Is it best  for America to keep drugs illegal?Some people think that legalizing marijuana would be safer, but I don't see how that makes any sense. Things need to be kept under control, right?

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boblawrence's profile pic

boblawrence | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I’d like to offer an idea that may seem controversial, but that is not necessarily unworkable.

In the proper setting, it may be advantageous to society if all drugs were legalized.  This is somewhat the case, I believe, in the UK.  Actually, “legalized” is probably not so good as a term as “decriminalized”.  The setting in which this is possible is one in which the government has in place programs to monitor and treat drug addicts.  It has been said that such decriminalization does not result in any increase in the number of addicts. Apparently the same proportion of the population choses to use street drugs, regardless of the legal circumstances.

In such a system, the addicts become like wards of the state, receiving their drugs from the government under controlled circumstances.  Addicts, by nature of their desire for the drugs, are compliant and docile.  They do not need to engage in criminal activity to support their habit.  And being treated, and their addiction satisfied, many addicts are able to hold down jobs.

A side benefit of such a program is the absence of crime related to the illicit production and distribution of drugs.

Yes, the legalization of all drugs is a radical idea, but it just maybe could be of overall benefit to society.  I think we should be open-minded.

vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is a difficult question. I used to be strongly in favor of keeping marijuana illegal, but now I am less sure. We do seem to waste a lot of money and human resources on combatting this drug, and we do so without seeming to be very effective. The argument that money could be raised for legitimate purposes by legalizing the drug (as with cigarette taxes) is appealing, especially since most of the money now spent on marijuana simply goes to criminals and gangs. On the other hand, I do worry about marijuana being a "gateway" drug, and I hate to see another mind-altering drug become increasingly widely used in a society that already has real problems with alcohol consumption and the problems (such as drunbk driving) associated with that drug.

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

The idea behind legalizing marijuana is control. Right now, the authorities have very little control over the product itself and who has access to it. Sure drug dealers are arrested, but there are thousands that aren't. It may sound counter-intuative, but keeping marijuana illegal increases the lack of control over the marijuana and the people who sell it. Legalizing marijuana would allow government agencies to inspect and regulate the plants. This would prevent harmful chemicals from sprayed on plants and later inhaled by smoker. It would also allow the regulation and equalization of the amount of the drug THC present in each drug sample. Authorities would be able to control who can sell and who can buy the drug. Think about it the same way you might think about tobacco. Cigarettes and other tobacco products are heavily regulated. There really isn't a black market for cigarettes nor do you see drug dealers killing each other for tobacco. Tobacco users are educated on the dangers and side effects of the drug they choose to take. In a lot of ways, legalization of marijuana would solve many of the problems currently faced by authorities.
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wshoe | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

During the 70's or early 80's England had legal heroin clinics.  It resulted in an increase in the number of teenagers who became addicted, a higher crime rate, and an increase in deaths from overdoses. However, I read about another country that decriminalized hard drugs that is experiencing better results. I don't think we should ever even consider legalizing any drug other than marijuana, but I'm struggling to explain why I feel that way.  It just seems like we would be enabling many people to destroy their lives.  However, brettd made a good point about how easy it is for teenagers to buy drugs.  I think the US may one day legalize marijuana, but I can't see legalizing meth.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

One of the biggest arguments for legalising marijuana is that it is one of the most popular illegal drugs in use and that legalising it would save lots of police time whilst at the same time ensuring that the quality of the drug is acceptable. At the moment, there is nothing to stop dealers "cutting" their product with other substances, some of which can be harmful to buyers.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I can't imagine that many Americans would be willing to sanction the legalization of heroin or cocaine, but I think that marijuana ought to be legalized if, for no other reason, than to lessen the impact of the illegal drug trade, which is more deadly than marijuana, nowadays the chief import in question. Our current drug policy, particularly on the enforcement end, is clearly broken and counterproductive. It is not hard to imagine that marijuana could be carefully regulated and even taxed in the same way that liquor is, for example. It already is in some places. As far as harder drugs go, I just don't know the solution, other than education and support, and as post #3 says, we couldn't be doing any worse on these fronts than we are now.

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

If marijuana were wholly legalized, it would be regulated in the way alcohol is, by the government and by social more--it is not socially acceptable for people to go to work or school drunk, it would equally be unacceptable to walk around stoned all day. I do see value in legalizing marijuana for medical purposes as a Class II medical use drug.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

My family has seen firsthand what drug addiction can do to a person and their loved ones. It is devastating. My family member's experience though doesn't change the obvious reality that the drug war for the past 30 years has been a dismal and counterproductive failure. I have a hard time visualizing what legal Meth and Heroin would look like in America, nor can I see Americans themselves voting for such a thing or candidate in the near future. But legalizing solves some very big problems that criminalization has not: a tax revenue base to fund anti-drug and treatment efforts, removing criminal enterprises from our borders and cities, and reducing drug-related deaths by having manufacturing standards and guidelines for drug use. It would be messy, and certainly not perfect, but I see no way that it could be worse than what we have now. And my relative, as a 16 year old, could get all the drugs she wanted/needed anytime she wanted them. If drugs are really that available in a small, eastern Washington town, can we really still say that keeping them illegal accomplishes anything?

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

First of all, you should specify which drugs you mean.  In your question, you mention drugs in general, but in your explanation you mention marijuana.  I think that many more people would be willing to legalize marijuana than, say, meth or cocaine.

Myself, I'm not a true believer in legalization of marijuana, but I do not think it would be a bad thing.  First of all, you say that we need to keep "things under control."  I wonder if we really are keeping things under control.  We spend a lot of money on the "War on Drugs" and yet it does not seem difficult for people to get marijuana.  So what good is all that money doing?

On the other side of the equation, what harm would we see if marijuana were legalized?  It is not clear to me that many more people would start to use it.  I do not think there are a lot of people saying "I'd really like to smoke marijuana if only it were legal."  So I'm not sure what the harm would be.  In fact, it might be that people would be less likely to use it because the "thrill" factor of doing something illegal would be gone.

Finally, we could make a lot of money for the government by legalizing it.  If it were regulated and taxed, it might help with our government financing problems.

Overall, then, I don't feel strongly about this, but I think that there are good arguments for legalizing marijuana.

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