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Drug Enforcement

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What we Prohibit We Cannot Control: Restriction Before Education?

There is a definite problem regarding the laws that enforce drug use in the United States today. Think about this question. Why are some of the most injurious, addictive, and mind altering substances in the world--tobacco and alcohol--legal, while other drugs are illegal that potentially cause no harm and have very little abuse?

The United States has declared 178 substances illegal. These substances are believed to be so dangerous that they are controlled at the highest level for medical use or forbidden outright, even for medical research. Remarkably many of these substances are not physically harmful and have never caused a death. Every year, legal drug use results in about fifteen percent of all hospital admissions, with one hundred thirty six billion dollars in medical costs. It seems odd, then, to make such a big distinction between legal and illegal drugs regarding the law.

A startling fact, Congressman Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House, proposed legislation that would impose the death penalty for people caught carrying as little as two ounces of marijuana. He excused his own past marijuana use by explaining that pot smoking "was a sign that we were alive and in graduate school in that era." Prison sentences for being caught with a large amount of marijuana are ten years, mandatory minimum, with no parole allowed. A prison sentence for murder six point three years. That is the average served, with parole allowed. The average sentence for a first time, non-violent drug offender is longer than for rape, child molestation, bank robbery, or manslaughter.(Gahlinger 2) This is an appalling statistic. The government is enforcing harsher punishment on a marijuana smoker compared to a murderer!

The government is filling prisons with drug offenders that will not learn anything while there. Most likely when their term in prison is over they will go back to the same thing that they were doing before they went in to the system. Billions of tax payer dollars are keeping these drug offenders behind bars when a drug treatment program could be helping them to correct current addictive behavior and how to curtail their thoughts and actions to a more positive lifestyle. While the government puts one drug offender away another one is ready to step up to the plate and replace him or her. This is a never ending cycle. "Why do we not speak of ski abuse or a chain saw problem? Because we expect people to familiarize themselves with their use, and avoid injuring themselves or others"--Thomas Szasz, Our Right to Drugs 1992. This statement is true regarding drugs.

The War on Drugs has been a failure. Drug supply interdiction and the imprisonment of over one million Americans have not been effective in reducing drug use. Drugs can cause a lot of harm in foolish hands, but this does not mean that they have no use or should be made illegal. Clearly drugs have a potential for both great benefit and great harm. The best solution to the drug problem begins with education not restriction. As President John F. Kennedy so plainly put it, "It should be our earnest intention to insure that drugs not be employed to debase mankind but to serve it."

Everybody that I know that has been in trouble with the



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