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Addiction: For or Against the Legalization of Drugs?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Many people have been questioning whether the war on drugs has been a failure. Roughly forty years ago, then president, Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. Its purpose was to decrease the drug trade by preventing the smuggling of illegal drugs into the United States and placing stiff penalties on those who sell or use these substances. This policy included decreasing the world wide drug trade. It seems that the net result has been that the country has the highest prison population throughout the world. In the meantime, people continue to use drugs at the same or higher rate than before Nixon declared this war on drugs.

An example of the faulty thinking behind this drug policy is that marijuana is listed by the U.S. government as a class one substance alongside such substances as heroin. Consequently, the prisons are filled with people who committed the non-violent crime of using or selling weed. In addition, this policy has resulted in the fact that it’s difficult for the medical community to research the possible medicinal qualities of this substance. For these reasons two states have legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana and many other states have legalized the sale of the drug with a doctor’s prescription. Now, it’s being suggested that all drugs be legalized. Why?

It’s a well known fact that prohibition of alcohol during the 1930’s was a failure because people did all they could to continue to use alcohol. Speakeasies, the underground places where people met to drink and enjoy themselves in a party atmosphere spread throughout the nation. Alcohol was either illegally manufactured in the form of “moonshine” or was smuggled across the Canadian border. All that prohibition succeeded doing was to make the “Mob” or the Mafia extremely successful. They were happy to rake in millions of dollars through the sale of illegal alcohol.

Today, we see much the same thing. The fact that marijuana and other drugs are illegal has fed the shocking growth of the Mexican Mafia among other international crime syndicates that are so brutal in their tactics that they make the original Mafia look peaceful and law abiding by comparison.

One argument for legalizing all types of drugs is that it would take the manufacture and sale of these substances out of the hands of the crime syndicates. Just as with prohibition, repealing that law weakened the Mafia who no longer could rely on alcohol to fund their enterprises. In the same way, it is thought that the legalization of drugs would weaken these modern day syndicates.

Another argument is that the government could exert quality control over the manufacture of drugs. As it stands now, the drugs sold on the streets are filled with dangerous substances used to increase the value of what is being sold with users not knowing that they are smoking or ingesting dangerous and poisonous chemicals.

A third argument for the legalization of drugs is that their sale could be taxed bring millions of dollars into the U.S. treasury.

Finally, people jailed for the non-violent sale and use of substances would no longer be prosecuted and the incredibly high population of criminals in the prisons being greatly reduced.

It is my opinion that it is time to legalize marijuana. It is not in the same category of drug as heroin and, according to many experts, really does have medicinal qualities. People us it anyway, even thought it’s illegal, much the same way as alcohol was used during prohibition. It just seems to make sense to legalize it.

But, what about all the other substances, such as cocaine, methamphetamine and more?

Of course, this issue is extremely complex and no simple solution, such as legalizing all drugs, is likely to make it go away. For example, what happens to those who are addicted? Do they receive treatment now that they obtain these drugs legally? Would legalization cause the explosive increase of drug addiction for all of these substances? In other words, would legalization cause a major health problem much worse than it now is?

These and others are serious questions. What is your opinion about this? Your comments are encouraged whatever side of the issue you stand on.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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