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Decriminalizing Drugs - Essay Example

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Decriminalizing Drugs
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Decriminalizing Drugs

Illegal drug use continues in the US despite numerous and aggressive enforcement strategies and legislation aimed at illegal drug sales and use (Reuter 512). In addition to illegal drugs, the rate of prescription drug misuse and addiction continues to rise, with Oxycontin being the most common of these drugs (Grau et al. 169). Regardless of whether the drugs are legal or illegal, drug use and addiction has many direct and indirect effects on society including health costs, crime rates, incarceration, rates, and high costs of enforcement and legislation (Reuter 514). However, as evidenced by the steady increase in drug use, current attempts at drug control do not seem to have any significant effect and are apparently not effective, making decriminalization a more effective alternative. An Argument against Decriminalizing or Legalizing Drugs In the article, “Against the Legalization of Heroin,” de Marneffe presents his argument as to why the United States should not legalize or decriminalize illegal drugs (34-40). The first reason he presents against the decriminalization or legalization of illegal drugs in the US is that it would surely lead to an increase in their use (34). While this premise is based solely on speculation and assumption, and not based on facts or evidence, it is the argument most commonly used by individuals opposing drug decriminalization or legalization in the US.
De Marneffe continues the speculation by making the prediction that if drugs (i.e. heroin) were made legal in the US, all adolescents would begin their regular use which would have a detrimental effect on their achievement in the future and general wellbeing (36). This argument is based on the premise that life is especially difficult for adolescents and heroin use is pleasurable, so adolescents would use it regularly to deal with life in general (37). However, like the previously discussed argument, there are no facts or evidence to prove this. In the article, de Marneffe also argues that current drug laws and policies make using illegal drugs (i.e. heroin) more difficult and more expensive, make the drugs less available, reinforce the social norms against using them, and predictably reduce rates of illegal drug use (36). Again, as with his other arguments, there are no facts or evidence supporting this premise; and, the argument is based on speculation and assumption like the other arguments presented in the article (36-7). History of US Drug Laws Throughout the 19th century, illicit drugs such as opium, morphine, cocaine and heroin, were legal in the United States (Echegaray 1217). In 1914, the US Congress passed the first antinarcotics act, the Harrison Act, which was a law controlling the sale and distribution of certain drugs; however, the Harrison Act did not prohibit drugs entirely (1222). The Narcotic Drugs Importation and Export Act dealt with importing and exporting drugs and it was passed in 1922 (1223). By the 1950s, a number of laws were passed that prohibited or restricted using, selling or distributing drugs (i.e. cocaine, heroin) (1225). For example, the Boggs Amendment to the Harrison Act was passed in 1951, establishing a mandatory two-year sentence for convictions of first-time drug offenders; and, the Narcotics Control Act increased penalties for drug ... Read More
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