The Prohibition of drugs doesn’t work
Decades of prohibition have seen rising drug use, rising drug related crime and thousands of people's lives ruined for nothing more than taking the wrong drug. There are few policies so widely supported that have been so disastorously counter-productive and unjust.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
Prohibition funds crime
Prohibition of drugs leaves the supply of drugs to some of the worst people in society. There is a demand for drugs, under prohibition this is met by unregulated, uncontrollable criminals. So instead of being supplied by legitimate, tax paying companies drugs are supplied by some of the worst people in society. The profits go straight into funding foreign civil wars, buying guns that threaten our streets and funding extravagant lifestyles for criminal bosses.
Instead of this we could have legitimate, tax paying, law abiding companies in control of the supply of drugs. This would be far better for the economy than leaving it to gangsters.
A tiny minority of cigarettes and alcohol are bought on the black market. And when cigarettes are brought into this country, its usually by someone returning from a foreign trip to a country where the tax on cigarettes is lower. The tax has still been paid, just in a different country and at a lower rate. The proceeds going to legitimate sources, just in another country. The cigarettes people are buying are not homemade cigarettes but cigarettes made by international companies. That is totally different to what happens when it comes to illegal drugs.
Existing suppliers of drugs could never hope to compete with legitimate companies. I would never buy a bottle of vodka made by some man i met on the street because i can go into a shop and buy a bottle of vodka from a producer i trust. People currently don't have that option with illegal drugs, under a legalized system they would have that option and would take it.
Crime would decrease because we could liberate police officers from spending time fighting an unwinnable 'war on drugs' and refocus them on real crime like murder, rape, theft etc.
When people say they want to legalize drugs they usually say it would make lawabiding citizens and a chance for the state to tax the industry but it is a little naive to think that the cartels and the dealers will just simply give up such a profitable business. There already exists a black market for cigarettes that funds crime by offering tobacco products cheaper than market prices - i.e. by-passing taxes - and there is already a network of producers and suppliers of illegal drugs. Legalising and taxing them would not suddenly destroy this market, especially since it is easier to produce such drugs than cigarettes. The black market would, indeed, thrive, because it would become more socially acceptable to take such substances, and there would be a convenient, cheap way of getting them as opposed to government-regulated and taxed outlets. So, funding for crime would increase.
Moreover, drugs destroy people, tear families apart and leads to violence. Not just as a means of funding an addiction but some drugs make people more violent. You could argue that alcohol does the same and that cigarettes also kill but drugs do so even more. Even though the current system might not be perfect, legalizing drugs would make it worse.
Caging people for possessing a drug is wrong
Putting someone in jail/fining them/giving them community service for possession of a drug is unjust, it should be their choice and not the government's what they put in their body. They are not harming anyone by mere possession, and putting them in jail at huge cost to the taxpayer ruins their life and costs us all. Sending someone to jail for drug posession is a waste of money as well as being unjust.
We allow people to drink alcohol (a drug) and smoke nicotine (a drug) but we criminalize people who take some less harmful drugs. This inconsistenty is part of the injustice of criminalizing people for posession of certain drugs.
No one disputes the harm done by drugs, the question is how to treat the problem. Decades of rising drug use and drug related crime demonstrate that prohibition doesn't work.
The vast majority of drug users do not committ other crimes to pay for their drugs. The real crime is the mugging, not the activity they are trying to pay for. People steal to buy all kinds of things, but it is the theft that should be the crime.
Many drug addicts committ crime to feed their habit, but not every drug user is a drug addict. Millions of people take illegal drugs including many lawyers, teachers, doctors etc. They lead productive lives, why should the threat of jail hang over them because the government disagrees with their choice of drug?
Prison does ruin someone's life, and it certainly does nothing to cure addiction. It makes it more likely that people will be dependent on drugs for the forseeable future as they have hardly any chance of getting a decent job with a criminal record.
The public are not protected. Drugs are everywhere, dangerous drug dealers are common, drug related crime soars and so does drug addiction. That is prohibition.
Would anyone think that the solution to our alcohol problem is to jail anyone who has a drink? Probably not. No most people think that rehab is the answer for alcoholics and that moderate drinkers should be largely left alone until they break some other law. So why do people think that for other drugs, some less dangerous than alcohol, the answer is criminal penalities? Even when the idea of treating drug addiction as a criminal problem has been tested to destruction and shown to be a complete failure.
Keeping slaves violates the rights of others to live their life as they choose, its nothing like taking a drug. It is the prohibition on drugs that violates the rights of others, not the drug taking itself.
Drinking alcohol isn't morally superior to taking illegal drugs just because the government has a hypocritical, inconsistent policy on drugs.
The harm created by addictive drugs isn't just to the person taking the drugs; drug addicts who can't finance their addiction will mug innocent members of the public in order to pay for their habit.
It is not prison that ruins someone's life: it is the addiction itself, that drains their bank account, turns them to crime and ruins personal and family relationships they have.
To protect the public, and to help prevent other harms, it is only right to continue the prohibition of drugs as it stands.
Saying that drug A and drug B are legal, so all drugs should be, is a misnomer. There are plenty of legal 'drugs', largely for medicinal purposes. As for alcohol and nicotine, no one is suggesting that these are 'good' drugs. They too cause harm, but their continued legal status doesn't mean other harmful drugs should be legalised.
When addicts commit a crime, they go away for that crime, so to say that "the real crime is mugging" means nothing. If they are found in possession of quantities of illegal materials, they go away for that; when caught mugging, they go away for that.
Prison may not be perfect. Rehabilitation programmes should be better funded and more widely provided, yes, but just because they aren't at the moment doesn't mean drugs should be legalised.
As for how many people take drugs: lots of respectable people (including George Washington) kept slaves but it never made it any more right. Such an appeal to authority is illogical. They should be afraid, because they are in positions of responsibility. Just as they would be fired if they were found to turn up to work drunk, so too should they not be encouraged to turn up rubbing their noses from snorting coke.
Public health reasons
Our drugs problem is a public health problem and making it a criminal one has been part of the problem, definitely not a solution.
If drugs were legalized they could be regulated for quality ensuring people do not die from taking a bad drug.
They could be labelled as cigarettes are with public health warnings so that people know exactly what risk they are taking.
Taxes on drugs could help pay for NHS run rehab programs.
It would be easier to prevent underage drug taking if legitimate companies with licences to lose were put in control rather than drug dealers who have no problem selling to children, its the same crime as selling to an adult.
It is surely a good reason now why children and adults find it difficult to get hold of drugs and a reason why all of the other has not been suggested.
There have been a significant amount of reported cases of children getting hold of parent's or guardian's drugs when drugs are prohibited now. This is not because the prohibition of drugs does not work, but that drugs themselves are bad and no matter what we do we cannot erase the fact that we have discovered them.
If, however, we decided the logical result to the above would be to allow drugs on the market, even if they are carefully censored, the drug-addict would leave a lot more pills for example lying around for their child to be able to pick up and play with.
Drug-taking now is done in private because prohibition is effective, but if drug-taking was public, children would be a lot more aware at a young age of their existence and this is temptation.
Evidence of History
Define "work." Do we mean that prohibition does not stop drug use? If so, history shows us that prohibition does not work.
History has not had that much experience with the legalisation of drug-taking and the prohibition of drug-taking, but the experience that it has had, has taught us that there is a reason why drugs are prohibited now- because of the history, we are more informed today.
Prohibition doesn't work
There is no evidence to show that prohibition is succeeding. The question we must ask ourselves is, "What are the benefits of criminalising any drug?" If, after examining all the available evidence, we find that the costs outweigh the benefits, then we must seek an alternative policy.
Legalisation is not a cure-all but it does allow us to address many of the problems associated with drug use, and those created by prohibition. The time has come for an effective and pragmatic drug policy.
Prohibiton causes crime syndicates to flourish. If legalisation was to occur, crime groups would have one of their major sources of income cut off, thus lessening their negative impact on society. Police would be able to spend more time arresting much more dangerous criminals, such as rapists and murderers. Overall, prohibition causes more problems than it solves.
Prohibition works. It stops people getting hold of drugs easily. People have to go through dealers and smoke privately or take drugs or inject privately, as they will be arrested if public. The most that the law can do is to intervene publicly.
Legalise one drug and you will have to legalise them all! Legalise weed and soon estacy and acid for instance, then heroin and crack cocaine. The whole reason we had these criminal sanctions for drug-taking is to prevent it.
Race and Drugs
Black people are over ten times more likely to be imprisoned for drug offences than whites. Arrests for drug offences are notoriously discretionary allowing enforcement to easily target a particular ethnic group. Prohibition has fostered this stereotyping of black people.
Legalisation removes a whole set of laws that are used to disproportionately bring black people into contact with the criminal justice system. It would help to redress the over representation of black drug offenders in prison.
Then the legalisation of drugs is not the answer. You legalise drugs and even if you have this new law targeting black people more than white people in a motion of equality, the force of attention would be the legalisation and end of prohibition, and not the real focus which we want.
If we feel that black people and other minorities are prejudiced by the criminal justice system and more likely to be imprisoned then we should amend the current law as it stands to make sure that the law changes to target the racism, and not the legalisation of drugs by going off on a tangent.
The illegal drugs market makes up 8% of all world trade (around £300 billion a year). Whole countries are run under the corrupting influence of drug cartels. Prohibition also enables developed countries to wield vast political power over producer nations under the auspices of drug control programmes.
Legalisation returns lost revenue to the legitimate taxed economy and removes some of the high-level corruption. It also removes a tool of political interference by foreign countries against producer nations.
Address real issues
For too long policy makers have used prohibition as a smoke screen to avoid addressing the social and economic factors that lead people to use drugs. Most illegal and legal drug use is recreational. Poverty and despair are at the root of most problematic drug use and it is only by addressing these underlying causes that we can hope to significantly decrease the number of problematic users.
We do need to address these underlying causes, however this is not by legalising drugs- that is not helping to find out what drove the people to take drugs in the first place, it encourages their addiction; their sickness.
We should develop better healthcare or stronger societies to reach out personally to these people and offer free consultations and counselling to help them back on their feet. Advertise, do what it takes, to make the new system well known and make people want to help themselves.
Drug users are the majority
Recent research shows that nearly half of all 15-16 year olds have used an illegal drug. Up to one and a half million people use ecstasy every weekend. Amongst young people, illegal drug use is seen as normal. Intensifying the 'war on drugs' is not reducing demand. In Holland, where cannabis laws are far less harsh, drug usage is amongst the lowest in Europe.
Legalisation accepts that drug use is normal and that it is a social issue, not a criminal justice one. How we deal with it is up to all of us to decide.
In 1970 there were 9000 convictions or cautions for drug offences and 15% of young people had used an illegal drug. In 1995 the figures were 94 000 and 45%. Prohibition doesn't work.
Most people who drink alcohol are not abusers and can control their drinking. It is unfair to assume all drug users are addicts that need help.
Provide access to truthful information and education
A wealth of disinformation about drugs and drug use is given to us by ignorant and prejudiced policy-makers and media who peddle myths upon lies for their own ends. This creates many of the risks and dangers associated with drug use.
Legalisation would help us to disseminate open, honest and truthful information to users and non-users to help them to make decisions about whether and how to use. We could begin research again on presently illicit drugs to discover all their uses and effects - both positive and negative.
Restore our rights and responsibilities
Prohibition unnecessarily criminalises millions of otherwise law-abiding people. It removes the responsibility for distribution of drugs from policy makers and hands it over to unregulated, sometimes violent dealers.
Legalisation restores our right to use drugs responsibly to change the way we think and feel. It enables controls and regulations to be put in place to protect the vulnerable.
If people are worried about their safety then they should not take drugs. Or aim to join a group where they can combat their addictions. Surely the aim of the law is to stop drug-taking or prevent it due to the fact that it is all about the prohibition of drugs. It is important to protect the vulnerable, but we are not going to legalise prostitution.
Yes because it would allow natural selection to proceed
If people cannot understand basic information about the risks of a particular activity then they will suffer the consequences and hopefully nature will select them out of the population before they can breed.
If someone decides to smoke, drink (the major killers and the major expense for the taxpayer BTW) or take any drug then they should be allowed to do so. There is plenty of information out there to allow people to make an informed choice.
If they harm themselves or others as a result of their decision then they should be denied free healthcare and made to compensate financially and criminally any individual they harm as a result of their informed decision.
People who are incapable of understanding this most basic of information are a drain on humanity and should not be allowed to propagate their DNA. Research has shown that they are more likely to wear white trainers and have a satellite dish.
This way, in a few hundred years or so, hardworking taxpayers will be relieved of the burden of illicit drug use as well as seeing their welfare bill plummet. The only losers with be Reebok and Sky
State's duty of care
The State has a duty of care to its citizens, demonstrated by its aggressive anti-smoking campaigns and legislation, and frequent advice regarding moderation of alcohol consumption.
Drugs that are currently illegal are harmful to the end-user and society as a whole, through addiction and addiction-related crimes used to pay for substances. Substance abuse ruins the lives not just of users but their families and friends, and, when addicts commit crimes, the lives of their victims and victims' families.
The State would be neglecting its very important duty of care to all its citizens if it didn't try and prevent them from taking such substances. While some people may be able to take drugs sensibly and in moderation, it is not possible to legislate for "some people". A blanket ban remaining in place is the fairest and most responsible course of action.
Lots of legal things are harmful to society as a whole. If you are going to ban drugs because of a 'duty of care' then to be consistent you should ban unhealthy foods, alcohol, motorbikes, extreme sports, laziness.
Adultery can ruin the lives of others, it can be very socially harmful. Shall we criminalize adultery?
The state's duty of care would be far better carried out by ensuring that the quality of drugs is controlled, that legitimate companies rather than criminals make the profits, that taxes raised on drugs could fund rehab programs and printing warnings on the packaging of drugs so that people knew exactly what the risks are. None of that is possible when you leave drug dealers in control. The state is leaving its duty of care to drug dealers by choosing prohibition over regulation.
No one doubts that drugs are harmful, but the criminal justice system isn't the way to solve the problems caused by drugs. The last 30yrs are ample evidence of that.
The vast majority of drug users use them responsibly, just like the vast majority of alcohol drinkers drink responsibily. Millions of people take illegal drugs and don't commit crime, have a full time job and do other productive things with their life.
Adults should be able to choose what they put in their body, the government's duty of care should not override the freedom of the invidual to make choices that hurt no one but themselves. The moment someone's drug taking causes them to be an unfit parent, become violent, become a thief etc then the state can get involved. Most drug users aren't drug addicts, so they don't need to be treated as such.
Can anyone come up with a good reason to throw someone in jail because they smoke a bit of weed occassionally? Is jail the right place for them? Or are they better left alone to live their life as they are, harming no one?
Legalisation would not stop drug crime
Much of the "Yes" case on this point relies on an assessment of harms- particularly, on the analysis that since the primary harms of drug use are to the individual, the state has no role: "Adults should be able to choose what they put in their body, the government’s duty of care should not override the freedom of the individual to make choices that hurt no one but themselves."
This point, however, fails to take into account the reason why drugs have continued to be restricted. While heroin or crack cocaine addiction initially harms the user's health, it also has wider social implications: as addiction spirals out of control, the addict has to spend greater amounts on buying the drug, and often turns to crime to fund this. Theft and prostitution are common offences among drug addicts, and cost society dearly in financial terms and in the threats they pose to personal safety and freedoms.
The "yes" case also suggests that , through legalising drugs, legitimate business organisations which take over the industry, allowing government to tax drug supply and therefore use the funds to finance rehabilitation. However, this is an unrealistic assumption on two grounds: firstly, because respectable businesses would be unwilling to openly supply products to which are attached a social stigma and various associated risks, and because the roots of drug supply would still be controlled in countries such as Colombia and Afghanistan by hostile militant groups; and secondly, because any legal industry has substantially higher production and development costs, and therefore higher prices, to which government taxes are added, the price of drugs would soar. This would force drug addicts either to continue using illegal sources, or to fund their now more expensive habit through further use of crime.
What do you think?