The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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U.S. should legalize illicit drugs

Courtesy of MCT

PRO

By William Sandifer

Contributor

In June of 1971, President Richard Nixon officially declared the war on drugs, calling drug abuse “public enemy No. 1” in the United States.” What followed during the Reagan administration was the institution of drug policies that would shape the development of a generation, change the way the prison system functions and the start of what many are calling a civil war in Mexico.
In looking back at the 40 years that have transpired since the enactment of more aggressive drug laws, it is easy to see failed policies and it is time we decriminalized illicit drugs.
Legislators only need to reflect on the era of alcohol prohibition to learn from the past.  During that time, violent crimes increased 13 percent, drunk and disorderly conduct went up 41 percent and the federal prison population increased a staggering 366 percent.
Based on this data, one would assume if we had not banned alcohol we could have reduced government spending and lowered crime rates.
The non-profit organization Common Sense for Drug Policy reported in 2009 more than 50 percent of the federal prison population was made up of drug crime offenders.  By releasing non-violent offenders we could alleviate prison overcrowding and save taxpayer money.
Drug Sense, a non-profit group that advocates ending drug prohibition, reported the federal government has already spent more than $2.5 billion since the beginning of this year.  The Office of National Drug Policy said in 2010, $15 billion of federal spending went to the war on drugs.
Much of this money goes to the Drug Enforcement Agency, which is currently helping to fight drug cartel violence in Mexico.  It is because of America’s demand for cocaine, marijuana and opiates that Mexico’s numerous drug cartels have been able to establish billion dollar drug networks.
To supply their neighbors to the north, they take control of their territories through violent acts, such as kidnapping, torture and murder.  There have been more than 30,000 drug-related deaths on Mexican soil since 2006.
In a recent study published by “The Lancet,” a British medical journal, drugs were rated on a scale of one to 100 based on overall detriment to a person’s health.  Heroin, crack and marijuana scored 55, 54, and 24, respectively and alcohol, which is legal, readily available and even celebrated in the U.S. scored a frightening 72.
This begs the question, why is the most harmful substance legal and yet possession of other drugs can lead to jail time?
Perhaps it is time for Americans to step back and consider the cost of our actions.  We will continue to consume illicit substances, as the past 40 years show, whether or not the drugs are legal.
With our current policies, it will not only continue to cost every U.S. taxpayer to fight a losing drug war and fill already overcrowded prisons, but it will also perpetuate the horrific violence in Mexico.
America has enough blood on it’s hands, and now is the time to change the policy before more money is wasted and lives are lost.

CON
By Kimia Karian
Contributor

The issue of drug legalization is an ongoing dilemma in the U.S. and its neighboring countries, especially in Mexico.  Politicians have overlooked this predicament for many years and its importance must be addressed more than it currently is.
However, the U.S. is not ready for the legalization of all banned substances like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and other illicit drugs.
Because of an epidemic where almost everyone had access to opiate and cocaine-based drugs in the 19th century, federal drug laws were put into place to stem the number of addicts, which was estimated to be about 250,000 when the country had a population of 76 million.
According to research published by the non-profit group, Common Sense for Drug Policy, there are about 17,000 deaths a year in the U.S. due to illicit drug use.  This could increase if illicit drugs were  legalized and easier to access. Drug use would become a social norm like the use of alcohol and tobacco and have a negative impact on future generations and our social environment.
Many believe the legalization of drugs could potentially eliminate much of the drug cartel violence in Mexico.  According to the news website Worldpress.org, “Mexico’s narcotics traffickers are the kingpins of this hemisphere’s drug trade, and the front line of the war on drugs,” and America’s appetite for drugs directly contributes to the violence.
However, legalizing illicit drugs will not put an end to the violence. Crime will not be reduced by drug legalization because studies show a correlation between drug use and crime since drugs can cause violent behavior. To say we should legalize drugs in order to eliminate the black market and its violence is unrealistic.
In 2004, America faced a methamphetamine epidemic.  In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 1.5 million people admitted to using it sometime during the previous year. But effective laws put addicts into treatment programs and took preventative measures through law enforcement and regulation, cutting methamphetamine production, resulting in a 60 percent drop in users between 2002 and 2008.      But there is still much work to be done to stamp out the violence associated with illicit drug use.  For example, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2009 that about 80 percent of child abuse and neglect cases are caused by drug abuse and more than 50 percent of people arrested tested positive for drug use.
While I am aware violence occurs because of drug trafficking, the violence caused by drug abuse is more likely to harm our communities directly than caused by drug trafficking.  If illicit drugs are legalized, violence will not be eliminated – it will increase.
Instead of working to legalize such dangerous drugs, we should focus on how to eliminate them.

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