Internationally during this century and the last, the debate about the war on illegal drugs has been fuelled by arguments both for and against their legalisation or prohibition. Both of these approaches to managing illegal drugs have their advantages and disadvantages. Each of these shall be discussed and critically analysed in this essay to seek to understand if a hard-line approach is working to combat the use of these harmful drugs. The results from this evaluation shall then be summarised briefly in the conclusion to this essay.
Internationally during this century and the last, the debate about the war on illegal drugs has been fuelled by argument both for and against their legalisation (see as an example: DuPont & Voth, 1995; Leuw & Marshall, 1994; Nadelmann. 1988) or prohibition (see as an example; Benjamin & Miller, 1991; Wilson, 1990). Both of these approaches to managing illegal drugs have their advantages and disadvantages. Each of these shall be discussed and critically analysed in this essay to seek to understand if a hard-line approach is working to combat the use of these harmful drugs.
2. The legalisation of drugs
Some have argued that the only way to manage the distribution and negative effects of illegal drugs is to decriminalise them or to legalise them (Haden, 2004; Thornton, 1998). This is where the distribution and the control of drug markets are managed (Thornton, 1991) via implementing appropriate legal controls (Grossman, Chaloupka, & Shim, 2002). However, this approach to managing illegal drugs has a number of advantages and disadvantages.
3. The advantages and disadvantages of legalizing drugs
Some arguments for the legalisation of drugs are derived from an emotional basis (Ostrowski, 1989) such as, a number of human or civil rights would no longer be abused under the banner of conducting a drug war (Kleiman, & Saiger, 1989) or drugs should not be legalised as this would be morally wrong (John, 1992). Furthermore, legalising drugs would not enable us to overcome the underlying causes of most drug misuse, which may arise through socio-economic circumstances such as, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, boredom, a lack of opportunity or mental health problems (Inciardi, 1999). Each of these arguments is not logical, as they are subjective in nature and derived from the personal opinions or beliefs of different parties.
Comparatively, some arguments are based on logic, which advocates the legalisation of drugs such as, there would be a dramatic decrease in crime (Wisotsky, 1990).Profits made by criminals would be reduced, as would corruption. As users would no longer be classified as criminals, would this reduce the burden on public systems such as, the criminal justice system or on the police and customs (Inciardi & McBride, 1991).The profits made from the sales of drugs could be reused to create effective treatment or educational programmes (Joffe & Yancy, 2004). This may also help to reduce the number of drug related deaths (Clark, 1992). However other logical arguments also show why this may not work as a small minority could continue to use drugs irresponsibly, because of this there may still be deaths or crimes committed because of illegal drug use (Inciardi & Saum, 1996). Legalisation and regulation can only get rid of problems associated drugs, not organised crime or poverty (Kornblum, 1991).
From examining these emotional and logical arguments, it is clear that the legalisation of drugs is a complex subject, which could potentially resolve a number of societal issues. However, it will not redress all of the problems, which have been associated with the use of illegal drugs. From this perspective, one can see that there is no easy answer to whether drugs should be legalised, though the logical benefits and disadvantages, which have been presented here, seem to outweigh the emotional ones.
What is clear is that these opinions on the war on drugs, which have been expressed through each of these sources of information, cited here are highly personal, even when they are presented as logical arguments. The fact remains that statistics and information can be manipulated to support ‘what if’ scenarios both for and against the arguments to legalise drugs. However, the other side of this argument is that the use of illegal drugs should be prohibited.
4. Illegal Drugs and their prohibition
From another perspective, some have argued that the use of illegal drugs should be prohibited (see as an example: Basov, Miron & Jacobson, 2001; Drucker, 1999; Miron & Zwiebel, 1995). However, this approach to managing illegal drugs has a number of advantages and disadvantages, which are derived from both emotional and logical arguments.
5. The advantages and disadvantages of prohibiting of illegal drugs
Some of these arguments are based on emotional reasoning, as some believe that prohibition undermines human rights, as many individuals may be treated in an unjust way as the authorities suspect that they are using or distributing drugs (see as an example: Gilmore, 1995; Hunt, 2004). Others believe that prohibition is morally correct (Husak, 1992) and that the actions of those who sell or use drugs should not go unpunished (Gordon, 1994). Alongside these arguments for and against the prohibition of drugs through legal means, there are also a number of arguments, which are based on logic. For example, there are a number of reasons why prohibition should not be used to control illegal drugs such as it creates and fuels differing types of criminal activity which may be derived from prostitution, gang activities, monetary fraud or violence (Nadelmann, 1992). Many actually believe that no form of prohibition has been successful to date in stopping or controlling the sale or use of drugs (see as an example: Chambliss, 1995; Gahlinger, 2004; Miron, 1999) and therefore a new approach such as their legalisation should be tried. The criminal justice system is currently overloaded with drug related cases and this problem could be resolved by taking this approach (Kuziemko & Levitt, 2004). However, other advocate that the advantages of prohibition are that it helps to control and regulate crime related drug activity (Wodak, 1998), it ensures that those that break the law by producing or supplying drugs are punished according (Becker, Murphy & Grossman, 2004) and that without these legal penalties for drug enforcement the situation could spiral out of control (Miron, 2001).
Therefore, again we are faced with a number of emotional and logical arguments from a number of sources, which are based on ‘facts’. This shows how difficult it is to understand and resolve this complex issue as one has difficulty deciding between a punitive approach which has not worked to date and the ‘what if’ situations which may arise if this approach to drug enforcement and legalisation is changed. The emotional and logical arguments both for and against the prohibition of illegal drugs are difficult to weight up as each has it merits and it is hard to know which of these is most viable due to the complex nature of the aforementioned problems. To this end, one may either favour prohibition or not, depending upon their personal perspectives, values or beliefs.
From the above one can see that there a number of arguments which are based on emotional or logical bases which may be used to argue for the legalisation or the prohibition of illegal drugs. However, when you consider the first of these one can see why the legalisation of drugs and their use may be logically advantageous from a number of perspectives. The arguments presented here seem to just ’make sense’. Comparatively when we examine the arguments both for and against the prohibition of illegal drugs, one does not disprove the other, as it is easy to agree with both sides of this argument. In regards to this, the strongest and clearest argument, which has been presented here, is the logical argument for the legalization of drugs. The advantages of taking this approach to changing drug enforcement seem to far outweigh any of the disadvantages. To this end, when we consider the question which was posed at the beginning of this essay regarding whether or not the war on drugs should take a hard-line approach is and if this is working to combat the use of these harmful drugs. The answer to this question logically is no, this is not the correct approach based on the evidence which has been presented here. Furthermore, this approach does not appear to be working, therefore it may be time to seek to stop debating and to start to change out legal systems to seek to ascertain if the legalisation of these drugs is advantageous as the ‘what if’ situations presented in this essay say it will be.
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