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Drug Legalization Debate

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There are always two sides to every argument. Currently, there is an ongoing discussion in American society about drug legalization and the wisdom of the continued so called "War on Drugs". It is an undeniable fact that drug use is present in the U.S. According to figures by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) each year Americans consume millions of tons of marijuana, thousands of tons of cocaine and vast amounts of other mind altering substances including methamphetamines, heroine, "angel dust", "ecstasy" and abuse even legal drugs available by prescription or over the counter products such as cough medicine and toxic materials such as glue and spray paint.

The reality is that Americans smoke, inhale, snort, inject, ingest and even rub drugs for the pleasure or relief from their problems. Each year billions of dollars are exchanged for the purchase of illegal drugs, that of which are produced both domestically and that are smuggled into the country. While domestic production accounts for some of the consumption, according to DEA figures the majority of the most popular drugs, cocaine and marijuana, are imported from Latin American countries, mainly Colombia for cocaine and Mexico for marijuana.

Given the large American dependence on drugs, the vast amounts of substances smuggled or produced domestically, the billions of dollars spent in law enforcement, as well as the cost in human life taken by drug violence and the millions of people incarcerated for drug trafficking bears many questions: why do Americans go to such great lengths for something so costly that they consider no different than alcohol.

On the pro-legalization side the argument concentrates on the fact that despite more than forty years after the start of the War on Drugs initiated by the Nixon administration, we are no closer as a nation to defeat consumption, stop the smuggling of billions of dollars in illegal product or drive down domestic production. (A Brief Overview of Drugs) Advocates for legalization point out that during the Prohibition Act of 1919 when alcohol was outlawed the result was not the defeat of consumption or alcoholism. Rather, the net result was an increase in illegal activity; smuggling, speak easies, moonshine and the flourishing of the gangster era. (Asbridge, Mark, and Swarna Weerasinghe) The rise of the Mafia and the age of the gangster lords such as Al Capone, "Lucky" Luciano and many others who became professional smugglers and made millions in illegal alcohol traffic. (Beshears)

When legalization was repealed, the country breathed a sigh of relief and the profitable business of alcohol smuggling disappeared overnight. Legalization meant that the production could be given to legal businesses, could be regulated by the government and produced not only legal profits and employment, but tax revenue from the legal sale and import. While alcoholism has not been eradicated, advocates of legalization point out that whatever the government or society does, there will always be a fringe that will gravitate towards abuse, and these people can be dealt by the system with counseling and treatment. The vast majority of the population does not abuse alcohol and only uses it simply for social recreation.

Legalization advocates also point out to the wave of violence inside and outside our country that the War on Drugs is costing. In the United States according to the DEA there are about 1.5 million people incarcerated because of drug offenses. Certain social groups such as the Black and Hispanic minorities depend on drug traffic for a great deal of their income; their communities have been devastated by their young men being incarcerated for drug offenses. Outside our country in Mexico in the lapse of five years there have been around fifty thousand deaths related to the drug traffic, due to the fact that gangs in Mexico fight with each other and with the Mexican government for control of the flow of illegal drugs to the United States. In Colombia the illegal drug traffic finances guerrilla groups that fight the Colombian government and commit murders, kidnappings and control swats of territory. (Horwitz) Critics point out that despite the billions of dollars spent by the American government on its War of Drugs, it is no closer to win the war than at the beginning and actually the situation may be worse; they point out that these billions of dollars would be better spent in other programs.

On the side against the legalization supporters point out that drugs destroy people, families and communities at large. They also



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