Pubdate: Tue, 26 Feb 2008
Source: Daily Targum (Rutgers, NJ Edu)
Copyright: 2008 Daily Targum


Since the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, drug
enforcement policies have been a top priority for the federal
government. The Nixon and Reagan years marked the beginning of the
controversial war on drugs, arguably the most costly and narrow-minded
piece of domestic policy to date. According to the Drug Policy
Alliance Web site, the United States spent an estimated $40 billion
financing drug enforcement legislation in the year 2000, with $18
billion being allocated to the National Drug Control budget and
upwards of $20 billion being spent on the state level. The Drug Policy
Alliances estimates that this amount will continue to increase
annually in stark contrast to the budget allocated toward funding of
other domestic programs, such as federal student loans for higher education.

Though our editorial board was unilaterally opposed to this senseless
policy, opinions on how the nation ought to address the problem of
dealing with illegal drugs and narcotics were many and diverse.
Drawing comparisons to the prohibition era, some of us argued that
such heavy-handed governmental control over the sale of illegal drugs
will only facilitate the continued rise of petty street crime in urban
centers, where organized crime syndicates are able to operate with a
high level of anonymity, distributing drugs and contributing to the
established states of mob rule in many the poorest of our nation's
city districts. This quickly led to a rapid-fire discussion about the
much-debated topic of drug legalization in America.

On this controversial topic, our editorial board overwhelmingly
favored a modified national drug policy that would lead to the
de-classification of marijuana as a schedule I substance. The
Controlled Substances Act defines Schedule I substances as substances
that have a high potential for abuse and have no established medical
benefits. Other Schedule I substances include heroin, LSD and MDMA,
the active ingredient in ecstasy. We find that it is difficult, in the
current political climate, for the government to argue that marijuana
poses a serious threat as an addictive substance and believe that
enough evidence has been established to conclude that marijuana does
possess legitimate medical benefits. There are currently 13 states
with medical marijuana laws and Cannabis Club dispensaries, according
to's dispensary directory, and we believe it is high time
that the federal government intervened to change the scheduling of
marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act! .

The number of citizens arrested for petty marijuana charges annually
is staggering and has only continued to grow since the drug laws were
first enacted. The fiscal consequences of incarcerating these
small-time offenders are unacceptable, especially in the current
economic climate. State and federal prisons are already overcrowded
with drug offenders, which leaves comparatively little room for
housing more violent criminals.

Though we were all able to agree marijuana should be decriminalized,
at least to a certain extent, opinions about the controlled status of
other drugs and narcotics were not in universal alignment. At least
one member of the editorial board believed that any amount of
governmental control on psychoactive drugs was unconstitutional, as it
constitutes a violation of basic privacy rights and is representative
of government officials legislating their own morality. It was this
member's belief that American citizens should be free to decide for
themselves that substances they choose to accept. He followed up his
argument by declaring that the existing drug legislation has done
little to curb the flow of illegal substances into our country, which
was universally agreed upon.

But there are legitimate concerns when it comes to maintaining some
level of control over certain substances, especially substances as
addictive and dangerous as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. Many
of our board members believe that it would be grossly irresponsible
for our government to abandon laws barring the use of these
substances, as their use has been historically shown to lead to a
decrease in the quality of life of their individual users, as well as
the economic downfall of communities in which their use is prevalent.
Crystal methamphetamine, for example, is reported to be able to strip
the enamel off of a habitual user's teeth in less than nine months.
People under the influence of this substance are more likely to injure
themselves or others around them, as methamphetamine has been proven
to severely impair a person's judgment and decision-making

The difficulty in this situation lies in defining the reasonable
limits of freedom, which is vaguely promised as an unalienable right
to all American citizens. Where the line should be drawn between legal
and illegal substances, and who should be charged with drawing them,
is a debate that dates back to the founding fathers and is still no
closer now to being brought to a satisfactory conclusion than it was
in their era. What has become obvious in the years since the passage
of the Controlled Substances Act, so far as our editorial board is
concerned, is that our country is spending way too much money fighting
its war on drugs, a policy which is hopelessly outdated and Draconian,
and has done little, if anything, to curb the flow of these substances
into, and throughout, our nation.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek