ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST THE LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA
Heard of the “War on Drugs”?
It refers to governmental programs intended to suppress the consumption of certain recreational drugs. First used by US President, Richard Nixon, in 1972 to describe US’s programs, equivalent terms are now used in many countries.
The War on Drugs utilizes several techniques to achieve its goal of eliminating recreational drug use:
specialized law enforcement agencies, officers and techniques
information campaigns to educate the public on the dangers of recreational drug use
critics often cite these campaigns as a primary reason to end the War on Drugs; they claim the campaigns are frequently misleading or outright lying
streamlined enforcement and evidence-gathering procedures
Marijuana is a drug included in the “war”. Drugs deemed socially, religiously, medically or politically unfit for recreational use are frequently banned. The legal position of marijuana alters throughout the world, reflecting how Governments wage their “war”. From a blanket prohibition suppressing all use, to permitting certain amounts for personal use, the legalization of marijuana fights different fights in different countries. However arguments FOR and AGAINST the legalization of marijuana remain the same.
The Roots of Marijuana Law in the US
The Marijuana Tax Act was introduced in 1937. It required sellers to obtain a license. Blanket prohibition was not the intention. Harry Anslinger (Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner) testified in hearings on the subject that the hemp plant needed to be banned because it had a violent “effect on the degenerate races.” This specifically referred to Mexican immigrants who had entered the country, seeking jobs during the Great Depression.
The law passed quickly and with little debate. The American Medical Association (AMA) protested the law soon after, both on the grounds of actual disagreement with the law and the supporter’s lies on the subject, claiming the AMA had vocalized support when, in fact, the opposite was true.
There was some legal wrangling over the issue after it was passed. The people who were allowed to issue the licenses did not do so, effectively banning the drugs. The judicial system did not accept, at first, that being arrested in possession of drugs was a tax violation because it must have come from an unlicensed source (because there were no licenses), thereby avoiding taxes. Thus, the federal government did have the right to regulate the ingestion of drugs.
Prohibition must be weighed against the loss of personal freedom. Countries have a responsibility to respect individual free will and the right of self-determination.
The immorality of marijuana use can only be based on one set of moral beliefs. For example, it is discriminatory to claim that Judeo-Christian abstinence from intoxication is the correct set of moral beliefs.
The War on Drugs serves the immediate interests of politicians. By taking a “moral” stand against recreational drugs, or fighting the evils caused by the illegal drug trade they increase their popularity amongst constituents.
Legal prohibition does not stop consumers from consuming drugs, it does not stop trafficants from producing and selling it. The price of the final product increases to abnormally high values because of the black market status, which together with the powerful effects of drug addiction causes users to commit crimes in order to fund their addiction.
Critics of the War on Drugs advocate the partial or complete decriminalization of illegal drugs, combined with a system of regulation, as happens with alcohol and prescription drugs. By providing legal supplies of currently illegal drugs the price will fall, leading to a collapse in the illegal drug industry, and a reduction in crimes committed by both drug suppliers and users. They also argue that the reduction in the price will lead to little, if any, growth in drug addiction, due to the inelasticity of demand. Some even state that in a strictly regulated market, drug use may fall overall, by removing the marketing activities of the illegal drug industry.
It is not worthwhile for a law to forbid people from willingly exposing their own bodies to harm by using drugs, any more than by overeating or bungee-jumping. Obesity is a national epidemic, killing millions every year, but the government has no right to regulate how much citizens eat.
Drug users exercise free will when they chose to use drugs; a person has the right to give up his or her own freedom. A Government does not have the right to dictate them. No drug eliminates free will. It is possible to quit using any drug. Many banned drugs are significantly less deleterious to free will than legal alcohol or tobacco. Severe physiological addiction has been demonstrated for tobacco (stronger than cocaine), but no strong physiological addiction has been shown for marijuana.
Legalize marijuana and reduce health care costs by reducing the probability of overdoses and accidental ingestion of an unintended drug through standardization of drug purity by state-sponsored production and sale.
There is no clear and obvious third party harm. Such examples are caused by related activities that can be illegal without blanket prohibition. For example, driving while intoxicated is illegal, while drinking alcohol without driving is not.
Harm caused to children by their parents’ excessive drug use is criminal insofar as it constitutes child neglect; drug-specific laws are unneeded.
If drugs were legalized, the companies that manufacture and market them would be sued, such as cigarette companies have been exposed to lawsuits. Legalization of drugs would work to increase liability on producers forcing health standards.
Legalization would allow greater regulation. Cigarettes come with warnings. Alcoholic beverages are clearly marked with the amount of alcohol. Currently legal drugs contain a listing of all active and inactive ingredients. Illegal drugs could be sold legally with ingredients lists, warnings and purity levels clearly marked.
Recreational drug has no clear and obvious harmful effect on anyone besides the user (who chooses to accept those risks). The War on Drugs, on the other hand, places non-users’ friends and loved ones in jail. The War on Drugs does have clear and obvious harmful effects on third parties.
Countries who have experimented with legalization have had positive results.
A State cannot be involved with the distribution of substances considered immoral by relevant lots of the population. A substance considered unhealthy cannot be produced and distributed with the help of the state, because the goal of the state is to protect citizens’ health and not to expose them to risk.
The easy availability of drugs would create new consumers rather than rescuing current ones.
Drugs are addictive. They rob the user of free will. A drug user cannot make an informed and rational decision to continue using drugs because the use of the drug eliminates that user’s ability to think logically. Nor can they disseminate themselves from drug taking.
Drug use is dangerous to persons besides the user, in the rise of health care costs, violence associated with the use of drugs, neglect of children by drug-addicted parents, and other third party effects.
The use of soft drugs, such as marijuana, leads to the use of hard drugs (the Gateway Theory).
Drug dealers will sell to anyone, including children. Merchants who legally sell alcohol and tobacco are not allowed to sell to children. Many high school students report that it is easier to obtain illegal drugs than alcohol and tobacco.
Legalizing drugs will send a message to children that drug use is acceptable.
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