Rethinking the Drugs Policy
How it works
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (2017) reported that the United States requests $27.8 billion on prevention, treatment, domestic law enforcement, interdiction and international operation to addressing the drug problem. Furthermore about $9.2 billion Federal resources are directly related to support domestic law enforcement efforts. The legalization of drug as a policy option for curtailing drug abuse is increasingly worth serious consideration. In addition, drug prohibition’s limited capability could lead to severe adverse effect regardless of how harmful the drug might be.
If drugs were legalized and regulated, the money spent on enforcement would be saved and law enforcement resources would be effectively utilized to benefit public safety and eliminate health risks. Considering all the benefits and costs, wisely implemented the legalization of drug can reduce the cost of drug law and directly address the drug problem.
In an article Progressives should just say no to legalizing drugs by Carrie Wofford, she describes that “legalizing drugs is not the answer–even for the left. Here’s why: Drugs kill. They turn talented, intelligent people into impulsive animals. They destroy marriages. They deprive children of emotionally healthy parents. There’s a good reason drugs are illegal: They’re dangerous”. (Wofford, 2014) In my opinion, her argument is overstated since lots of people want to ban drugs mainly because they cause serious harm though overdose or misuse while providing substantial benefits to the black market. Prohibiting goods does not eliminate the market but shrinks it by raising costs which create destructive impacts.
A booming black market breeds large crime, corruption and without health security. A criminal culture emerged when prohibition made the transaction illegal so that the buyers force to purchase from criminals. These youths considered selling drugs as pretty low overhead and easy work involved in it, though there is danger: “Inner-city youths, surrounded by the booming black market, are influenced by the sheer amount of money dealers make and often fall into a life of crime”.(Boaz, 1990) Black market increases violence since buyers and sellers can not settle their dispute by lawsuit. Without a legal approach, the only option for intervention is violence, as drug suppliers are caught in the crossfire and drug addicts are gunned down. The violence of the drug war in American even spreads internationally where primarily in Mexico and about 164,000 homicides were the result of cartel violence in seven years. Prohibition is not an effective way to address the problems of drug abuse; instead, it is a chronic, institutionalized manifestation of violence.
Black market generates the corruption as well. Police and public officials are more likely bribed by offenders since they average making $35,000 a year. Although they seem themselves standing for the cause of liberty and justice, it is often difficult not to enter the path of crime when they facing the temptation to profit from drugs which can make ten times their salary. Drug corruption charges have been involved by police officers, prison guards and even prosecutors. “In 1986, in New York City’s 77th Precinct, twelve police officers were arrested for stealing and selling drugs. Miami’s problem is worse. In June 1986, seven officers there were indicted for using their jobs to run a drug operation that used murders, threats, and bribery”. (Ostrowski, 1990) We must question the policy that turn police officers into criminals; the policy that led to great success for those who are willing to undermine our social laws; the policy that has a tremendous influence on our youth and other law-abiding citizens. Milton Friedman concluded that “Drugs are a tragedy for addicts”. (Friedman, 1989) Indeed, but criminalizing it as a criminal offence converses the tragedy into a social disaster, not matter for individuals or the society.
The legalization of drugs makes drug use safer and eliminates health risk by ensuring the market has high quality and clean needles. Prohibition in the 1920s created a market for cheap alcohol. Alcohol is often diluted or doped in a dangerous way. Unnecessary death occurred due to poor quality of the product. The same reason that drug prohibition increases the health risk. By legalizing drugs, the brand will enter the market to compete and ensure a safer, better product. Doctors are now able to monitor drug use for patients. In addition, health care organizations are able to provide clean needles for patients. Unlike now, clean needles are not available so it needs to be shared to transmit HIV, Hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases. According to UNAIDS, (2018) people who inject drugs are 22 times more likely to acquire HIV compared to the general population. Despite the increased risk of HIV for people who inject drugs, they are the least likely to have HIV prevention, treatment and health care. This is because drug abuse is often convicted and thought poorly of while discouraging them from accessing healthcare services. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized use of all drugs. A 2014 policy paper by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health confirms it led to the decrease in teen drug abuse, drug overdose and deaths have decreased, and criminal penalties have decreased by 60%. (2014) No one is arrested or imprisoned for possessing drugs, and more people are receiving treatment which legalization bring health benefits.
According to Drug Policy Alliance, the U.S has the highest incarceration rate in the world; there are more than one million arrests for drug law violations and over forty thousand people were incarcerated for drug-related crimes in 2016. Prison overcrowding and large amount of money are being spent on law enforcement. We can use this amount of money spent on researching and medical care for people living with HIV and other diseases caused by needle sharing. By legalization, about $50 billion a year of taxes for law enforcement could be saved. The availability of a clean needle reduces the rate of HIV infection, which reduces the amount spent on medical care. Police resources could be freed up to improve public safety and health. Imagine that even in prison, the life of criminals is completely controlled by the government, and drug abuse is still exists. If the government cannot even control the drug trade within the prison, how can it be expected to control the entire nation? To achieve meaningful cuts of incarceration rate and costs, it is necessary to reform laws related to drug abuse.
To be clear, even the drugs are more accessible after the legalization that still need to follow the strict regulations. Government regulation has extended the process of bringing new drugs to market and has restricted the pharmaceutical sector to protect public safety. The government creates incentives to encourages the development of safe and effective drugs. Some drugs benefit from additional government incentives in order to develop treatments for rare diseases. All approved drugs are rigorously tested by the Food and Drug Administration to protect consumers from harmful or ineffective treatment. The process is designed to occur over time to ensure that only the safest and most effective drugs are on the market.
Right now we are living in the era of prohibition, but it does not eliminate the market for illegal goods. The drug policy that we pursued in recent decades may be counterproductive and even creates a black market that with lots of unwanted side-effects. Practically speaking, drugs should be legalized and regulated, we would not have a gun battle to resolve the conflict; we can turn to someone to go to court. Sharing needles and spreading HIV is what happens with illegal drugs. This act would prevent our civilization from being threatened, the spread of disease, reduce crime rates, reverse the effects of violence, save the taxpayers’ money and benefit both individuals and society.
- Boaz, D. (1990). The Crisis in drug prohibition. Washington, DC: Cato Insitute
- The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (2014). Collaboration for Addiction and Mental
- Health Care: Best Advice [PDF file]. Retrieved from
- Drug Policy Alliance (2016). Drug War Statistics. Retrieved from
- Executive Office of the President of the United States. (2017). National Drug Control Budget
- FY 2018 Funding Highlightw [PDF file]. Retrieved from
- Friedman, M. (1989 Sep 7). “An Open Letter to Bill Bennet.” The Wall Street Journal.