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Essay/Term paper: Legalization of drugs

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Alcohol and Drugs

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Legalization of Drugs

The drug connection is one that continues to resist analysis, both because cause
and effect are so difficult to distinguish and because the role of the drug-
prohibition laws in causing and labeling "drug-related crime" is so often
ignored. There are four possible connections between drugs and crime, at least
three of which would be much diminished if the drug-prohibition laws were
repealed. "First, producing, selling, buying, and consuming strictly controlled
and banned substances is itself a crime that occurs billions of times each year
in the United States alone" (Lindsmith Center). In the absence of drug-
prohibition laws, these activities would obviously stop being crimes. "Selling
drugs to children would continue to be criminal, and other evasions of
government regulation of a legal market would continue to be prosecuted; but by
and large the drug connection that now accounts for all of the criminal-justice
costs noted above would be severed" (Lindsmith Center).

Second, many illicit-drug users commit crimes such as robbery and burglary, as
well as drug dealing, prostitution, and many others, to earn enough money to
purchase the relatively high-priced illicit drugs. "Unlike the millions of
alcoholics who can support their habits for relatively modest amounts, many
cocaine and heroin addicts spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars a week"
(Lindsmith Center). If the drugs to which they are addicted were much cheaper-
which would be the case if they were legalized-the number of crimes committed by
drug addicts to pay for their habits would, in all likelihood, decline. Even if
a legal-drug policy included the a demand of relatively high taxes in order to
discourage consumption, drug prices would probably still be lower than they are

The third drug connection is the commission of crimes- violent crimes in
particular-by people under the influence of illicit drugs. "This connection
seems to have the greatest impact upon the popular imagination" (Lindsmith
Center). Clearly, some drugs do "cause" some people to commit crimes by reducing
normal control, unleashing aggressive and other antisocial tendencies, and
lessening the sense of responsibility. "Cocaine, particularly in the form of
crack, has gained such a reputation in recent years, just as heroin did in the
1960s and 1970s, and marijuana did in the years before that. Crack's reputation
for inspiring violent behavior may or may not be more deserved than those of
marijuana and heroin. No illicit drug, however, is as widely associated with
violent behavior as alcohol. According to Justice Department statistics, 54
percent of all jail inmates convicted of violent crimes in 1983 reported having
used alcohol just prior to committing their offense. The impact of drug
legalization on this drug connection is the most difficult to predict. Much
would depend on overall rates of drug abuse and changes in the nature of
consumption, both of which are impossible to predict. It is worth noting,
however, that a shift in consumption from alcohol to marijuana would almost
certainly contribute to a decline in violent behavior" (Lindsmith Center).

The fourth drug link is the violent, intimidating, and corrupting behavior of
the drug traffickers. Illegal markets tend to breed violence not only because
they attract criminally-minded individuals, but also because participants in the
market have no resort to legal institutions to resolve their disputes.
According to the Lindsmith Center "During Prohibition, violent struggles between
bootlegging gangs and hijackings of booze-laden trucks and sea vessels were
frequent and notorious occurrences. Today's equivalents are the booby traps that
surround some marijuana fields, the pirates of the Caribbean looking to rip off
drug-laden vessels en route to the shores of the United States, and the machine
gun battles and executions carried out by drug lords -- all of which
occasionally kill innocent people. Most law-enforcement officials agree that the
dramatic increases in urban murder rates during the past few years can be
explained almost entirely by the rise in drug-dealer killings" (Lindsmith

Perhaps the most unfortunate victims of the drug-prohibition policies have been
the law-abiding residents of America s ghettos. These policies have largely
proven futile in deterring large numbers of ghetto dwellers from becoming drug
abusers, but they do account for much of what ghetto residents identify as the
drug problem. In many neighborhoods, it often seems to be the aggressive gun-
toting drug dealers who upset law abiding residents far more than the addicts
nodding out in doorways. Other residents, however, perceive the drug dealers as
heroes and successful role models. In impoverished neighborhoods, they often
stand out as symbols of success to children who see no other options. "The
increasingly harsh criminal penalties imposed on adult drug dealers have led to
the widespread recruitment of juveniles by drug traffickers. Children started
dealing drugs only after they had been using them for a while; today the
sequence is often reversed: many children start using illegal drugs now only
after working for drug dealers. And the juvenile-justice system offers no
realistic options for dealing with this growing problem" (Lindsmith Center).

"The failure of law-enforcement agencies to deal with this drug connection is
probably most responsible for the corruption of neighborhoods and police
departments alike. Intensive police crackdowns in urban neighborhoods do little
more than chase the menace a short distance away to infect new areas. By
contrast, legalization of the drug market would drive the drug-dealing business
off the streets and out of the apartment buildings, and into legal, government-
regulated, taxpaying stores. It would also force many of the gun-toting dealers
out of business, and would convert others into legitimate businessmen"
(Lindsmith Center). Some would turn to other types of criminal activities, just
as some of the bootleggers did following Prohibition's withdrawal. Gone would be
the unparalleled financial temptations that lure so many people from all sectors
of society into the drug-dealing business. I feel that drugs should be legalized
in the United States because of the many taxes that would be put onto the drug
market. It would also lure drug users to become legitimate businesspeople under
the regulation of the U.S. government. If drugs were legalized it would mean a
new source of economy for our government, also people will not resort to crime
to get the drugs and would become more respectable. If drugs were legalized it
would be a great move forward, not only in the field of law enforcement but also
in the legal drug market. Legalizing drugs would also stop the gun toting drug
dealing people to get out of the drug dealing business because they can't
control things on the street anymore with the drugs. He would have to go the
legal way and try to make himself a respectable business person or lose all of
his business. The bottom line is, if drugs are legalized it would stop a lot of
crime and stimulate the economy. Drugs are bad, but wouldn't it be better to
stop the criminal activity than let all of the crime go unchecked. The drug
trafficking these days is getting to be ridiculous and something must be done to
stop the rage of drug use and crime in our societies today. Children can get
their hands on these illegal and dangerous drugs so easy now it is crazy. If
drug use was legalized it would become almost impossible for a child under age
to get these drugs. It would stop many young people from becoming junkies,
while making them into better people that would contribute to their community.
If a person wants to mess their bodies up I believe that they should do what
they want with themselves, but when things start to affect other people then the
authorities should step in.


The Lindsmith Center, www.soros.org "Drugs and Crime."


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