Term Paper: Legalization of Drugs

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Legalization of Drugs

Ever since the 1960s when college students began to smoke marijuana, the issue of illegal drugs has been debated. Some people claim, for example, that marijuana -- which has no potential for addiction -- would never have been made illegal, if organized crime had not needed something illegal to "push" after prohibition was repealed. It would certainly seem that the controversy has gone on long enough and that most everything about it has already been said. If not legalized, illegal drugs should at least be de-criminalized.

In "Four Points about Drug Decriminalization," Douglas Husak points out that many people, while they are against drugs, do not want to see drug users punished or imprisoned. He is in favor of decriminalization, which he defines as something like prohibition was during the 1920s when "production and sale [of alcohol] were banned, but not the use or mere possession of alcohol" (Husak 22). I certainly agree that users should not be punished, and his idea of decriminalization would be a step in the right direction, but I would go a stop further. Illegal drug production should be controlled rather than prohibited. Our current drug laws are unenforceable; indeed, the drug war is enormously expensive and an ineffective way to deal with drug abuse.

Husak argues that no good reasons exist for making drug use a crime. He makes three points in this regard. First, he concedes that treating drug use as a crime probably does not violate any basic human right (although civil libertarians might disagree). Second, he is trying to prove a negative, that is, that there are no good reasons for making it a crime. If someone gave reasons for criminalization, he could make a better case refuting them, but his task, to prove no good reasons exist, is much more difficult. Finally, he states that his assumptions about justice are minimal: no one should be punished except for a good reason. In this, he defines what he means by justice. But the first two points seem to function rhetorically more like an apology, or a warning that his arguments may not seem dramatic or particularly persuasive. And, in fact, although I agree with his premise, I do not find his essay very interesting. He tends to belabor.

For example, Husak points out that there are no books that make a plausible case for punishing drug users and begins his argument with a legal discussion. Laws that prohibit drug use are nearly always tested in Court for legitimacy by applying the rational basis test; that is, does the state have a conceivable, legitimate purpose for restricting a non-fundamental liberty? The state's legitimate purpose does not have to be compelling, only rational. Thus, a person who breaks a drug law "can be punished simply because the state has a rational basis to do so." The author points out, "It is one thing to enact non-criminal laws that pass the rational basis test. But it is quite another when criminal legislation is assessed by the same standard" (p. 24).

To punish drug-use as a crime is unjust, but Husak never actually says that. He does argue that other crimes involve harm to others. Drug use may create a risk of harm but not actual harm to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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