it. Letting drug users get drugs more easily and destroy more lives is wrong. Life is precious and no amount of money is too much to save a life. We should never give up the war on drugs.
- Belenko. Crack and the Evolution of Anti-Drug Policy.
- Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1993.
- Inciardi, Lockwood, Pottigier. Women and Crack-Cocaine.
- New York: MacMillian Publishing Co., 1993.
- Levine, Reinerman, eds. Crack In America.
- Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1997.
- Mack, Randall. Chief of Police Bellaire, Texas. Personal Interview. 1999.