|A cornerstone of the legalization proponents'
position is the claim that making illegal drugs legal would not cause more of these
substances to be consumed, nor would addiction increase. They claim that many people can
use drugs in moderation and that many would choose not to use drugs, just as many forego
alcohol and tobacco now.
|This is obviously true. If heroin was suddenly legal, would
you want to spend your life stoned on it? People do not use drugs for the most basic
reason of all -- they just don't want to live their lives that way.
|Participants in the Anti-Legalization Forum felt
strongly that if drugs were more widely available--as they certainly would be if they were
legalized--rates of use and addiction would increase.
||There is simply no evidence to support this. There is more
evidence to suggest that, with the proper policies, rates of use and addiction and -- more
importantly, problems resulting from addiction would decrease.
|Legalizing drugs sends a message that drug use
(like tobacco and alcohol) is acceptable, and encourages drug use among people who
currently do not use drugs. When the social taboos about premarital sex were removed, the
nation's illegitimate birthrate soared. And we are paying dearly for it.
||This is clearly faulty reasoning. The fact that alcohol is
legal does not mean that anyone condones alcohol use. It is not necessary to put people in
prison to discourage drug use or abuse.
|Look to our history. For years, the United States
legally refined morphine from opium and hailed it as a miracle drug. Many soldiers on both
sides of the Civil War who were given morphine for their wounds became addicted to it. Are
we ready for more morphine addicts? Crack addicts? Heroin addicts?
|High addiction rates arose in this era because these drugs
were the only drugs the medical profession had which really worked, and they were poorly
understood by both the public and the medical profession. In addition, the drugs were sold
in all kinds of over-the-counter preparations, with absolutely no labeling requirements
and the most outlandish advertising claims. Addiction rates dropped dramatically when the
Federal Government took the simple step of requiring labeling of the contents.
many articles on the history of these laws under Historical
|Early in the 20th Century, drugs were plentiful, cheap, and
legal in the United States. Some could even be bought from the Sears Catalogue. But
Americans realized that these legalized drugs were harmful to individuals and society, and
drug laws were written.
|The DEA would like us to believe that the drug
laws were passed because of a genuine concern about the dangers of these drugs. In fact,
the laws were the result of racism and ignorance, and the worst kind of distortions and
See the many articles on the history of these laws under Historical References.
|Legalization proponents would have these statutes repealed
and make opium as available as chewing gum.
||This is a ridiculous statement. The only people
who have suggested that opium should be as available as chewing gum is the DEA itself.
|The experts believe that legalization of drugs would decrease
the perception of risk currently associated with drug use.
||The perception of risk depends upon public
education, not the laws. If the DEA was really concerned about the perception of risk,
they would recommend more education, rather than more enforcement.
|The group strongly endorsed the notion that the government
should help protect people from substances and activities that are harmful to them, the
community and society at large.
||If someone wants to harm themselves, with drugs
or anything else, there is ultimately nothing the Government will be able to do to stop
|Some facts which help to confirm the observations of the
forum participants may be used in debates:
- Dr. Herbert Kleber, prominent psychiatrist from Yale University, former Demand Reduction
Deputy Director at the Office of National Drug Control Policy and currently with the
Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, stated in a 1994 article
in the New England Journal of Medicine that clinical data support the premise that drug
use would increase with legalization.
|As the DEA itself admits, there is no clear
definition for "legalization". Therefore, Dr. Kleber's study is simply the
process of setting up his own idea of "legalization" and then knocking it down.
There is no evidence -- as shown from the DEA's own citations, above -- that tough
criminal laws reliably reduce drug use or abuse.
- He said: "There are over 50 million nicotine addicts, 18 million alcoholics or
problem drinkers, and fewer than 2 million cocaine addicts in the United States.
|Even though there are nine times as many
alcoholics as cocaine addicts, the DEA is not proposing that alcohol be banned. The reason
is very simple -- prohibition doesn't work. See, for example:
Should Alcohol be Prohibited?
Why Alcohol Should Not be Prohibited
- Cocaine is a much more addictive drug than alcohol.
|Simply not true. For the NIDA rankings of the
addictive qualities of drugs see: Which drugs are the most addictive? Under Basic Facts About the War on Drugs.
- If cocaine were legally available, as alcohol and nicotine are now, the number of
cocaine abusers would probably rise to a point somewhere between the number of users of
the other two agents, perhaps 20 to 25 million...the number of compulsive users might be
nine times higher...than the current number.
|This is simple fear-mongering with no evidence to
- When drugs have been widely available--as... cocaine was at the turn of the
century--both use and addiction have risen."
|Cocaine was completely unregulated at the turn of
the century and manufacturers of concoctions were not even required to list it on their
labels. When labeling was required, drug addiction rates dropped. Even with no labeling
requirements and drugs which were not nearly as well understood by the public as these
drugs are today -- the rates of addiction were still not as high as Dr. Kleber estimates
for modern legalization.
- England's experience with widely available heroin shows that use and addiction increase.
Great Britain allowed doctors to prescribe heroin to addicts. There was an explosion of
heroin use and by the mid-1980s known addiction rates were increasing by about 30% a year.
According to the Lancet, the respected British medical journal (Lancet, January 9, 1982),
2,657 heroin addicts were registered in 1970 compared with 5,107 in 1980.
|The first thing that is noticeable about these
figures is how trivial they are in comparison with the figures for US addicts. An increase
of 2,400 addicts would not even be noticed in the United States.
The DEA is plainly
distorting the facts again. See for example:
Rx Drugs: The Liverpool Experience
Narcotics Addiction and Control in
Supplying Heroin Legally to Addicts
- This was a program in which heroin users needed a doctor's authorization to get their
drug. What would happen if anyone wanting to try heroin could simply buy it at the
Drugs: The Liverpool Experience Among the things that happened were that about 80
percent of the addicts regained normal lives and honest employment, street drug markets
virtually disappeared, drug-related crime went down, AIDS went down, and the number of new
addicts dropped to one-twelfth previous levels.
- Legalization was given a lengthy try closer to home when the Alaska Supreme Court ruled
in 1975 that the state could not interfere with a person's possession of marijuana in his
home for personal use.
|The Supreme Court ruling was hardly
"legalization", except for those who grew it and consumed it in their own homes
-- similar to the manner in which any American citizen can make their own wine or beer
without interference from the DEA. The DEA's definition of "legalization"
changes to suit their particular purposes at the moment.
- Enforcement was permitted only when the quantity possessed exceeded four ounces--this in
a state that, because of the long, sunny days of its brief growing season, produces extra
|Alaskan marijuana is no more potent than the
varieties grown anywhere else. Attempting to use this as an argument is just nonsense.
- The court's ruling was interpreted by many Alaskans as a signal to light up, and so they
did, especially the young ones, even though the ruling was limited to persons 19 and over.
According to a 1988 University of Alaska study, the state's 12 to 17-year-olds used
marijuana at more than twice the national average for their age group. "The frequency
with which marijuana was used within the current sample," the report on the study
said, "suggests that it is not an experimental event for many students, but that it
seems to have become well incorporated into the lifestyle of many adolescents."
|We have asked the DEA to provide a copy of the
study, so we may post it here in its entirety. So far, they have failed to further
identify the study, or to provide information where we may obtain a copy.
- Although they historically cling to their personal liberties, Alaska residents voted in
1990 to recriminalize possession of marijuana, demonstrating their belief that increased
use was too high a price to pay for increased personal liberties.
|It is interesting to note that the DEA tacitly
admits that the marijuana prohibition is an infringement on personal liberties. The truth
is that the Federal Government waged a fierce lobbying campaign to recriminalize
possession of marijuana. Then, as now, they declined to submit to open and honest debate
on the issue.
- Will the public support an aggressive marketing approach?
|For guidance, the American public should do the
same thing the DEA should do - read the recommendations of the Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.
- While "government drugs" could conceivably be priced low enough to eliminate
competition, perhaps by having taxpayers subsidize them to discourage a black market
|It would not be necessary to subsidize them any
more that it would necessary to subsidize alcohol or tobacco.
- , the combination of low price and ready availability would bring more consumption, more
addiction. We would have won the battle and lost the war. If they see this as the probable
outcome, the American people can hardly be expected to endorse a "sell at all
|This simply isn't true, unless one assumes
"legalization" policies as bad or worse than the current policies. In the
Netherlands, for example, where marijuana is sold openly in bars, marijuana use by teens
is about one-fourth what it is in the United States.
- Robert L. DuPont, M.D., former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse,
considered the impact legalization would have on use and addiction rates in a paper
published in 1994.
- "Would legalization increase the number of drug users and the social harm produced
by the use of drugs?" Dr. DuPont asked. "The answer to those two questions is
simply, 'Yes, it would.'"
|Again, we have someone setting up their own idea
of legalization and the knocking it down. Dr. DuPont should refer to the recommendations
for reform contained in the Major Studies
of Drugs and Drug Policy.
- The current global experience with alcohol and tobacco reveals the downside of
legalization clearly, Dr. DuPont said.
|The experience more clearly demonstrates the
futility of trying to make these drugs illegal. See, for example,
The History of Alcohol Prohibition
Should alcohol be prohibited?
Why alcohol should not be prohibited.
- "Legalization of any drugs leads to large increases in the use of the legalized
drugs," he said. "Because most of the social costs of drugs are not the costs of
prohibition but the costs created by the drug use itself (a point proved beyond dispute by
the dismal global experience with alcohol and tobacco), legalization raises the net social
costs of drug use."
|This is simply not true. The The History of Alcohol Prohibition
demonstrates that prohibition ultimately has no real effect on drug use.
- "Legalization is an old, siren call which promises to reduce the high costs of drug
use, but which abundant evidence shows would inevitably raise the costs society pays for
drug use, not reduce them. We do not need new experiments to make this point."
|The DEA is simply stating again that they are not
open to listening to any alternatives to their current repressive policies. It is this
attitude which is the real problem with our drug policy -- and guarantees that we will
never make any progress with our drug problem as long as it is present.