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Drug Legalization: Should Marijuana, Crack Cocaine And Other Illicit Substances Be Legalized or Not?

There is always an ongoing debate on drug legalization issues all over the world. The discussions related to legalizing the drugs in the United States goes back to the 20th century’s early decades. But the contemporary debate on legalizing drugs was seen in 1988. In this debate, the proposed benefits of legalizing marijuana, crack cocaine and other illicit substances, was put forward at a meeting of the U.S Conference of Mayors, in which Baltimore’s Kurt L. Schmoke asked for a national debate on various American drug control strategies.[1]

The shared factor among most backers of drug legalization is a dissatisfaction and disappointment of the current framework to control drug use. As remote as the chance of legalization may appear, the deliberate push among advocates shows an ever-expanding conviction that the present framework has fizzled, and that elective techniques for combatting the country’s drug issue must be found. Many accept that expelling the criminal component from drug use, joined by improved education, training and treatment programs offers a feasible other option.

In this article, we will learn and explore more about drug legalization, its need and the related arguments with this issue.

Drug Legalization:

Section 1 : Defining Drug Legalization

1.1 Drug Prohibition

Drug prohibition is the lawful restriction of the production, distribution, sale, and use of certain mind- and mood-altering drugs (“drugs”). [3] 

Whenever sentenced for drug law infringement, these people (“drug convicts”) are persuasively punished by fine, detainment or coercive supervision. Drug prohibition is, thus, the commencement of physical power against people taking part in peaceful activities and deliberate exchanges of prohibited drugs.[3]

1.1.1 Failures of Drug Prohibition

  • Drug prohibition has created high levels of crime in the US. Addicts are forced to commit various crimes to pay for a habit that would be easily affordable if it was legal. Sources related to the Police services  have estimated that around half the property crime in major cities was committed by drug users. Also in 1986, a survey of the state’s prison inmates revealed that 43% were using illegal drugs on a daily basis or near daily basis each month before they committed the crime for which they were arrested.[4] 
  • Drug prohibition channels over $40 billion per year into the criminal black market. Liquor prohibition drove trustworthy organizations into different enterprises or bankrupt out and out, which made mobsters ready to make millions through the bootleg market.[4]
  • Drug prohibition is a great case of tossing cash at an issue. All out government-related to the authorization of drug laws added up to at least $10 billion out of 1987. Somewhere in the range of 1981 and 1987, US government consumptions against drug law authorization dramatically multiplied, from under $1 billion every year to about $3 billion. State and nearby law authorization organizations spent an expected $5 billion, adding up to around one-fifth of their absolute analytical assets, on drug enforcement exercises in 1986 [4] 
  • The gigantic benefits associated with a black‐​market business make dealing in the drugs the most worthwhile undertaking for some individuals, particularly the individuals who care least about jumping on an inappropriate side of the law. More than half of all sorted out illegal incomes are accepted to get from the unlawful drug business; assessments of the dollar esteem go somewhere in the range of $10 and $50 billion every year.[4]
  • Today, about 25% of all (AIDS) cases in the United States and Europe, just as the vast larger part of human immunodeficiency infection (HIV)- contaminated heteros, youngsters, and babies, are accepted to have contracted the disease straightforwardly from unlawful intravenous (IV) drug use.[4]
  • Prohibition and authorization make the currently illegal drugs increasingly costly and less accessible. The remote fare cost of illegal drugs is such a little division of the retail cost in the United States [approximately 4% with cocaine, 1% with pot, and substantially less than 1% with heroin)[4]
  • The drug laws separate families. Such a large number of guardians have been isolated from their kids since they were indicted for drug ownership, small‐​scale retail of drugs, or some other non‐​violent offense. In 1996, 188,880 ladies were captured for abusing drug laws. The majority of them didn’t go to prison, obviously, however more than two‐​thirds of the 146,000 ladies in a correctional facility have babies.[5]

1.2 Drug Legalization 

  • In response to rising frustration with the increased level of various drug-related crimes and homicides and also high social costs, corruption, some influential voices around the world have called for legalization of drugs. 
  • Drug legalization can therefore be thought of as moving drugs along a spectrum of regulated statuses in the direction of increased availability. However, while legalization advocates do not deny that some sort of controls will be required, their proposals rarely address the question of how far on the spectrum a given drug should be moved, or how to accomplish such a movement. [2] 
  • Legalization is basically the annulment of drug prohibition. The annulment of prohibition would leave grown-up drug clients or merchants generally or completely liberated from the lawful physical power by the state, contingent on the type of legalization adopted in a specific state[3]

1.2.1 Drug Decriminalization vs Drug Legalization

  • An option in contrast to legalization is decriminalization.
  • Fundamentally, decriminalization alludes to a decrease of lawful punishments. This should be possible either by transforming them to common punishments, for example, fines, or by redirecting drug use to guilty parties from a criminal conviction and into instruction, education or treatment, training choices . 
  • Decriminalization to a great extent applies to drug use and ownership offenses, not to the retail or supply of drugs. Contentions for decriminalization remember its concentration for drug users as opposed to drug providers. 
  • Decriminalization can possibly diminish the weight on police and the criminal equity framework. It likewise expels the negative outcomes (counting shame) related with criminal feelings for drug use. 
  • One such argument against decriminalization is that it doesn’t address the black market and criminal systems of drug selling. There are likewise worries that it might prompt expanded drug use yet this expect current criminal punishments work as a hindrance for certain individuals. 
  • Numerous nations, including Australia, have decriminalized cannabis use: measures incorporate giving redirection programs (every single Australian state and regions), and moving from criminal punishments to common punishments, (for example, fines in South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory).[6]

Section 2 : Drug Legalization : An Ever going Debate

For decades now, drug legalization has been a much debated topic, with many controversies going around it ever since the inception of this idea. 

Let’s look at a few common arguments generally raised in this regard.

2.1 Supporting Arguments :

  • Proponents of legalization claim that one among its major benefits would be a discount in crime. One reason is that sales and distribution would be within the hands of state or business, not criminals and gangs.[7] 
  • Legalization of drugs would end in a way lower drug prices will be available. Consequently, crime committed for the aim of obtaining drugs at current high prices would be reduced. 
  • Nadelmann (1989) argues that one of the factors is that otherwise honest citizens are forced into a criminal setup and environment by the mere incontrovertible fact that drug use is against the law . He fears that this produces an unnecessary criminal socialization and breeds disrespect for law generally . 
  • Proponents also claim that legalization could reduce the incidence of drug overdoses by regulating the drug’s purity; that extra income can be used for drug education and rehabilitation might be generated from taxes on drugs 
  • Finally, a couple of proponents even claim that drugs might be manufactured within the us which will create more jobs and fewer criminal activity in importation.[7] 
  • They assert that those not using drugs now are unlikely to use them, no matter their status , in order that legalization won’t cause drastically increased use. As well, deaths from illicit drugs would decrease, because legal drugs would be available which might be of known purity and quality. 
  • Finally, legalizing drugs, consistent with anti-prohibitionists, will eliminate the black market, reducing associated violence and involvement of gangland within the process 
  • Proponents also argue that court systems and prisons are overflowing with drug-related offences, to the purpose where the bulk of inmates are in prison, thanks to drug-related offences. As well, drug traffickers and dealers became multi-millionaires on the profits from drug sales. Many billions of dollars would be saved if drugs were legalized. Also the black market would be reduced, and tax revenues from the sale of previously illicit drugs would be great. 
  • They assert that drug use is their right, which the government doesn’t have the authority to manage what an individual injects in the body, especially if it doesn’t harm or interfere with anyone else.[8] 
  • Legalization of drug use may also make some people less afraid of treatment for addiction. There will be increased accessibility to treatment and might indirectly reduce the spread of infections such as HIV[10]

2.2 Opposing Arguments

  • In England in the 19th-century , where opioids were legal, the typical Englishman consumed about 150 doses of laudanum per annum , and British prime minister Gladstone was also addicted to it . Historically, societies have made substances illegal after epidemics of their abuse contributed to a high prevalence of the medical, psychiatric, and social complications of addiction. In US , the Harrison Act of 1911 banned prescription of opium for this reason[10] 
  • Legalization of medicine would send the incorrect message to other countries if the US created a legal market in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, or other dangerous drugs, it might also violate international treaties to which the US may be a signatory. These include the only Convention on Narcotics Drugs of 196140 and therefore the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971.[9] 
  • Legalization of illegal drugs would also send the incorrect message to youth. At a time, the US urged our children to “just say no ” to drugs. Legalization would suggest that they have only say no until they reach an appropriate age.` It is stated that children will be confused about the important consequences of drug abuse when drugs are forbidden to them, but are readily available to elders who are slightly older[9] 
  • The legalization of such drugs would expand the drug problem. If these reinforcing drugs like cocaine, were freely available, one could reasonably expect that the present crisis pertaining to drug abuse would increase substantially. A former director of the National Institute on substance abuse made a prediction about cocaine He estimated that if there was no drug enforcement system to limit access to cocaine , there would be about eighty million regular cocaine users within the US instead of the roughly six million now regularly using cocaine.[9] 
  • Legalization of medicine wouldn’t eliminate or decrease drug-related crime. a well-liked mis- conception is that drug users commit crimes solely to support expensive drug habits. This misconception results in the false conclusion that lowering the value of drug would scale back the extent of crime.“ Actually , cheaper, legal drugs would probably increase the extent of violent crimes and crimes to property.[9]
  • Legalization of drugs must accompany allowing all individuals to possess any drug of any potency, with none restriction whatsoever[9] 
  • Newcomb in 1992 stated that prohibitionists believe that legalization would cause greater harm through increased use because of increased availability and acceptance of those drugs by society. Other effects of legalization would come with increased crime and violence resulting from the pharmacological effects of illicit drugs, and car and workplace injuries and deaths. Like in Marijuana, prohibitionists assert that its use results in the utilization of other, more dangerous drugs, like cocaine and heroin.[8]
  • Prohibitionists assert that the legalization of illicit drugs would cause unforeseen economic costs, therein increased abuse would cause greater demand for drug-treatment services, greater health-care costs, reduced productivity within the workplace, and losses thanks to increased injuries and death[8] 
  • Prohibitionists assert that extreme measures are needed within the fight against drugs, which the loss of some rights is important in order that drugs are often combated. As examples, they point to the thought that drug use harms not only the user, but the those round the user, through in utero damage to the fetus of pregnant drug users, by affecting other members of the community through increased crime, and by increasing family problems like maltreatment[8] 
  • Legalization would most dramatically harm poor people that would be addicted in greater numbers. Their communities would also experience greater suffering than more affluent communities from the moral corruption and social fragmentation caused by addiction. The greater the supply , the greater the issues in youth and in vulnerable subpopulations like the psychiatrically and medically ill[10]

Section 1.3 : Conclusion

Drug abuse is one of the major  problems, for both the individuals involved in it and for their family and friends. But it can be better dealt with a moral and medical way rather  than as a criminal problem — “a problem which is put for the surgeon general, not the attorney general,” as  quoted by Mayor Schmoke. 

Drug legalization has been a topic which is highly debatable around the world. For some people, it is a road through which a more substance abuse free will is formed. On the contrary, other sets of people think that drug legislation will exaggerate the substance abuse levels around the world. Many countries have their own acts and laws for legalization or prohibition of various drugs. 

Legalization is one of the most simplistic answers to an extremely complex problem. The need of the hour is to have strict and stringent measures, either in the form of drug legalization or prohibition, depending on the country; along with proper education, training and guidance to get rid of substance abuse related activities around the world.


  • Inciardi, J. A. (Ed.). (1999). The drug legalization debate. Sage Publications.
  • Kleiman, M. A., & Saiger, A. J. (1989). Drug legalization: the importance of asking the right question. Hofstra L. Rev., 18, 527.
  • Ostrowski, J. (1990). The moral and practical case for drug legalization. Hofstra Law Review, 18(3), 5.
  • Nadelmann, E. A. (1989). Drug prohibition in the United States: Costs, consequences, and alternatives. Science, 245(4921), 939-947.
  • https://www.cato.org/publications/congressional-testimony/drug-legalization-criminalization-harm-reduction
  • https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/blog/decriminalisation-or-legalisation-injecting-evidence-drug-law-reform-debate
  • Rosse, J. G., Crown, D. F., & Feldman, H. D. (1991). Legalization of drugs: Effects on the workplace. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 4(2), 125-135.
  • http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~haans/misc/debate.html
  • Lawn, J. C. (1989). The issue of legalizing illicit drugs. Hofstra L. Rev., 18, 703.
  • Frances, R. J. (1991). Should drugs be legalized? Implications of the debate for the mental health field. Psychiatric Services, 42(2), 119-125.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 20, 2021

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