The word “drug” is commonly used for opiates, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and cannabis as the substances that have a strong effect on the human nervous system and lead to addiction. Pleasure that people get from drugs and their addictive ability are the main reasons increase demand for this product. At the same time, the harm they can bring to human health and the society, their contribution to the crime rates and black market development are the negative aspects that deserve particular attention. Drug distribution and its consequences cause an urgent problem for many countries including the United States. Liberalistic approach has become one of the most widespread solutions to the issue. The focus of the “drug war” debates has become the dispute over the prohibition versus legalization of drugs as the optimal choice. The European, Canadian and North American continents are the proponents of drug legalization. This paper will present a number of evidence that the harm from drugs far outweighs the possible relief they can bring. With regard to many economical and sociological issues, drug legalization proves ineffective in decreasing negative impact of drugs on the society and every single individual.
Governmental control over drug sales and consumption is the best way to struggle the phenomenon. However, potential benefits from the legalization will not outweigh future expenses. In her article, Bretteville-Jensen offers a cost-benefit analysis of the drugs decriminalization or legalization consequences in order to arrive to a political decision related to the issue. A reduction in price is likely to lead to “increased consumption by current users” and the growth of the number of new users (Bretteville-Jensen 556). Such growth is the most likely to lead to the rise on expenditures related to the public health issues. As a result, compensation of the budget trough taxes and crimes related expenditures decrease will lead to increased spending in other spheres. However, such opinion has a number of counter-arguments. Many economists from the Western and American societies such as Milton Friedman, Gary Becker, Thomas Sowell, William Niskanen, and many others favored the liberalization approach as the best way to provide control power to the government and associated it with strong budget enforcement (North). Being sure that strict drug policies lead to the development of the black market and undermine the economy of the country makes this argument quite convincing. Ghosh marked out that mainly drug legalization is a way to reduce “massive fiscal deficits,” “alleviate debts,” and end the “costly drug war.” According to the statistics, $41.3 billion is spent every year on supporting drug prohibition while the revenues from drug legalization could make up $46.7 billion (Ghosh). Furthermore, it can become an effective means for collecting taxes from the addictive habit of the citizens as it already is in case with alcohol and cigarettes.
There is no evidence that the number of crimes related to drug struggle is smaller than those that are caused by drug abuse or distribution. An essential idea considering this issue refers to Husak and De Marneffe. They emphasize that is important to distinguish between drugs legalization and drug decriminalization. Decriminalization of drugs deals with making drug use not a criminal offence, while legalization implies lack of criminal responsibility for their production and distribution (Husak and De Marneffe 3). In such a way, crimes related to production and sale of drugs are closely connected with a great amount of more serious problems. The consequences of corruption growth throughout the country cannot be equaled to a number of inevitable sufferings that drugs bring to the lives of abusers and people around them. Furthermore, drug abuse leads to a great amount of problems that can become the background to other crimes. Nevertheless, drugs’ high price on the market is one of the serious negative effects they have on the economy of the country. Therefore, legalization that implies price decrease should lead to the improvement of the country’s economy. Fall in prices for drugs would contribute to a decrease in the possibility of the budget crisis, black-market development, violence and crimes growth related to it. Hence, legalization of drugs can become the solution to a number of purchase-related crimes. In such a way, the “unintended consequences” of drug war will be diminished. The economists mark out the crimes and corruption growth among them (Bretteville-Jensen 558). According to the statistics, the number of drug-related violations has increased tenfold in comparison to the 1980s (Nadelmann 26).
Statistics show that the impact of decriminalization of drugs on human minds is not as effective as it was desired and prohibition is more effective deterrent from different mistakes than education. The peculiarities of a person’s character along with many other circumstances make it disputable which way will be the most effective to convince the majority of population of different age, gender and culture. In such a way, it becomes obvious that education is the means of drug abuse reduction. Nevertheless, it demands an individual approach to every member of the society, which becomes a very difficult and almost unattainable goal for a multicultural country with the population of over 300 million. In addition, some economists argue that price elasticity is not a constant parameter because it varies according to the type of substance, country, user subgroup, etc. (Bretteville-Jensen 559). Consequently, some groups can still be restricted by means of prohibition and law. In contrast to the above mentioned argument, the supporters of drug liberalization state that drug demand cannot be reduced by means of prohibition. The history shows that prohibition policies are not the most effective ones when dealing with a variety of things including alcohol or any other substance. If the attraction of illegal drugs lies in the “forbidden fruit” character, legalization may reduce the number of drug users (Bretteville-Jensen 562).
In order to check this assumption, one should make an experiment in order to be able to support the idea with research data. For now, such statement can be only considered as the possible human reaction based on the psychological and educational peculiarities. It is absolutely evident that the demand for an addictive good is not elastic (Nadelmann 25). Therefore, it does not matter if the drugs are prohibited. Due to the fact that they are highly addictive, people will put efforts to get them anyway. This inelastic product will let the government supplement the budget by taxes that would be collected from the same amount of drugs that were sold in case they were not legalized. The evidence for this was offered by Nadelmann, who stated that restrictions to grow the cannabis, coca or other drug-referred plants usually “simply shift production from one region to another” (26). For instance, opium was moved from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Columbia became the center of coca growing after its prohibition in Peru, and cannabis production moved from Mexico to the US (Nadelmann 26). Instead, the way to influence human need to buy drugs can be connected only with the “alteration of state а consciousness” (Nadelmann 25). The fact that the pleasure people get from drugs is not worth the harm they bring proves that drug-users make a choice that is self-destructive for them. Such statement is quite wise and cannot be rejected. For this reason, social advertisement, school lectures, and other means of education are used to prevent people from making a wrong choice.
Bretteville-Jensen emphasizes that there should exist a strict separation of “soft” and “hard” drugs (555). Heavy drugs do harm not only for abusers, but for the society. Even smokers have special restrictions on smoking in places for non-smokers (Bretteville-Jensen 560). Hard drug abusers do not impact the environment and society immediately, but their patterns of behavior that may ultimately become harmful for close people and social environment. However, supporters of drug legalization often use the example of some addictive substances that despite doing harm to human lives and health are legal in almost all countries of the world. The bright examples of them are alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. For instance, cannabis is widely used for medical purposes. Husak and De Marneffe’s book is focused on the everyday issues and the desire of an average person to relax after a difficult day (5). According to their point of view, the prohibition of the so-called soft drugs is not necessary and the gateway theory stating that cannabis leads to harder drugs abuse is very disputable. For instance, Canada announced marijuana as a legal substance in 2003 (Bretteville-Jensen 559). Eight American states permitted the marijuana usage under certain conditions (Joffe and Yancy). It is allowed to be used for medical purposes in Belgium, Switzerland and England. However, in the same countries sale and consumption of this product in public are prohibited. At the same time, the disputable issue of this soft drug legalization is based on the fact that it is a gateway to harder drugs as it creates a strong experience of the adverse drugs effect.
The choice to use drugs is related not only to one individual, but to others. On a global level, a person’s decision to use drugs is the decision to create a number of problems and harm not only himself or herself, but the family, friends and the whole country economy in general. The reasons are related to the same consequences that were mentioned above and comprise the moral state of close people, the crimes that can be committed to get money for drugs, the increased public expenditures on health etc. Furthermore, it is essential that the decision to use drugs should be made consciously by people who are aware of all possible negative consequences. Nevertheless, young people, who can hardly foresee all possible consequences of their actions, become the most susceptible group. Being the most imposed to become drug abusers, they cannot be considered as people who should have the right to choose between drugs and sober life (North). At the same time, addictive abilities of drugs make the decision extremely serious and responsible. The issue of informed consent is crucial in case of smoking or drug taking. Conscious understanding of the situation and acceptance of the risks can rarely happen in young age. Wishful thinking of considering themselves as different and not vulnerable to the diseases and addictions is one of the crucial evidences that the decision does not consider the harm in full measure. As a result, this risk group contradicts the above mentioned ethical statement. There have to exist special protective measures particularly for such high-risk groups. The contra-argument to this position deals with ethical considerations and is focused on human freedom of choice that should give the right to accept or refuse from drugs on their own. According to Nadelmann, the war on drugs is “a moral and ideological bankruptcy” (29). According to such position, people should decide on their own if it is necessary for them to use drugs or not.
The above mentioned arguments and contra-arguments lead to a conclusion that people have to be well-informed about drug issues. Thus, the government cannot stay away from the problem. Instead, it has to implement the measures that would keep potentially harmful substances away from its citizens. The number of arguments for drug legalization are quite wise and cover the points that legalization can let the government control drug market, get profit from it, deprive drugs of the status of the “forbidden fruit”, decrease the number of drug-related crimes, and act according to the ethical norms providing people the right to choose by themselves, and influence their minds with the help of educational means instead of prohibition. Such position seems great and fair towards every citizen. However, it has a number of flaws. Among such one should mark out a great number of possible unpredicted expenditures that can be caused by the harm the drugs bring to health and society, psychological peculiarities of people and their influence on the information perception, the lack of evidence that the existing drug-related crimes will not be substituted by other ones, the impact of age on the conscious decision making. In such a way, the liberalistic approach to drug problem solvation sounds idealistic and neglects many of the reality-related features that need special attention. The point that deserves additional attention is the diversion of drugs, which makes each of them demand peculiar approach. Even though there are many arguments that sound quite wise and appropriate, legalization does not seem to decrease the amount of negative consequences drugs bring.