The issue of legalization is a difficult one to tackle because “drugs” encompass a diverse group of substances that have a wide range of effects on society and the individual. According to the U.S. government’s system of classification, marijuana and crack cocaine are both schedule one drugs; however, no one can pretend that these two present the same level of danger to one’s health or community. Thus the question arises: should all drugs be legalized or decriminalized?
The fact is that people will be able to buy drugs whether they are legal or not. I have even heard some teenagers say it is easier to buy pot than alcohol. No need for a fake id or an older friend to go to the convenience store; most dealers, I would assume, have no scruples as to selling to minors. The issue of government sanctioned selling of dangerous, highly addictive narcotics such as crack, heroin, and PCP becomes then an ethical issue. Some people argue that tax revenue from drug sales would help our economy, and even I would claim that taking out the factor of “street sales” could dramatically reduce gun crimes and homicides in America. Yet if these particular narcotics are legalized, we essentially would be contributing to the addiction and self-destruction of every single person that purchases them. The effects of the drugs I have mentioned cannot be controlled by the user. Friends, family, values, religion, logic, all crumble in the face of a drug addiction. 8 out of 10 people entering rehab for substance abuse do not stay sober. Although I think the “war on drugs” is not as effective as it could be, relinquishing the battle would be worse. Can we honestly say we would let a drug be sold that is probably being purchased instead of diapers for an infant child? I say no.
On the other had, there are numerous other substances that, in my opinion, are no more dangerous (or even less so) than alcohol. Marijuana, for example, is the drug that comes to mind when the topic of legalization is brought up. When used responsibly and in moderation, it can provide medical benefits and is not physically addictive. Marijuana is being used, or could be used in the future, to alleviate glaucoma, nausea and loss of appetite, anxiety, muscle pain, and tinnitus. Generally, use of this plant produces a relaxed, euphoric, stress-relieving effect, and stress has been proved to be one of the leading causes of poor health in America. Again I must emphasize that the benefits of this drug can only come from proper use; too much can make one lethargic, paranoid, or depressed. Of course almost anything consumed in excess, from caffeine to chocolate, can produce adverse effects. The main danger associated with Marijuana is its illegal status, and the fact that one must become a criminal to purchase it, and in doing so come into contact with people that make a living (or a few extra bucks) from criminal behavior.
Marijuana and crack cocaine are on opposite ends of the narcotics spectrum. Each substance should be taken into individual consideration in the issue of legalization. Before this issue can be decided, however, we as a society, as well as our leaders in office, need to take a serious look at how our young people are being educated in the area of drugs. In my opinion, we have a flawed system. Children are not taught to differentiate between the effects of one drug, and the effects of another, or at least the differences of danger are not properly emphasized. All illegal drugs are put under the same ban: how many times have we been reassured of the “natural” progression from alcohol and marijuana to heroin? Also, the use of propaganda by the media has only exacerbated the problem…you might remember the commercial featuring the “high” driver running over the child in the fast food drive-through, reminiscent of the 1920’s propaganda film (and now a cult classic) Reefer Madness. Once a child or teenager starts experimenting and realizes they are not experiencing the horrors they have been promised, they learn to distrust the entire drug education system. Because drugs are illegal, they can find very little factual, unbiased information. With the current system, we cannot tell children not to use drugs, then tell them what they should do if they decide to use them anyway.
In my opinion, non-addictive substances that grow naturally (without any processing such as is necessary with cocaine and opium) should be legalized, such as Marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms, and peyote. The proper use, dosage, effects, side effects, and history of these drugs should be well known. For example, the latter two are not “social” drugs; they have been used for centuries by native peoples for spiritual and religious purposes. With proper education, our society would reap the benefits of less crowded prisons, reduced danger to communities and law enforcement, and reduced dependency on pharmaceuticals with potentially dangerous side effects. The case of harder drugs such as methamphetamine presents a greater dilemma. I cannot morally advocate their legalization, yet their criminalization is not a deterrent from their use. Unregulated, their quality and purity cannot be determined by the buyer until he or she has taken a potentially fatal dose, and the amount of violent crime associated with their transport and purchase takes its toll daily on our nation.
In conclusion, the overwhelming problem of addiction and dependency in America needs to be addressed before we can even begin discussing the case to legalize drugs. As children we are told “drugs are bad”, but then are given ritalin, prozac, and others. In this article I have not even addressed the fact that among our youth some of the most commonly abused drugs are LEGAL. As a society we are increasingly being taught to be dependents, on drugs, and on commercial products. How can the media tell our us that a joint will ultimately lead to our running over a tyke in a drive-through, and then tell us that we “need” a pill for rapid weight loss? Drugs are not our greatest problem; it is our need for help, for change, for dependency; it is our being told our bodies and minds are not good enough. We need to get at the root of the problem before all it’s limbs and branches can be dealt with.
For unbiased, factual information on chemical content, legal status, and effects on health, as well as user experiences and research journal articles for hundreds of substances, please visit www.erowid.com.