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Legalizing All Drugs

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Legalizing All Drugs
Legalizing All Drugs
Jose Vasquez
DeVry University

ENGL135 Advanced Composition
Steve Budd
June 7, 2011

Legalizing All Drugs Legalizing drugs has been a controversial topic to the American public. An issue such as this conjures up moral and religious beliefs, beliefs that differ from logical reasoning. Our government’s “War on Drugs” is being fought against her citizens, an effort to eliminate both drug distribution and usage. The government’s policies to eradicate drugs have failed only leaving a trail of political chaos and social unrest. Although the policy’s intentions are pure, it is causing undesirable effects that are rampant through society from the policies of prohibition: murder, corruption, assault, racial and economic marginalization, just a few examples of the effects fueled by the cold and inhuman policies of prohibition. The idea of prohibition is an old one and it is not practical to apply in our democratic government that is based on individual rights. The prohibition of alcohol during the roaring 20’s is the perfect example that proves prohibition is a failed policy that cost many people their lives. The legalization of all illegal drugs, will minimize if not eliminate violence related to drugs, will ensure safe regulation through the standards of pharmaceutical companies, and will save money in so many ways. Violence related to both the sale and use of drugs will minimize if not diminish if they are legalized. How are drugs and violence related? Drugs and violence are related because drugs are in high demand and are expensive due to their illegality. Combine the high demand and price tag to drugs and expect violence to ensue. At one point in time the U.S. government actually practiced the same policy it is doing today and that policy was the prohibition of alcohol. When a government prohibits something, not only is it being intrusive to the lives of its citizens, it is also paving the way for turmoil. During the 1920’s, the U.S. ratified the 18th amendment, enabling the national prohibition of selling alcohol. Prohibition of alcohol did not stop consumption; it caused the exact opposite and managed to put money in the pockets of gangsters. Due to the amount of profits gained from alcohol, mobsters were willing to do anything to hold on to those profits. According to Mystery Net, “Thanks to prohibition, Capone had become the crime czar of Chicago, running gambling, prostitution and bootlegging rackets while continuously expanding his territories by getting rid of rival gangs.” People like Capone all have one feature in common; it is the will to make money by any means necessary. Prohibition ended in 1933 with the 21st amendment and what was once the mobster’s most lucrative substance was now legalized again causing the price to plummet. Remember that alcohol prohibition ended, not because it was a harmless drug, but because prohibition was creating more problems than solving them. With the price down mobsters had to search for other methods to make revenue: prostitution, gambling, and now illegal drugs.
The playing field since then has changed. Illegal drugs have become both the most profitable and preferred choice for criminals. One important note is to recognize the difference between criminals: a drug cartel is a business agreement to fix drug prices, gangs are a group of criminals who join together for mutual protection and profit. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (2005), “Large street gangs readily employ violence to control and expand drug distribution activities, targeting rival gangs and dealers who neglect or refuse to pay extortion fees.” Street gangs have become larger and more violent than during the Prohibition era because illegal drugs have become a profitable commodity. Gangs will do anything to expand or retain their profits and their number one choice is violence. Violence is the preferred method because it is effective and nothing strikes fear into your enemies’ heart than using violence. The U.S. is not the only country suffering from the policies of prohibition. Americans have a thirst for illegal drugs and quenching our thirst has made the Mexican drug cartels compete with each other, leaving a trail of blood. According to Fox News (2011), “More than 20 bodies were found in the streets outside the western Mexican city of Morelia… the city has seen a spike of violence since the Gulf and Zeta cartels began fighting for control of drug traffic there two years ago.” Many cities across Mexico have experienced the cartels violent retaliation since President Felipe Calderon took office and started massive enforcement against drugs. According to Ken Ellingwood (2011), “Outrage over the rising death toll, with more than 34,000 people killed since Calderon took office pledging to fight cartels, has already generated sporadic street protest.” The U.S. government’s policy against illegal drugs is the cause for not only the deaths here in our country, but also the increasing deaths in Mexico. Our government has pressured Mexico to undertake the drug cartels and their pursuit of profit. In response to this massive enforcement, the cartels have both retaliated and escalated violence. Mexican drug cartels have become the largest supplier for the largest consumer which happens to be the U.S. One way to lessen the violence is to simply stop using drugs, but to assume a country will stop is illogical. What move is there left when a country cannot stop using and enforcement only escalates violence? According to Jeffrey Miron (2009), “Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead… the only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs.” Violence always surrounds illegal activities because illegal products attract a certain kind of population and organization. Legalizing drugs would allow free production and competition between manufacturers and retailers, which would reduce the price and arguably the impact of drug related crimes. We study history to learn from our past and when we fail to learn, history will repeat itself again. Our government has failed to learn from history because prohibition of alcohol is the perfect example that prohibiting something never accomplishes its goal.
The legalization of drugs can be regulated, resulting in a pure substance and fewer deaths related to illegal drugs. At one point in our nation’s history alcohol was an illegal substance, but what many do not know is that alcohol became even deadlier. Mark Goldstein addresses that (2008), “Consumers were not safe, as bootleg alcohol often contained the poisonous methyl alcohol, as opposed to the ethyl alcohol found in liquors, which resulted in thousands of deaths.” Instead of consuming alcohol that was safe through the standards of both state and federal, people were now drinking alcohol that was either adulterated or contaminated. The main ingredient Ethyl was hard to come by, it was either unavailable or too costly, so bootleggers instead used methyl alcohol. Using methyl alcohol caused severe effects such as blindness and death. A few decades later and our government, who has not learned from history, decide to enact the prohibition of illegal drugs. There is no denying that consuming illegal drugs can be dangerous but it is not dangerous as the media and government have portrayed. Advocates that want drugs to remain illegal are people that are concern with our nation’s health, but evidence shows that illegal drugs are the least of our worries. It has been proven with clinic studies and through experimentation that these so called poisons can be safe. Brian Bennett illustrates that “In summary, over the 20 year period 1979-1998, slightly more than one-tenth of one percent of all deaths in the U.S. were due to the use of illegal drugs… of the 44,727 deaths attributed to illegal drug use, 22,735 were caused by accidental heroin overdose, while another 15,551 died from accidental cocaine overdose. That is a total of 38,286 of all deaths due to illegal drugs.” Overdose is the top leading misuse not only for illegal drugs, but for both prescription and over the counter drugs. Due to prohibition, users do not have access to information recommending a dosage, causing abuse and resulting to an overdose. Many deaths would greatly be reduced with legalization because there would be clinical studies providing a recommended dosage. Benson Roe emphasizes that “Infections from contaminated intravenous injections were the only cause of drug-related deaths he saw except for occasional death from overdoes… clean, reasonable dosages of heroin, cocaine and marijuana are pathologically harmless.” Illegal drugs themselves do not cause death; overdose and sharing hypodermic needles does because users risk the spread of HIV, hepatitis, sepsis and other diseases. Needles are illegal to possess unless if a doctor prescribes mediation that requires a needle. Since obtaining needles is difficult, users are limited and resort to sharing needles, increasing their health risk. Schaffer Library of Drug Policy points out that “The number of drug deaths in the U.S. in a typical year is as follows: Tobacco kills about 390,000, alcohol kills about 80,000, sidestream smoke from tobacco kills about 50,000, cocaine kills about 2,200, heroin kills about 2,000, aspirin kills about 2,000, and marijuana kills 0.” When the numbers of deaths are compared, it is clear to see that legalized substances are responsible for 99.3% of drug related deaths, while illegal drugs represent a mere .7%. What really stands out is that there is no overdose of marijuana in the history of written literature, but it is still an illegal substance. 16 states and DC practice the use of medical marijuana for medicinal purposes. Mitch Earleywine emphasizes that (2010), “Evidence supporting medical marijuana for appetite loss, glaucoma, nausea, vomiting, spasticity, pain, and weight loss is quite impressive. Evidence for its use for arthritis, dystonia, insomnia, seizures, and Tourettes’s syndrome is also very promising.” People who oppose marijuana for medical purposes suggest that other drugs exist that can help with most of these illnesses but what they forget to acknowledge is that not everyone responds well to all medication. Adverse affects is also a problem because while some people respond well, others will suffer from multiple symptoms and possibly death. Marijuana on the other hand has no adverse effects and not a single person has died from both inhaling and digesting the plant. Prohibition is concerned about our nation’s public health but it is hypocritical for alcohol and tobacco to still be legalized. Supplying a both illegal and unregulated substance becomes a lucrative career, which in turn is filled with people who have no experience in the manufacturing process. With the legalization of illegal drugs, our government can both save money and make money. The U.S. government has been enforcing illegal drugs for several decades but it was not until 1971 during Richard Nixon presidency that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), solely devoted to strengthen and coordinate the government’s drug control. Nixon declared a war: not against tyranny, oppression, or for wealth, but to stop an enemy that is a vice. After four decades, the war dubbed as “The War on Drugs” continues to wage on with none of its goals being met. According to both Jeffrey Miron and Katherine Waldock (September, 2010), “This reports estimates that legalizing drugs would save roughly $41.3 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition.” Considering that this was published during 2010, it is safe to assume that this information was during the credit crisis. With that being said, $41.3 billion is a waste of money since the policy has failed to meet its objective. This policy completely undermines government programs that are vital like our social security net, education, and health care. Our government may not be a socialist one but it is still our civic duty to help those in need so they can help themselves and this policy is siphoning those resources. According to Claire Suddath (2009), “40 years, the U.S. government has spent over $2.5 trillion dollars fighting the War on Drugs. Despite the ad campaigns, increased incarceration rates and a crackdown on smuggling, the number of illicit drug users in America has risen over the years and now sits at 19.9 million Americans.” The whole point of this policy is to decrease the amount of users but just like the prohibition of alcohol, the amount of drug users has increased. It is clear that our policy has been a complete failure. Our government’s accumulated cost to enforce prohibition has cost $2.5 trillion and simply throwing money at the problem does not help. Therefore it is a colossal waste of tax payer dollars that could otherwise be spent on a way that can help society. The policy of prohibition does not stop on enforcement. Due to the aggressive tactics of enforcement, many non-violent drug offenders are incarcerated. Todd Epley notes (2009), “According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, of the 2.2 million Americans that are currently incarcerated, 21. 1 percent of them are non-violent drug offenders.” This means that 464,200 are incarcerated for using, manufacturing, distributing, and possessing drugs. Celia Chazelle points out (2011), “The 2009 bill for jails and prisons was over $60 billion.” In order to find out the total cost of housing non-violent drug offenders, several calculations need to be done: take the $60 billion and divide 2.2 million, the average cost to house an inmate is $27,273, now we multiply the cost by the amount of inmates which is 464,200 and we get $12.6 billion. The government is spending $12.6 billion to house these inmates that pose no threat to society. Aside from wasting the tax payer’s dollars, it also distracts law enforcement from preventing and solving violent crimes. Legalizing drugs will not only save a decent portion of our government’s budget from both enforcing prohibition and incarceration, but the government will also receive revenue from taxation. Both Jeffrey A. Miron and Katherine Waldrock write (2010), “This report also estimates that drug legalization would yield tax revenue of $46.7 billion annually, assuming legal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco.” An already existing market would be brought from the shadows and create jobs that would employ hundreds if not thousands people through a legitimate way. If we take the amount that would be saved and made if legalization were to occur, the amount would total at about $100.6 billion. With $100.6 billion our government would be able to rejuvenate many of the important programs that had their funding reduced due to the credit crisis. Both parties on the political spectrum are constantly bickering on what how to reduce government spending, instead they can put aside their differences and realize that this policy of prohibition is an enormous waste of our tax dollars. Illegal drugs are the biggest taboo in this country. The amount of users is significantly small when compared to the ratio of our country’s population but prohibition and other policies associated with it consume several billion dollars per year to enforce illegal drugs. Our government goes to extreme lengths to prohibiting a vice that people can easily have access to. Mounting evidence clearly shows that prohibiting illegal drugs has not been successful and has caused more problems than solved. Violence has gone rampant since the illegality associated with drugs is what drives the price up. The price tag alone is the motivation that causes criminals to enact in violent methods to ensure they retain those profits. Prohibition has been nothing but an enormous waste of the tax payer’s money since it has failed to reduce the amount of drug users. If prohibition causes more problems than illegal drugs should be legalized, thus reducing violence, ensure safe usage, and put the tax payers’ money to good use. People who fail to see the parallels between alcohol prohibition during the 20’s and drug prohibition today are simply blind. There is mounting evidence that suggest the legalization of drugs is a better solution than prohibition, but what people forget is that we live in a country that was founded on the principle of freedom. As Americans we have an inalienable right to decide what substances we want to take in our bodies. It is not the government’s job to command its citizens on how to live.

References
Bennett, Brian C. The real story about drug-induced deaths. Brian C Bennett. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from http://www.briancbennett.com/charts/death/real-story.htm

Chazelle, Celia. (March, 2011). How to waste money and lives: the American prison system. Michael Moore. Retrieved June 17, 2011, from http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/how-to-waste-money-and-lives

Earleywine, Mitch. (November, 2010). Opinion: medical marijuana benefits. CBS News. Retrieved June 15, 2011, from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/03/05/health/cbsdoc/main4844665.shtml

Ellingwood, Ken. (May, 2011). Criticism of Calderon mounts over Mexico drug violence. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 18, 2011, from http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/06/world/la-fg-mexico-blame-20110507

Epley, Todd. (October, 2009). Non-violent drug offenders fill prisons. Chronicle. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from http://www.scccampusnews.com/non-violent-drug-offenders-fill-prisons-1.709045

FoxNews. (June, 2011). Mexican drug cartel battles leave 20 dead in continuing violence. FoxNews. Retrieved June 12, 2011, from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/06/09/more-than-20-bodies-found-in-mexican-drug-cartel-hot-bed/

Goldstein, Mark. (April, 2010). War on drugs hurts all with cost, ineffectiveness. Collegiate Times. Retrieved 13, 2011, from http://www.collegiatetimes.com/stories/15457/war-on-drugs-hurts-all-with-cost-ineffectiveness

Miron, Jeffrey. (March, 2009). Commentary: legalize drugs to stop violence. CNN. Retrieved June 12, 2011, from http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-24/politics/miron.legalization.drugs_1_prohibition-drug-traffickers-violence?_s=PM:POLITICS

Miron, Jeffrey., Waldock, Katherine. (September, 2010). The budgetary impact of ending drug prohibition. CATO Institute. Retrieved June 15, 2011, from http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=12169

MysteryNet. St. valentine’s day massacre with pictures- 1929- Al Capone true crime story. MysteryNet. Retrieved June 11, 2011, from http://www.mysterynet.com/vdaymassacre/

National Drug Intelligence Center. (January, 2005). Drugs and gangs fast facts. National Drug Intelligence Center. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs11/13157/index.htm#relation

Roe, Benson B. Why we should legalize drugs. Schaffer Library of Drug Policy. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Misc/roe1.htm

Schaffer Library of Drug Policy. How many people are actually killed by drugs? Retrieved June 17, 2011, from http://www.druglibrary.org/Schaffer/library/basicfax3.htm

Suddath, Claire. (March, 2009). The war on drugs. Time. Retrieved June 16, 2011, from http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1887488,00.html

References: Bennett, Brian C. The real story about drug-induced deaths. Brian C Bennett. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from http://www.briancbennett.com/charts/death/real-story.htm Chazelle, Celia Earleywine, Mitch. (November, 2010). Opinion: medical marijuana benefits. CBS News. Retrieved June 15, 2011, from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/03/05/health/cbsdoc/main4844665.shtml Ellingwood, Ken Epley, Todd. (October, 2009). Non-violent drug offenders fill prisons. Chronicle. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from http://www.scccampusnews.com/non-violent-drug-offenders-fill-prisons-1.709045 FoxNews Goldstein, Mark. (April, 2010). War on drugs hurts all with cost, ineffectiveness. Collegiate Times. Retrieved 13, 2011, from http://www.collegiatetimes.com/stories/15457/war-on-drugs-hurts-all-with-cost-ineffectiveness Miron, Jeffrey Miron, Jeffrey., Waldock, Katherine. (September, 2010). The budgetary impact of ending drug prohibition. CATO Institute. Retrieved June 15, 2011, from http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=12169 MysteryNet National Drug Intelligence Center. (January, 2005). Drugs and gangs fast facts. National Drug Intelligence Center. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs11/13157/index.htm#relation Roe, Benson B Schaffer Library of Drug Policy. How many people are actually killed by drugs? Retrieved June 17, 2011, from http://www.druglibrary.org/Schaffer/library/basicfax3.htm Suddath, Claire

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