The Instigator
gahbage
Pro (for)
Losing
13 Points
The Contender
the-mad-ones
Con (against)
Winning
15 Points

Drugs should be legalized in the U.S.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/18/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 988 times Debate No: 3691
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (4)
Votes (8)

 

gahbage

Pro

There's not any real background information, except that drugs are currently illegal in the U.S. But you should know that.

I am in favor of legal drug use and drug dealing in the U.S.

Point 1: The government loses alot of potential revenue on illegal drug dealing. According to the BBC (British Broadcasting Company), the drug-dealing black market made an estimated $400 billion in 2000, which was more than was spent on food at that time. If such trafficking was not illegal, the government could tax it for a large profit. For example, with a 25% sales tax, the government would make about $100 billion a year.

Point 2: Crime rates would decrease drastically. Since drugs are illegal, one would have to steal, kill, etc. to get them. Also, according The Cato Institute, during the years of prohibition (when alcohol was illegal), the murder rate shot up by about 400,000. This proves that drugs are one of the main causes of violence.
the-mad-ones

Con

Since we do have 5 rounds, might as well get some clarification out of the way:

1) I will assume my opponent means the 'non-drug' crime rate (as the drug-related crime rate would by nature decrease if drugs became legal).
Rates are measurements relative to other measurements. The murder rate is usually written as a per / X figure, where X is a certain number of citizens. So what is this 400,000? Just a straight number of murders? A percentage increase?

2) My opponent uses the term 'legalization' very generally. How legal is legal?
Debate Round No. 1
gahbage

Pro

By crime rate, I mean the general crime rate in the U.S. Many crimes are committed to obtain drugs. But if drugs weren't illegal, you wouldn't need to get them illegally.

I guess I should clarify drugs also. In this case, a "drug" would be an addictive
substance that distorts the body in some way, such as these examples:

- marijuana
- ecstasy
- heroin

Of course, there would have to be an age requirement. I would suggest 18 or older.

400,000 would be straight murders.

Legal would be, there would be no punishment for possession, dealing, etc. You could not be fined, put on probation, or jailed.
the-mad-ones

Con

Summarizations of my opponents points are listed by number. My responses are listed by letter. conclusion is at the end.

1) Potential $100 Billion in Tax revenues from legalization.
Responses:
a)
It's the black market. Estimates by the BBC are estimates, and unlikely to be accurate, considering the dearth of public information regarding black market economics.
b)
Even if the $400 Billion estimate is realistic, and the 25% tax is assumed, it is erroneous to assume that the government would receive $100 Billion in usable tax revenues. If drugs were legalized, the government would have to organize, regulate, and oversee the drug trade. This would involve funding, the creation of regulatory measures, and integration with current regulatory units within the government. These are real costs. Considering how underfunded the IRS and FDA currently are, and also how necessary it would be to ensure adequate funding for this new regulatory unit (considering the possible legal implications of poor oversight), it is very possible that the costs of legalizing drugs would outweigh the revenues. This is assuming, of course, current market prices of these drugs. If we were to raise the prices of formerly black market items much higher, it is unlikely that people would be willing or able to devote their income to such overpriced commodities (simple economics).
c)
If we did not raise the prices of these drugs to inaccessible levels, then it would also be safe to assume that a larger portion of the population would begin using these drugs. The drugs would be legal and publicly available, thus removing previously existing deterrents from the process. A larger number of users of addictive and life-altering drugs directly translates into even greater costs for the government. Not only would the drug trade have to regulated, but the government would have to take on the responsibility of rehabilitation as well. This ties in with part (b), but is worth mentioning on its own.

2) Crime Rate and Murder reduction
Responses:
a) Although it is obvious that drug-specific crimes (owning, selling, or buying drugs), it is not so safe to assume that the reduction in drug-related crimes (crimes indirectly caused by drugs, such as murders, theft, etc) would not be offset by increases in crime elsewhere. Criminals previously involved in the drug trade are unlikely to become employed by businesses selling these drugs once the drugs become legalized. These previously 'employed' criminals would now become unemployed. Considering the standards of employment for most corporations regarding previous experience and criminal records, it is unlikely that these people would easily find employment. That leaves two likely scenarios for these criminals. Either they become wards of the government (welfare), or they find new employment within the black market. These crimes would simply occur as a result of some different black market commodity aside from drugs.
b) It is possible that murder rates will not decrease after legalization for reasons aside from that posted in (a). There are drugs that enhance aggressiveness and irrational activity. It is possible that legalization of these drugs will result in an increase in murders. Is this risk worth taking?
c) The Cato Institute is a heavily biased libertarian think tank. How did it even arrive at this 400K figure? Is this 400K over the entire prohibition period, or 400K per year?

My opponent fails to examine the costs of legalizing drugs. He only reviews potential benefits based off weak estimates provided by potentially biased sources. The costs of legalization include, but are not limited to: Regulation, Rehabilitation, and Increases in illegal activity as a result of citizens being under the influence of drugs. Thus far, we are only examining the financial economics of such an action. There are other individual costs that some would consider much worse (although more difficult to quantify), such as losing loved ones to addictions/overdose, mood alteration, and long term health risks.
Debate Round No. 2
gahbage

Pro

I'll use the same system as my opponent.

1a) Although estimates may be off, if drugs are legalized, they could be publicized and make a large amount of money regardless. Now, although the revenue is say, only about 1% of the national debt, that's still alot considering the national debt is about $9.4 trillion.

1b) The point of market money and regulation is good one - the costs can outweigh the benefits. However, it is just as likely that all this mass marketing and regulation can increase the revenue. This can also kill two birds with one stone, in the sense that the prices of drugs may not have to be raised for an overall increased revenue.

1c) As my opponent has stated, this ties in with b.

2a) To solve the problem of unemployable criminals, there are actually many solutions. One example is that the government can provide amnesty for these people, provided that it doesn't happen again (otherwise a harsher punishment would be enforced).

2b) I believe that the risk is worth taking, considering that some crime rates (drug possession, trafficking, stealing, etc.) will go down in exchange for others. Concerning the more harmful drugs, there could be a record of the amount of that drug everyone has bought, and propose limits for these drugs.

2c) Over the entire period of prohibition.

I will also provide solutions to the costliness of drug legalization.

Regulation: Hire/Use police/special officers to control the dealing, keep it in shops similar to pharmacies (or even put them in pharmacies) so that they can be inspected.
Rehabilitation: Build more rehab centers or send patients to existing ones.
Funding: If there is not enough money for proper funding, the taxes can always be raised. Even the slightest amount could provide good funding.

Loss of life is already an issue concerning drugs, legal distribution rather than illegal distribution would not change this to an extreme.
the-mad-ones

Con

1a) We don't have any idea how much could be made in revenues. The mere possibility that a large amount of revenue could be made does not justify undertaking a very risky and potentially costly project.

1b) Regulation would not increase revenue. Regulation costs money. Currently, the black market for drugs regulates itself, circumventing law in order to do so. Legalizing drugs would place the onus of regulation on the US government. This is not cheap or easy to implement. In addition, hypothesizing that mass marketing would somehow enhance revenues (based on nothing, data or otherwise), is a very shallow approach. The majority of private corporations do not throw money at their marketing departments and simply pray that the marketing makes money.

2a) Amnesty is not the issue here. These people would not easily find jobs. If they do not have jobs, they do not have money. If they do not have money, they cannot survive. If they cannot survive, they will find ways to do so. The only easy non-job ways to make money involve receiving from the government in the form of welfare, or re-entering the black market and taking part in criminal activities. So basically, either the government has to take care of these people (another cost), or (the more likely scenario) the crime rate does not decrease.

2b) The point here is that the crime rate might actually increase as a result of certain drugs enhancing the propensity to commit crime. My opponent has not analyzed or measured risk of any sort, yet states that he BELIEVES the risk is worth taking. The legal costs alone could be drastic. People would not only blame the drugs in order to prevent incarceration, but they would sue companies and the government for promoting substances that led to life-damage.

My opponent simply assumes that legalizing drugs is a profitable endeavor from a financial perspective. He ignores the potentially large non-financial fallout (lost goodwill, religious backlash, emotional damage), the potential indirect damage (life-damage, corporate productivity declines, etc), and other possible issues. Even if we were to ignore the costs of these indirect or non-financial losses, there is insufficient evidence that financial profitability could be achieved.

Regulation and Oversight would cost money.
Welfare for former black market members would cost money.
Litigation would cost money.
'Mass Marketing' would cost money.

All of these represent real and substantial costs. These costs would not decline relative to the amount of potential tax revenues that could be achieved.

The potential tax revenues cited by my opponent have not been checked for accuracy or bias. The actual revenues could be much lower than the estimates my opponent quoted. Considering this, the financial risk is very high. It would be highly irresponsible by members of the government or of corporations to off-handedly take on such an endeavor with a simple 'I believe that the risk is worth taking', as if this statement alone validates such action.
Debate Round No. 3
gahbage

Pro

1a) Through marketing/advertising, comes interest from the viewers, causing them to buy the product. If the government could get a good amount of advertising, there would be a surplus of customers.

1b) Regulation would be somewhat easier if the drugs were sold in orderly and recordable pharmacies. Thus, regulating the drug trade would not be much harder than regulating and inspecting the condition and distribution of food, for example.

2a) By granting these criminals amnesty, it will be easier for them to find some sort of job. There would be no record of criminal activity (at least regarding first-time felons) to be held against them.

2b) As for the role of certain drugs in the commitment of crimes, this can be handled by keeping a record of how much of that drug one person owns, and setting a limit on it. For example, there would be a limit on the amount of ecstasy that could be purchased at one time, and if your record states that you already have an amount of this drug that would exceed the limit, you would not be allowed to buy it. You would also need to show a signed from that states the police inspected your home to make sure you don't have that drug.

In addition, consider these scenarios from: http://www.taxfoundation.org...

In this scenario, which is very common and could be considered the average amount of customers from one dealer, the drug dealer makes more money than the average worker. If you put a tax on that, it is very possible that whatever money lost through fundraising, rehabilitation, lawsuits, etc. could be gained back.

I stated that the risk was worth taking because it is. The reason being, any financial hole that is caused by legalizing drugs can be fixed and replenished, and would make the government billions of dollars.

Why vote pro:
1. Government income would skyrocket.
2. The crime rate related to drugs would decrease with the proper support (regulation).
3. Most, if not all, of the problems encountered can be solved fairly quickly.
the-mad-ones

Con

1a) My opponent fails to understand the true rigor required in cost/benefit analysis. More advertising does not necessarily translate into 'a surplus of customers'. First of all, the legalization of all addictive, body-distorting, health-damaging substances is likely to produce enough 'advertising' on its own, through the mass media (PR, news, blogs, etc). Therefore, any additional advertising expenditures are unlikely to produce many new incremental 'customers'. This additional spending would simply be wasted. But this is aside from the point. The point is that we do not know, or have any actual idea, of the amount of revenues that could be gained from legalizing these substances. My opponent's guess is as good as my own. With that in mind, choosing to take an action regarding changing the current status quo, when that action will produce unknown or questionable results, is a suboptimal decision. The reason is simple. Unless the current situation is proven to be suboptimal relative to ANY other situation, change simply throws risk into the equation. Risk immediately lowers the trade-off value of the 'new' situation.

1b) Regulation would not be easier, because currently, there is no regulation. A new unit would have to be created and funded. This means IMMEDIATE sunk costs for the government, as there would be no revenues coming in at the time of creation. Not only that, officers would have to be trained. Pharmacies would have to implement new reporting mechanisms. Everything would have to be tracked. These are all real costs.

2a) I refer to criminals with prior records. There would obviously be no records for people who hadn't been caught in the first place. But even for these people...they are not trained members of the work force. Two problems arise out of this. (1) There will be an influx of people into the workforce. Considering the current economy, this wouldn't help the unemployment situation. (2) My opponent suggests making it easier for criminals to enter the workforce. Companies have restrictions against allowing criminals into the workforce because they don't want them there. My opponent proposes providing amnesty to these people as a way of 'tricking' companies into hiring these people. These companies are likely to oppose such a measure. If it did somehow pass, they would likely sue the government. This comprises ANOTHER cost of legalization.

2b) So police now have the right to regularly search your home. This would add even more to the overall costs of legalization, from 2 perspectives. (1) Training and hiring more cops to search homes. (2) People suing the government for invasion of privacy. My opponent proposes the removal of personal rights so that it can collect potential (POTENTIAL) tax revenues. In addition, people who are addicted to addictive substances will likely find ways to purchase these addictive substances, considering the substances are addictive. If they reach their limits with regards to what quantities they can purchase, they will then return to the black market to purchase more. And how do we arrive at these limits? Just arbitrary figures? According to modern medicine, the limits should be 0.

As for the tax link, that is a biased article. In addition, it supports a flat sales tax, which is a totally different topic altogether. Firstly, my opponent should read Freakonomics, or anything else that examines drug dealer incomes. The large majority of drug dealers do not make much more than the poorest of legally employed citizens. The ones that do, that also live in the US, are likely to be paying sales taxes already.

My opponent has completely ignored the potential costs, both financial and otherwise, of total drug legalization. He assumes that tax revenues would be ample enough to cover these costs, but he has no strong data on the revenues OR the costs.

There is no proof that government income would SKYROCKET. In fact, it is very possible that the opposite would occur. But my opponent is 'willing to take this risk', with no data to support him.
The crime rate would actually probably increase, per my previous arguments.
And from using intuition, reading the news, and experiencing the government in general, most people could safely assume that any problems would definitely not be 'solved fairly quickly'.
Debate Round No. 4
gahbage

Pro

1a) By stating that legal drugs are "...likely to produce enough 'advertising' on its own, through the mass media...", you have confirmed my point - more people would buy drugs, because they are no longer illegal and have mass publicity. And, by not spending money on extra advertising, the government can use this for the other problems that may arise. I agree that we can only guess the revenue, but it would be some amount of surplus - logically, there should not be any loss from revenue alone.

1b) A new unit would not necessarily have to be funded - the government can just increase the amount of police officers. A police officer can do the job of inspecting, reporting and recording just as well as a special agent can.

2a) There is a very simple solution to an unskilled work force: W-2. (http://www.ontheissues.org...)
It's a welfare/job skills program used by Wisconsin, which has decreased the number of people on welfare by 92%. Give all of these criminals job training, and they will be more likely to get jobs.

2b) More cops are needed anyway, so it shouldn't be a problem (that may be a little biased, but I live near Baltimore City...). I did not state that police have the right to search your home. They would obtain a warrant, as usual, to make sure you don't get more than the amount of drugs you're allowed to have. Nowhere did I say that fourth amendment rights will not be protected. As for the limit on certain drugs, it should be the point when they become too harmful, obviously. Not all drugs are instantly dangerous.

The article may be biased, but it presents a real-life situation. In addition, keep in mind a drug dealer may very well have a job, which adds to his/her income.

I haven't ignored the costs, I've provided measures that can be taken to cover up these losses.

And as for the income, logically, if the illegal drug trade didn't provide a surplus of money, nobody would be doing it. Therefore, legalizing the trade makes the same amount of surplus (possibly more), but puts a tax on it.
the-mad-ones

Con

1a) I did not bring up advertising expenditures. My opponent did. Therefore, there was no point for me to prove. In addition, by definition, revenue itself cannot represent a loss. Loss occurs as a result of the costs associated in generating that revenue. The costs of total drug legalization are much broader in scope than simple advertising expenditures. I have already outlined these costs in my four previous arguments. This point was originally meant to highlight the lack of any legitimate sourcing or data by my opponent with regards to his 'estimates' of potential legalized drug revenues.

1b) A new regulatory unit would not be funded with the purpose of performing simple inspections. This unit would be required to oversee all aspects of the new industry. Police do not inspect airlines, the FAA does. Police do not provide standards for allowing pharmaceutical companies to see meds, the FDA does. Police do not inspect people's taxes, the IRS does. The regulatory units are responsible for the creation of standards, the monitoring of the industry, the maintenance of quality, the detection of issues, the promotion of solutions, the suggestion of changes, the analysis of data, the presentation to legislators, etc. All three of the units I mentioned earlier (FAA, FDA, IRS) are very underfunded, meaning they need more funding to operate optimally. This new agency would encounter the same problems, aside from its initial funding costs.

2a) The W-2 program itself and the supposed success of it are outside the scope of this discussion. In addition, we don't know what portion of these criminals would join welfare or that program, should it actually be successful on a national scale. The whole point is that the program and welfare both represent COSTS. More people in the program means more COSTS. In addition, the portion of criminals that would not enter such a program would likely re-enter the black market. Another cost, and an impediment towards crime rate reduction.

2b) In order to obtain a warrant, police need probable cause that a crime or evidence of a crime exists in a household. If drugs are legal, then it makes it that much more difficult for police to obtain a warrant with regards to 'excess drugs'. How would a police officer obtain a warrant due to probable cause, where he/she suspects a legal drug use to have too much of a legal drug? In addition, the necessary work involved in finding this proof and obtaining the necessary warrants represents yet another COST. Time and resources cost money.

3 main reasons the drug trade may be somewhat profitable:
1) They are oligopolistic in nature. Therefore they can control prices;
2) Barriers to purchase exist. People cannot buy them legally, so dealers place a premium on the price.
3) Depending on the dealers, lower quality (and potentially dangerous) substitute substances can be used in the production of some of these drugs in order to lower costs

All of these reasons would disappear if all drugs were legalized. Throw a tax in there, and all of a sudden, most (if not all) of this supposed surplus disappears.

I could write more, but all of my points have been stated in the previous four arguments. The main point is this: The costs of legalizing all drugs (regulation, tax collection, litigation, productivity, rehabilitation, life-damage, etc, etc, etc) exceed the benefits (a guessed-at tax revenue figure, based off of journalistic data).
Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by RHPSskankk 9 years ago
RHPSskankk
I personally thought Gahbage did well.
Posted by LR4N6FTW4EVA 9 years ago
LR4N6FTW4EVA
Gahbage, you messed up big time here. tmo had very good arguments, but not undefeatable ones. think before you type.
Posted by gahbage 9 years ago
gahbage
Either one of us could drop out at any time, and it only gives more chances for one of us to out-debate the other.
If they don't want to argue anymore, they don't have to.
Posted by draxxt 9 years ago
draxxt
Too many rounds. This issue can be settled in two or three. Please, take into consideration your opponents life, or lack thereof, in contrast to your lack of life, no reverse.
They might have better things to do than debate a topic that has five rounds and is fairly open and shut.
Enjoy.
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