Pubdate: Wed, 08 Mar 2006
Source: Daily Targum (Rutgers, NJ Edu)
Copyright: 2006 Daily Targum
Authors: Edward Fu and Sean Li
Note: Edward Fu is a Rutgers College sophomore, majoring in computer 
science. Sean Li is a Rutgers College first-year student.
Bookmark: (Opinion)



The United States' campaign against recreational drugs is a fine
example of lofty ideals trumping reality. The United States spends
over $50 billion dollars annually on the War on Drugs but has had
little to show for it; the use of every major recreational drug has
increased since the laws that illegalized them. 60% of prisoners are
in jail for drug offenses - each at a cost of almost half a million
dollars to the government. Yet, it is estimated 50 million Americans
have used illegal drugs within the past year.

The enormous cost of this fruitless Drug War not only places an
enormous burden upon an already over-stretched budget but also drains
money from more effective rehabilitation programs. It seems irrational
and counterproductive to label drug addicts as criminals and throw
them into jail with almost no hope of therapy.

A genuine rehabilitation program is a far more effective and
affordable way to actually treat the problem of drug addiction, but
such programs can never work effectively if drugs remain illegal. Few
drug users will ever seek treatment from an organization run by the
same government seeking to throw him in jail.

Furthermore, the costs of the Drug War aren't simply financial. It
would severely detract from the ability of law enforcement to pursue
other crimes, if they actually had to arrest every single drug user.
Consequently, when cops are allowed to choose who to arrest, racial
profiling rears its ugly head, and officers tend to arrest people of a
certain ethnic group they believe 'most likely' to be a drug user.

What is the result? We now live in a society where two-thirds of black
male high school students will be dead, disabled or in prison before
their thirtieth birthday. For every black man who goes to college,
three will go to prison - the vast majority for non-violent drug
charges. When they are released from prison - as black men with a
prison record - it will be almost impossible for them to find stable
employment, only perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty.

These people, however, haven't really done anything wrong. Smoking
marijuana affects no one else, infringes upon no one's rights and is
not malum in se. Nonetheless, these people will now forever be
classified into a category that places them among the murderers,
rapists and kidnappers of society. Those criminals deserve the label
"ex-convict." Contrarily, someone who lights a blunt in the privacy of
his own room doesn't.

The worst part about these arrests is the hypocrisy inherent in the
Drug War. Tobacco kills about 400,000 people annually and alcohol
80,000 people. As for drugs, combined, they only amount to 4,500.

Abuse of drugs certainly could lead to disastrous consequences, but
the same holds true for many other addictive substances. We ban
smoking in public areas, because we recognize second-hand smoke
violates the rights of others. However, we don't ban smoking itself,
because regulating what adults can put into their own bodies is
plainly an unconstitutional infringement on personal liberties. We
realize the difference between a recreational drinker and one who
commits crimes while drinking. Therefore, why don't we accept the same
dichotomy for drug users?

Our code of law is founded upon a principle of presumptive
rationality. We treat adults as rational beings and allow them to make
choices. As such, it is clear the government is entirely unjustified
in singling out this particular personal freedom to override at such
enormous cost to society.

By Edward Fu

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Arguing for the legalization of drugs is a good crusade for personal
liberties; however, it also ignores the grave repercussions of
enacting this policy.

First of all, the War on Drugs is entirely winnable. There was a
steady decrease of the use of drugs in America from the late '70s to
the early '90s, before the War on Drugs was moved to the bottom of the
list of priorities.

The funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy was slashed
by 80%, and the result was a 106% increase in teenagers using drugs.
These statistics show the United States can win the war, if it focuses
on the war against drugs - not just by saying "Mission Accomplished".
Even though we have many priorities to balance today, the correct
policy is not simply to give up - essentially what Ed suggests.

The main point for the legalization of drugs is usually personal
choice; if it does not harm anyone but themselves, it is okay.
Proponents of the other side usually point to smoking inside one's own
room. It does not harm anyone else but themselves, so it's legal.

Unfortunately, drugs do harm other people, not just the person that
does them. You can smoke in your own room, but it does not alter your
mind like phencyclidine does, in that you might kill or rape the next
person that walks in the door. When people pay higher insurance rates
for drug-related health problems, higher taxes for rehab centers and
more money for court cases involving drugs, doing drugs clearly does
not just harm those that use them.

Even if it only affects the user, the United States is fully in its
power to enact laws that protect people from hurting themselves -
seatbelt laws are a prime example.

Secondly, this opens up the can of worms on personal choice in drugs.
If you can get drugs like heroin and PCP at the local convenience
store, should not you be able to get drugs you can only get by
prescription now? If it is your choice to shoot up on heroin, why not
be able to use drugs like phentermine and fenfluramine, which was
pulled from the market because of its dangerous side effects but could
be used as a diet drug? If you can take heroin whenever you choose,
then there is no reason for having to justify taking any other drug.

Essentially, if drugs were to be legalized, either the system of
getting prescriptions is trashed or hard drugs - like heroin and
cocaine - would be easier to get than safer prescription drugs that
have been legalized by the Food and Drug Administration.

Another issue is the black market will disappear with the legalization
of drugs. Too bad the legalization of drugs means a tax for more
rehabilitation centers and paying for criminal cases on drug-crimes.
This tax means cheaper, black market drugs will still be the drug of
choice for the majority - so the black market stays. Also, it is
interesting to note crime in the Netherlands actually increased after
marijuana was legalized, not decreased.

It is obvious if you legalize drugs, more people will use them, and
this nation already has enough drug-related problems, without opening
the market up to everyone who can walk down to the student center.
Finally, I don't want people high on cocaine roaming the streets on
Friday nights; I don't think most of you would either.

By Sean Li
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