Drug Policies Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2726 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 17  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs

..was a disease, not a crime, that harsh criminal penalties were destructive" (Major pp). Yet, the United States has the harshest drug policies in the world and as a result has the largest prison population (Facts). In 1993, over sixty percent of federal prison inmates were incarcerated on drug related charges (Block 2000). In the United State there are approximately 700 people incarcerated for every 100,000 compared to 59 per 100,000 in Denmark (Charts pp).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Drug Policies of the United Assignment

Netherlands is one of the most densely populated, urbanized countries in the world and firmly believes in the freedom of the individual, "with the government playing no more than a background role in religious or moral issues" (Drug pp). Dutch society attaches high value to the "well being of society as a whole, as witness the extensive social security system and the fact that everyone has access to health care and education" (Drug pp). A violent heroin market during the 1970's led the Dutch government to establish a drug policy working group which is known as the Baan Commission and whose recommendations largely determined the course of the Netherlands' drug policy (Drug pp). Core features of the Dutch system are rooted in the concept of harm reduction, "i.e., the minimization of the risks and hazards of drug use rather than the suppression of all drugs" (Drug pp). Dutch policy gives priority to health care and prevention while at the same time, directing aggressive enforcement measures against organized crime (Drug pp). With respect to the supply side of the drug market, Dutch drug policy reflects the international repressive norm, however, the Dutch policy recognizes that drug use may often just be a youthful indiscretion and emphasizes compassion and treatment for those who develop drug use problems (Drug pp). The government sets clear priorities based on the perceived risks of particular drugs and public health is the overriding concern (Drug pp). The Dutch classify drugs according to the risks posed and then pursue policies that serve to isolate each market, thus, users of soft drugs are less likely to come into contact with users of hard drugs, therefore, users of soft drugs are less likely to try hard drugs (Drug pp). Moreover, the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use has been decriminalized in the Netherlands (Drug pp). The sale of cannabis is technically an offence under the Opium Act, however, prosecutorial guidelines provide that proceedings will only be instituted in certain situations. "An operator or owner of a coffee shop (which is not permitted to sell alcohol) will avoid prosecution if he/she meets the following criteria:

no more than 5 grams per person may be sold in any one transaction;

no hard drugs may be sold;

drugs may not be advertised;

the coffee shop must not cause any nuisance;

no drugs can be sold to minors (under age 18), nor may minors enter the premises;

Decriminalization of the possession of soft drugs for personal use and the toleration of sales in controlled circumstances has not resulted in a high level of consumption among young people (Drug pp). Moreover, The soft drug use does not differ from the pattern in other Western countries, however, the number of hard drug addicts in the Netherlands is low compared with the rest of Europe and considerably lower than that in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Switzerland (Drug pp). And interestingly, Dutch rates of drug use are lower than U.S. rates in every category (Drug pp).

Under Dutch law, possession of drugs remains prohibited and punishable, especially when above tolerated quantities (International pp). "The maximum sentence for the possession or sale of no more than 30 grams of hemp is 1 month in prison (and/or a fine), but a prison sentence of 4 years (and/or a fine) applies to imports and exports or professional cultivation" (International pp).

The maximum sentence for hard drugs is 1 year in prison (and/or a fine) for the possession of user quantities and 12 years incarceration (and/or a fine) for imports or exports and maximum sentences can be raised by one third for repeat offenses (International pp). The four major objectives of the Netherlands' Drug Policy are: "(1) prevention of drug use and treatment and rehabilitation of addicts; (2) reduction of harm to drug users; (3) diminishing public nuisance caused by drug users," such as public safety, etc. (International pp).

While there is no such thing as European drug policy, "all countries are obliged to abide by international agreements such as the United Nations Conventions on Drugs of 1961, 1971, 1972 and 1988" (Single pp). Until the early 1990's, the Netherlands was considered to be the only country that openly experimented with policies based on the acceptance of illicit drug consumption as a part of modern society, however, this attitude has now become widespread among most all Western European nations (Single pp). In fact, drug policies in Europe are "approaching the phenomenon with a much more open mind than ten years ago" (Single pp). "While some countries intend to establish these attitudes in their legislation, others find loopholes by issuing special decrees to allow regional and legal authorities to experiment with more liberal approaches using the so-called opportunity principle in its widest sense" (Single pp).

Each year in the U.S. approximately 390,000 people die from tobacco, 80,000 from alcohol, 2,200 from cocaine, 2,000 from heroin, another 2,000 from aspirin, and "0" from marijuana (Basic pp). In fact, "there has never been a recorded death due to marijuana at anytime in U.S. history...while tobacco kills more people each year than all the people killed by all of the illegal drugs in the last century" (Basic pp). Moreover, all major authorities agree that the majority of drug related violent crime is due to the prohibition against drugs, rather than the drugs themselves, just as alcohol Prohibition gave rise to a violent criminal organization, yet the year it was repealed, violent crime dropped 65% (Basic pp).

Following in the Netherlands' drug policies and in response to a wave of enforcement of anti-drug policies in the 1980's, the movement for drug policy reform in the United States has increasingly turned to the argument of "harm reduction" (Harcourt 1999).

Whereas thirty years ago the opponents of criminalization talked about marijuana use as a victimless crime, the opponents of criminalization now emphasize the harms associated with the war on drugs (Harcourt 1999).

There is literally tons of research backing up the need to decriminalize drug use in the United States. Apparently, however, these volumes of studies and recommendations continue to fall up deaf ears.

Works Cited

Levine, Harry G. "The secret of worldwide drug prohibition: the varieties and uses of drug prohibition." Independent Review; 9/22/2002.

Basic Facts about Drug Laws


History of Legislative Control


Major Studies on Drugs and Drug Policies


Facts About Prisons and Prisoners


Harcourt, Bernard E. "The collapse of the harm principle."

Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology; 9/22/1999; Pp

Block, Walter. Legalize Drugs Now!

The American Journal of Economics and Sociology; 7/1/2000; Pp.

Drug Policy Alliance: The Netherlands. http://www.lindesmith.org/global/drugpolicyby/westerneurop/thenetherlan/

International Facts, Policies and Trends: Data From Various Nations


Charts: World Incarceration Rates. http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/y/world.htm single European drug policy does not exist http://www.encod.org/rap-mainconclusions.htm [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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