Incensed by the steadily growing number of deaths, crime and corruption created by illicit drug trade and use in the recent years, a number of persons drawn from both the government and the private sector have been calling for the legalization of drugs to curb the problems associated with the abuse and trade in drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana.
They argue that such a move would do more than any single act or policy in removing the biggest of society’s social and political problems. However, these calls are unfortunate and could throw an already grave problem completely out of hand. If examined carefully, it becomes clear that legalization of drugs would not bring a solution to any of the problems associated with drug abuse.
Proponents of the move to legalize argue that drug use should be an individual’s choice and the government should not control it in any way. This argument has two key shortcomings. First, we cannot just do anything we want with our bodies, just the same way a person cannot walk down the street naked, or say anything we want anywhere. The government has to step in at some point. Drug use is obviously more harmful than these two inconceivable acts.
Secondly, when people opt to do “whatever they want” with their bodies, such as drug use, it not only affects them, but also those around them (DEA, 2003). To put it practically, a driver who is ‘high’ on drugs puts the life of others on the road in danger. Such a person cannot operate machinery or even tend for their children and families as required of them. Therefore, the argument that every one has a right to do whatever they want with their bodies is simply misplaced.
Proponents of the debate to legalize drugs argue that this move will discourage drug use, citing a report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction that the Dutch are the lowest users of cannabis. They attribute this to Netherlands’ soft stance on drugs which permits cannabis sale at coffee shops and the possession of not more than 5 grams of cannabis. However, this is a shallow argument.
The Dutch government’s soft policy on marijuana use has created a much bigger problem: the differentiation of markets between hard drug users and dealers (heroin, cocaine and amphetamines) and soft drug users (marijuana) (NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, 2001).
Consequently, the number of marijuana users has fallen as most people have resorted to hard drugs, making the country a criminal center for illegal artificial drug manufacture, especially ecstasy, in addition to becoming a home for the production and export of marijuana breeds that have been reported to be ten times higher than normal (DEA, 2003). Besides, a 2001 study in Australia that found that prohibition deters drug abuse (NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, 2001).
Drug laws are very important in keeping these harmful substances out of reach of children. As long as drugs laws are put in place, the prices will continue to be higher, beyond the reach of most underage persons and even youths. The link between pricing and rate of drug use among young adults is evident in alcohol and drug use.
Studies show that high prices of alcohol and cigarettes result into decline in use of the substances (DEA, 2003). In addition, legalization of drugs would encourage sellers to recruit children sellers who can easily convince their peers to use the substances, hence increasing drug penetration into society. As long as drugs are not legalized, such a move is very unlikely, or can occur only in small scales.
DEA (U.S. Department of Justice: Drug Enforcement Administration). (2003). Speaking out against Drug Legalization. Retrieved October 3, 2011, from http://www.justice.gov/dea/demand/speakout/speaking_out-may03.pdf
NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. (2001). Does prohibition deter cannabis use? Retrieved October 3, 2011, from http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/vwFiles/mr_cjb58.pdf/$file/mr_cjb58.pdf