Why Drug Legalization Should Be Opposed

By Rangel, Charles B. | Criminal Justice Ethics, Summer-Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Why Drug Legalization Should Be Opposed


Rangel, Charles B., Criminal Justice Ethics


In my view, the very idea of legalizing drugs in this country is counterproductive. Many well-meaning drug legalization advocates disagree with me, but their arguments are not convincing. The questions that I asked them twenty years ago remain unanswered. Would all drugs be legalized? If not, why? Would consumers be allowed to purchase an unlimited supply? Are we prepared to pay the medical costs for illnesses that are spawned by excessive drug use? Who would be allowed to sell drugs? Would an illegal market still exist? Would surgeons, bus drivers, teachers, military personnel, engineers, and airline pilots be allowed to use drugs?

Drug legalization threatens to undermine our society. The argument about the economic costs associated with the drug war is a selfish argument that coincides with the short-sighted planning that we have been using with other social policies. With any legalization of drugs, related problems would not go away; they would only intensify. If we legalize, we will be paying much more than the $30 billion per year we now spend on direct health care costs associated with illegal drug use.

Drug legalization is not as simple as opening a chain of friendly neighborhood "drug" stores. While I agree that some drugs might be beneficial for medicinal purposes, this value should not be exploited to suggest that drugs should be legalized. Great Britain's experience with prescription heroin should provide a warning. Until 1968, British doctors were freely allowed to prescribe drugs to addicts for medicinal purposes. Due to the lack of rigorous controls, some serious problems became associated with this policy. Doctors supplied drugs to non-addicts, and addicts supplied legally obtained drugs to the general population resulting in an increased rate of addiction. There is plenty of evidence to show that drug legalization has not worked in other countries that have tried it. The United States cannot afford such experiments when the data shows that drug legalization policies are failing in other countries.

In minority communities, legalization of drugs would be a nightmare. …

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