EDUCATION IS THE BEST WEAPON
It seems that in the ongoing debate over whether to legalize drugs in the United States, quite a few people feel that legalization would diminish the crime rate. Their argument points out that the permissible use of marijuana would eliminate the necessity for people to go into hard drug territories to purchase such a drug and maybe even deter them from trying narcotics like crack-cocaine and heroin. Even though these people assert that legalization could diminish crime rate, they forget to realize that alcohol and nicotine are legal psychoactive drugs and have detrimental hazards on our society. Since these drugs are easily obtainable, they are more often used by people of all ages. Although education about nicotine effects decreased smoking in our country, the crimes related to alcohol abuse are still staggering in our community due to the easy accessibility and acceptance from the population in general. The way alcohol impairs a person’s brain it is amazing that more efforts have not been made to in some way deter people from drinking like they have been deterred from smoking. Prohibition is out since it has been acceptable and we know what happened when we did try to prohibit alcohol. If we were to legal other drugs, it would be hard to rescind the decision much like with alcohol and nicotine. Legalization is a scary issue when it is looked upon in this respect.
Contrary to the feelings of those who rationalize legalization, this answer does not seem to hold a feasible solution to the drug problems of today. In essence, legalizing them is just like saying that the use of mind altering substances is not only tolerable, but lawful as well. From a anti-legalization standpoint, legalizing any drugs would entice the so called closest users into mainstream society with their abuse of the drugs that would be legalized and generate a mass media of intoxicated people. We as humans seem to want to medicate ourselves when circumstances are out of our control, forgetting the long term dangers involved when use becomes abuse with a particular drug. It is not just the individual that gets hurt, but the children of tomorrow as well. How many children are killed in drug related incidents each day and furthermore how many pick up their parent’s habits in relation to drug use. Like produces like, and an addict is only breeding grounds for more addicts with the same handicap when dealing with life. Take for example smoking cigarettes. A child is more likely to pick up the habit of smoking if one of their parents smoke. If drugs were legalized, then the parent, if a drug user, would in effect be endorsing the use of psychoactive drugs. The abuse of any mind altering substance is a symptom of much greater problems within the individual. Legalizing the now illegal drugs would proliferate more addicts in an already addicted society.
Before anyone can advocate the legalization of drugs they need to be aware of the effects that this poses on a society. Many nations have experimented with legalization, including the United States, and in every instance the effects were negative. There was not one positive side to the legalization unless you consider overdosing the addicts a plus. Repeatedly the crime rates soared after legalization. In most cases the drug users still continued purchasing from illegal suppliers. There were huge increases in addiction to heroin, not to mention the money spent on the drugs to provide citizens legally, by the nations who legalized them. Before we jump on a legalization bandwagon, let’s take a look at some countries who tried this route and take a candid view of the effects. Even marijuana, if legal, has negative effects on any society as you will see, especially when the possibility of a bordering country comes into the legalized market to obtain them.
Over in England, [when heroin was made legal by prescription, "it experienced a thirty fold increase with many addicts staying with illegal suppliers"](Finley 1). The “drug parks” in Switzerland had to shut down withing 5 years due to the amount and violence and death (1). This constituted a coalition against drugs in Europe. In all actuality, there were increases in crime and a phenomenal increase in heroin addictions as a result of legalizing heroin. In the Netherlands, “there was almost a 33 percent increase in gun deaths, almost all of them drug related” (Finley 1). It is ironic that the English would obtain drugs from illegal markets considering that it would be easier, cheaper, and safer to obtain them by prescription. One has to wonder if the whole “scoring” is a prelude to the effects of a particular drug. The Netherlands experimentation with soft drugs like marijuana, has in its own right posed dangerous effects. Of these, were the luring of drug addicts from other countries into the mainstream of their society. There were enough addicts in their own country without adding to this distressing predicament. It seems that advocates for drug legalization lean towards the safety of the Netherlands, but disregard that recently “it has become the leading country in Europe in the category of assaults and threats” (Finley 1).
Therefore the legalization of soft drugs, in Maastricht, Netherlands, has shown to be just as devastating with regards to the overwhelming number of clinics set up to help the addicts and the problems of outside addicts who come to this city to purchase drugs. Even though marijuana, a drug considered soft, is purchased openly in cannabis cafes, violations occur in the sales and many hard drugs are still sold in the streets (Simons A-32). The Dutch now have a pending dilemma of “drug tourism” and the police complain that “80 percent of their time is taken up by drug related crimes…that serve largely to pay for the foreigners needs” (A-32). According to Henk Mostert, the district police chief, “This is a new plague” (A-32). This plague created havoc in the community with not only the crimes being committed by citizens but by the immigrants as well. It is hard to prosecute a drug offender when after the initial arrest, he or she can easily escape to their own country of origin, eliminating the need for prosecution. It would be totally impossible to incarcerate and keep them all.
Although the Dutch feel that legalization is the route to take to possibly eliminate the need to purchase hard drugs off the streets, this avenue has not proven very effectual. The sales of hard drugs were actually on the increase, which the Maastricht police blamed on “the big-city dealers from Amsterdam and Rotterdam,” and tourist from other cities that swarmed to this country to score legal and illegal narcotics as well. (Simons A-32). The Netherlands paid a high price for drug legalization. They had to deal with their own addicts as well as the contribution to the immigrants growing addiction and indulgence in crime.
If we take an extremist standpoint, and abuse of drugs are an extreme, in a country such as the United States, we are bordered by Canada, and legalization of any mind altering drug, even marijuana, could pose a devastating effect on our society. Just imagine how many Canadians will cross the border to obtain a legal high. Adding to the possible Canadian filtration, we are one of the only National powers bordered by a third world country – Mexico! The possible nightmare that could occur would be that these countries that would come crashing into our already over immigrated, crime-infested and intoxicated nation. God forbid that this democracy should decline far enough to even consider the legalization of drugs! Just imagine the impact this country would have with the production of marijuana if it were made legal. The Mexicans already contribute to the drug market illegally and the thought of a legal market is horrifying. In a society such as ours that is already stained with the abuse of legal intoxicants such as alcohol and nicotine, another legal narcotic would be a senseless choice. A close friend of mine moved to Europe and even married a European citizen so he could get heroin legal. He is now back in the U.S. in recovery and his story goes to show that drug addicts will flock to places where their choice of drug is legal.
Speaking of the United States, one of our own states, Alaska, for a while legalized marijuana but the citizens quickly voted to make it illegal again when it got out of hand. (Finley 1). In our country, millions of dollars are spent on drug rehabilitation of substance abusers with alcohol, a legal drug, being at the top of this list. According to the DEA “Drug control spending is a minor portion of the U.S. budget, and compared to the costs of drug abuse, spending is minuscule” (DEA-ten claims). In reference to the whole industry of recovery, Arthur Hyde, LPC and Director of Fountainbleu Treatment center reported that “The majority of people who enter into rehabilitation programs DO NOT enter because of the illegal aspect – quite the contrary, the illegal aspect is a trigger prevalent in the use of drugs themselves. Furthermore, more people enter due to health reasons, mental and physical, and even these seem to have as a primary factor – alcohol abuse” (Hyde on Addictions). Alcohol is a legal substance and if we look at the problems in our society from it’s abuse, it would be frightening to think of what would happen if narcotics or any other drugs became legal too.
Alcohol is acceptable in this society because of the class of people that use this legal drug. Legalization of anything depends on what class of people are using the drug itself. “….when drug users are perceived to be members of a majority, especially one enshrouded in respectability-a more compassionate approach toward legislation is likely to be adopted” (Weisheit 60). Since heroin and crack cocaine abuse seems to be prevalent in the inner cities and these people do not fit into the upper class scenario, legalization is absurd. The initial drug laws used the minority groups to make them illegal in the first place. On the same token, the upper class citizens who do have problems with illegal drugs are much more accepted by society and viewed as having a mental disorder, with emphasis placed on minority people as being naturally deviant and criminal minded. Drug use of any kind should not be accepted by society as a whole, whether the individual is a upper class person or an inner city dweller.
It seems that education and not legalization is the answer or rather an alternative solution to the drug problem. Harvard’s Mark A. R. Kleiman, a drug policy advisor to both the Bush and Clinton administrations says, “Americans need to take a realistic look at this society’s relationship to intoxicants of all types” (Frolik A-4). It seems that the American public has a love affair with altering their minds with no knowledge of the long term effects of using these substances. The Clinton administration has even put more money into programs that treat and educate addicts instead of just penalizing them for their ignorance (A-4). In like manner, Adele Hardin of the Urban Institute states that “drug use often runs in cycles… after authorities have slacked off on their education efforts. I think you have to re-educate whole generations” (Frolik A-4). Education seems to definitely have the power to diminish the drug crises, unlike legalization which proved to be ineffective. “From 1979 to 1994, the amount of people who used drugs was cut by more than fifty percent, from twenty-four million to around eleven million” (Finley 2). As this author noted, education is working. Perhaps more money should be spent in the media area showing the devastating effects of drugs like they have done with cigarettes. Furthermore, society as a whole need to make the use of any psychoactive drugs unacceptable in this society.
Moreover, the results of education on drug use has proved to be the most superior weapon to combat the drug epidemic in our society. If we take into consideration that tobacco is a legal drug and since the media has educated society about the dangers of tobacco smoke, a great majority of people have given up the habit. By society not tolerating second hand smoke, we have practically eliminated smoking in public places. We the people acted and the laws followed. If the law was before the public’s opinion, there would be much more offenses with smoking in public places. Likewise, the efforts of MADD to ban liquor advertisements has made a big impact on the general public. If we educate the public on the dangers of addiction with the compulsions and madness drug abuse creates and throw in the health problems caused by long term usage, the demand for drugs, which I call “reality inhibitors” would diminish just like the use of cigarettes has decreased in America.
In summation, legalization of drugs will inevitably make an already addicted society more addictive, and the one thing we do not need in our country is more addicts. By using any psychoactive drug, we are saying to our children that drug use is actually acceptable and condoned, when on the contrary we should be preaching about the detrimental effects that any mind altering substance has on us psychologically, physically, and emotionally. Baby boomers did not realize that prolonged use of any psychoactive drug makes you a slave to that drug, and this is passed onto our children and onto their children etc…. Only when we break this cycle can future generations learn to deal with life on life’s terms instead of medicating themselves from reality. This must start with us, and the question of whether drugs are legal or not is irrelevant. It is whether or not we will allow them to be acceptable that will determine their impact on society. We have an obligation to push for education and treatment for the disease of addiction and not for feeding this cancer that has taken the American society into a world of chemical dependency. The laws themselves are not what influences our behavior, but the acceptance of our behavior by our fellow man.
Finley, Rick. “Legalization is Giving Up.” Internet htp.www.drugs.com
[New Orleans, LA.] 6 Mar. 1994: A-4.
Simons, Marlise. “Lenient Laws Make Dutch Town a Mecca for
Drug – Hungry Foreigners.” Times Picayune
[New Orleans, LA.] 1 May 1994: A-32.
U.S. Department of Justice. “The Ten Claims.” DEA Speaking out against
Weisheit, Ralph. “Drugs, Crime and the Criminal Justice System.” Introduction
Pg 60. Acis/Anderson.