Challenging Convention: Common Sense

Posted on 02 April 2014 by admin

Gardner evaluates reform for the nation’s policy on drugs

Billy Gardner

Billy Gardner

Staff Writer

With the recent push for the legalization of cannabis, it is time to begin discussing reform for our nation’s policy on all drugs. The legalization and regulation of all drugs would be beneficial.

Our country has an ugly overcrowding issue in our jails and prisons. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, imprisoning its citizens at more than five times the international average.

Contributing to this phenomena, drug violations make up the largest category of arrests reported to the FBI in 2012. 82 percent of these arrests were for possession. In many cases, the individual was an otherwise productive member of society who, upon being arrested, becomes a burden to the taxpayers.

The current drug policies are also having a terrible impact on our neighbors to the south. Because many drugs are illegal, yet a massive demand exists, the black market booms. Cartels in Mexico make an estimated $18 to $39 billion each year from their sales to the United States. In their struggle to control and maintain a hold on this market, violence  among the cartels has soared in recent years. Thousands of people die each year in Mexico. Leaders in Latin America have begun to speak up on the issue.

Juan Manuel Santos, current President of Colombia, spoke about the war on drugs saying “the strategy that we have followed these 30 or 40 years has practically failed, and we have to recognize it.”

He went on to say “there are good arguments for legalizing, but I would prefer to reach that conclusion after an objective discussion… The U.S. says, ‘We don’t support legalization, because the cost of legalization is higher than no legalization.’ But I want to see a discussion where both approaches are analyzed by experts to say, really, the cost is lower or not.”

A common rebuttal to legalizing drugs like cocaine and heroin is that this would lead to more prevalent use. There is no evidence that demonstrates this. However, it can be said that legalization would increase the safety of the use of drugs. In a regulated market, the businesses selling must adhere to certain standards. Users would know exactly what they were buying. Cases similar to overdose deaths caused by heroin being cut with fentanyl,
a much stronger opioid, would not occur in a regulated market. Also, clean needles would be available for users. Roughly one third of AIDS cases in the United States are caused by the sharing of needles.

History has shown that people will use substances and that making use a crime creates a whole new set of problems. Our drug policy has failed. It is time to begin exploring alternate options.


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