- Category: Position Statements and Resolutions
- Published: 01 August 1994
The legalization or decriminalization of drugs would make harmful, psychoactive, and addictive substances affordable, available, convenient, and marketable. It would expand the use of drugs. It would remove the social stigma attached to illicit drug use, and would send a message of tolerance for drug use, especially to youth.
Drug legalization or decriminalization is opposed by a vast majority of Americans and people around the world. Leaders in drug prevention, education, treatment, and law enforcement adamantly oppose it, as do many political leaders. However, pro-drug advocacy groups, who support the permissive use of illicit drugs, although small in number, are making headlines. They are influencing legislation and having a significant impact on the national policy debate in the United States and in other countries. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is the oldest drug user lobby in the U.S. It has strong ties to the Libertarian party, the Drug Policy Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union. These groups use a variety of strategies which range from outright legalization to de facto legalization under the guise of "medicalization," "harm reduction," crime reduction, hem/marijuana for the environment, free needle distribution to addicts, marijuana cigarettes as medicine, and controlled legalization through taxation.
The use of illicit drugs is illegal because of their intoxicating effects on the brain, damaging impact on the body, adverse impact on behavior, and potential for abuse. Their use threatens the health, welfare, and safety of all people, of users and non-users alike.
Legalization would decrease price and increase availability. Availability is a leading factor associated with increased drug use. Increased use of addictive substances leads to increased addiction. As a public health measure, statistics show that prohibition was a tremendous success.
Many drug users commit murder, child and spouse abuse, rape, property damage, assault and other violent crimes under the influence of drugs. Drug users, many of whom are unable to hold jobs, commit robberies not only to obtain drugs, but also to purchase food, shelter, clothing and other goods and services. Increased violent crime and increased numbers of criminals will result in even larger prison populations.
Legalizing drugs will not eliminate illegal trafficking of drugs, nor the violence associated with the illegal drug trade. A black market would still exist unless all psychoactive and addictive drugs in all strengths were made available to all ages in unlimited quantity.
Drug laws deter people from using drugs. Surveys indicate that the fear of getting in trouble with the law constitutes a major reason not to use drugs. Fear of the American legal system is a major concern of foreign drug lords. Drug laws have turned drug users to a drug-free lifestyle through mandatory treatment. 40% - 50% are in treatment as a result of the criminal justice system.
A study of international drug policy and its effects on countries has shown that countries with lax drug law enforcement have had an increase in drug addiction and crime. Conversely, those with strong drug policies have reduced drug use and enjoy low crime rates.
The United States and many countries would be in violation of international treaty if they created a legal market in cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs. The U.S. is a signatory to the Single Convention on Narcotics & the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and has agreed with other members of the United Nations to control and penalize drug manufacturing, trafficking, and use. 112 nations recently reaffirmed their commitment to strong drug laws.
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provided credit is given to Drug Watch International.
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(References updated 1/96)
(Against Legalization 8/94)