The criminalization and prohibition of drugs is aimed at reducing the negative effects of drug abuse. However, the prohibition has not solved the problem of drug misuse; in fact, it has made it worse. The war on drugs has become a very expensive venture in an economically strained world, taking millions of dollars in the US budget allocation and instead of reduced drug trafficking, use, and crimes, it has seen drug cartels and users devolve new and risky alternative methods. The war on drugs has made drug gangs unite in an effort to continue with their illicit activities and thus the war on drugs has become a booster to the unity of the drug lords and drug users. The major drugs that are prohibited are cocaine, heroin, marijuana, morphine, hashish among others.
Since the fight against drugs of abuse has failed and has only resulted in more technologically advanced methods of drug trafficking, then legalization of drugs abuse should be implemented as an alternative. Prohibition of drugs has resulted in escalated prices of these drugs, which in turn has made drug trafficking a lucrative business making those who succeed instant millionaires. The US and Canada might have strict laws against drug cultivation and development, but other countries may not. This enables drug traffickers to increase their production in these countries with an aim of selling them into the US and Canadian markets (Friedman, 2011).
Most of the drugs consumed in US and Canada are from outside. Those countries that favor the drug business make those in the business to become very rich and influential and eventually influencing the governance. This has been seen in Panama where the former dictator Manuel Noriega used drug money to advance his influence and hold on the leadership of the country. The narcotics in Panama were eventually sold in the US markets at very high prices, which in turn made millions for the former dictator. Since the sale of illegal drugs has become a lucrative business, rebels have been sustained by the business, challenging established national governments.
The Colombian rebel group, FARC, has taken large territories of the country, using money generated from drugs to purchase weapons and other equipments necessary to challenge the government. The drugs from Colombia are sold in many countries including the US and Canada. The prohibition of drugs can be seen to undermine the peace of other regions and indirectly supporting rebels by making the business more lucrative. If the drugs of abuse were to be legalized, then the cartels and traffickers would lose a lot of money, as the high demands would reduce drastically (Croft, 2000).
In the Canada and US, drugs of abuse should be legalized in all states; measures put in place to ensure effective regulation and then taxed to generate revenues. The ban and outlawing of these drugs has only made organized crime to become more sophisticated as they rake millions in the drug production, distribution and trafficking, as the demand and use of illegal drugs in the US is very high. The high demands consequently necessitate the relentless and organized supply, which the government has been unable to combat effectively.
The outlawed drugs could be of benefit to the government the way alcohol and tobacco have been. Alcohol was once prohibited but since its legalization in 1933, the government has been able to create employment and also generate massive revenues that have in turn helped in the running of the country. Legal drugs can be taxed and effectively regulated, while illegal drugs cannot. In its efforts to suppress the illegal drugs, the government spends large sums of money that could have been used for other development projects. Legalization of drugs would also give the government control over production and distribution, which would in turn ensure that the drugs availed to the public were safer and hygienic unlike when they are produced in illegal, unregulated, and unsafe way by people whose only interest is profit making.
Industrial alcohol and other harmful chemicals are known to be used in the manufacture of illegal gin which when illegally sold to the people has resulted in blindness and brain damage. If the government were to legalize and be involved in all production processes, then such cases would be rare. Although legalized drugs like alcohol and tobacco continue to be abused, it is rare to have cases of death from poor production. Therefore, legalization would ensure experts are engaged in the production industry and thus quality, un-harmful products would be produced.
Government regulated, taxed and produced drugs eliminate organized crimes as the gang depend on the hefty revenues generated from the production and the networks of distribution they have created. Though the demand of drugs whether legal or illegal will always be there, the illegal supply need not be there. Legalization would remove the illegal suppliers who are mainly criminals, replacing them with legitimate merchants. Legal businesses witness less criminal activities as opposed to illegal businesses. The level of crimes would drastically go down at the same time creating legal jobs.
Experts have projected that if drugs were to be legalized, the country would generate about fifty billion dollars annually in tax revenues alone, that is, if taxation was consistent with that of alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana, Cocaine and heroin would be the top revenue generators, generating about forty billion dollars while the other drugs contributing the rest. The war on drugs has not been concluded, some law enforcers have cited the war on drugs to be longest modern war in the history of the US, which, continues to draw funds from the national budget and the lunacies involved in the war has been cited as one of the worst.
Legalization would not only generate revenues but also reduce deficits incurred by the process of prohibition enforcement, be it in a state or federal. Many resources are used in arrests, prosecution and imprisonment, in such economic trying times, such resources together with the generated revenues would be indispensable in the rebuilding of the economy. Furthermore, although there have been measures and resources directed towards the war on drugs, drugs like marijuana are believed to generate more money than both wheat and corn and thus can be said to be the number one cash crop in the US. States faced with budget deficits like the state of California have un-successfully tried to legalize marijuana.
Humankind is born free and his rational trait separates him from other animals. Some people believe that drug prohibition is one of the oppressive acts that deny human beings, especially adults, the rights to exercise their freedom. This has created a conflict in the society as drug users view drug enforcing officers as their number one enemy while the officers, view those involved in drugs as undermining their mandate and assigned tasks. Drug wars have thus resulted in fierce battles between the two parties with many fatalities being reported. Unarmed civilians and tourists have been caught in gun battles leading to loss of innocent lives. The drug battles have also resulted in economic constraints as tourists shun areas that are known to deal in drugs. Insecurity has thus resulted because of drug wars, which in turn has seen the society possessing weapons, some illegal in a bid to protect themselves and their businesses (Abadinsky, 2003).
The proponents of the legalization of drugs used the Portugal’s case to argue that legalization can yield positive results. Portugal however had not legalized drugs but decriminalized the use of drugs of abuse (Vastag, 2009). The Government of Portugal in 2001 observed that there were numerous cases of people dying because of HIV/AIDS, infected while sharing equipments of drug use. In an effort to reduce the deaths, the government decriminalized the use of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other illegal drugs. The focus was shifted to treatment instead of jail sentences or other forms of punishment
After five years, it was observed that deaths resulting from drug abuse overdoses had reduced by half and the case of HIV infection because of sharing dirty needles of drug use had reduced three times than was the case before. Decriminalization had served the primary goal set. Skeptics had projected that Portugal would become a center of drugs of abuse in the world, which did not happen. The pro legalists in the US and Canada have argued that if the right measures and centers of treatments were to be established, then legalization of drugs of abuse would yield more benefits than imagined.
Opposition to the Legalization of Drugs
Those against drug legalization have cited various reasons for their opposition. It has been argued that legalization would double the usage of drugs, which would in turn affect the health of people in the society. Some of these drugs are known to cause brain damage like insanity. Cases of mentally disturbed population would increase which would in turn hamper economic growth. Drug related diseases and deaths emanating from over use would also increase, as the drugs would become easily available and affordable (Gottfried, 2000).
The legalization of drugs would also have economic impacts as farmers and manufacturers would abandon focusing on production of essential commodities like wheat to turn to drug production. Drugs of abuse are not basic needs that people cannot do without but wheat and corn are very essential even to animals. Drugs legalization would cause food shortages something that would hurt the economy severely. Drugs influence the behavior and productivity of individuals. Widespread drug use would result in dependency, as people would not be able to perform their tasks properly.
Drug legalization would increase the cases of addiction, which would consequently result in spending most of the money on drugs. Addicted persons who cannot afford the expensive drugs would result to crimes, prostitution, gambling, selling of property and other undesired acts. Crimes in the society would thus in the long-term increase (Bernards, 1990). Moral decadence would also increase in the log term. In the long term, children would also be greatly affected as their drug-addicted parents would be incapable of looking after them, have family wrangles leading to divorce or involve children in the drug business. Minors would thus misuse drugs creating a disoriented and anarchical society in the future (Ghosh, 2010).
Not all people take drugs. Due to legalization of drugs of abuse, those people who do not take drugs will be inconvenienced, as the rampant use of drugs will affect them. Smoke from some of the drugs would be irritating and this is the indirect consumption of drugs. Legalized drugs like alcohol and tobacco are known to cause fatal diseases like cancer and liver cirrhosis, legalization of illegal drugs would automatically mean increase in diseases.
Pregnant mothers’ misuse of drugs affects the life of the unborn child. Legalization would mean that even pregnant mothers would increase the use of drugs. Increased use of drugs, as a result would in the long term produce a society that is abnormal, weak and having various deficiencies and defects. Drug legalization would also result in the increase of the transmission of HIV/AIDS, as the users would be sharing needles more often. Those against legalization claim that decriminalization was not responsible for the decrease in the number of infected persons in Portugal; rather it was the increased global awareness and sensitization.
To legalize or not to legalize drugs of abuse has always been a subject of contention and controversy. Each side in support or in opposition has its varied, valid arguments. The topic thus varies from region to region, state to state and from country to country. A holistic global perspective has not been possible as each side has a different opinion. Drugs permitted in one state are prohibited in another. The medical importance of some drugs has also raised divisive arguments (Worth, 2010).
Abadinsky, H. (2003). Organized crime (7th ed.). Belmont: Thomson/Wadsworth Learning.
Bernards, N. (1990). War on Drugs: Opposing view points. New York: Green Haven Press.
Croft, J. (2000). Drugs and the Legalization Debate. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group.
Friedman, M. (2011). Legalization of Drugs. New York: Pearson Education.
Ghosh, P. (2010). The Pros and Cons of Drug Legalization in the U.S. New York: Business & Law.
Gottfried, T. (2000). Should Drugs Be Legalized? Brookfield: Twenty- First Century Books.
Vastag, B. (2009). 5 Years After: Portugal’s Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results. Washington, D.C.: Scientific American.
Worth, R. (2010). Illegal Drugs: Condone or Incarcerate? New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.