Drug Legalization in the United States, Speech Example
According to syndicated columnist George Will, the only legal addictive intoxicant that is currently available to American consumers is alcohol which has been legal since the end of Prohibition in the early 1930’s. America’s distillers or those that manufacture for legal sale various types of alcoholic intoxicants like gin, vodka, and whiskey, spend more than $6 billion on advertising and promotion. Not surprisingly, these distillers, due to making billions in profits on a yearly basis, are firmly against the legalization of other drugs and more often than not “favor prohibition and enforcement over legalization” (“Will: Legalizing Drugs,” 2012). Will also relates that the majority of Americans in today’s prison system (both state and federal) are there for drug offences, such as for selling, purchasing, or using an illegal substance like cocaine which costs 80% less to purchase than it did during cocaine’s heyday in the early 1980’s (“Will: Legalizing Drugs,” 2012).
Since the early 1920’s, drugs like cocaine, heroin, and marijuana have been illegal, due to various federal laws like the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1929 and the Marijuana Tax Law. Clearly, it is because of these antiquated laws that drugs remain illegal, except for marijuana in states that have decriminalized it for medicinal purposes. It is also clear that the so-called “War on Drugs,” started way back in the late 1960’s, has failed miserably with more than $3 trillion spent by the U.S. federal government on failed drug enforcement and eradication projects, such as what is now occurring in Afghanistan (Inciardi, 187). In addition, a number of prominent American politicians, both liberal and conservative, have recently stepped forward with the suggestion that illegal drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, should be legalized, due to the fact that drug use cannot be controlled and that the federal government could rake in billions of dollars by taxing drugs and making them available to the American consumer, much like alcohol, through federally regulated dispensaries, similar to what is going on in California with medicinal marijuana. However, many are against this suggestion and continue to cling to old ideas and outdated theories on drug use and how to control or manage it in a free society. Therefore, the most logical course of action would be to legalize drugs in the United States which in the long run would save the American taxpayer billions of dollars.
Historically during the 1990’s, a number of new drug policies were presented to the American public as alternatives or solutions to the problems inherent in keeping illegal drugs as contraband substances. Some of these solutions ranged from “advocating mandatory treatment for all drug-involved offenders,” millions of dollars in funding for anti-drug media messages to legalizing some or all illegal drugs (Inciardi, 2). However, these and a host of other solutions are now considered as passé, due in part to the realization that drug use is in many ways a moral choice that cannot be controlled by laws and regulations.
The most recent “alternative” related to the legalization of drugs comes from the nation of Guatemala in Central America which has long been recognized as the home of drug cartels and a place where coca is grown and transported as a cash crop. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina recently came out in favor of legalizing drugs in his country and has been quoted as saying that the “traditional war on drugs has failed over the past half century” and that the U.S. government’s “inability to deal with (America’s) drug consumption problem” has left Central America and Guatemala “with no option but to promote legalizing drugs in some way” (Torrens, 2012). Molina has also gone as far as to suggest that his nation must “regulate the procedures for selling (drugs)” via “a prescription or series of steps” much in line with how medicinal marijuana is dispensed to consumers in California. Of course, President Molina has taken much heat on this idea and admits that it is a bit premature to say that illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin will eventually become legalized in Guatemala (Torrens, 2012).
Therefore, the basic solution is to copy one of the more successful drug legalization programs found in Europe. For example, the nation of Portugal decriminalized all drugs and drug use in 2001 and ten years later according to a report issued by the prestigious Cato Institute in 2009, “drug decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success” and has “enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country.” In addition, decriminalization has “improved Portugal’s ability to encourage drug addicts to avail themselves of treatment” and has made monetary resources available for treatment programs nationwide (O’Neill, 2011). Statistically, heroin use dramatically decreased, HIV/AIDS infection rates fell by 17%, and drug-related deaths and violence was reduced by more than half (O’Neill, 2011).
It may be difficult to visualize what could happen in the United States if all illegal drugs were made legal, but for the most part, the success of the decriminalization program in Portugal and other programs in the Netherlands indicates that the U.S. would experience similar results, especially in relation to lowering the number of Americans in prison for drug offenses, lowering the overall crime rate, and increasing the economic prospects of the entire country via the input of billions of tax dollars into the national treasury and the National Reserve, rather than spending these billions on failed drug policies and the imprisonment of thousands of Americans simply for smoking marijuana or choosing to use cocaine in the privacy of their own homes.
Inciardi, James A. The Drug Legalization Debate. 2nd. ed. New York: Sage Publications, Inc., 1999.
O’Neill, Tony. “Ten Years Ago, Portugal Decriminalized All Drugs: What Happened Next?” 2011. Web. Accessed 2 October 2012. http://www.thefix.com/content/decrim-nation-portugal-ten-years-later
Torrens, Claudia. “Guatemala Drug Legalization: Otto Perez Molina, Guatemalan
President, Says Legalize Drugs.” The Huffington Post. 2012. Web. Accessed 2 October 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/25/guatemala-drug-legalization_n_1914042.html
Will, George. “Will: Legalizing Drugs: Pros and Cons.” Savannah Morning News. 2012. Web. Accessed 2 October 2012. http://savannahnow.com/column/2012-04-12/will-legalizing-drugs-pros-and-cons
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