That compared with 19% for alcohol and a secondary drug; 12% for alcohol alone; 3% for smoked cocaine; 2.4% for methamphetamines; and 2.3% for heroin (Abrams).
It is estimated that by 2010 there will be 35 million teens in America (Levinson). This is a significant demographic to be concerned about. There would also be an increased chance of illicit drugs falling into the hands of children, just like cigarettes and alcohol now that are prohibited from being sold to kids. A greater availability, in general, would increase the likelihood of children being able to obtain them (Messerli).
Harm reduction is one of the primary benefits of legalizing illicit drugs; however, opponents feel that this theory is fatally flawed. Although the suffering of drug users should be reduced, their destructive habits shouldn't be tolerated. "Harm Reduction advocates forget the thousands of impressionable teenagers for whom the law is a reminder that society considers drugs dangerous. Remove the penalties of the law and the message changes. Now young people hear society saying drugs aren't dangerous" (Burden). Although human costs may be reduced through the Harm Reduction plan of proponents, it does not facilitate reduced use.
Although the War on Drugs, as it stands, may not be the perfect solution, legalization does not remedy the problem either. The Netherlands has implemented hemp bars, providing a form of legalization, and as a result has seen a startling high increase in substance abuse. Switzerland implemented 'needle parks' where users could shoot up without fear of the police, in hopes of containing the problem to an isolated area. However, use simply spread. Although proponents of legalized drug use cite the fact that the Netherlands have an heroin use level below the European average (Schuster), Holland, one of the most drug-friendly countries, has become a smuggling center for the countries nearby (Forbes).
In conjunction with the fact that drugs and crime are so interrelated, the illegal status of drugs also serves to further protect the public. By arresting people who have committed drug offenses, law enforcement has arrested an individual who is more likely to commit a more serious crime. In this way, they have reduced the likelihood of other crimes on the street, as well and made the community safer (Messerli).
As noted previously, drug use is almost always a factor in criminal behavior. In one survey of state prisons, it was discovered that "28% of prisoners that were convicted of murder, 20% of inmates convicted of sexual assault and 23% of inmates convicted of assault were under the influence of drugs when they committed their crimes" (Eldredge & McCollum).
Eldredge and McCollum further cite another study that showed drug users were 10 times more likely to commit a violent crime than non-drug users. In California, when the state attempted to legalize marijuana in 1976, arrests for driving under the influence skyrocketd 71.4% among juveniles and 46% among adults, in the first six months alone.
Legalizing drugs would be a drain on the American economy. Although proponents often mention the revenue that could be had from legalized sales of illicit drugs, there are greater economic concerns. Billions of dollars would be spent on the treatment of societal ills brought about by drug use. In addition, it is estimated that legalization would cost the country between $140 billion and $210 billion each year in lost productivity and job-related accidents. One only has to look at the statistics for alcohol to begin to picture the costs to society if drugs were legalized. Total tax revenue from alcohol sales is approximately $13 billion a year; however, health care, lost productivity, and other social costs cost the nation approximately $100 billion each year (Elderedge & McCollum). Clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, Robert L. Dupont, notes in his book, The Selfish Brain: Learning from Addiction,
It does not require an economic genius to recognize that prohibition is now working effectively to reduce the total costs generated by such drugs as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Furthermore, the human suffering reflected in the health-care costs would rise dramatically if those drugs were legally available, as alcohol and tobacco are now (qtd. "An Unethical Reason").
Marijuana is oftentimes one of the common drugs supported for legalization. Entire political parties run on the legalization of marijuana platform, arguing that it is a harmless drug. However, studies have demonstrated marijuana's destructive potential. Marijuana impairs short-term memory, stunts intellectual and emotional growth and increases the likelihood of the individual having unprotected sex (Abrams). An Australian study suggested that permanent impairment to cognitive functions occur from marijuana use. In addition, some of the highest cancer-causing substances known are contained in marijuana. Resistance to diseases, such as herpes, is experienced in marijuana users. Nasal injury, acute and chronic bronchitis, lung inflammation, and decreased pulmonary defenses are all the result of the smoke produced by marijuana. In fact, "(s) moke from only one marijuana cigarette produces four times as much cancer-causing tar as the same amount of tobacco" (Burden).
Another common concern of those against the legalization of specifically marijuana, involves transportation safety and the fact that marijuana impairs motor skills (Messerli).
In one instance, using a flight simulator, twenty-four hours after pilots smoked a single joint the pilots landed their plane 24 feet off the center of the runway. In Canada, 38% of dead or impaired drivers demonstrated marijuana in their blood samples (Burden).
Another issue often brought out in support of legalizing marijuana specifically is its medicinal benefits. However, marijuana is not needed to provide these benefits. A synthetic form of the chemical found in marijuana that provides nausea relief and appetite stimulation can be reproduced. Marinol is FDA-approved and available by prescription, typically prescribed to patients undergoing chemotherapy or some conditions resulting from AIDS. Opponents of drug legalization note that it seems foolish to expose already ill patients to the more than 400 toxic chemicals that are found in street marijuana, when a clean synthetic alternative is available (Forbes).
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An Unethical Reason for Legalizing Drugs." Business Week (3678) 24 Apr. 2000: 6. Academic OneFile. Thomson Gale. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. December 5, 2006 http://find.galegroup.com.
Burden, K. "What's the Fuss About Legalizing Drugs? Many People Advocating a "Harm Reduction" Approach to Illegal Drugs are Well-Meaning but Misguided." Presbyterian Record 70(10) Nov. 1996: 10-11. Academic OneFile. Thomson Gale. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. December 5, 2006 http://find.galegroup.com.
Eldredge, D. & McCollum, B. "Would Legalizing Drugs Serve America's National Interest?" Insight on the News 14(34) 14 Sept. 1998: 24-27. Academic OneFile. Thomson Gale. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. December 5, 2006 http://find.galegroup.com.
Forbes, S. "Deadly Deceit." Forbes 160(5) 8 Sept. 1997: 27-28. Academic OneFile. Thomson Gale. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. December 5, 2006 http://find.galegroup.com.
Levinson, M. "An Extensional Approach to Drug Legalization." ETC: A Review of General Semantics 60(2) Summer 2003: 125-137. Academic OneFile. Thomson Gale. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. December 5, 2006 http://find.galegroup.com.
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