For a long time, man has been interested in the consumption of substances that have the ability to alter one's mind or feelings. These substances can be broken down into legal and illegal substances with the main concern being the labeling of certain substances as illegal, and their prohibition by creation of certain penalties for their use.
The profitability of drug dealing would reduce or be entirely eliminated if the importation, sale and use of drugs were to be legalized. As a result, the violence involved in drug dealing would be reduced as there would be no financial incentive to commit violent crimes. Rather than buying a product of unknown quality and dosage from a corner dealer, a potential customer would probably prefer to buy a market-tested product from his or her local pharmacy, thus reducing the role of the drug dealer (Repeal, 2010).
A drug can simply be defined as any substance which may modify one or more of a living organism's functions when absorbed. Other definitions exclude food which might exclude alcoholic beverages as a drug because according to these definitions, beverages are also classified as foods. In reality, any substance that alerts the structure or function in a living organism is a drug. Therefore, though alcohol does not carry all the risks of addiction as other drugs do, can be defined as a drug as it affects the body and can lead to severe threats to life and health.
According to a recent public health survey, 52% of adults 18 years of age and above are regular drinkers while 13% of adults are infrequent drinkers (Cook, 2007). The number of deaths resulting from liver disease due to excessive alcohol consumption in the same year was 14,406 while the number of alcohol-induced deaths was 23,199. Over 3 million teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 are alcoholics, with girls beginning to drink at much younger ages. Also, there are over 1,360,000 drug prisoners in America, constituting nearly 80% of the total number of prisoners in the United States (Raistrick, 2005). This has been prohibited in the United States.
Though tobacco in limited quantities is a stimulant, it can lead to addiction and is extremely difficult to overcome as it contains nicotine. In the United States, cigarette smoking has been the most common method of taking tobacco. Apart from being highly addictive, smoking is a leading cause of stroke and the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The tar in a cigarette exposes the user and those around him or her to lung cancer and other bronchial disorders. According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, cigarettes result in more than one in five American deaths, with over 50,000 people dying from secondhand smoke annually. Only one of the hundreds of cigarette brands in the United States uses fire safe technology making cigarettes the number one cause of fire-related deaths.
Though legal, alcohol and tobacco cause more physical, financial and emotional harm than all other illegal drugs combined. Alcohol has been known to damage the liver and even cause poisoning which often leads to death while tobacco has been known to cause severe lung damage. This is unlike marijuana, which studies have shown that it has certain medicinal values and positive effects on the environment, yet it is still illegal in most countries and states. The reason as to the legalization of these two and not marijuana is that if marijuana were to be legalized, anyone wanting to grow it would be able to and for this reason; it would not be considered a commodity, thus would not be not be taxable.
California is the only state that has legalized the use of marijuana by individuals for medicinal purposes. Several other states such as Washington and Massachusetts are slated to consider marijuana legalization bills. There are several points supporting the legalization of marijuana, a significant one being that it has medicinal benefits and is helpful in the treatment of patients undergoing chemotherapy. Also, if taken in moderate quantities, it is no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol and increased tax revenues would be realized from its legalization. Moreover, drug-related crime would drastically reduce resulting in the loss of significance of drug mafia; hence the police force would be able to focus on more serious crimes.
However, marijuana has been considered to be a stepping stone drug that could lead to addiction of other drugs like heroin and cocaine. By inhaling the smoke, passive smokers are normally exposed to the damage caused by secondhand smoke from marijuana usage. Though some people are strongly against the legalization of marijuana, others argue that legalizing it may increase crime levels hence it is safer to keep marijuana offenders locked up. This is because most of those involved in the unlawful trade of the drug are also involved in other crimes. Legalizing marijuana would also be considered immoral by many Americans because religious codes forbid the use of intoxicating substances.
Addiction can be defined as an abnormally strong desire for, and dependence on something that is physically or psychologically habit- forming. More so, drug addiction can be defined as an abnormal condition which arises due to regular drug use, especially narcotic drugs. Narcotics, on the other hand, can be defined as any psychoactive compound that induces sleep, reduces pain and may change the mood or behavior of is consumer. Alcohol and tobacco can therefore be classified as narcotics.
Alcohol and tobacco cause the greatest danger to children and teenagers as they both represent serious gateway drugs used by teenagers and children. Alcohol and cigarette advertising is designed to appeal to the youth, by portraying smokers and drinkers as fun, sexy and successful. It is for this reason that advertising is responsible for up to 40 percent of alcohol and cigarette use by teenagers. Another reason is that drugs such as heroin are easily accessible and affordable by teenagers.
Decriminalization refers to the decrease of the penalty for an act deemed illegal by statute law, though not essentially legalizing it. Re-evaluation of drug laws is vital in the reduction of harmful effects of drugs. The need for change in these laws cannot be ignored as the amount of money spent by the U.S governments on a failing drug war could be better applied to other alternatives such as education and health care. Alternate means of dealing with drug issues, such as decriminalization, would yield a lesser burden on society and would benefit the United States as a whole by reducing the financial burdens placed on its people.
According to many Americans, drugs are only a metropolitan problem, but in reality, they affect everyone, both users and nonusers. As a result of the failure of the current drug policy, the government should consider alternate approaches such as the decriminalization of marijuana in order to reduce the negative effects associated with drugs (Gual, 2007). This, among other changes in the policies relating to drug crimes, would lead to increased tax revenues, reduced crime and safety due to government regulations.