All drugs should be legalized and regulated
Debate Rounds (5)
I think that it is safe to say that drugs and drug users can never be eliminated from society. Having said that, there are a few questions that immediately come to mind. Should the production and distribution of drugs be regulated by governments or by criminal cartels? (Admittedly, it is often difficult to tell one from the other). Should recreational drug users be treated as criminals? Should addiction be treated as a criminal issue or a health issue?
This debate will focus on the first question. Should the production and distribution of potentially harmful substances be legalized and regulated? I argue that legalization and regulation are far better options for recreational drug users, drug addicts, and for society at large than is prohibition. Prohibition, in my opinion, ADDS to the problem of drug use and misuse. It does not mitigate it.
I agree that eliminating drugs and drug use entirely is impossible. This does not mean though that society and government does not try its best to do so. In my opinion the legalization of all drugs would be effectively giving up the battle against drugs. This would result in legalized unlimited sales of all types of currently illegal drugs. This would allow drug dealers to operate freely, able to coerce more people into buying drugs and becoming drug addicts. They would be free to sell anything they like and would likely increase sales of the most dangerous types of drugs due to the larger profit margin and the absence of serious prosecution. The removal of restrictions on drug use would lead to many people to believe taking drugs is OK. Many people who would never have tried drugs either because they were scared of the danger posed by drugs or the fear of persecution for using drugs would take drugs. Many of these people would become drug addicts. The legalization of drugs would also make them much cheaper to buy. This would allow existing addicts to afford to buy bigger quantities of drugs and more powerful drugs. The increase in drug addicts, the increased availability of stronger, more dangerous drugs would be very dangerous to many addicts. The health risks to them are very high if drugs were legalized. The legalization of many dangerous unproven drugs is guaranteed to lead to more cases of overdoses, addictions, crimes caused by the effects of drugs, deaths from the effects of drugs and would lead to increases in drug use. These factors combined would lead to an increased burden for both the police force and the health service, and will allow gang and mafia culture to thrive. The amount of health service resources used on treating drug addictions, drug overdoses and health problems caused by long term drug use would either take away resources from other areas or lead to a need for significantly more funding for the health service.
It is clear drugs are dangerous, addictive and cause premature death. They should not be legalized.
"[Legalization] would result in legalized unlimited sales of all types of currently illegal drugs. This would allow drug dealers to operate freely, able to coerce more people into buying drugs and becoming drug addicts. They would be free to sell anything they like and would likely increase sales of the most dangerous types of drugs due to the larger profit margin and the absence of serious prosecution."
This is why legalization of drugs needs to be coupled with regulation of the drug industry. Regulations on the production and distribution of drugs takes control of the industry out of the hands of the cartels, gangs, and street dealers. During the period of America's failed attempt at alcohol prohibition, production and distribution of alcohol became the domain of the criminal underworld. Producing, selling, and buying alcohol became as dangerous an endeavor as producing, selling, and buying cocaine and heroin is today, where these products are illegal and unregulated. It is precisely BECAUSE of the health risks that many drugs pose that the industry needs to be regulated. Most people, modern "libertarians" aside, understand the need for regulations on the production and distribution of alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs because of the added risk to the public if these products and industries were unregulated. The use of any drug, whether currently legal or illegal, carries with it inherent risks. Prohibition adds to these risks, as evidenced by America's alcohol prohibition.
"The removal of restrictions on drug use would lead to many people to believe taking drugs is OK. Many people who would never have tried drugs either because they were scared of the danger posed by drugs or the fear of persecution for using drugs would take drugs."
Alcohol and tobacco have largely been legal and readily available in most places for as long as most of us can remember. This does not mean that people grow up being told that unchecked use of these drugs is "OK." People are educated about the risks that these drugs pose. Society has rules about who can use and purchase these drugs, who can sell them, what you are prohibited from doing while using them, and where you can use them. Drugs that are currently illegal should be subject to the same level of factual education and restriction. I say "factual" education because much of what is being taught as drug education is unneeded and counterproductive fear mongering. People do not need to fear the effects of drug use, they need to be taught the actual risks that drug use poses. In many areas, children are still being taught the erroneous view that marijuana use is a "gateway" to the use of harder drugs. They are taught that marijuana soon loses its effectiveness, and that users are driven to harder drugs to achieve their highs. Once people realize that what they have been told about marijuana use is untrue, they may question whether what they have been told about other drugs is also untrue. Facts, not fear, is what is needed. Fear of prosecution is also counterproductive when it comes to people seeking treatment for addiction. With few exceptions, alcoholics do not need to fear incarceration and/or loss of employment when they come forward seeking treatment for their addiction. Because alcohol use does not face the same social stigma as does the use of illicit drugs, society is more tolerant, accepting, and helpful to addicts looking to kick their alcohol addiction than it is to those with other chemical addictions.
"The legalization of drugs would also make them much cheaper to buy."
This may be true of some drugs and in some areas. As anyone who requires prescription drugs knows, legality does not always equal affordability. Lower drug prices actually has an upside for society at large. Addicts do not rob and steal because of the effects of the drugs, they do so precisely because of the high, unregulated drug prices. Lower prices means lower crime rates associated with addiction.
"These factors combined would lead to an increased burden for both the police force and the health service, and will allow gang and mafia culture to thrive."
Ending the war on drugs and drug users would significantly reduce the burden on the police force and the criminal justice system. Legitimizing and regulating the drug industry eliminates the need to prosecute and incarcerate producers and distributors. The production and distribution of drugs would be held to the same standards as is the production and distribution of other potentially dangerous products. Legalization and regulation would also stem the flood of recreational users and addicts into the prison system. The resources could then be used to increase funding for rehabilitation programs which are actually effective at combating addiction, unlike prison. Addiction is a medical issue and should be treated as a medical issue, not a criminal issue. Incarcerating recreational users of marijuana, cocaine, opiates, etc makes as much sense as does incarcerating recreational users of alcohol; that is to say it makes no sense whatsoever.
Legalizing and regulating sales of drugs will drastically increase drug use. They would soon become available in a wide range of shops. The display of drugs in shops will tempt ordinary people, especially vulnerable people to try these drugs. The thought of heroin and crystal meth on supermarket shelves is a scary thought. The amount of new drug users, particularly of the most dangerous ones would be alarming. Drug use would quickly become mainstream. The effects on people's health would be very damaging. The effects of illegal drugs are very dangerous. It would help eliminate drug cartels and criminals, but this would be outweighed by a massive increase in drug users, more people becoming drug addicts, increases in use of the most dangerous drugs and an increase in drug overdoses. These negative factors will see an increase in child drug use, an increase in absence from work due to work, increased unemployment due to addicts being unfit to work, increased drug related health problems including mental health and suicides. This will result in big increases in healthcare costs for dealing with drug related health problems. The effects of drug use will also see more crime being committed. This can be either through a person acting irrationally due to effects of drugs or in desperation to find money to fund drug purchases.
Currently drug use is much lower than alcohol and tobacco use. This is because it is illegal. The fact it is illegal helps people understand that drugs are dangerous. Legalizing and regulating drug production and sales will result in many people believing that drugs aren't that dangerous, making people more likely to try them. The fact drugs are illegal also deters people from using them. The fear of a prison sentence and/or a fine is an effective deterrant to many people. Placing drugs on shop shelves will increase accessibility to them. Currently having to go underground and buy drugs through criminal drug dealers scares many ordinary people and deters them from buying them. People could just pick up a bit of heroin off a shelf to see what it's like and subsequently become addicted to it due to its highly addictive nature. Drugs are very dangerous. They have no positive effects. They cause severe side effects, physical health problems, mental health problems and ultimately death. They are illegal for good reason.
I disagree entirely. If it is clear that you cannot win a war, giving up on the war is the only logical choice. Why continue to waste lives and resources on an unwinnable war when the resources could be put to better use rebuilding the damage done by the war? The wasted lives I refer to are not merely rhetorical either. How many lives have been ruined not by the effects of drugs, but by the simple fact that people (the majority of them adults in a "free" society) got caught in possession of drugs that were not on the government's list of accepted mind-altering substances? The message seems to be, "Misuse of drugs can ruin your life, so if we catch you with them we are going to ruin your life."
Legal sanctions have proven to be little incentive to keep people from using or participating in the production and distribution of drugs. There are several countries in which drug offenses carry a mandatory death sentence. This does not stop the drug trade in these countries. Iran executed over 10.000 people for drug offenses between 1979 and 2011 (http://www.ihra.net...). That's an average of over 300 people per year. In Viet Nam and Malaysia, more than half of all executions performed every year are for drug offenses (same source as above). With the astonishing numbers of lives wasted or lost, not due to drugs, but directly attributable to the war on drugs, we must ask ourselves as a society...Is this the best we can do? Is putting users, addicts, dealers, and producers in cages (or worse) the BEST solution to the drug problem that we can come up with?
According to my opponent, eliminating legal sanctions against drug use would "drastically increase drug use." Drug use would "become mainstream," the number of new users (including children), addicts, and overdoses would increase "massively," and drug related crime would increase. Thankfully, we have a couple of real-world examples of drug reform that we can look at to see of these fears are justified. I will focus on the drug reforms that Portugal enacted in 2001. In that year, Portugal decriminalized simple possession of all drugs, including cocaine, heroin, MDMA, and amphetamines for personal use. The drug trade itself has remained illegal. While possession is not "legal," it is simply a finable offense, not unlike a traffic ticket, that carries no criminal charges. Instead of a criminal record and a possible jail sentence, those caught with small amounts of drugs (about 10 days worth) are ordered to a 3-person commission that decides whether the offender should be offered drug treatment, fined, or given no penalty at all. In the vast majority of cases, no penalty is given.
The changes seen in Portugal since these reforms took effect are astonishing, and certainly counter-intuitive to those who believe that the illegality of drugs is a deterrent to their use. Five years after drug reform, the percentage of people 15 years and older that had ever tried marijuana was 10%, a decrease in pre-reform numbers. In the U.S., the percentage of people 12 and older who have tried marijuana is 39.8%. From 2001-2006, the percentage of 7th-9th graders who had tried any illegal drug dropped from 14.1% to 10.6%. Percentage of 16-18 year olds who had tried heroin dropped from 2.5% to 1.8% (a small increase in marijuana use was noted in this age group).
In 2001 there were 1,016 new cases of HIV among intravenous drug users. In 2012 there were 56. New cases of AIDS in this group dropped from 568 to 38. At treatment centres, similar decreases were seen in the rates of Hep C and B. Deaths due to drug use decreased from 80 in 2001 to 16 in 2012. Due to decriminalization, Portugal went from trying 14,000 people per year of drug offenses to 5,500-6,000 per year. Not only is that approximately 8,000 people every year whose lives are not negatively affected by drug charges, it is a huge reduction in court costs, which benefits the entire country. In 1999 the percentage of people in Portuguese prisons who committed crimes under the influence of drugs, or for the purpose of supporting their drug addictions was 44%. In 2012 that number had dropped to 21%. The only increases in drug use that have been noted have been a small increase in the percentage of 16-18 year olds who have tried marijuana (although the percentage in this age group that have tried any drug has decreased), and, initially after reform, a small increase in the number of people who used a drug recreationally for a while, then stopped. After a couple of years, this rate of increase in new users declined to match those of other EU countries. The rate of past-year and past-month use (the best indicator of drug trends), as well as the rate of continuation of drug use (people who have used a drug and continue to do so) have both decreased. What this indicates is that people initially took advantage of their new-found freedom (freedom that any adult in a "free" society should enjoy), tried drugs once or a few times, then stopped using.
Decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal has been an amazing success. Casual users need not fear criminal convictions, addicts have easy (and stigma-free) access to treatment, court costs and incarceration costs are dramatically decreased, crime is down, health problems related to drug use is down, and, perhaps most surprising, overall use of drugs is down, especially among young people.
The reasons why the countries you mention that execute numerous people for drug offences still have major drug problems are numerous. The main issue is clearly corruption. The biggest drug lords can buy their way out of trouble, often using vulnerable people as mules to traffic drugs. Often the people executed or imprisoned for drug offences are not the people really responsible for the offence. Action needs to be taken against drug lords but unfortunately corruption is rife in many areas and the power these gangs hold scares law enforcement from getting to the root of the problem. The general lack of effective government control, especially in the south american countries sees gangs and militias controlling areas where production of drugs and growing drugs is the norm. These countries offer favourable climatic conditions for growing drugs and for local farmers growing drugs offers by far the best source of income. Drugs are a huge problem in central and south America. Corruption, poor law enforcement and weak government control are to blame.
My opponent makes a series of claims that Portugal is a good example for how decriminalization of drugs can have a positive effect on reducing drug use. However a key flaw in this argument exists. Portugal decriminalize drug possession. It did not decriminalize drug dealing nor did it as you suggest legalize and regulate the production and distribution of potentially harmful substances. This is a key difference to what Portugal has done. What you are suggesting is that products such as Heroin, Crystal Meth and Cocaine can be picked up off supermarket shelves and placed in trolleys or picked up from the selection in front of the till in a newsagents. This is not happening in Portugal. Children and vulnerable young adults are not seeing these substances in every shop and assuming they are perfectly normal substances to take in the same way tobacco and alcohol are viewed. Education about the dangers of tobacco and alcohol are common place yet considerable numbers of young people choose to use these substances. This is because they are legal, can be brought easily in conventional stores and are viewed as normal by society. My opponents suggestion to legalize and regulate drug production and distribution would normalize many dangerous substances. This would cause increases in drug use, drug addictions, drug overdoses, crimes committed by people under the influence of drugs, drug related health problems and drug related deaths. This would create a huge healthcare burden from treating harmful physical health problems caused by dangerous substances and for treating drug addictions and mental health problems caused by drugs.
My opponent has stated that low-level traffickers often take the fall for large-scale producers and distributors. He also makes the case that lack of governmental control is largely responsible for the ability of cartels to maintain control of the production of drugs. It seems as though my opponent is making the case for government regulations for me. I have already explained how regulations on the production and distribution of drugs would effectively and immediately take control of the drug industry away from the cartels and gangs. This is something that even the harshest of legal sanctions can never do. During alcohol prohibition in the US, the criminal underworld controlled the trade of alcohol. Bloody turf wars between rival producers and distributors, with innocents caught in the crossfire, were not uncommon. Otherwise law abiding people who saw moonshining or bootlegging as a viable means to make ends meet had their lives ruined not by the drug that they were producing, but by the "war" on alcohol. Today, it is not altogether uncommon to find 10 and 12 year olds selling marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and amphetamines on the street. Why is is that these same young people are not selling alcohol (except perhaps to other underage people who cannot legally purchase it)? The simple reason is that the distribution of alcohol is now controlled and regulated by the government. Any adult who wishes can purchase and use this potent and potentially dangerous drug legally. The same goes for tobacco products. And speaking of alcohol and tobacco, they are demonstrably two of the most dangerous drugs on the market. They are both far more harmful to their users than some of the drugs that are currently prohibited in much the world. Any argument that states that potentially dangerous drugs should be prohibited due to their inherent risks must, by definition, include the prohibition of alcohol and tobacco.
According to my opponent, I have suggested that "products such as Heroin, Crystal Meth and Cocaine can be picked up off supermarket shelves and placed in trolleys or picked up from the selection in front of the till in a newsagents." I challenge him to show where I suggested anything even remotely similar to this. In fact, I never made any suggestions as to how these products should be made available, only that their distribution should be subject to government regulations, and that properly educated legal adults should not face criminal prosecution for purchasing or consuming them. Every jurisdiction has its own way of regulating currently legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. In some places, beer, wine, and spirits can be purchased in grocery stores. In other places, only beer and wine can be sold in grocery stores. In Canada, where I live, all alcohol products can only be sold in licensed facilities that primarily sell alcohol and alcohol related products; minors are not even allowed in the door (how many cocaine dealers do you think have the same policy?). Here, tobacco companies cannot advertise, and tobacco products must not be visible to the public wherever they are sold. They are kept in closed cases. I would like to see drugs sold in designated, licensed facilities, not unlike liquor stores. Perhaps even single product facilities where only a single drug, or type of drug is sold.
My opponent is correct in stating that Portugal did not enact full legalization and regulation of the drug trade. The incredible improvements seen in Portugal, improvements which cannot be denied nor overstated, were made despite the fact that Portugal left the drug trade in the hands of unregulated criminal cartels and gangs. As I mentioned, Portugal still tries around 6,000 people per year on drug related charges, presumably for importing and selling. That is still a huge waste of resources when the alternative is to license and regulate producers and distributors, and perform regular inspections to insure compliance, as with any other industry. Not only is it a huge waste of resources, but the cartels and gangs are still able to recruit vulnerable individuals who are often otherwise law abiding citizens and addicts to carry out the dirty work and, as my opponent mentioned, take the fall when law enforcement comes knocking.
Adults in a free society should be free to make their own choices, even poor choices, so long as their actions do not harm others. Using drugs may harm the user, but unless the user is also committing other crimes, this should not be a criminal matter.
**After reading several other debates here, I realize that a rule stipulating no new arguments in the last round is useful for bringing a debate to a tidy end. If my opponent agrees, I'd like to propose such a rule. This gives us one more round to make arguments and rebuttals, and a final round to wrap up any loose ends and reiterate our main points. However, I understand if my opponent would rather not agree to this change at such a late stage in the debate.
Currently low level traffickers take a lot of the flack for smuggling. This is wrong I agree. Instead of viewing this as a reason for legalization and regulation, I think the approach needed is to offer these individuals significant reductions in sentances for help tracking down and arresting the big players in sting operations and major police raids. Also offer witness protection to these people through things such as changing identity and place of residence.
In my view alcohol and tobacco are dangerous substances. If they were invented today they would never be legalized. In my view these substances should also be banned. It is no coincidence that the two legalized and regulated substances are the two most consumed dangerous substances. The fact alcohol and tobacco are legal despite all of the known health risks and education programmes shows how legalizing and regulating production of a substance increases the amount of the substance is consumed and the number of people who are affected by it. This is because people are deterred by consuming illegal substances. Yes it is true not everybody is but the vast majority of citizens find the thought of lurking around in dark alleys looking for a cannabis dealer less enticing then walking into the newsagents and buying a packet of cigarettes. This is despite the fact cannabis is less dangerous than tobacco. Most citizens generally do not like to break the law, deal with criminals or want to risk imprisonment. This is a clear deterrant for many people. As is the concern of the level of safety of an unregulated substance being sold by a criminal illegally. Legalization and regulation would increase the problems I have repeated many times in this debate. Another factor to consider is the damage done to town centres caused by having rows of drug stores, one for each substance as my opponent suggests. It would be harmful in numerous ways. The more drug stores the more chance people are going to use drugs. It normalizes drugs. It also sends a message to people drugs are acceptable and safe to use. Children would grow up used to the horoin shop next to the sweet shop and would be more likely to want to try heroin. The damage done to town centres images would also be considerable. Ten or fifteen shops selling drugs would make a town centre a no go area for shoppers and families and become areas of congregations of drug addicts. The economic and social implications of my opponents arguments would be horrific.
I decline my opponents offer to change the terms of the debate.
The analogy to the war on terror is even less relevant than the previous WWII analogy. While I disagree with many of the tactics used in the war on terrorism, combating terrorism is indeed a worthwhile endeavor for the simple fact that terrorists and terrorism, by their very definitions, cause harm to others. There is no way to legitimize the terrorism "industry" that will reduce the harm done by terrorist organizations. As I have already stated, legalization and regulation of the drug industry would immediately take control of the industry out of the hands of criminal organizations. My opponent has agreed that this is the case. This would obviously decrease the harm that these organizations and individuals can cause to others. I find the weed analogy to be not only irrelevant to the case at hand, but is also either extremely insensitive or extremely naive. Comparing the millions of lives ruined every year by the war on drugs to the eradication of weeds in his field? Really??? The battle against racial inequality is probably the most relevant analogy brought forth. However, the way that we combat racism is more akin to my proposal of legalization and regulation than it is to the current war on drugs. It is not illegal to be a racist. It is, however, illegal to use one's racism to cause harm to others. It should not be illegal for adults to use drugs. Obviously though, it should be illegal to engage in actions which potentially or actually harm others, either because of the effects of the drugs themselves (driving while intoxicated, physical assault, etc) or through actions taken to support drug use (burglaries, robberies, etc). The most effective weapon in the "war on racism" is education and public awareness. As I have previously stated, legalization of drugs needs to be coupled with factual education on the actual dangers of drug use.
My opponent correctly states that tobacco and alcohol are the most widely used recreational drugs. He states that this is the case "despite all of the known health risks and education programmes." How has widespread education of the health risks affected the prevalence of the use of these drugs though? The current push to educate the public on the dangers of tobacco and alcohol did not really get started until the late 1970s and early 1980s. Prior to that, these products were heavily advertised (sometimes even endorsed by doctors), their use was prevalent in movies and TV (even in children's programming), and, especially regarding tobacco there were fewer restrictions on where they could be used. It wasn't all that long ago that one could smoke on airplanes, something that seems utterly ludicrous to most of us now. By every measure, and across all demographics, tobacco and alcohol use has dramatically and steadily decreased since the early 1980s. The most dramatic decrease in use of these drugs, especially in the last 15-20 years can be seen in high school age youth. A long-term study in the US found the following results among high school seniors (try as I might, I could not figure out how to import the graphs from this source, but I encourage everyone to follow the link provided):
-1979 past month alcohol use---boys 7.5%, girls 6%
-2010 past month alcohol use---boys 4.5%, girls 5%
-1979 past month tobacco use---boys 3.8%, girls 3.9%
-2010 past month tobacco use---boys 2.4%, girls 1.2%
-1979 past month heavy alcohol use---boys 2%, girls 1%
-2010 past month heavy alcohol use---boys 0.58%, girls 0.4%
-1979 past month heavy tobacco use---boys 1.1%, girls 0.9%
-2010 past month heavy tobacco use---boys 0.25%, girls 0.2% 
My opponent's assertion that legal sanctions against even casual drug users are necessary to deter drug use has not been demonstrated. In fact, even the harshest of sanctions, the death penalty, has not deterred drug traffickers or users in some countries. Furthermore, some people, especially impressionable and defiant youths are actually tempted to use drugs BECAUSE of their illicit nature. I am a Licensed Practical Nurse with experience in addictions and recovery. I have heard this directly from addicts. The deterrent vs enticement of keeping drugs illegal is probably a push. On the other hand, education on the risks of drug use coupled with strict regulations on use HAS been successful in decreasing drug use. This is evidenced by the increase in education and regulations and subsequent decrease in alcohol and tobacco use in the last 35 years. It has also been demonstrated, in Portugal and elsewhere, that removing the threat of legal sanctions against addicts leads to more addicts seeking treatment (double, in the case of Portugal), without the corresponding increase in long term casual users OR addicts. As previously mentioned, Portugal's current rate of increase of casual users is on par with the rest of the EU. Couple that with the fact that 8,000 fewer people are facing drug charges every year, and that is, by any measure an increase in overall benefit to Portuguese society. The same rate of increase among adults, a decrease in the number of young users, twice as many addicts receiving treatment, greatly reduced court costs, and 8,000 people per year not receiving criminal charges. How could that be seen as anything but a resounding success? And all that while still leaving organized crime in charge of production and distribution. As I have already stated, and as America's failed attempt at alcohol prohibition has demonstrated, the government, even at current levels of incompetence and corruption, is a far better choice for regulating the drug industry than the mafia, cartels, and street gangs. A return to alcohol prohibition, something my opponent would like to see happen, would once again completely deregulate the alcohol industry. The same people who control the illicit trade of hard drugs today would be in control of the industry and would play by the same rules. Did we, as a society learn nothing the first time around? As harmful as many drugs are, and alcohol is one of the worst, they will always be with us and someone will always set the rules of conduct for the drug industry. The question is, who is better suited to setting and enforcing those rules; the government or organized crime? I think it is clear where we both stand on that issue.
Some might view a doubling of addicts in treatment in Portugal as an alarming indictment of legalization/decriminalization (it shouldn't be alarming since, as i mentioned, there was not a corresponding increase in reported use or addiction). For that reason, let us look at treatment vs incarceration. Treatment is not only more effective at combating addiction than is incarceration, it is also much more cost effective and allows for resources to be utilized elsewhere. It has even been shown that in-patient treatment for addicted offenders is more effective at reducing recidivism and re-offend rates than treatment programs coupled with jail time, and immeasurably more effective than jail time alone. In New York State, a study found that the cost of out of prison treatment runs around $2,000-$7,000. Incarceration for 25 months (the average sentence for drug offenders) is $64,000. Even the intensive 15-24 month Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) program costs $33,000, around half the cost of prison. Treatment inside prison adds $24/day to the cost of incarceration and is less effective. Recidivism rates for those receiving in-patient treatment dropped 16.7%. For those receiving treatment in prison, the decrease in recidivism was only 4.5-5.7%. A federal report in the US showed that "after completing a treatment program, the percentage of offenders arrested for drug charges went down by 51%, overall arrests declined by 64%, and 70-90% saw reductions in criminal behavior."  Treatment also saves lives, while incarceration destroys them.
One question that has only briefly been touched upon in this debate is: Do adult human beings require the government to be their nanny? Phrased another way, should properly informed adults be free to make their own choices so long as their choices do not harm others? I would love to explore the personal freedom/responsibility aspect of the argument in greater detail, but alas I am quickly approaching my character limit, so I must keep it short. My opponent clearly believes that adults do in fact require a nanny to protect them not only from each other, but from themselves. What he fails to realize is that by "protecting" its citizens from themselves, the government is essentially throwing them to the wolves. If the government does not oversee and regulate the production, distribution, and use of potentially harmful drugs, someone else will; and that someone is inevitably an even more corrupt organization which operates without rules and regard for human lives (or term limits). My opponent would prefer drugs to remain illegal "for the people." And while I do not doubt his good intentions, what he doesn't see is that the war against drugs that he supports is really a war "against the people."
I'd like to thank beng100 for engaging me in this interesting, entertaining, and civil discussion. May the best argument win.
My views on the prohibition of both alcohol and tobacco are based on the negative effects these drugs have on people. Both cause significant health risks and decrease productivity in the work place. Alcohol causes increases in both crime and substance related deaths.
The following link shows the economic costs each year incurred by the US government from the use of Tobacco, Alcohol and all other illicit drugs combined.
Tobacco costs the US government $295 Billion annual loses of which $138 Billion is from health care costs, Alcohol $224 Billion of which $25 Billion is from health care costs and Illicit drugs cost $193 Billion of which $11 billion is from health care costs. All of these figures are horrifically high and demonstrate the danger posed by theses substances. However these statistics show that my views on not legalizing and regulating drugs are correct. Despite being less dangerous then many currently illegal drugs the costs of both Tobacco and Alcohol each year are greater then all illegal drugs combined. The total for illicit drugs even counts the cost of the war on drugs. This shows that while expensive the war on drugs is value for money. If the hundreds of currently illegal drugs were legalized and regulated the small savings from policing the war on drugs would be offset by huge increases in health care costs, costs from crimes committed by people under the influence of drugs and a decrease in productivity in the workplace. If regulated and legalized the annual costs of drugs would increase. This would mean the government would need to introduce hefty taxes on the many newly legalized substances to pay for the large increases in government spending needed in order to fund the economic shortfall created by the significant increase in drug use. This would see a similar situation to tobacco and alcohol where users of the substances are heavily taxed to pay for the many issues the substance creates.
It is clear that legalizing and regulating drugs is the wrong approach. Although tobacco and alcohol consumption is decreasing among 15-20 year olds in the US these substances are still by far the most commonly used substances. The reason for this is clear. It is because they are legalized and regulated. Use of all other types of harmful addictive substances is considerably lower in the Western world than these two legalized substances. Although education works to an extent in reducing the use of these two legal substances they will always remain the most commonly used substances unless either they are banned, reducing their use, or other substances are legalized and regulated resulting in increased use of the newly legalized substance/ substances. Despite education warning people about dangerous drugs the legalization of drugs will see increases in drug use, especially the most dangerous types of drugs.
My opponents approach of setting up numerous stores selling individual drugs would be both socially irresponsible and economically disastrous. Any country that used this policy would see increased drug use, drug related deaths and health problems, increased government spending on drug related problems and economic damage caused by the destruction of town centres caused by drug selling shops. The decrease in workplace productivity and increases in crime would also be problematic. Imagine an 21 year old bored hanging around in the town centre. I think its more likely he/she would enter into one of the proposed drug shops and try a legal substance then look for a dealer in a dark alley as they would need to currently. Yes its true some people are happy to source drugs from drug dealers but the majority are deterred by it for both concerns about safety and concerns about arrest and persecution. The threat of persecution is a genuine deterrent for the majority of citizens. Most people including myself do not want to break the law and risk going to prison. It is not a nice place. Drug legalization and regulation would remove this deterrent and many people put off by the threat of persecution would take advantage of the opportunity to try a variety of dangerous substances. It is true a small minority of people are tempted by the lure of using something that is illegal but these people re certainly a small minority as shown by the large gap between users of alcohol and tobacco and users of illegal drugs.
In my view adult humans do require protection from the government when it comes to preventing them from taking addictive substances that cause impaired function and major health risks. It is comparable to how adult humans need protection from crime such as burglary, rape, fraud and murder. If the government simply decriminalized these immoral activities and let everyone get on with life as they please then a minority of adults would commit these immoral acts. It is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens from threats whether that be another nation threatening war, a criminal threatening burglary, a bridge on a public highway that has become unsafe and at risk of collapse or from a dangerous substance that threatens to cause addiction, impairment and death. In my view it is immoral to allow people to purchase such dangerous products. There are many vulnerable people in society such as people with disabilities and mental health problems who have impaired function when making a decision such as taking drugs. Allowing somebody to walk into a heroin shop and buy heroin is both immoral and wrong. The legalization and regulation of drugs will normalize drug use as will the numerous proposed drug shops. Many vulnerable adults will be tempted into trying dangerous drugs.
Currently a small minority of people are tempted by the world of crime and use drugs. The legalization and regulation of drugs may end the problem of drug smuggling and drug dealing but it will come at great cost to any country that opted to do so both economically and socially. It is no coincidence that no major economy has regulated and legalized drugs. It is clear it is the wrong thing to do.
I would like to thank my opponent for an interesting debate conducted in civil fashion.
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