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Opium started its American journey in the 19th century with the first wave of morphine addiction in 1850-60’s and crossed over to a second wave of heroin addiction in 1930-50’s (Casa Palmera Staff). Simultaneously, drugs such as cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine (Adderall), Ecstasy (MDMA), Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), marijuana, tobacco, and magic mushrooms have circulated as well. People often turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve pain or stress, or achieve a euphoric state but excessive amounts of these substances often results in the harm and sometimes death of the users or other surrounding individuals.
Every drug has a different effect on brain chemistry and alters perception and behavior of the user, therefore, most drugs are prohibited. Despite the high death rates, all drugs should be legalized in the United States.
Legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol produce greater harm than any other drug, especially illegal ones. In a High Times article, Adam Drury emphasizes that “compared to their illicit counterparts (including cannabis and hard drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine), alcohol and tobacco costs the most life years and caused the highest mortality rates” (Drury).
Researchers measure the overall rate of harm of drugs using “disability-adjusted life years (DALY)”. DALY represents the amount of years a person will continue to live with health issues such as disease and disability, as well as premature death, due to the use of drugs and alcohol. Tobacco takes the lead with a striking 170.9 million DALY, 85 million for alcohol and a low 27.
8 million for illicit drugs (Drury). To demonstrate, the most common results of death for long-term cigarette smokers are heart attack, stroke, and cancer while alcoholics usually develop liver disease or cirrhosis. In addition, alcohol has the effect of harming others with second-hand smoke and death by drunk driving. Moreover, the cause of death for illicit drugs is commonly overdose. Tobacco and alcohol have more strenuous health deficiencies on the body and its functions while illegal substances mostly attack the brain cells and psychological chemistry. It is easily distinguished that tobacco and alcohol have higher chances of harm than any illegal drug. Generally speaking, it is senseless to ban drugs when there are legal substances that do far worst damage.
Prohibition of drugs is not effective due to the illegal business of the black market. According to Sarah Miller, in 2015 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 27.1 million Americans have used an illegal drug in the past month (Miller). With that being said, getting drugs and alcohol are convenient regardless of whether it is legal. For example, an individual will pick up a pack up cigarettes and a bottle of hard liquor then walk another block or two to pick up a bag of cocaine. Despite how easy it is to get, buying products within the black market is a dangerous game because the quality of substances are worth questioning. These underground sellers may be providing product that is impure, laced, or something completely different With such complications, the drug is more likely to be used in miscalculated doses which takes a huge toll on many users health and may lead to death. If the black market is dismantled, the chances of overdose will also decrease since false drugs will be distributed less often. There is no cleansing of the black market entirely but it can be diminished. In other words, it is illogical to keep products banned if manufacture and use continues.
Legalization of all drugs would eliminate violence and corruption associated with the black market. In “#10: Legalize All Drugs”, Max Miller argues that “perhaps the best argument for legalization is that it would undermine terrorist groups and drug cartels outside the country” (Miller). Most of the drugs in the U.S. are smuggled into the country by Mexican Cartels like the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas as well as Colombian Cartels such as the Cali Cartel and the famous Medellin Cartel. Because they are participating in criminal activity and constantly escaping from authorities, they keep themselves armed for protection. Moreover, the underground trading business is a violent career and hundreds of people die each year. To add, drug cartels sometimes hire terrorist groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan to provide protection and eliminate competing traffickers. When drugs are no longer prohibited, the black market would downsize significantly, thus, leading to a decline in activity from foreign illegal trade and violence.
The legalization of all drugs would help the economy. In “All Drugs Should Be Legalized Immediately, Says Harvard Prof”, Henry Blodget explains that “legalization would save roughly $41.3 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition [and] would yield tax revenue of $46.7 billion annually, assuming legal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco” (Blodget). In fact, impairing the mind and body for several hours is a costly experience and many people are willing to pay the price. In addition, the United States has the most national debt in the world and legalization could potentially be a stepping stone towards minimizing the amount of debt the country is in. As previously mentioned, there is a possibility of billions of dollars being invested into tax revenue – rather than millions of dollars being pocketed by drug lords and crime syndicates. When the money is being administered to criminals instead of the government, it creates corruption within the economy and becomes extremely difficult to recover. Moreover, incarceration rates will decrease and less money will be devoted to aiding inmates. Therefore, the legalization of all drugs would be highly beneficial to the economy in several different aspects.
Allowing all drugs to be legal could help improve social surroundings. According to “The Case for Legalizing Drugs”, it is stated that “criminalizing the everyday user does not make society a good place. Arresting those who smoke marijuana and those who take ecstasy is expensive and ultimately fruitless.” Locking up drug users does more harm than good. As much as it costs money to incarcerate those who will no longer be considered criminals, it also costs lives. For instance, law enforcement would be busy arresting, processing, and safeguarding individuals who are practically no threat to society while they could be tending to a robbery or a murder instead. To add, more people would be less judgmental of drug users causing a decline in violent behavior such as harrassment. Bystanders of drug users will continue to walk by or turn the other cheek when an individual sees another person using drugs. These witnesses will no longer be able to call the cops and cause a commotion unless there are restrictions on when and where the newly legal drugs can be used. To put it differently, legalizing drugs would shift society into a more accepting environment.
Drugs should no longer be prohibited for the sake of bodily autonomy. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson believed that “[men] are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (US 1776). With respect to the Declaration, every American citizen has the right to freedom and anyone may willfully choose how to use it – this includes bodily autonomy, the self determination of what a person can and cannot do one’s own body. In an ideal society, humankind has its limitations, therefore the existence of laws, but none of these should hinder the achievement of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. For example, a person may engage in self-harm because of the belief that it induces peace of mind or it feels liberating. There are no laws that restrict the act of self-harm. In a similar way, drugs are taken with hopes of liberation and reaching a euphoric state. The only difference is, a person who is caught doing drugs is punished for this behavior. If a person is allowed to willingly cut into one’s skin or completely chop off a limb, then one should also be allowed to digest and inject substances that cause internal bodily damage or reduction of brain functions – all risks a person should choose to take.
Yet, some may argue that all drugs should not be legalized because the government has a responsibility to enforce abstinence and non-prohibition would be promoting addiction. With drugs like heroin and cocaine being conveniently distributed, it illustrates that the government is indifferent about the well-being of citizens. To elaborate, illicit drug use is the common root cause for violence and it illustrates that those in power are not willing to keep laws that provide the safety that society deserves. Keeping drugs off the market keeps peace on the streets and in homes. In addition, making such deadly substances readily available promotes the use of these drugs and henceforth addiction. Similar to tobacco and alcohol, there will most likely be advertisements that make the use of drugs look more appealing. Advertisements are usually misleading and people purchase the items anyway. Because it would be sold the same as tobacco and alcohol, anyone of age can buy as much as desired from any place at any time. For this reason, the easy access would lead to addiction.
All drugs will be regulated by authority under legalization thus providing safe use. In a Harvard Law School article, it describes the controversy of legalizing drugs and states that “the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would ensure the cleanliness and purity of all these products, and to see it that they were labeled accurately for their contents and strength” (Kalam).
There are several ways the drug can be distributed, including via government, health care professionals, or the common free market. In a free market, it would be sold the same as tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter drugs like Advil – anyone who is of age is allowed to purchase any drug. On the other hand, government run dispensaries will be heavily regulated while health care professionals will be administering products from drug clinics, both in a similar fashion to legal marijuana sold in some states. Under clinical distribution, drugs would be sold without a prescription via pharmacists or physicians (OLR). In other words, buyers still need to consult with a doctor in order to purchase drugs. Under these circumstances, children are not allowed to purchase any of the newly legal drugs. It is also assumed that as these substances are being distributed, instructions will be given as well as clearly labeled. Moreover, all materials necessary for proper use will be sold newly packaged and sterilized. Therefore, authority will thoroughly ensure the content of materials and advise proper use.
Although there is endless controversy on the legalization of all drugs, it should be legalized because the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of the consciously dangerous substances. For as long as drugs have been around, it has always been linked to countless deaths and reports of violence. The current prohibition laws could be the number one reason for much of the harm done to society. With prohibition, people scramble for these drugs and may end up hurt or in trouble because the wrong people were approached within the black market. As violence doesn’t end in the streets, it continues into foreign land and deep economic corruption follows when dealing with illicit drugs. When legalization begins, there will be no black market to encourage violence. Though many are concerned with the effect drugs have on the users, there are legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol that are already more dangerous than any of the illegal drugs. This country was founded by the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness – it can be fulfilled with the permission to smoke, digest, or inject any prefered drug whether it be cannabis, opiates, narcotics, or hallucinogens with the help of regulation from authority.
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