The Instigator
Pro (for)
8 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
1 Points

Drug Legalization: The War on Drugs has been a failure.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/29/2012 Category: Health
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,012 times Debate No: 26697
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (3)




Resolution: The Federal War on Drugs has been a complete failure, which should lead to all drugs within the United States of America being legalized.


War on Drugs: Campaign adopted by the U.S. government, specifically the Nixon Administration, along with the foreign military aid and with the assistance of participating countries, to both define and to end the import, manufacture, sale, and use of illegal drugs.

Illicit Drugs: Drugs which are under international control (and which may or may not have licit medical purposes) but which are produced, trafficked and/or consumed illicitly.[1] Examples of these drugs are, but are not limited too: Heroin, Cocaine, Marijuana, Ecstacy, etc.

1. No semantics, trolling, etc.
2. Follow the round guidelines.
3. Keep to the topic.
4. Use sources.

1. Acceptance: Definition of Terms. If you have issues with definitions or want to add/alter one of my terms, let me know in the comments. Otherwise I assume the terms are mutually accepted.
2. Opening Arguments: No rebuttels from con please, we'll have the other rounds to do that. Round 2 is strictly arguments
3. Rebuttals
4. Rebuttals/Closing statements.

If anybody has issues with the terms i have outlined here, or want to add/delete other specifics, let me know within the comments. Please only accept this if you have the time and want to actively engage in the debate.




I accept and agree to definitions.
Debate Round No. 1



Humans have the inalienable rights to insert whatever drug they want into their body, however method they please, and should be able to do so without government restriction. The War on Drugs is infringing on our rights to

"life, to health, to due process and a fair trial, to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, from slavery, and from discrimination.[1]"

This directly infringes our rights outlined in the Declaration of Independence, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the U.S. Constitution. This also infringes with the non-aggression principle, more specifically the right to self-ownership[2]. If non-violent drug users are not hurting anybody else, we should not be sending them to jail for months, and even years.

The U.S War on Drugs is also unconstitutional. Alcohol prohibition required a constitutional amendment, why doesn't prohibition of marijuana, or other illicit drugs? This violates the 10th amendment of the United States Constitution, giving states, or the people, powers not granted to the federal government. The War on Drugs also violates the Substantive Due Process of the 5th and 14th amendments[3].


The War on Drugs has left Mexico in ruins. The overall conflict has left 55,000 people, including 3,000 soldiers and police officers, dead[4]. This statistic doesn't even include the 5,000 people missing[4]. The black market economy of drug sales is estimated by the U.N. to be worth $60 billion dollars annually, with Mexican cartels bringing in about $39 billion per year[4]. The Drug War has also lead to uncontrollable corruption, with top cartel members paying off top anti-drug officials, local police, and top prison officials[4]. The Justice Department also estimates Drug Cartels operate in over 1,286 U.S. cities, with over 850 trucks crossing into the U.S. from Mexico everyday.[4] Summarized by Jeffrey Miron, economics professor at Harvard University, he says

"Prohibition of drugs corrupts politicians and law enforcement by putting police, prosecutors, judges and politicians in the position to threaten the profits of an illicit trade. This is why bribery, threats and kidnapping are common for prohibited industries but rare otherwise. Mexico's recent history illustrates this dramatically."[5]


The War on Drugs has cost over $1 trillion dollars, but has it really worked[6]?

The charts I have shown demonstrate the inefficiency of the U.S War on Drugs to deter drug use.[6][7] Deaths and Emergency room visits have skyrocketed, despite spending going up every year. Also, arrests for marijuana possession have increased almost every year, despite immense spending from the government to try to deter use.

This chart shows that the price of cocaine and heroin have gone down substantially over the past couple decades[6]. Also, with Marijuana becoming cheaper[7], and with 90% of 12th graders saying marijuana is 'easy to obtain'[7], the overall goal of prohibition to limit the accessibility of drugs has failed greatly. The United Nations has also estimated opiate, cocaine, and cannabis use has increased 34.5%, 27%, and 8.5% since last decade, respectively[1] As explained by Art Carden[8]

"The demand curve for drugs is extremely inelastic, meaning that people don’t change their drug consumption very much in response to changes in prices."

"prohibition means that drug sellers have more money to buy guns, pay bribes, fund the dealers, and even research and develop new technologies in drug delivery (like crack cocaine). It’s hard to beat an enemy that gets stronger the more you strike against him or her"


The War on Drugs has also led to an outbreak in HIV and Hepatitis cases. As explained by Jeffrey Miron[5]

"Drug users face restrictions on clean syringes that cause them to share contaminated needles, thereby spreading HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases."

More specifically, 32.000 people are directly infected with HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis C because prohibition isn't allowing drug users access to clean syringes[9]


The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition, explained by Jeffrey Miron, has concluded that[10]

-The Legalization of Drugs would save $41.3 billion dollars every year, with $25.7 billion of the savings coming from state/local government, and $15.6 dollars savings coming from the federal government.
-The Legalization of Drugs would also yield tax revenue of $46.7 billion, which could be used on prevention programs, rehabilitation processes, hospitals, roads, schools, etc.

Over 40 years of this War on Drugs, taxpayers have spent[11]

• $20 billion to fight the drug gangs in their home countries. In Colombia, for example, the United States spent more than $6 billion, while coca cultivation increased and trafficking moved to Mexico - and the violence along with it.

• $33 billion in marketing "Just Say No"-style messages to America's youth and other prevention programs. High school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have "risen steadily" since the early 1970s to more than 20,000 last year.

• $49 billion for law enforcement along America's borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs. This year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of those drugs imported from Mexico.

• $121 billion to arrest more than 37 million non violent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana. Studies show that jail time tends to increase drug abuse.

• $450 billion to lock those people up in federal prisons alone. Last year, half of all federal prisoners in the U.S. were serving sentences for drug offenses.

As you can see in the statistics, over 40 years, 37 million non violent people have been arrested for simple using drugs. We should be using our resources on criminals who are actually harming other people.


The Federal War on Drugs has racial discrimination to minorities. Although whites and minorities use and sell drugs at similar rates, 67%(2/3) of incarcerated drug offenders in state prisons are minorities[9]. Also, despite government studies showing African-Americans using cannabis at lower rates than whites, African-Americans were arrested in California at 300% the rate of whites for possession. [7]

I will now allow my opponent to construct his arguments.















The resolution states: The Federal War on Drugs has been a complete failrue, which should lead to all drugs within the United States of America being legalized.

As Con I must prove that:
A. The War on Drugs has not been a complete failure
B. Not all drugs should be legalized in the United States

If I prove either A or B to be true than the resolution has been negated. Pro must prove both A and B to be true to affirm the resolution.

Social Contract

In any given society there is an inherent social contract between citizens and government. Citizens must give up certain rights and liberties in order to enjoy the benefits of being apart of the society. It is the governments duty to protect the rights and security of society.

Legalization would increase the number of users.

William J. Bennett writes, "When powder cocaine was expensive and hard to get, it was found almost exclusively in the circles of the rich, the famous, or the privileged. Only when cocaine was dumped into the country, and a $3 vial of crack could be bought on street corners, did we see cocaine use skyrocket." [1]

Joseph A. Califano Jr., the founding president of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University says that, "any "stamp of legality" on snorting cocaine or smoking crack would bring drugs a "new social acceptability," lead to a huge increase in the number of addicts and "light a new flame beneath health care spending." [2]

It is only logical to believe that if all drugs are legalized there would be an increase in usage. There would be a social acceptance as Califano writes, and once there is accpetance more people would experiment and try drugs. Drugs, especially cocaine and methamphetamine, are incredibly addictive and if more people tried them more people would become addicted, and may never be able to stop.

Drugs negatively impact society.

One need only look back in history to China to see the effect drugs can have on a society. Opium effectively crippled the Chinese. They became addicted causing them to become lazy as a people and relient upon the British. [3]

Now onto U.S. examples. In Chicago 83% of criminals arrested, tested positive for some form of illegal drug. [4]

A report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that 80% of inmates across the nation were linked to alcohol or drug use. They had "violated drug or alcohol laws, had been high when they committed their crimes, had stolen to support their habit or had a history of drug and alcohol abuse that led them to commit crimes." [5] Now I understand that this number would not be as high if drugs were legalized because mere possesion would not be a criminal offense. But this still shows that drugs cause those under the influence to comit crime.

What these statistics prove is that drugs alter the mind and cause citizens to comit crime. There are two impacts from this:
1. If drugs are legalized and use increases the amount of crime would increase negatively impacting society.
2. Even if use did not increase the very fact that drugs cause harm to society in this way means government cannot condone it, or it would be breaking it's social contract obligation.

Another way drugs negatively impact society is the monetary burden. This includes costs from health care, crime, and loss productivity. The National Institue on Drug Abuse estimates that illegal drug use costs the US $181B every year. [6] This number would obviously grow if the number of users were to grow.

Drug use not only affects society as a whole, but affects the individual. Pregnant mothers who use drugs have extreme negative affects on their child. Parents who use drugs affect their children when they are unable to hold a job, or properly raise their children. It also negatively impacts each of the individual employers who lose money from loss of productivity.

The current War on Drugs has not been a complete failure.

I cannot say that the war has been a total success because it has many flaws, and I would not argue that there is no need for a change in policy. However, there have been successes in the War on Drugs.

"Thirty-six people were arrested on Wednesday in a crackdown on a drug trafficking ring that used Puerto Rico's main airport to smuggle large quantities of cocaine off the island aboard U.S.-bound passenger flights, authorities said." [7]

"Seventeen people were arrested in Southern California on charges of smuggling large quantities of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines into the United States from Mexico... This investigation has dealt a serious blow to a trafficking network we believe was funneling significant quantities of high-grade methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin into the Los Angeles area," Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, said in a statement." [8]

"A total of 168 bales of cocaine, worth more than $135 million, never made it on to the streets of America." [9]

I could go on and on posting stories of where the U.S. has made various busts of dealers, suppliers, and storage facilities. My point is that the United States has had some success. No they have not been entirely successful, but the war has not been a complete failure.


1.;(Page 225)








Debate Round No. 2



Social Contract

The social contract just states that we have to give up 'certain' rights and liberties. It never specifies what rights we actually have to give up. Hobbes specifically stated the rights to 'plunder, rape and murder' were rights we would have to give up, among others. Victimless crimes we're never specified.

Legalization would increase users

I'll revisit this next round to save space. I'm not choosing to concede this, like I said I'll revisit it later. However, I'd like to spend more time on the other two arguments, as refutation will prove more valuable to my time.

Drugs negatively impact society

- I don't find the Chinese Opium argument very effective. It happened way too long ago to try to make a connection to today's drug policies. Also, I attribute the force of an oppressive British empire as more of a force of the opium outbreak, as the Chinese couldn't pass any measures without provoking British retaliation. The Chinese did try to propose a ban on opium, which failed and lead to a war with Britain. However, its unknown whether the ban would of actually worked.
-Your source that explains 83% of Chicago arrestees were on drugs was vague. When I read it, over half of the arrestees were on marijuana. Of those on Marijuana, almost all of them were there for simple drug charges that otherwise wouldn't be there if it were legal. So the 83% figure is misleading.
-Your source that explains that 80% of inmates across the nation had drug or alcohol use was from 1998, so its a little outdated. However, the study confirms that only 3% of inmates convicted of violent crimes were on cocaine, and only 1% were on heroin. When looking at alcohol, however, the percentage of inmates convicted of violent crimes we're intoxicated was at a staggering 21%. Also, I'll be referencing your own source later to confirm one of my main arguments that jail time does not work in stopping drug use, and rehabilitation works better.

"1. If drugs are legalized and use increases the amount of crime would increase negatively impacting society.
2. Even if use did not increase the very fact that drugs cause harm to society in this way means government cannot condone it, or it would be breaking it's social contract obligation."

1. I will explain a little later how prohibition increases the amount of time, rather than the usage itself
2. Guns and knives also cause harm to society, yet government condones them. Fast food causes harm to society, yet government condones them. If all these things are used like they're supposed to be used, and in moderation, then its fine. Same thing with drugs, as long as they're being used in moderation and like they're supposed to be used, then the social contract isn't being broke

- In response to your monetary burden argument, most of that $181B comes from enforcing the drug laws that aren't working, and the cost it takes to maintain these people in prison.
-Obviously pregnant women shouldn't take drugs. Like I said earlier, using drugs in moderation, not in situations like that. As for parents of children, the problem with prohibition is that when they get caught with drugs, they go to jail, which is worse than the use itself. When they get out, that criminal record prevents them from getting a job, not even accounting for wages lost while in prison, which harms their family's even more.

The current War on Drugs has not been a complete failure.

"Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified." - U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske[1]

- In response to both of your stories of the busts, neither of those busts had any effect on the trade at all

"For every drug dealer you put in jail or kill, there's a line up to replace him because the money is just so good," says Walter McCay, who heads the nonprofit Center for Professional Police Certification in Mexico City."[1]

- In response to the $135 million dollars of cocaine that never made it to the streets, that's great, but doesn't hurt the cartels at all. Using my source in my main argument saying cartels bring in $39 billion dollars a year, those 168 bales of cocaine seized by the U.S. government only accounted for 3/10s of a percent of the cartel's income. The cartels don't even feel the effect of that cocaine being contained by the U.S.

Along with Prohibition failing to meet its main goals: reduce drug use and reduce availability, Prohibition is also doing nothing to help rehabilitate users. Repeated study, survey, and real life example proves increased rehabilitation reduces use, and increased police forces and harsher drug laws increase drug use. I'll show some examples:

-The Rockefeller drug law imposes a 15-year-to-life jail sentence for anyone in possession of four or more ounces of narcotics. Since this was equal to second-degree murder, many thought the law would work great, right? Wrong. Not only did drug convictions increase, but recidivism rates(likelihood of someone re-entering jail for the same crime) significantly increased.[2]
-People who received drug rehabilitation instead of jail time:[2]
-Were re-arrested within a 12 month period 18% less of the time
-Were convicted of a crime 23% less of the time
-Received a new sentence within a 12 month period 21% less of the time
-According to your own source, of the 840,000 prisoners needing drug treatment, only about 150,000 actually got the treatment before being released. Joseph Califano, who served under president Jimmy Carter, commented on this statistic[3]

'The most troublesome aspect of these grim statistics is that the nation is doing so little to change them. Releasing inmates without treating their drug or alcohol addictions was tantamount to visiting criminals on society. Such negligence only sustained the market for illegal drugs and supported drug dealers"

-Now lets study Europe.

1) Switzerland implemented a new set of policies and programs, some of which included heroin substitution programs, which focused on public health rather than criminalization in the 1980s. These programs proved to be tremendously successful: It substantially reduced consumption and demand amongst the heaviest users, reduced property crimes by up to 90% amongst users in the program, and removed local addicts and dealers.[4]

2)The UK found charges brought against 1,500 drug users that entered treatment was reduced by 48%[4]

3)The Netherlands implement Large-scale, low-threshold drug treatment and harm reduction programs, and sometimes even prescribe heroin under strict conditions. Because of this, the Netherlands have the lowest amount of heroin users, have no now influx of new or problematic users, and found that medical heroin reduces crime and increases positive effects on the health of people struggling with addiction. [4]

4)When Portugal decriminalized drugs, and treated drug users as
health patients instead of criminals, problematic users dropped by 50%. Much of this success is also attributable to "confluence of treatment and drug reduction policies".[5]

“The available scientific evidence suggests that increasing the intensity of law enforcement interventions to disrupt drug markets is unlikely to reduce drug gang violence. Instead, the existing evidence suggests that drug-related violence and high homicide rates are likely a natural consequence of drug prohibition and that increasingly sophisticated and well-resourced methods of disrupting drug distribution networks may unintentionally increase violence."[4]





Kdub forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Unfortunately my opponent has forfeited his third round. I extend all my arguments and await his final rebuttals. The only thing that I ask from my opponent is that he does not present any new arguments next round, as I will not be able to respond.

Closing Statements

I have concluded that not only the War on Drugs has been a failure, but drugs should be legalized. The statistics prove that the Federal Drug War's two main goals, reduce availability and reduce users, has failed greatly. I have also provided information proving legalizing drugs would dismantle Mexican Drug Cartels, would reduce the non-violent prison population, would create massive tax revenue profits, would reduce AIDS/HIV contamination, would save billions of wasted dollars every year, and create a more efficient way of rehabilitating drug users.

Once again, I'm not arguing we should use drugs, I'm arguing prohibition actually increases users, and more advanced methods of prevention and rehabilitation/treatment centers drastically reduce problem users. I will not await my opponent's rebuttals.


Kdub forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by emj32 3 years ago
Its not a problem, life happens. I'll let the voters decide whether to penalize you or not, i'm not going to ask them too. We'll just continue the debate as normal.
Posted by Kdub 3 years ago
I do apologize, I lost track of time over the weekend.
Posted by emj32 3 years ago
It appears my charts did not show up. If anybody knows how to link graphs and make them visible in the debate please let me know.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Magic8000 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by TrasguTravieso 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Con's arguments seemed to hinge upon the fact that the prompt as he rendered needed the war on drugs to be a complete failure. This is completely missing the point and avoiding the substance. Other points were fair, such as the possibility of greater use of drugs were they legal, but his forfeitures did not allow him to expand on them.
Vote Placed by TigerTime 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: ff