Why not share my position paper from my Social Ethics class. It's very long but it hits all points and counterpoints.
The 'drug problem' is a major issue of debate in
the United States. Every year millions of dollars are invested in fighting a
'war on drugs'. For many years law
enforcement officials and other affiliates have diligently worked to end
illegal trade of drugs and stop the use and sale of prohibited substances.
Despite the significant investment of monetary and human resources, drugs are
still a 'problem' and critical concern for the country. Illegal drug trade is
still prevalent with drug cartels continuing their business despite significant
setbacks. Drug abuse and addiction rates keep increasing every day. The number
of recreational drugs and illegal compounds being concocted has increased over
the years with new party drugs surfacing all the time. At the same time children
and adults alike are turning to abusing legal prescription medications, and
getting into the cycle of addiction through their bathroom cabinet.
All these known and evident fact
make it clear that the battle against drugs is not successful. We have not
managed to stop, limit, curb or control drug trade or abuse in any significant
manner. In fact it seems that the drug problem has increased and the breadth of
abused substances is not just limited to illegal drugs but legal pharmaceutical
drugs and other legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol as well. Since, current
policy is proving to be a failure; it is clear that we need a different
approach to the 'drug problem'.
One option is definitely adopting
closer to a 'zero tolerance' policy and establishing stricter, stringent
control and laws and perhaps even making some currently legal substances
illegal. This view is extreme and impractical. It will exhaust and consume more
resources and meet with strong resistance. The other option is to adopt the
liberal policy of legalizing all drugs. While this view is quite controversial,
I believe such a drug policy will be more viable and a better alternative to
society. We can also achieve a liberal drug policy without sweeping and
alarming changes. This can be done by a gradual and controlled shift slowly
introducing illegal drugs in the market with control and regulation.
A key social benefit of such a
'drug policy' would be its effect on the illegal drug trade. With many
prohibited substances being legal, legitimate pharmaceutical companies would be
allowed to manufacture/import these substances and sell them. The result would
be that there would be no need for illegal traffickers and drug cartels to
procure, transport and sell drugs. It would be able to prevent the violent
crimes and various illegal activities that are a result of the underground drug
trade. Underprivileged kids will no longer be tempted to traffic drugs with the
temptation to make profits from selling drugs. A whole new legitimate and
regulated drug industry could transfer many risky and underprivileged jobs to a
safe and legal environment.
Another result of a liberal 'drug
policy' is the savings resulting from it. The government will no longer need to
invest large sums of money in narcotics divisions. Large amount of personnel
will be freed from regulatory and law enforcement fields of the war on drugs.
We can utilize these savings in human resources as well as monetary income to
invest in other aspects of our government and society that need these
resources. We can also use these available resources to create a comprehensive
drug education system that educates people about all drugs including current
pharmaceutical drugs equipping people with realistic and practical knowledge
about drugs. A better understanding of drugs and guidance in usage will prevent
people from abusing pharmaceutical and other drugs.
One of the biggest benefits of
regulated pharmaceutical drugs is regulation. Drugs are prescribed in required
dosages. Sterile equipment is available for any drugs that require intravenous
administration. The composition of the drug is known and it is tested to be
safe and free of contaminants or toxic compounds. Pharmacists guide people on
how to use drugs, teach people what side effects to watch for and when to
consult a doctor. Drugs are divided into over the counter and prescription
On the other hand illegal drugs
have no information infrastructure or regulation. People using illegal drugs
will often use unsterile equipment and expose themselves to HIV and other
contagious viruses and illnesses. The composition and quality is unknown and
many people end up taking contaminated drugs that result in fatalities. Potency
and recommended dosages are unknown and accidental overdose is a common cause
of death. Since the drugs are illegal people are not truly informed of effects
and side effects, and do not watch for their health as they should. Due to fear
of criminal charges and arrests many will avoid visiting doctors or seeking
help when they experience side effects.
With the legalization of drugs,
drug users will receive the benefits of regulation, quality control and most
importantly information. Drug abuse, overdoses, unhealthy practices, ignorant
deaths and fatalities could be prevented by providing people with sterile
equipment, safe drugs and knowledge about the drugs. People will no longer fear
seeking medical help if anything goes wrong and society will benefit from a
safer secure drug use environment.
Of course such a drug policy has
been unheard of in the United States and will receive strong criticism. Many
deterrents of legalizing drugs will present several counter arguments against
legalizing drugs like marijuana, cocaine etc.
One key argument made against such
a policy is that these drugs are harmful. They can be severely damaging to
people's health and cause drastic side effects. First and foremost in a society
founded on individual liberty, people have the right to make decisions on their
own health. We allow respect people's rights to refuse medication, resort to
spiritual healing even when it may harm them; because we believe in individual
rights and liberty. Similarly people should have the right to choose when it
comes to drugs. Secondly, we already
allow drugs that are more dangerous than the ones made illegal. Tobacco has drastic
long term effects like lung collapses, lung and mouth cancer, respiratory
disorders compared to marijuana and similar drugs that have lesser long term
harm effects. Also we cannot protect people from everything that may harm them.
Obesity is becoming a growing problem with heart diseases and other side
effects severely harming people and sometimes being fatal. However, we would
consider it extreme to ban fat. We believe in informing people about balanced
diet to keep themselves healthy. A liberal drug policy actually provides people
with information, medical, legal and social support to prevent misuse and harm
whereas current policies leave people susceptible by cutting of such support.
Another argument is that allowing
all drugs will make drugs accessible to everyone, resulting in more addiction
across the board. Addiction consequently deteriorates society as people are
unable to perform their social responsibilities and function as a connected
member of society. However, the assumption that just because drugs are
available people will use them and get addicted is a fallacious assumption.
Using a drug, let alone getting addicted has more to do with individual and
overall environment instead of just the availability.
Those who want to use drugs and abuse
them will do so no matter what. The creation of new party drugs, abuse of
prescription medications, inhalant abuse just shows that there will always be
people willing to abuse substances legal or illegal. On the other hand many
people, who have used illegal drugs, have been able to do so responsibly. They
use drugs for years merely for the relief, pleasure or recreation it provides
them and continue to succeed at school, report to work, build a career and have
successful families. Similarly despite
alcohol and tobacco being freely available many people refuse to use them for a
variety of reasons. The key difference is the need to rely on drugs versus
merely using them as a supplement in life.
Studies have shown that people who
tend to abuse drugs usually suffer from depression, anxiety and other forms of
mental disorders. People turn to drugs due to social confusion, rejection and often
resort to substance abuse. They abuse drugs in order to feel better or be able
to do better. People with a strong network of friends and family, people who
encourage and support them in life are less likely to use or abuse drugs.
Making drug inaccessible does not solve the core of the problem. It leaves the
problem unsolved and lets people seek illegal avenues or find other negative
means to resolve their problems. Instead of banning drugs the focus should be
on forming healthy social structures and providing means of emotional support
to people who may seek drugs due to social shortcomings.
One of the strongest arguments
against drugs has been the harm principle. Drugs can be mood and personality
altering, causing people to become abusive, violent and irresponsible towards
people around them. People can cause severe injuries or death, by driving cars
or operating machinery on a high, or drug trip. Hence, drugs should be illegal
due to the harm it causes to innocents.
While the argument in favor of
protecting people from harm due to drug users appears sound, rational and
logical. However, it misses the key aspect of near and present danger. Just
because drug usage may result in these problems, does not mean every instance
of drug usage will cause these problems. It is unfair towards responsible drug
users who may potentially never do something like that. Alcohol is a mood altering
drug that also diminishes reflexes and body functions. While there are a lot of
people who do drive drunk, or become abusive while drunk causing harm to
others; most users of alcohol drink responsibly. People wanting to use drugs
with similar effects deserve the opportunity to use them responsibly.
Legalizing drugs will also prevent
many incidents of harm caused by drug use. Many people who use drugs are
unaware of its potency and how it affects them. Alcohol is legal and has
requirements. The labels state that one alcoholic beverage has 5% alcohol while
another has 50%. People know what their tolerance levels are. With no labels or
information to guide them people using illegal drugs have no idea of the
potency level of what they are consuming. Sometimes they are misguided about
the potency as well as the additives and other drugs that could be mixed in.
The result is people not knowing what they are consuming and what their
tolerance is. With legalization of drugs people will know exactly what drug
they are consuming, what potency level it is and what their tolerance is.
In many ways we are actually adding
accountability and responsibility to drug use. Because people will be warned
about drugs, just like they are warned about effects of alcohol, tobacco or
pharmaceutical drugs. People no longer will be able to blame misinformation or
lack of knowledge for their indiscretions.
On the whole legalizing currently
illegal drugs will benefit society in the long run. There maybe initial hiccups
in transition and implementation. However, it is the most reasonable
alternative to a failed drug prohibition policy. It also forces us to tackle
the core issues actually plaguing
society instead of using drugs as a scapegoat. Addiction, irresponsible
behavior, etc. are not the result of drugs, but people and society. Anyone can
be addicted to anything or behave in an irresponsible manner. The key is to
prevent people from doing so in all walks of life.