Should drug use be decriminalized?Should drug use be decriminalized?

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rskardal eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The question "should drug use be decriminalized" may be too general to answer effectively. For example, many people would make a distinction between smoking pot and shooting heroin. So while a majority of the population might be prepared to decriminalize or even legalize marijauna, I suspect that few people among that majority would want to legalize or decriminalize crystal meth or heroin.

I make the distinction between between "decriminalization" and "legalization" to prevent ambiguity. In some countries, it is legal to smoke pot. In other countries, it is illegal. How illegal? Well, in some countries, smoking pot is a "criminal offense" and in others it has been "decriminalized."

The advantage, as I see it, of decriminalization of a drug like marijauna is that it makes prosecution easier for the police and reduces the drain on the court's time and effort. It also has the advantage of not chaining a university or high school student to a criminal record if he or she was "just trying" pot. In a way, decriminalization may actually make it easier for police to serve and protect the population because less is at stake in prosecution.

The advantage of the criminal offense is that it can act as a deterrent, and it can also reflect the seriousness with which a society views drug use. Drug use can and unfortunately does ruin lives.

I hope this helps.

justaguide eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think drug use is something that is going to go on, whether legally, or if it is made a crime, the usage is hidden.

If people are allowed access to some drugs and it is no longer illegal, there are a few benefits.

To start with, the drugs can be screened and checked to ensure that they are what the sellers claim. We often hear of people consuming toxic poisons which were sold to them as drugs for recreational purposes. If legal, people would not mind approaching special centers where the drugs could be properly checked.

Also, the fact that these are banned substances in a way makes their usage feel more exotic. People who would not use them if they were legally available use them as a show of rebellion.

An example in the successful implementation of the decriminalization of drugs is Portugal. Here the possession of a certain amount of drugs is permissible by law. It has been seen over the last couple of years that the usage of drugs, the deaths due to overdose, people contracting diseases transmitted due to their usage like HIV, etc. has actually reduced by a very large extent.

The link below provides details of how and why this policy has been successful.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The use of really hard drugs should not be decriminalized.  This is because there are so many kinds of drugs that can do serious harm to human beings.  People should not be encouraged in any way to take drugs such as heroin, methamphetamines, etc.

Of course, this is somewhat of a hypocritical stance for our country to take given that we pretty much encourage the consumption of alcohol, which can be addictive and cause a great deal of misery.  However, hard drugs like the ones I mentioned above do not really have any upside to them.  They are also not an accepted part of the traditions of many societies the way that alcohol is.

While I do have some sympathy for the idea that people should be allowed to hurt themselves if they want to, I do not think that the government should encourage in any way the use of drugs that are as harmful and addictive as hard drugs are.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you look at this from a monetary standpoint, the war on drugs is exceedingly expensive.  It could possibly be argued that it would cost the same (if not less) to treat drug users in rehab rather than attempt to put them behind bars, and would likely have a more positive effect in the end.

It is a really controversial idea to just say, "Legalize and tax it."  But I've often wondered if this would turn out as badly as most people think it would.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are some drugs whose effects cause violent or dangerous behaviors in those who use them. In addition, many of these drugs have extremely harmful effects on the human body. Would the legalization make these drugs more prevalent and thus more harmful? Or would legalization reduce the appeals of these drugs and thus make their danger less important?

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
This is a very controversial topic. Drugs in general have many negative effects, both physically and emotionally. If some drugs are decriminalized we have to choose very carefully which ones. I am assuming marijuana would be the first to be decriminalized so the pros and cons of marijuana use would have to be examined closely.
lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a good question with a lot of possible answers. On one side you could argue that by making drugs legal the government can have some say in the production of the drug to ensure safety. Also, in today's economy it could be a way to generate more revenue through taxation.

drxfilek | Student

I do disagree with ask996's attempt at raising what he considers legalization of "dangerous and violent" drugs into the conversation. The topic of this debate is about decrminalization. The only drugs that should be up for decriminalized debate would be ones that have been proven as minimally harmful to our bodies and society as possible. Additionally, these drugs would have to have a greater cost/benefit of being decriminalized versus trying to enforce its abstistence through criminal justice. justaguide's reference to Portugal is an example where this system seemed to accomplish it's goal. (Obviously alcohol and tobacco snuck through the U.S. system and much research shows their harmful effects. In fact, I don't think if these drugs were illegal today that even they could obtain decriminalized status).

Immediately we tend to revert our attention to marijuana because of its cancer-free, brain cell sustaining, and violent-free history. Therefore, the nature of this debate should fall upon drugs of similar nature and consider the arguments for the "hardcore" drugs as more futile.

drxfilek | Student

I agree with Irwilliams that one potential benefit of decriminalizing certain drugs is the benefit from revenues we could obtain through taxes, similar to the tobacco/alcohol systems. Another advantage that I see worth addressing is the prison system. Prisons are expensive to build and run. Our current system that focuses on imprisoning people for drug crimes is purported to be a primary reason that our prisons are overcrowded and difficult to administer. It would be more beneficial to our values of a criminal justice system to address real violence, or as ask996 said, more "violent" drug users that are a threat to society.