I had a debate earlier today with my head teacher in my A level Politics lesson on whether drugs of any kind should be legalised. It isn’t on the syllabus but he is one to deviate and go off on tangents. Anyway, the only reasonable conclusion we managed to come to on the matter was that we had reached no conclusion to the matter. It really is such an open debate, with so many pros and cons on both sides of the argument to consider.
The strongest reason behind people believing drugs should be legalised is that they believe they have no more detrimental effects on your body than smoking or drinking, which are both legal. Smoking heavily affects your health and combined with alcohol is attributed to a huge majority of illnesses and deaths. Alcohol also has the effect of making ones senses become exaggerated, and one who is paralytically drunk is left unaware of their circumstances, lessening their judgement. Some people say that recreational drugs are both less addictive and less harmful (in moderation) to smoking and drinking.
If drugs were legalised, the illegal, black market drug-dealing trade would cease (or considerably lessen). If all drugs were not sold from a soggy back alley, but a respected pharmaceutical company, in moderate amounts, then the quality of the drugs would improve and would be as safe as possible (though remember, no matter who sells you drugs, nobody can make them not detrimental for your health) as well as all the profits from drugs going to the government. Smoking generates enormous sums of money for the government (A £5.00 packet of cigarettes would have 96% of that cost being taxed) and drugs would generate a similar amount of revenue.
Another huge factor, some argue, is that the prison population would dramatically decrease if drugs were legalised. Approximately one third of prisoners are incarcerated for drug-related offences in the UK. If drugs were legalised, less people would need to steal or murder for cash in order to buy drugs, reducing the crime rate significantly. There would be no need for illegal drug dealing, and if drugs were taken in moderation, then the drugs would probably not have as big an impact mentally on users, so criminal offences fuelled by incapacitated and clueless people would decrease.
Some argue however that if you took 1/3 of the prison population out, then the druggies that would have gone to prison, would instead need lots of expensive treatment and rehabilitation. This would be approximately 27,000 people in the UK who would require help, which would surely prove a massive strain on the National Health Service. In counterpoint to this though, the money generated by taxing legal drugs and the people not going to prison (each prisoner costs the government around £80,000 a year apparently), would easily accommodate for a larger number of people requiring medical attention.
It is understandable why the government has not legalized drugs, even though apparently 70% of the population are in favour of drug legalisation. They would be accused of letting junkies win, glorifying drugs and being weak on crime by the opposition, and many other laws would surely not get passed. There are very few politicians who would take a risk as large legalising drugs. Would you?