The legalization of drugs is one of the most controversial debates in the United States.Even after four decades of war on drugs and narcotics, the use of marijuana continues to grow in the United States. Despite the trillions of dollars and countless hours of man power thrown into curtailing the use of drugs, the end result has primarily been overcrowded prisons and little else.
As individual states decide to legalize marijuana, and other states work towards decriminalization of the drug, the debate becomes louder and has started to move away from misinformation.
If you have grown up listening to anti-drug propaganda and are not sure what the facts are or where you stand on the issue of legalizing drugs, read these top 10 reasons to legalize drugs in the United States.
- People Will Use Drugs Whether It’s Legal or Not
The prohibition on drugs like marijuana is a continued failure. Some research suggests that almost half of teenagers over 16 years old have used some kind of illegal drug. A report done by the Federal government suggested that 9.4 percent of the population of the United States has used an illegal drug in the past month. This number includes children aged 12 and up.
This report was released in 2013. It showed a 1.1percent increase from a similar study done in 2002. The survey results were said to be more likely a result in the increase of prevalence of marijuana, which the use of which has increased had increased to 19.8 million people in 2013 from 14.5 million people in 2007.
While it is true that reports of other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, declined in the same period, the number of people abusing prescription drugs has grown.Similarly, the number of methamphetamine users continues to rise every year at alarming rates. Reported meth users jumped from 353,000 users in 2010 to 595,000 users in 2013.
The report continues to state that most first time users are teenagers. It also said that there were 7,800 new drug users each day in America and over half of those users were under the age of 18 years old.
These numbers do not suggest that the illegal stamp on drugs like marijuana is any deterrent, particularly for young people. In fact, they will continue to use them whether it is legal or not.Making drugs legal would curtail the supply that young people have access to and at the very least, make the drugs they do take safer and prevent more overdoses and deaths among children and teenagers.
- Legalizing Drugs Will Incentivize Organizations to Provide Accurate Information about Drug Use
Because most drugs are illegal in America, there is a lot of misinformation regarding their use and safety. Many government reports tout that marijuana must be kept off the table because it is a gateway drug that leads users to substances like cocaine.
But, if marijuana is a gateway drug and huge numbers of people continue to try it for the first time every year, then it does not seem likely that the number of cocaine and heroin users continue to drop each year. But, that is what government reports also suggest.
Using marijuana’s supposed status as a gateway drug not only prevents legalization but it prevents real research from being done because scientists cannot get funding to prove that the opposite is true. The government continues to use this inaccurate information to fuel its war against drugs and does not encourage opposition from recent studies or surveys.But, what is most concerning is that far more people are likely to try drugs if they beginsmoking tobacco or drinking alcohol. These real gateway drugs, the substances classified as drugs by scientists but not by the government, are rarely, if ever, included on the propaganda that continues to perpetuate the myth that marijuana use leads to serious drug problems.
Instead of blaming drugs for further drug use, government researchers and drug critics should take a harder look at the socio-economic conditions in which the heaviest drugs users live. Most research points to poverty, social environments, and association with other people who use hard drugs to be the biggest reason that people transition from smoking weed to injecting meth.
- Legalization Will Make Drug Use Safer on the Whole
Forcing the drug trade underground allows growers, sellers and middle men to tamper with the drugs. Whether it’s to make a better product or to make a more addictive product, this tampering can end in tragedy if it goes wrong.
It also prevents any serious form of quality control from happening that would make drug use safer for the wider population.
Alongside the underground and black market trade of illegal drugs, there has also developed another black market for the trade of legal chemicals between manufacturers and drug dealers. These chemicals are more widely known as cutting agents.
Dealers will use these agents to increase their profits. It also allows them to tell customers that they are getting a unique product with better or more pleasurable qualities that the pure drug alone would provide. Some dealers simply cut their products and never mention that the drug has been laced with another chemical or drug.
The biggest culprits are often cocaine and drugs like MDMA. Forensic reports in Britain, a known hive of ecstasy activity, have noted that these drugs are now less pure than at any point in the last ten years. In 2005, only 3.3 percent of the cocaine tested by the Forensic Science Service was less than 9 percent pure.By 2009, that figure had already jumped to 38.9 percent.
Some drugs are cut with anaesthetics like lidocaine and benzocaine which are imported from China.
The same issues that are inherent in cocaine cutting are also issues in drugs like MDMA and Molly. Although MDMA was originally used by doctors to treat depression, Molly only contains a small amount of MDMA. Instead, Molly is a compound of chemicals. Most people who take Molly do not know what they are taking or how much they are taking when they take a dose.
The problem is that this uncertainty in quality has resulted in the deaths of users. Users do not need to be heavy drug users to die from a badly cut drug. Some first time users may even get unlucky and purchase a tainted batch that results in the party being over before it starts.
If these drugs were legalized, studied and controlled, people could buy drugs from safe and known manufacturers. Of course, some people will still go underground, but those who want to take ecstasy without the risks can do so when they can purchase it from a reliable and regulated source.
- It Will Help Developing Countries Deal with Overwhelming Corruption from the Drug Trade
The war on drugs does not simply promote the misinformation about controlled substances.America’s war on marijuana, cocaine and heroin only compounds the violence and corruption that neighboring countries see every day as a result of the illegal drug trade.
It is hard to ignore the serious and debilitating violence that goes on in Central and South America every day as the result of cartels and corrupted public officials.
The violence sits on America’s door step in cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.It even spills over the border, causing thedeath of American civilians.
Drug violence is now a fixture of daily live in the lives of the populations of North, Central and South America. This violence often sees cartels at war, usually causing civilian casualties. But, one of the biggest issues caused by drug violence is the level of the corruption at almost every level of the government in these countries.
Mexico in particular has made several attempts at ridding itself of corruption. It has worked from the presidency down to the army to try to rid the whole state of the corruption that cripples not only the government but the growth of the economy and by extension the middle class.
But, ridding the federal system of corruption has proven to be difficult. In the farthest reaches of the country, it is much easier to take the money and protection offered by the powerful cartels than it is to accept similar offers from the president. This is because the cartels wield so much influence in these areas that any acts of defiance simply result in unquestioned murder.
The people of Mexico, and indeed in all of these countries, are tired of dealing with the unreasonable level of corruption throughout every level of their government. Unable to depend on their local police for protection, they also cannot rely on the country’s government because of the short reach of the federal system.
The United States could play a role in creating a more stable continent by working to cut these cartels off at the knees. Of course, the United States is not the only market for drugs. But it is one of the closest and most voracious markets currently in existence.
- It Will Make America Safer
The drug violence that currently plagues Mexico is only a symptom of the larger problem. When in-demand markets are forced to go underground, violence becomes a part of the operation. But, this symptom is not limited to Mexico, Venezuela or Colombia. The violence has not only spilled over as a result of cartel activity but it is inherent in the illegal drug trade in America on its own.
Recently, a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, have started to push for the end to the drug war because they believe that the war on drugs has only resulted in increasing violence between police and civilians. This group is made up of former federal agents, police officers, prosecutors and judges who have first-hand knowledge of the devastation this violence causes both for law enforcement and for families.
The group says that the war on drugs only makes every social problem that exists in the United States worse than it already is. Instead of protecting vulnerable people and regular citizens, the war on drugs only puts them in harm’s way in many different ways.
One of the biggest points the group wants to make is that the war on drugs has only perpetuated institutionalized racism in law enforcement. It also trains police officers, who are supposed to be protecting citizens, to go to war against civilians suspected of participating in the drug trade.
LEAP also complains about what it considers to be overspending in the area of narcotics. The group says that police and law enforcement are swamped by the number of non-drug related crimes. It says that police working on murders, burglaries and non-violent crimes do not have the staff or the funding to operate reasonably.However, the narcotics squads remained both fully staffed and full funded.
If drugs were legalized, there would be less of a need for groups and individuals to carry weapons of any kind to protect themselves against law enforcement. If the police are no longer trained to go to war with almost 10 percent of the population, there would be less violence in the whole system and more help for those who need it.
- It Would Keep Petty Offenders Out of Prisons
Prison overcrowding is one of the biggest issues in the current judicial system but it does not get as much regular airtime as the offenders themselves. On average, federal prisons are overcrowded by a whopping 36 percent. Some of the most overcrowded prisons have seen figures as high as being 50 percent overcrowded.
Drug laws are a big factor in the number of prisoners that America sends away each year.Harsh drug laws and penalties were designed to deter people from using, selling or buying drugs in the United States. However, the minimum sentencing laws have not prevented more Americans from participating in the drug trade.
Instead, these laws have resulted in a huge number of non-violent offenders being locked away in state and federal prisons. The minimum sentencing laws also make it impossible to negotiate the sentence imposed on them. This means that more and more non-violent people are being locked up every year regardless of their personal situations or their behavior. These minimum sentences are not small. The time served by the average inmate in on a drug offence has reached 11 years.
The time served is not the only growing trend in prison sentencing. Almost half of all current prisoners in federal jails are there because they are serving a sentence for a drug related crime and there are more drug offenders in prison in 2013 than there were people who had been convicted of any other crime.This system pays a huge toll on the government, the tax payer and the offender.While committing a crime must not be condoned, those who are sent to jail for possessing a small amount of cocaine suffer more than just detainment. The overcrowded conditions result in deteriorating prison services and as with many other offenders, drug offenders are more likely to leave prisoners willing and able to commit far more serious crimes than when they went in.
- Legalization Frees Up Resources
In 2010, the United States government spent $500 per second on its war on drugs. The yearly total ended up reaching $15 billion in that year alone. The state and local governments working under executive orders from the federal government spent at least $25 billion dollars out of their own budgets that same year. In all, America spent at least $40 billion on failing to prevent the use of drugs in the United States in only one year.
Critics call the war on drugs a trillion-dollar failure and they are not far off. After forty years of increased spending on anti-drug, the government still has not realized the failure of the latest prohibition. During the height of prohibition on alcohol, there were more social problems and more drunkenness in society than ever before. The same is true of the prohibition on drugs. But now, the United States has spent $1 trillion trying to cure its social problems with the wrong solution.
If America spent $1 trillion creating programs to improve education, alleviate poverty and encourage economic growth among the middle class, America would be a very different country. Instead of being known as the country with the highest education budget and the most qualified workers, America is known as the country with the world’s largest prison population.It is hard to reconcile how American can jail more people every year than oppressive regimes in China, Saudi Arabia and Russia. It is even harder to reconcile that the American government would throw 40 years’ worth of resources into locking up its population rather than into educating and protecting it.
The trillion dollars spent by the government on the war of drugs seems like an unfathomable amount of money. It is easy to process the idea of a couple of million dollars. That amount would buy a house, an education and comfortable retirement. But what could the government have done with $1 trillion if it did not spend it on fighting drugs?
If you had $1 trillion, you could spend $54 million every day of your life and have money left over. If you are wondering how to spend $1 trillion, you could buy every professional sports team in America, 26,000 1963 Ferrari 250 GTOs, the whole of Apple. You could also rid the government of its entire 2014 trade deficit.All of these things would be pocket change if you had $1 trillion dollars.
- It Would Reduce Corruption at Home
Drug corruption is not a problem that exists only south of the border. There is a risk of corruption anytime there is a large amount of money to be made in the sale of illegal goods.America’s law enforcement are not immune to corruption.
A recent report by the Associated Pressfound that there were more border officials being charged with criminal corruption every year. Those convicted of corruption were able to be bought with both money and sex by the cartels to secure the safe passage of their drugs into the United States.
- It Would Promote the Return of Personal Liberty
The government says that the ability to buy and use drugs is not a personal liberty protected by the constitution. Of course, the constitution does not entitle the American public to get high as they please. But, the war on drugs itself has degraded more personal liberties over the years.
In order to continue its war, the government is required to violate the personal liberties of citizens. The entire concept of the criminalization of drugs requires the government to put citizens in jail for a private activity. It also encourages racial profiling, discrimination, false arrests and the intimidation of citizens in order to find the bigger culprits behind the drug trade.
- It Can Generate Revenue Instead of Sucking Up Huge Portions of the Budget
One of the few reasons that the government has ever previously considered lifting the ban on drugs because of the money it could make on taxes from the legalization of drugs. If all 50 states legalized marijuana, they could take in around $3 billion a year just in taxes. This figure assumes a 15 percent tax on marijuana.
The influx of revenue combined with the estimated $8 billion in savings in law enforcement could make a huge difference in state budgets that are struggling to make it on their own.
The amount of money spent on the failed war on drugs is staggering and the amount of old misinformation that is used to justify that expenditure is shocking. The government continues to support the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drugs. Instead of supporting the people most vulnerable to drug use, the government uses its money to target them in the name of preventing crime.
It is hard to imagine a world in which the United States government would spend $1 trillion solely on eliminating poverty and improving education to prevent people from turning to drugs; but if the Federal government would only imagine the possibilities, they may begin to change their minds and attitudes on the legalization of drugs.