Although it is clear that society is unhappy with current efforts to stop illegal drug smuggling, illegal drug use and distribution, no one seems to know what should be done. With drug use and drug related crime on the rise, some Americans argue that current drug legislation is too easy on drug offenders. Society at large asks, “Can we ever stop illegal drugs and their use?” It is a question that unfortunately has no easy answer. More and more people in America feel that if this country cannot stop illegal drugs, drugs should be legalized and controlled. Many people feel that this will eliminate the senseless violence that so often goes hand in hand with illegal drugs. Although moral issues collide head to head with the idea of legalizing drugs, it seems legalization is the answer to the problem, but it is this proposed solution that has society divided.
People often blame the criminal justice system for not doing enough to catch drug offenders and incarcerate them. At times they feel that if the problem is out of their sight, it disappears. The truth is that even if the justice system locks up every drug offender, the problem is not solved. Even in the confines of the jails and prisons, drug offenders continue their illegal sales and drug use. The fact that drugs are still used and sold in correctional institutions is evidence that building more prisons will not stop America’s drug problem (Ostrowski 28).
The call for legalization or decriminalization is not new, but until recently, the legalization banner was carried by only a few disparate proponents, including libertarians, advocates of separate treatment of marijuana, and some conservative economists. Most advocates of drug legalization justify their position on ample evidence that criminalization under current policies simply have not worked. They also point out the inconsistencies of banning some mind-altering and potentially addictive substances, while allowing others, mainly tobacco and alcohol, to be produced, sold, and consumed freely. Advocates for legalizing drugs point out the similarities between the war on drugs and Prohibition, the nation’s other widespread experiment disrupting a thriving industry in mind-altering substances. Some critics of the war on drugs say the drug issue has been clouded by the failure to distinguish between the health problems of drug abuse and addiction and the broader effects of a!
legal ban on drugs (Nadelmann 84). Politicians are also challenging current drug control policy. Former Baltimore mayor, Kurt L. Schmoke, called for a nationwide debate on the legalization of drugs and for the first time ever, drug legalization was the subject of congressional hearings in September, 1988 (Morse 117).
The supporters of drug legalization emphasize that not all barriers should be removed to allow free access to dangerous substances. Just as the individual states regulate and restrict the sale of alcohol by age and location, steps could be taken to keep dangerous drugs such as heroin and cocaine out of the hands of children. A regulatory setting might also be tailored to make it harder to obtain cocaine and heroin, for example, than to buy marijuana.
The war on drugs has been a lightning rod for both political and cultural controversy, with critics and supporters scattered all across the country. Despite the moderation of the Clinton administration, many Americans now believe that America’s drug policies are not working and that a new approach may be necessary. It is clear that prohibition is not the answer, but before Americans start talking about fixing the problem, they must agree on what is broken.
Ostrowski, James. “Has the Time Come to Legalize.” USA Today Magazine 119 1990: 27-30.
Morse, Stephen J. “War on Drugs Produces the Crime.” Los Angeles Times 08 Apr. 1991, sec.2: 7.
Nadelmann, Ethan a. “U.S. Drug Policy.” Foreign Policy Spring 1988: 83-108.