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The Contender
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All drugs should be legalized in the USA?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/22/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,212 times Debate No: 18004
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (24)
Votes (1)




My First point is that it has worked before. In 2001 Portugal made all formally illicit drugs legal. Five years later there is much improvement. "the number of deaths from street drug over doses has dropped from 400 to 290 deaths annually, and the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroine, cocaine, and other illegal substances plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to 400 in 2006."(1)

Legalizing Drugs has the potential to be an enormous money maker for the US government that is in a 15 trillion dollar debt. The tax on each pack of cigarettes is estimated at $2.21 a pack.(2) The New York times estimates that in America we buy 22 million packs of cigarettes a year.(3) If you do the math that comes out to $48.62 million dollars of tax revenue every year. Think if we had the same amount of tax on a similar unit of marijuana, heroine, cocaine, LSD etc.

Legalizing drugs leads to a drop in drug use. "In the US more people have used cocaine before proportionally then people have used marijuana in Portugal. Drug use in 7th- 9th graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%. Also heroine use in people from the age of 16-18 fell from 2.5% to 1.8%."(4)

Stricter drug laws only lead to more drug use. "The united states has some of the most stringent drug laws in the world. The USA has the most drug users per capita of any country in the world even countries like the Netherlands or Portugal. This only proves that many people especially youth and other anti establishment people do drugs because they are illegal or because there parents tell them they cannot."(4)

Thanks for reading my argument please I would love a counter argument really looking forward to it. This is my first debate so wish me luck.



I would like to thank my opponent for the opportunity to do this debate. Before I begin, I believe that it is important to define "legalize."

According to Princeton Dictionary - "established by or founded upon law or official or accepted rules." [1] However, we can see that many of the definitions are rather vague and not terribly solid, so I propose that we use "free from punishment under the law." If my opponent would like to suggest some other definition, he is free to, however, any definition must be compatible with current things which are both "legal" and "illegal." As such, any definition put forth should have "speeding," "not wearing a seatbelt," and "jaywalking" as illegal. So you can't just say "illegal means spending time in prison" as that would imply that speeding is legal (when we can clearly see that it is not).

I will, for this debate, hold to the notion that hard, highly addictive drugs should remain illegal. As such, any statistics that allow marijuana to carry the weight of other drugs can be forfeited.

Now to move on to my arguement. I would like to address several nations first. Sweden, the Netherlands, Japan, and Portugal. All of these nations have different drug policies than ours and we should go ahead and take a look at them.

1) Sweden

Sweden is spends more money per capita on their "drug war" than any other nation in the European Union, apart from the Netherlands [2]. Drug use is down with students (34.8%), military (24.6%), monthly users (35.5%), and heavy users (41.2%) over only a 7 year span (from 2000 to 2006) [2]. While seeing a huge drop in their drug numbers, we also see that they have low drug use to begin with, at almost 3 times lower than the EU average for children (in 2003, Sweden was at 8%, the EU was at 22%) and far lower than Ireland (41%), UK (38%), or France (38%). They had recent changes in their policy around 2000 (the actual date was 1999, but nothing other than administrative setting up was done until 2000), because of a growing drug problem in the 90's (visable in every graph and a clear trend [2]). This is attributed because Sweden, in 1988, drastically cut back their drug program to make it more inline with other OECD nations. Along with cuts to the drug programs, cuts to other government programs caused unemployment to jump from 1.5% (in 1990) to a high of 9.9% (1997). We can now see that all drugs are trending down with their current drug policy (page 34 on source [2]).

So what is Sweden's drug policy that is so effective? Sweden views drugs as a medical issue, rather than a criminal issue. Now don't mistake this for thinking that means their drugs are "legal." Sweden has a zero tolerance policy [3], but they tend to focus on treating their offenders to reduce the demand for drugs, rather than just fighting the supply. But they still do imprisonment for more serious cases (drug trafficing and such, not just use) [4].

Here, we can clearly see that keeping drugs illegal can be done in an effective manner.

2) The Netherlands.

The Netherlands are famous amoung drug users as a place where marijuana is legal and the usage rate is actually lower than the US's. Sadly, this is mistaken to be the same for all drugs. As such, Marijuana is not legal in the Netherlands. But if we look at what their policies, and the results of those policies, we'll see something very different. First, we should remember from [2], that the Netherlands spends more money per capita on drug treatment and prevention than any other EU nation. This allone should show clearly that they don't follow a Laissez Faire system for drugs.

But if we continue to look at the Netherlands, we'll see that they have some rather tough, and rather successful laws regarding harder drugs. Let's quickly look at Heroin. They enforce a heroin assistant treatment, that is desgined to ween addicts off, and since 1983, has reduced the number of users by 30% [5]. Even with marijuana, the Dutch still have very tight regulations, any more than 5 grams, and it is a crime (technically, they have it all as a crime, but courts won't convict shy of 5 grams). But we also see that they have legal restrictions on the potency, who you can sell to (as of 2011, no more selling to tourists), and trafficing. All of which are punished far more firmly than even the US.

3) Japan

Japan, less like the Netherlands and more like Sweden, has a zero tolerance policy on drugs as well. And while they view it as a health problem, like the two other nations, they also hold very strict incareraction laws for drugs [6]. Japan currently has a much lower drug usage rate than any nation in the developed world [7]. This is mostly lead by the successful task of treating it as a health problem, with successful controls on people's opinions of drugs. This is similar to what Sweden is doing (as most people there like their drug laws and want to keep them, while in the US people are talking about getting rid of them). It is amazing how once the people come to realize that drugs are bad and stop fighting against the establisment, how well policies can work.

4) Portugal

This is one that my opponent brought up in his example. Here, I will address all that he said, as well as use them as an example for my side. First, it should be noted that Portugal did not legalize drugs by any sense, what they've done, is changed it from a prison sentence behind bars, to a sentence at a treatment facility [8]. If you are caught using heroin (or any other drug that people claim is "legal" there), you will be removed of your drugs, you will be summoned to court (and if you skip out, you'll then be arrested), and you will be interviewed by 3 people (a social worker, a psychiatrist, and a lawyer, and no, this is not leading into a joke), who will then decide you future (which could result in prison time, but most likely treatment and community service) [9]. So really, any benefits that they show, are not as a result of legalization, but decriminalization (which only applies to soft drugs, and they reserve the right to still criminalize individuals, based on the situation at hand).

We should also note, that the numbers of these actions are a little different than my opponent has suggested.

1) A significant drop in HIV cases (down 71%) [10].
2) Drug related deaths have returned to normal (there was a spike when the policy was first implimented, but it is now back down to those levels and will likely continue to fall to below previous levels) [10].
3) Drug use has actually increased (from 7.8% to 12.0%, a 53.8% increase), which marijuana up 53.9%, cocaine up 111.1%, Ecstacy up 85.7%, and heroin up 57.1% [10].

I believe this addresses all of my opponent's arguments except for the cost argument. However, since I'm only arguing against hard drugs, it is easy to note that hard drugs are much less frequently used than smoking cigarettes, therefore, they would generate less revenue. Also, $48 million to begin with is nothing on a federal level. It amounts to only 0.0034% of our deficit, or 1/29,167 of our budget balancing needs.

Debate Round No. 1


I also have a question by your former statements you are for drug reform in the US just not Illegalization?

Your first sentence "Sweden is spends more money per capita on their "drug war" than any other nation in the European Union" states that having a successful war on drugs can cost a lot of money. So far since about maybe the late 80's the USA has spent over 26 billion dollars on its war on drugs with just over 1 million arrests(1). Along with all the other countries (aside from Portugal) they all spend lots of money on the war on drugs. Money that the US just does not have. Just in the year 2010 the USA payed 15 million dollars on our drug war(2).

I think that if you are keeping this debate to hard drugs you should either edit or completely delete the paragraphs on the Netherlands or edit it there are only four our five sentences on hard drugs eg. heroin.

I would like for you to say what you mean by developed world if you are going to use it to get your point across. Also treating as a health problem can be very expensive assuming that the countries themselves Japan, Portugal pay for the treatment on there own that can cost a lot of money.

I was under the impression that Portugal had legalized drugs. And so where many sources that I could find including news articles if you would like some I will post them in the third round. If I am not mistaken decriminalization makes drugs no longer illegal which means that they are legal and there fate is not chosen for them they have a choice whether or not they want to go into free drug rehab.(3)

If any studies include marijuana they should not be included which I believe includes source 2 which you got all of your drug use numbers from Sweden from.

Another Argument I have is that in the US we have a constitution. This is a constitution that nowhere in it does it say anything about making potentially dangerous chemical combinations or plants illegal. In that case it is none of the government business to make drugs illegal. If someone wants to use drugs that is there choice we do not need the government to tell us that we cannot do anything that is not harming someone else.

Also if drugs became legal it would not be wholesale. There would be an age like alcohol or tobacco and there would also be laws similar to driving drunk. As these are things that either as children you do not yet know how to make good educated choices and driving high could be potentially dangerous just like driving drunk.

Also if I am not mistaken heroine and LSD are very expensive drugs. If they were legal then since they were so expensive the government could have there own stores just like they do for liquor in some states. Then they would not only undoubtedly have exuberant tax on the drugs but they would also be making money of the actual sale of the product itself.

Making drugs legal can also save peoples lives for example lets take a look at the military led war on drugs right across the border. The Mexican government approximates that 34,000 people have been killed from 2006-2010.(4)That is an insanely large number and those are not people killed by the government those are gang related shootouts and hits. If drugs became legal in Mexico then these numbers would undoubtedly go down if not disappear all together.

Another thing is that the US has a no tolerance policy and having someone stay in jail for a few years can cost a lot of money. The United States spend 50 billion dollars a year on keeping people in jail. That is a lot of money considering that many of those crimes are most likely drug related we can save even more money by legalizing hard drugs(5).



I thank my opponent for his latest round. Yes, I am for reform. There are actually very few people that believe the current course is ideal. While different people have different ideas of "reform" in nearly all cases, drugs remain illegal (some allow for marijuana to be legalized, while keeping the rest illegal).

While it is true that having a successful war on drugs can cost money, it doesn't have to. As pointed out with the Portugal, it can be done for a low cost. Sweden spent 107 EUR per person back in 2005. At the exchange rate of the time, this comes to $125.44 per person [1]. At the US population, this comes to $37.5 billion total for the US, compared to the $40 billion we spent for our war on drugs. While this still sounds expensive, it shows that we can obtain better results for a lower price. My opponent states that this is money that the US just doesn't have. I would beg to differ. This represents only 1% of the US federal budget. To a family that makes $18 an hour, 1% of their budget would be only $30 a month, barely enough for internet, let alone cable, car insurance, or food. However, the cost of the war on Marijuana makes up about 80% of the total cost of the war on drugs [2], so it is easy for us to greatly cut the cost down by focusing our efforts.

Regarding the cost of treating someone's problem, it would actually save us money vs the current system. Our current system will take someone (that should be viewed as having a medical problem, after all, addictions are chemical issues with the brain caused by the drugs) put them in jail (which costs money to house, feed, and guard these people). When they get out, they've likely lost their job, their homes, and so the economy loses valuable workers (lost revenue is a cost) and they likely continue with the drug and repeat the same costly behavior over and over. We then go look at viewing it as a medical problem where we can allow them to continue working, and we can treat their addiction so that they don't have relapses. All in all, it will be very helpful to our current suffering economy.

Regarding Portugal, rather than reading new articles, it is better to go straight to Portugal and the EMCDDA on the matter. "The new law of 2000 maintained the status of illegality for using or possessing any drug for personal use without authorization. However, the offence changed from a criminal one, with prison a possible punishment, to an administrative one… When a person is caught in possession of no more than 10 daily doses of drugs (their corresponding gram limits had already been established in a regulation), and the police have no suspicions or evidence that the supply offences are involved, the drug will be seized. The case will then be transmitted to the Commission of the Dissuasion of Drug Abuse (CDT)…" [3, page 16 and 17]

Regarding my info from source 2 (of my last round), that should have been page 32, not 34 (the page says "32" on the page, but Adobe Reader, shows "34" on the computer). There it breaks down by drug type.

My opponent brings up the constitutionality of the issue. While I would normally argue that the Constitution is de facto rejected by the US and so not applicable to modern law in the USA. However, if we accept the constitution, drug laws have already been reviewed many times by the supreme court, most recently in Gonzales v. Raich [4]. Here the supreme court upheld that under the Commerce Clause, the federal government may criminalize any substance.

My opponent also points to the monstrous death toll in Mexico because of their own drug wars. This is really besides the point. It has already been shown that proper drug policies can reduce usage, violence, cost, and death. Pointing to a nation that is doing it the wrong way does nothing to refute the evidence provided by the nations that are doing it the right way. Since we are not obligated into the false dichotomy of Mexico's way or legalize it all, this doesn't matter.

This addresses all issues that my opponent has brought up, and the standing of the success of the European nations that I mentioned last round remained, for the most part, untouched.

Debate Round No. 2


You said it yourself "the standing success of the European(and Japan) nations I mentioned last round remained,for the most part untouched". Considering that this is a drug problem in the America's it is different. Americans as you have said use drugs much more often. Maybe that is not the laws maybe it is the people. You have to treat people differently in the America's we have the most deadly drug wars,cartels,and gangs.

As I have already pointed out Mexico loses tons of people to drug wars on a similar no tolerance policy.(1)

Colombia currently controls 80% of the worlds cocaine and it is way easier to ship it to some drug dealers in America then to Sweden or Portugal.(2) Colombia even has an entire civil war over drugs. Colombia has been in a civil war with the drug cartels and the communist guerrillas for 57 years. That could almost completely stop all we have to do is make drugs legal. The only reason Colombia still has drugs illegal is because the US funds them to do it(2). In article number 2 the statistics given are not even from the Colombian government they are from the US government. If we made drugs legal so would Colombia most likely at that point the cartels would have no need to back the revolutionaries and the military could focus on that.

The USA is far closer to the countries with the most illegal drugs. In Mexico there are 6,900 hectacres of poppy which can literally make tons of heroine.(3) That is a country that borders us with illegal immigration at an all time high it is easy for them to smuggle drugs over into the United States.

Another thing is that drug use for lifetime users has risen over 7% that is a lot more people again Colombians and Mexicans can sell it for more in America so why bother spending more money to ship it all the way to Europe.(4)

That is my closing argument the Americas are different the Europe different people different way to fix the problem.



I thank my opponent for an interesting debate. This being the final round, I will only address new arguments made and provide a brief summary.

My opponent makes the claim that the USA is too different from Europe, so they cannot be compared, saying "Maybe that is not the laws maybe it is the people. You have to treat people differently in the America's we have the most deadly drug wars,cartels,and gangs." However, my opponent then goes on to talk about the drug wars in South America and Mexico. The American people and culture, are much more similar to Europe, than to South America, so if any comparison could be made, it would be to Europe, and not South America.

The second argument that I need to address is that my opponent says we have a greater drug problem because we are closer to Columbia than Europe is. However, if we look at his #2 source, it says, "Highly organized smuggling cartels based in cities, like Cali, Medellin, and Bogota, arrange for the export of narcotics by the bulk, primarily to the United States. Europe and Brazil, however, are increasingly another destination for cocaine." By grouping Brazil and Europe together, it is clearly suggesting that the reason for the difference is not because of geological distance, but demand differences in different nations (as seeing as Brazil is much closer than the USA). This also completely ignores that Japan is very close to China and Afghanistan (which are also major drug producers) and still manages to be successful in their drug problems.

I will restate, that the failures of the Mexican war on Drugs are not an indication that the war on Drugs cannot be won, but merely that they are doing it the wrong way. Several nations in Europe have shown (as well as Japan) that there is a successful path to fighting the war on drugs. These examples were never able to be refuted and were attempted to be dismissed because of distance, even though my opponent's entire opening argument was based on a European country as an example.

My opponent has also dropped the constitution argument and has made no morals based argument.

Thank you,
Debate Round No. 3
24 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by kengibson2001 5 years ago
I would like to point out that some drugs should always banned.

Like the cheap subsititue for herion like coaxil and krokidil. A simple internet search or youtube search will display it's horrors. Makes meth look as harmless as smoking a blunt.
Posted by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
"If you want, feel free to issue a challange to me, or PM the details." - Ore_Ele, 1 week ago.
Posted by Danielle 5 years ago
Ore_Ele this topic has been beaten to death like a dead horse regardless of whether you can find the threads or not :P I don't remember exactly when and where but I know it has come up many times, and I'm pretty sure I specifically remember asking you. Nevertheless, that is completely irrelevant because I am asking you to debate it now. Shall I challenge you soon?
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
They should have made it a rule in round 1 that as soon as the debate ends, both members MUST vote for themselves. This removes all doubt and makes it fair. Of course this only covers the debates where both members can actually vote and are phone verified, but it definitely solves the problem of what could be bad form and what isn't.
Posted by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
Though there was a time when you could. Some members considered it bad form to vote for yourself, others viewed that both members just give themselves straight 7's to cancel each other out.
Posted by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
you're not able to.
Posted by historybuff1861 5 years ago
Is it bad to vote for yourself?
Posted by historybuff1861 5 years ago
Oh just to let you know the Colombian civil war has only been going on for 47 years. Not 57 it was bad adding not a typo.
Posted by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
If you want, feel free to issue a challange to me, or PM the details.
Posted by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
If you're talking about the "Why drugs should be illegal" thread, I only made 1 post in that, and it was ignored.

Digging through the society forums, this is the only legalization of all drugs thread in the last 10 pages.

Digging through the health forums, there is only one addressing legalization, and it only looked at marijuana (not all drugs) and it was a troll thread, and I didn't participate in it (though there are a lot of threads about the health effects of different drugs, but they don't go into legalization). For this section, I only dug 2 pages (that goes back 6 months).

Digging through the politics thread (going 10 pages back), I couldn't find a single drug legalization thread (except for the one where Seraine was looking for a debate challenge).

So while the issue may have appeared many time here, it hasn't appeared recently at all. We've had only 1 thread in the last 4 months. And as far as I know, this is only the second debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro doesn't refute Japan and the Netherlands until the last round, which prove that a "public health" approach is better than full illegalization. Speaking of public health, Con basically argued for decriminalization rather than the status quo, and Pro didn't seem to understand what this meant. This also turns the Portugal argument because they decriminalized, not legalized, which makes this a Con argument. Also, Pro doesn't contest that reform can greatly reduce costs of the WoD.