Should Drugs Be Legalized? Paper Example

Published: 2023-01-03
Should Drugs Be Legalized? Paper Example
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Drug Marijuana legalization Human rights Drug abuse
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1786 words
15 min read

From a legal standpoint, the term drug war describes a situation where governments enforce drug laws, which mainly target drug criminals by holding them accountable for misusing certain substances. Nonetheless, this war is a collective endeavor that involves healthcare, rehabilitation, education, courts and law enforcement. For many years, this massive war on drug use has proved to be a futile task. In most of the Western cultures that boast of high literacy levels among their people, surprisingly, one can easily obtain illegal drugs. By acquiring these drugs, an illegal system of drug lords, cartels and users continue to plague such societies by risking people's lives and health as well as failing to pay taxes required to generate revenue for national growth. To curb the rampant drug use, the chief solutions utilized revolve around demand and supply. The supply-side remedies involve strategies designed to intercepting drug manufacturing and trafficking whereas the demand-side remedies encompass drug treatment, rehabilitation, education, and calls for legalization as the only feasible approach. However, the suggestion that drugs should be legalized has attracted strong debates with arguments for and against this proposed solution being persuasive. By weighing the grounds for and against legalization drugs raised in these arguments, this paper takes the stance that legalization is a risk worth taking owing to the ineffectiveness of the approaches used in the current war on drugs.

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Arguments Supporting the Legalization of Drugs

The calls for legalization can be summed up into four key perspectives. These perspectives are as follows: Prohibiting drug use violates civil liberties; legitimization would save on the huge revenues used in charging, punishing and rehabilitating drug offenders; the drug war has been more costly compared to drug abuse; the illegalization of drugs has not effectively mitigated drug abuse.

Prohibiting Drug Use Violates Civil Liberties

Human rights conventions maintain that all individuals are born equal and that they are entitled to the right to life, liberty and happiness. As people pursue happiness, they share the right to cultivate their innate potential, reasoning skills, individuality and character. All States have an obligation to protect these rights. By bringing drug laws into perspective, it is evident that they infringe upon various rights stated in the Bill of Rights due to their incompatibility with principles such as proportionality, justice and equality.

The Principle of equality is among the key cornerstones of human rights laws and is a vital aspect in assessing the appropriateness of drug laws, specifically the illegalization of some drugs. The relevance of this principle is based on the premise that most governments across the world divide into either legal or illegal drugs. However, there are no logical grounds that justify why drugs are classified in this manner. Therefore, when policies allow people to freely use drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes while denying them to use cocaine or marijuana, it would be safe to infer that such policies clearly violate the concept of equality.

A health-oriented outlook toward users of legal and illegal drugs offers the most rational explanation behind this classification. However, prohibitionists are likely to dispute any assertion that illicit drugs pose no greater health hazards to people compared to the legal ones. In so doing, these prohibitionists misjudge the usefulness of drug laws in alleviating trafficking and abuse. Statistical data reveals that, annually, alcohol and tobacco kill about 5million people globally while the illegal substances kill about 200000 people. Most of the deaths caused by illegal drugs are as a result of prohibition and not their intrinsic qualities. Yet again, this reasoning is warped from a prohibitionist's angle since they associate the negative effects of illegal drugs to abuse and crime and not to prohibition. For that reason, the prohibitionists become agents of highly discriminatory practices that infringe upon Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that requires State laws to be non-discriminatory. This shortcoming in drug policies, thus, stresses the need to legalize all drugs, which is, as well, reiterated by the quote below.

But perhaps, the best reason to legalize hard drugs is that people who wish to consume them have the same liberty to determine their own well-being as those who consume alcohol, marijuana, or anything else. In a free society, the presumption must always be that individuals, not government, get to decide what is in their own best interest (Tylt par 7).

Legalization of Drugs would Save Huge Costs

Apart from the possible criminal justice and public health outcomes expected upon legalizing drugs, monetary effects would also be felt, specifically in the form of the reduction of government expenditure and the generation of taxes from drug manufacturers and users. Data revealed in a recent tax and budget bulletin shows that the legalization of drugs in the US would generate about $106.7billion yearly in proceeds for local, state and federal governments. These proceeds would be realized due to a growth in tax revenues and a drop in drug enforcement expenditure.

Besides, results from a study by Cato Institute revealed that legalizing drugs in the United States at state and federal levels would bring about a $46.7billion annual increase in tax revenue and $41.3billion decrease in court processes' overheads. Some States such as Colorado and Oregon, and other countries such as Uruguay, which have considered the legalization of marijuana have reported gains in revenue and a decrease in expenditure. The growth in tax revenue stated above may continue if the demand for the drugs that are currently deemed to be illegal such as marijuana and cocaine increase due to a greater cultural acceptance of these drugs if they are to be legalized. A case in point is that in Colorado, $130million, $193million and $247million in State tax revenues from marijuana were collected in 2015, 2016 and 2017 indicating a steady increase. Such an effect would be expected from the legalization of other illegal drugs.

The Drug War has been more Costly Compared to Drug Abuse

The drug war is a costly undertaking owing to the direct overheads involved in the interception of drug supplies and implementing drug policies. States that prohibit certain drugs have to set aside a significant amount of finances in their budget for the apprehension, charging and imprisonment of millions of drug offenders. Additionally, there are other indirect overheads associated with drug prohibition and are caused by damaging health implications, a deep-rooted high-level corruption, instability in the societies, insecurity and extra-judicial killings.

To bring this issue into perspective, the annual estimated costs of the interdiction of illegal drugs and regulation is more than $100billion. When the US is considered singly, its national drug regulation budget in 2015 was around $25.5billion making it the largest contributor to the global drug control outlays. These huge costs spent annually in the detention of drug criminals in State and Federal prisons impose a disproportionate burden on the communities plagued by poverty and having racial minorities. In European nations that record a lower rate of drug-related detention, the annual cost of such detention is estimated to be around $7.8billion (EUR7billion). None of these statistics takes into account the massive indirect costs stated earlier.

Even though the US has a large drug-regulation budget, the prohibitionist expenses that countries in Central and Southern America have to incur are extremely significant as well. Prohibitionist measures essentially transfer most of the drug-regulation costs to the manufacturer and suppliers or transit nations, which are obligated to enforce supply-reduction strategies that minimize the availability of drugs to the users and increase their prices. The US implements such strategies as the Merida Initiative and Plan Colombia to regulate the supply of drugs. However, the substantial cost of insecurity, corruption and loss of human lives is mostly felt across Latin American nations such as Mexico and Colombia.

The economics of drug laws can only be streamlined based on the conjectures that: the reduction of supplies can be realized at minimal costs; producer and transit nations are ready to meet the cost of reducing supplies and in return get foreign support to fund these costs; the supply-reduction measures are efficient in minimizing the supply of drugs to the users. By contextualizing these conjectures in the case of the Plan Colombia initiative, a collective effort by the Colombian and US governments to fight the manufacture and smuggling of cocaine, there is little proof to indicate that the costly measures implemented under this initiative are effective in reducing the flow of cocaine. Cocaine production, processing and trafficking have concurrently risen in other Latin American countries such as Mexico, Ecuador and Peru due to the ineffectiveness of the Plan Colombia initiative in mitigating this drug.

A similar situation is experienced in Afghanistan where the US has spent about $12billion in fighting opium production and use since the 2001-2002 invasion. Despite this sizable investment by the US, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that Afghanistan produced roughly 85% of the opium in the global market in 2014. This noteworthy increase in opium production in the country is a predictable outcome of prohibitionist laws. The opium market brought about a vast illegal economy in Afghanistan that ultimately resulted in a public health crisis, sparked corruption and financed the insurgency.

Besides the collateral implications of prohibitionist policies stated above, the emphasis put on reducing supply leads to the neglect of social and health initiatives that have a strong humanitarian and financial basis. Most nations have skewed drug-regulation budgets that favor counter-trafficking and prohibition measures at the expense of reducing the demand for drugs through correctional and treatment initiatives, which are relatively economical and practical. By neglecting demand-reduction solutions, the prohibitionists' supply-reduction plans fail to address the massive costs of drug addiction such as crime and loss of workplace productivity. This shortcoming further disputes the usefulness of prohibitionist laws and the illegalization of drugs.

The Illegalization of Drugs has not Effectively Mitigated Drug Abuse

As stated earlier, the efficiency of drug control policies has been subject to intense debates in recent years in the US and around the globe. Many countries and societies have had to continually deal with the use of illegal or narcotic drugs, which have immensely affected the lives of most people. One common approach that has been used to address this issue is the prohibitionist laws aimed at controlling the supply of these drugs to the users. In this regard, the US has, over the last four decades, spent over $2.5trillion in legal strategies designed to minimize the international flow of narcotics. Nonetheless, irrespective of these considerable efforts to fight illicit drugs, the prohibitionist laws have proven to be futile in abating the production and use of illegal substances. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the global number of drug abusers has risen regardless of the widespread implementation of prohibitionist policies.

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