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The Contender
Con (against)
8 Points

Legalization of Illicit Drugs

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/16/2015 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,204 times Debate No: 75393
Debate Rounds (3)
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Votes (2)




Drug prohibition has been a huge disaster with terrible consequences.

Economics of legalization and drain on budget (prohibition)

1. More than $51,000,000,000 is spent on the war on drugs annually.
2. Tax revenue that drug legalization would yield annually, if currently-illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco: $46.7 billion
3. Cartels' biggest selling drug is cannabis, legalization would give that money to legitimate businesses and the states through taxes

Human costs and lives ruined by prohibition

1. The number of people arrested in 2013 in the U.S. on nonviolent drug charges: 1.5 million
2. Number charged for marijuana law violation in 2013: 693,482
3. Number of those charged with marijuana law violations who were arrested for possession only: 609,423 (88 percent of all)
4. Number of people killed in Mexico's drug war since 2006 (which we support): 100,000+
5. Number of students who have lost federal financial aid eligibility because of a drug conviction: 200,000+

Disproportional racism toward minorities

1. Proportion of people incarcerated for a drug offense in state prison who are black or Latino, although these groups use and sell drugs at similar rates as whites: 57 percent
2. African Americans comprise 14% of regular drug users, but are 37% of those arrested for drug offenses.
3. African Americans serve almost as much time in federal prison for a drug offense as whites do for a violent offense.
4. People of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites.
5. Since the 1980s, federal penalties for crack were 100 times harsher than those for powder cocaine, with African Americans disproportionately sentenced to much lengthier terms.

Disparities caused by ban on syringes

1. One-third of all AIDS cases in the U.S. have been caused by syringe sharing: 354,000 people
2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that syringe access programs lower HIV incidence among people who inject drugs by: 80 percent

Corruption caused by the war on drugs

1. On average, half of all police officers convicted as a result of FBI-led corruption cases between 1993 and 1997 were convicted for drug-related offenses.
2. From fiscal years 2005 through 2012, a total of 144 employees were arrested or indicted for corruption-related activities, including the smuggling of aliens or drugs, and 125 have been convicted.
3. Since October 1, 2004, 138 border agents have been arrested or indicted for acts of corruption including drug smuggling, alien smuggling, money laundering, and conspiracy.
4. (Dept. of Homeland Security Corruption Cases) "In Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) received about 12,458 allegations of fraud and initiated over 1,085 investigations. Our investigations resulted in 313 arrests, 293 indictments, 281 convictions and 59 administrative actions. Additionally, we reported over $85.7 million in fines, restitutions and administrative cost savings and recoveries.
"Specific to employee corruption on the border, since 2003, we have made 129 arrests of corrupt Customs and Border Protection Officers and Border Patrol Agents. In FY 2009, we opened 839 allegations involving DHS employees:
"" 576 CBP;
"" 64 CIS;
"" 35 TSA, and
"" 164 ICE"

"Legal Highs":

Dangerous substances are sold as "legal highs" attempting to imitate less dangerous illegal drugs. Had the drug that they are attempting to imitate been legal, deaths, serious health issues, and permanent brain damage caused by them could've been prevented. An example of these designer drugs is "synthetic marijuana" which is very dangerous and has been responsible for many deaths, including minors. Mandatory drug testing is another cause of the synthesis and sales of designer drugs, because they usually aren't detected easily.

Conclusion of round 1: There is huge evidence that prohibition is a catastrophe that has torn apart too many families and caused much more harm than good. Prohibitionists no longer have much to hold onto anymore, as the internet has greatly reduced the impact of propaganda.



Pro's position: legalize illicit drugs, i.e. "if a drug is illicit, then it should be legalized" or simply "no drug should be illicit." I disprove by counterexample.

My position: the US federal government should not remove or reduce any of its restrictions on the production or importation of heroin. (It should still be "illicit" to some extent, which contradicts Pro.)

I take no position on other drugs, nor on the legality of possession, use, or trade of heroin within the US. My counterexample alone refutes Pro's position. Pro's preceding arguments do not refute my counterexample. Nor do popular arguments like "but alcohol causes more harm than heroin, so why not ban alcohol?" (Me: "Why not?" Pro: "Because _____." Me: "That's why not.")
Note that I only need one counterexample to disprove Pro's position -- I could just as easily use crystal meth, or crack, or whatever drug scares you the most, as a different counterexample.


More heroin is available -> more people use it. People use heroin -> they hurt themselves [1] and other people, physically, emotionally, socially, economically, etc. These instances are not isolated. The harm ripples out through communities, lowers everyone's quality of life, and is economically costly for everyone. If the government can reduce this problem without causing more problems, then it has the responsibility and the moral obligation. Reducing the problem at the source (production and importation) accomplishes that goal.

The problem


It goes without saying that heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in existence. An addict's brain is reconfigured to treat heroin as a necessity for survival. An addict craves heroin like a person craves food when starving to death. Seeking the next high comes at the expense of everything else in life, from food to personal care to social responsibilities. Overdoses kill, and prolonged use also deteriorates the brain, [2] impairing things like judgment and stress response.
Addiction makes the addict's entire life miserable and it hurts the people around the addict, from children neglected by parents looking to get high, to parents who effectively lose their children to the drug, to friends who are forced to watch their friends spiral down into despair, to all of us who could have benefited economically from the talent that was wasted.


A study [3] estimated that in 1996, heroin addiction cost the US economy $16.7 billion in productivity loss, medical care, and social welfare. The 2015 equivalent is $25 billion, and there is no reason to think conditions have improved. And conditions would only get worse if we suddenly increased the amount of heroin available to people, thereby increasing the amount of addicts and enabling current addicts to continue their habit. (Think of it this way: heroin is more addictive than alcohol. Therefore, if the two are equally available, then there are probably more heroin addicts than alcoholics. In the US, 1/12 adults are alcoholics [4]. Only 669,000 [5], or one in 470, Americans report using heroin. Imagine how many would use heroin if they could get it more easily.)

More than anyone else, heroin hurts the communities of people who have the least money to repair the damage, let alone to spend on their own habits. When an entire community is in poverty, its social structures and safety nets -- families, schools, churches, businesses, etc. -- deteriorate. This means more people feel they are alone and they have nothing better to work for. Many of them turn to the euphoria of heroin to fill the void. Now that they are hooked, they have less time and money to spend on the things that could have lifted them and those around them out of poverty. With this generation effectively removed from the workforce, the next generation is born into a world where poverty is even worse and drugs are even harder to escape. It is a cycle.

Public health

No matter how hard you try with harm reduction programs, you can never guarantee that people do not share or reuse needles (convenience and apathy are louder voices than you would think), inject themselves properly (repeated injections, especially into the skin instead of the vein, damage the injection site), etc. And once you are infected with something like HIV, you are likely pass it onto other people, ruining their lives because of your habit.

Furthermore, mentally ill people have an additional temptation to try the drug as a form of self-medication, or a means of escape from their lives. The sad thing is that a drug addiction is just as much of a mental illness as any other. It exacerbates whatever condition came before it. With their lives consumed by the quest for the next high, mentally ill addicts are less likely to get the actual help they needed in the first place.

Public safety
Not only do addicts effectively stop contributing to the economy, and not only do they cost billions of dollars in health care, but some of them support their habit with violence. In a study in the US in 1991 [6], out of the people in federal prison for violent crime, robbery, and burglary, 18%, 27%, and 32% of them (respectively) committed their crimes to obtain money to buy drugs. As with the study on economic costs, there is no reason to think conditions have improved.

As long as heroin costs anything at all, and there are poor people who feel like they need it to survive, it will give them a reason to steal and to use violence if they feel it is necessary. The only solutions are to help addicts recover (good) and to prevent people from getting hooked in the first place (better).

The solution

Reducing the amount of heroin in the country is the most obvious line of defense against creating new addicts. There are two main arguments to support it ethically:

1. Prevention is better than reaction.

Criminal law can only react to a problem once it has already happened. Yet we do it anyway because doing nothing is worse than reducing the harm and using the threat of legal punishment to discourage future crime.

Same with social welfare. Once people are already in the cycle of poverty, helping them survive day-to-day is better than leaving them to die, even if it will never get them truly back on their feet.

If you are willing to go to those lengths to improve public safety and welfare, then you should leap at the opportunity to reduce the root cause of the problem so you do not have to pick up the pieces later. Just like if you are willing to give a man a fish every day, then you should leap at the opportunity to teach him to fish.

I cannot emphasize that enough: if you choose to ignore the root cause of a problem, then you have no ethical basis to mitigate it once it happens. If you argue that heroin should freely flow into the country, then by that logic, you would conclude that there should be no criminal laws, no police, and no social welfare, period.

2. The heroin business is predatory.

It is convenient, simplistic moral thinking to say everyone should have the right to harm themselves.

In reality, no one chooses to make a single step from "healthy" to "life destroyed by heroin". They try it in a moment of weakness -- maybe to self-medicate, or maybe because of peer pressure -- and from then on, their subconscious brains literally cannot distinguish between sobriety and dying.

Drug dealers knowingly, deliberately, take advantage of this fact. They sell a product that is designed to make the customer's life a living hell until they come back for more.

To promote the flow of heroin into the country is to promote those who prey on the weak.







Debate Round No. 1


The main point of my opponent is that if heroin was legalized, more people would use it. This absolutely could happen, which is why harm reduction programs are so important. Most people would rather use a softer drug if presented with facts about heroin use, so I would counter by saying better education on drug abuse would decrease use. If someone knew all the harmful things associated with heroin use, they most likely will not use it. Most hard drug use is due to bad social environments, such as growing up around gangs. To counter this, we need to address the root problems such as social inequalities. "The War on Drugs" is mostly a blanket term for a war on cannabis. If I would like to consume a harmful molecule, I do not think I should be prosecuted for that. I think I should be encouraged by the government to join a treatment program and to not use used needles.


Recap of how the arguments are functioning in this debate:

Pro argues there should be no such thing as an illicit drug. Even if a drug is legal to use, possess, and trade within the national borders, it still counts as "illicit" in the US if the federal government does not reduce or eliminate any of its restrictions on production or importation.

Therefore, Pro's position is that the US should freely allow production and importation of heroin. (Along with with every other drug.)

To disprove Pro's position, I only need to persuade you that the production and importation of heroin causes more harm than good. I could also disprove Pro's position by arguing the same about a different drug.

I lay this out very clearly in round 1 and Pro does not object.* Therefore, we can assume Pro agrees.

Regarding heroin:

Public education

The closest Pro comes to contradicting my round 1 arguments is to say most informed people would prefer softer drugs over heroin, and therefore, we can decrease the amount of addicts by educating the public.

However, this does not contradict my argument. Why not do both? Limit the root cause of the problem and reduce the damage after the fact. All else being equal, if there is more heroin in the country, then more people will use it.

less heroin + public education (is better than) more heroin + public education.

less heroin + no public education (is better than) more heroin + no public education.

The above statements would only be false if there were zero heroin users in the country. Pro must persuade you that we can immediately, right now, educate the entire country and persuade everyone not to use heroin. (Since Pro gives no timeframe, we assume the proposition is to legalize drugs immediately.) As of now at least, there is no support for that possibility. Now or in the remote future. And there is a simple argument against it: heroin has the highest abuse potential among the well-known street drugs (refer to my sources in round 1). Clearly, between the intensity of the euphoria and the addictiveness, heroin has some kind of advantage over other drugs for the serious user.

But even if Pro does persuade you that it is possible to eradicate heroin use, then that still does not contradict my ethical argument. Importing and producing heroin has no advantages whatsoever. The only effect it can have is that someone, somewhere, is tempted to use it. The government has the moral obligation to prevent this problem before it even happens.

Also, let me remind you that Pro's position is not "educate the public on drugs"; it is "allow heroin to be produced and imported freely into the US." Furthermore, as I argue in round 1 / "Solution" / point 1, if you care enough about the heroin problem to spend resources to reduce the damage, then you should care enough to limit the root cause. Therefore, we can conclude from Pro's own support of damage reduction strategies that heroin should not be legalized.

For public education, replace "use softer drugs instead of heroin" with "do not re-use needles" in the above argument, and it still works the same way.

Cycle of poverty

Pro argues we should "address the root problems such as social inequalities." This supports my point. As I argue under "Economic" in round 1, heroin is part of a cycle. People become poor and isolated, they try drugs as a means of escape, they contribute less to the economy, they become poorer, and the next generation is born into even more hopeless circumstances. Heroin is one of the root causes of social inequalities. We should eliminate it.

Legality of personal use

Pro: "If I would like to consume a harmful molecule, I do not think I should be prosecuted for that."

And I am not saying you should be prosecuted. I am saying it should be harder for you to acquire the harmful molecule in the first place. (Remember: by arguing that heroin should be completely legalized, Pro is arguing that it should be easier to acquire.)

* The closest Pro comes to objecting to the focus on heroin is:

"The War on Drugs is mostly a blanket term for a war on cannabis."

But the resolution is not to end the War on Drugs. It is to legalize illicit drugs completely. Heroin was illicit long before Nixon started the war between the police and the people.
Debate Round No. 2


philosopicalcat forfeited this round.


By forfeiting, Pro implicitly agrees with me on everything. This is what Pro agrees with:

Pro's position is to legalize every illicit drug. This includes making it possible for people to bring heroin into the US or to produce it here, without any limits.

There is no reason whatsoever to do this. Restricting production and importation causes no problems, and allowing it would have no advantages.

However, allowing it would cause problems. In time, there would be more heroin addicts in the US than there are alcoholics. (Multiply the current amount of heroin addicts by 40.)

As a result of Pro's proposal, entire communities would collapse into a cycle of poverty where children are born into a world without opportunity, and their only escape would be drugs. Everyone would be miserable and people would turn to violent crime to support their habits.

The government morally must prevent this problem. Pro and I both agree that it is important for the government to control the damage done by drugs. We both agree that preventing the damage in the first place is better than cleaning it up afterward. The simplest solution is to reduce the amount of heroin in the country -- by restricting it from being imported or from being produced here. The less heroin there is, the fewer people will use it.

The simplest solution is to reject Pro's proposal.
Debate Round No. 3
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2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by lol101 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Con refuted Pro's arguments and didn't forfeit unlike Pro.
Vote Placed by Varrack 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro FF'd the last round, thus losing conduct and conceding all of Con's rebuttals.