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U.S. - No More Drug War


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In 1971, President Nixon declared that drugs were America's No. 1 enemy. This date is considered to be the start of the "War on Drugs." Since that time, the War on Drugs has grown to be a costly, ineffective, and damaging policy that has created a tremendous crime problem, sapped federal funds, and imprisoned millions of Americans, all while doing almost nothing to solve the problem of drug abuse.

It is imperative that America stops deluding itself into thinking the drug war is effective and begins to enact serious changes.

At the bare minimum, medicinal marijuana should be legalized nationwide. Furthermore, minor drugs ( e.g. marijuana ) should be decriminalized or legalized completely.

The drug war has been an area of U.S. policy that has done far more harm than good. The total cost of the drug war in the year 2000 alone was estimated to be $136 billion.

Despite the ever-increasing amount of tax dollars we spend on stopping drug use, the percentage of the population who has used illicit drugs increased from 31.3% to 41.7% in 2001. Much of the money spent on the war on drugs would be better spent if diverted to education and other areas of the budget that are starved for funding. In addition, the taxes gathered from regulation of drug sales would increase government revenue in a time when a balanced budget is thing of the past.

Not only is the drug war costly and ineffective, but it has been a huge detriment to the civilian population of the United States. In 2003, 1.6 million people were arrested for drug abuse violations. Fifty-five percent of federal inmates were sentenced for drug violations. The cost of these incarcerations totals $3 billion every year. However, the costs to society are many times greater.

Those incarcerated are no longer able to work, leading to broken families that must look to government welfare for support.

Furthermore, those who come out of prison are not likely to be rehabilitated. Around one fourth of those initially imprisoned for nonviolent crimes are sentenced for a second time for committing a violent offense.

In other words, you go into prison a drug user, and you come out a violent criminal.

While many people erroneously believe that drugs have caused a large amount of crime, it is actually the drug war that has caused a large portion of that crime.

Gang wars, police shootings, and many other aspects of criminal behavior associated with drugs occur because of the situation created by illegalization, much as Prohibition in the 1920s led to a boom in crime.

In fact, if you examine the number of homicides committed during the last century, similar spikes in the homicide rate coincided with both Prohibition and the drug war. Numerous studies have hypothesized that legalization of drugs would decrease violence associated with drugs.

Proposition 215 to legalize medicinal marijuana was passed in 1996 by a 56 percent majority of California voters.

This is more California votes than governor Schwarzenegger received when elected.

Nine other states have also voted to legalize medicinal marijuana.

However, the federal government has done everything in its power to impede this democratically enacted policy.

Marijuana is a drug that has so many medicinal benefits that it is difficult to go into much detail here. Suffice to say that it can be used as an effective treatment for conditions including asthma, glaucoma, tumors, epilepsy, arthritis and nausea. The fact that many prescription drugs remain legal while having many more adverse side effects than marijuana is just one example of the hypocrisy of U.S. drug policy.

Complete legalization of medicinal marijuana is the first step that should be taken in creating a sound and sensible drug policy.

As I can almost hear my inbox filling with responses from the right-leaning portion of our readership, I'd like to point out that decriminalization of marijuana actually fits within political conservative ideology.

When I say that, I am not talking about moral conservatism, but in the basic conservative tenet that government interference in the lives of citizens should be limited, and that people should be responsible for their own choices.

Legalization is a victory for small government and personal responsibility.

Many arguments will immediately be raised to my position, so I will try to address some of them here. Most prevalent will be the claim that legalization of drugs sends the message to the populace ( especially children ) that it is OK to take drugs.

Furthermore, legalization would increase access to drugs and therefore increase drug use. While some drug use may increase, especially in the short term, this theory is largely untrue.

Moreover, legalization of soft drugs like marijuana would most likely decrease the use of harder drugs.

This has been the case in the Netherlands where rates of cocaine use among cannabis users are much lower than in the United States.

Decriminalization of minor drugs has all the potential to benefit the United States and little chance of causing serious harm. The illegal drug trade and all the crime associated with it would be severely diminished. The prison system would no longer be overloaded and many homes would no longer be broken.

The government would be able to track and regulate drug abuse in an economic market.

Taxes raised from drug sales and diverted tax dollars from the drug war would be put to use funding other areas of the government. All of this would occur with relatively little increase in drug use and the potential to actually decrease abuse of hard drugs. By: Isaac Tripp

Source: Technician, The (NC State U, NC Edu)
Copyright: 2005 The Technician
Contact: opinion@technicianstaff.com
Website: http://technicianonline.com/
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