Forty- two years ago, in 1970 President Richard Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration and declared War on Drugs. He believed it was time to stop the flow of narcotics into the Americas and ruining the streets of our nation.
Today, however, he would be embarrassed to see the development of his proposal and to be associated as the father of this war. Ever since Nixon’s proposal on drug policy, Americans have seen an abysmal paradigm of government policy. There are several examples of failed government proclamations; however the War on Drugs remains one of the most notorious. After 40 years and over 40 million arrests, the United States has witnessed the failure of this policy. Incarceration rates have rose astronomically and police officers in high drug traffic areas are afraid to do their jobs because of how powerful cartels are. This policy has achieved nothing in terms of eliminating the ease of obtaining these drugs. Furthermore, when we look at the public’s perspective of these drugs, one can conclude that the people know drugs are here to stay. Trying to dismiss them for society is an obvious failure, so that leaves us with one option. That is to make them part of our nations identity. Government policy and federal charges are not doing the job, thus, leading to the consensus of many Americans these days. It’s time to legalize drugs. Not only am I referring to marijuana, but other narcotics such as cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin should, too, be legalized. In the following paragraphs, I plan to open one’s mind in attempt to show individuals and non –believers that change is what we need. The United States has filled our prisons, and young people’s lives are being tainted with charges. With this, one will see how morality plays a part in the legality of drugs as well as the simple fact that people do not want to use these stimulants. Too much money is being wasted and it’s time for the people to do something about it.
The Great Incarcerator, more widely known as the USA, currently has the largest inmate population in the world. Although I’m being a tad facetious, this title is not one that we as citizens should stand by. In the past 25 years, drug related arrests have tripled to 1.8 million in 2005 and of that, 82% was due to possession. In continuation, an alarming 42% was marijuana related. If we look at the total population in America for inmates, there are roughly 2.2 million people behind bars. If we step aside for a moment and compare the US to other countries, for instance the European Union, we can truly see how overpopulated our prisons are due to drug related instances. The European Union, which consists of Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark and Estonia, has 100 million more citizens than the US. Contrary to what one would think, they manage to arrest 100,000 people less per year. How is this possible? Isn’t the US supposed to dominate every aspect of other countries? The answer is simple. America’s drug policy doesn’t work; the use in our nation has lead to a losing battle. Knowing this, I acknowledge that when we compare other countries to the US we are making an assumption that these countries have similar drug policies.
Table from Beckley Foundation
Given that there is a disparity in the population, the percent of comparison does not abide by the bias. Looking at a country that has decriminalized marijuana, we see how this drug alone has reduced the amount of people behind bars. Thus, leading to the conclusion that marijuana has beneficial implications associated with the penal system. With the overflow in prison population, US citizens are paying an overwhelming price to keep these people in jail. It is costing taxpayers billions, and I repeat, billions of dollars.
While Amsterdam has decriminalized marijuana they still prohibit the transportation. Nonetheless, the Netherlands is a fantastic example of how, at bare minimum, legalizing marijuana can have a positive impact. The Dutch rate of incarceration is 112 citizens per 100,000 capita. Of this, only 19% are drug related. In comparison, the US has an astounding 756 citizens per 100,000 capita and an embarrassing 53% are due to drug related instances.
Paul Armentano states,
“According to the new BJS report, "Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004," 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug violations are serving time for marijuana offenses. Combining these percentages with separate U.S. Department of Justice statistics on the total number of state and federal drug prisoners suggests that there are now about 33,655 state inmates and 10,785 federal inmates behind bars for marijuana offenses."
Armentano goes on saying that this estimates to about 1 billion US taxpayer dollars, annual and not to mention, only for marijuana offenses. In addition, this is only taking into account for state and federal incarcerations. Another 8 billion US taxpayer dollars are spent in criminal justice costs. With all this money being spent on a seemingly worthless cause, Americans have a reason to be upset.
Image from Leftwing Nutjob
The Right to the Pursuit of Happiness means man’s right to live for himself, to choose what constitutes his own private, personal, individual happiness and to work for its achievement, so long as he respects the same right in others. It means that man cannot be forced to devote his life to the happiness of another man nor of any number of other men. It means that the collective cannot decide what is to be the purpose of a man’s existence or prescribe his choice of happiness.
Society today revolves around the inalienable rights of individuals and the ability for people to choose what is best for them, regardless of the situation. Since the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, our nation has been granted entire freedom for its citizens. We have the ability to own property and lead the lives we have believed to be best for us. However, the government has restricted this right when it comes to legalizing drugs. One would deem it immoral to hinder the happiness that drug users associate with these prohibited stimulants. In addition, not only are we given the right of happiness, but the right to choose poorly comes intertwined with these rights. “If we want a free society to function, we must permit people to make bad decisions and suffer the consequences. People have the right to ruin their lives” (Miller 127). Rights can be inferred as moral concepts and that they should not be interfered with by the government. Given the circumstances legislation has set, essentially, we haven’t had the right to live freely as stated by the Constitution. It truly boils down to the zealots in legislation who have so much invested in the drug laws having too much pride. The idea of legalizing would explicitly and directly illustrate the errors connected with drug laws and the legislation behind it. No one wants to admit they were wrong and to a certain extent, one has to realize that. However, it has become a situation of immorality and an infringement on the inalienable rights of our nation’s citizens.
The juxtaposition of the US’s identity with drugs and its true identity must be altered and clarified in order to create the legality of these substances. Miller states, “Drugs need not be embraced…but drugs themselves must be accepted as part of the nation’s identity-just as a criminal cousin or in-law” (139). He suggests that we must face the evil associated with drugs and take away the temptation it presents. By fully implementing these drugs into society, and that means all methods such as transportation and use etc. we will have dissected the immorality that government has attached to drugs and in turn obtain free status to choose as we wish.
One of the main concerns related with legalizing drugs is the fear of an increase in use of the substances, where some people believe addicts will be everywhere. However, this is completely and utterly false. The intense zealotry some people have surrounding this topic is a clear sign of ignorance and citizens needs to me educated. Drug addiction in the United States is around 4.6 million American and when compared to the entire US population, that is roughly four percent. Four percent of Americans have made the decision of that kind of lifestyle. Although I do not support that lifestyle, I am in no position to tell another citizen how to live their life.in addition, a study was conducted by the MTF or “Monitoring the Future” organization where they studied the prevalence and use of illicit drugs in 8th, 10th and 12th graders. The goal of this study was to determine the availability, popularity and overall usage of these harsher drugs. The sample size was about 57,000 adolescences. Upon the completion of the study, they had determined several key distinctions with usage. In the category of cocaine, approximately 90% of 12th graders disapproved of using once or twice. In 2011, less than 4 % of the entire sample population had used cocaine.
The general trend of use in cocaine has even reduced over the past 40 years. Although this study is specified to only 57,000 students, trends tend to be consistent with the general population. The results go on to prove that trends in use of heroin, crack, methamphetamines, inhalants and prescription drugs have all reduced over the years. Continuing with the idea, students have acknowledged that one time use is dangerous and awareness will prevent the theory of an increase in usage. Not only is there a study in high school students, but MTF has completed a similar study for college students. Full time college students have significantly lower trends in usage according to the graph below suggesting that not everyone will jump to using when they become legal. One can conclude that these studies show a positive outlook on people who know of the dangers of these drugs and won’t make that choice to use.
|Graph taken from Monitoring the Future|
It becomes clear, therefore, that the United States needs to do something about this failed War on Drugs. The government administration surely isn’t doing an effective job, so the people need to raise their voices and change these laws on prohibition. Our prisons are over filling and it is costing Americans their hard earned money. Comparisons have revealed alarming results and we can’t shy away from these. The inalienable rights of US citizens combined with the morality factor that people have the right to choose poorly represent two perspectives the government has ignored and set aside due to pride and that is no longer an excuse. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is blatantly expressed in our constitution. Finally, the trends of use and addiction in America point to the positive side, observing that only 4% of Americans abuse drugs and that general trends have shown decrease in use of the harsher drugs. As for marijuana, one knows its effects have minimal damage, thus, not discussed when we note punitive drugs. By this, we can exact a conclusion that legalizing drugs, there won’t be an increase in use amongst citizens of all ages. It is time to do something about this issue. As stated before and throughout the argument, the War on Drugs has failed and drugs are becoming easier to get. Save the American people money and undeserved charges. Conform to the general consensus of the public and do what is morally right. I believe Norman Zinberg says it best, “When change is offered freely and rationally, it is not permissiveness or defeat of authority, but the fulfillment of the highest function of that authority: the common good.”
1.) Miller uses Norman Zinberg's quote as a cover page before his own argument.
"Legalizing Drugs." (Book, 2006) [WorldCat.org]. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://www.worldcat.org/title/legalizing-drugs/oclc/58843023?referer=list_view>.
Miller, Richard Lawrence. The Case for Legalizing Drugs. New York: Praeger, 1991.