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Drug Policies

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Drug Policies and Laws
CRJ 212
4/28/11
Michael Hall

The use of drugs in America is a consensual crime; meaning it involves individuals who commit the crimes willingly. Consensual crime enforcement is a highly debatable topic that attempts to enforce morals in which not all people believe. Scholars debate on which policies better benefit society, whether it is legalization, decriminalization, or restriction, and each have valid arguments. This is important to an American policing standpoint because law enforcement official are the one who have to enforce these policies on a daily basis. To first understand these positions on drugs we must look at their history and effects. A society with little to no drug use is rare in human history (Barkan, 2009). Drug use has occurred throughout history, and was very common in the United States in the late 18th century (2009). Natural drugs (tobacco, marijuana, ergot funguses, coca plants, poppy plants, etc.) and manufactured drugs (ecstasy, methamphetamine, derivatives of plants listed above, etc.) both serve or attempted to serve medical purposes in order to help people. Most people use drugs at one time or another and many frequently use them; aspirin, tobacco, and caffeine are just a few common ones used. In the American society there are “good” (legal) drugs which are socially acceptable, and “bad” (illegal) drugs which are socially unacceptable. Both “good” and “bad” drugs can cause psychological and physical dependence. It is well known that excessive and frequent use of just about any drug will lead to health risks. Next we must understand is the health risks and lethality of legal and illegal drugs and why they are either legal or illegal. The first is legal drugs, in which I will use tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. All three of these drugs have potential to be abused, (especially tobacco) and sometimes are. An average of 435,000 people died from the effects of tobacco (emphysema, lung cancer, etc.) last year, 102,000 from the effects of alcohol (including motor vehicle accidents, liver disease, etc.), and no known deaths resulted from caffeine (Barkan, 2009). The second is the illegal drugs, in which I will include cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. All three of these drugs, as well, have well documented cases of addiction and abuse. The total death of these drugs combined does not exceed 17,000 people (marijuana has no known deaths), in which many of these deaths resulted due to laced drugs and unknown potency of the drug (2009). Statistically speaking these drugs have a much lower death rate, but this cannot lead us to conclude that they are safer. It is logical to believe that if these drugs were legalized their potential for abuse would increase and more people would experiment with them causing a much higher death rate, but this has yet to be proven. The question is why certain drugs can be legal, while others cannot. The answer is drugs like tobacco and alcohol are legal not because they are safe, but because they have been morally accepted by society and the corporations are too powerful to be shutdown. The reason we have illegal drugs is because they are believed to be immoral to do and it would cause more harm to society by legalizing them than would keeping them illegal. The next information that must be looked at in order to understand these policies is who the drug users are, where they are located, and why they use drugs. It is well known to most that the U.S. consumes drugs, whether they be “good” or “bad” ones, and is an extremely profitable business, whether it is legitimate or not. A majority of drug users, especially illegal drugs, comes from young adults of the ages 18 to 25 (2009). The theory behind this age group is because it is when individuals are most deviant in their lives. They experiment with new things, including drugs. Although 18 to 25 is the primary age range, both older and younger individuals use drugs as well. Men are more likely to use drugs than women, but only by an average of 10% more according to the National Survey on Drug Use. Drug use is spread across society, but mainly impacts urban societies. Economic opportunities in urban areas are not as great as they are in other areas of the U.S., which creates despair (2009). Drugs may be used as a temporary relief from reality, an act of being “cool”, recreationally to have “fun”, or to relieve emotional stress. A common belief is that drugs cause crime; and in the criminal justice system there are terms used for crime that is related to or due to the use of drugs. First there are “drug defined offences”, in which is the possession, use, sale, or manufacturing of illegal drugs. Second, is “drug related offences”, which occur when drugs are either the motive or incentive. This occurs when a person is either under the influence of a drug and commits a crime; commits a crime in order to get money for drugs; or commits a crime due to the distribution of drugs. The final term is “drug-using lifestyle” in which individuals do not have a legitimate economic income and are involved in the illegal manufacturing and distribution of drugs. There is a strong positive correlation between drug use and crime, “people who commit a lot of crime regularly use illegal drugs” (White et al. 2002). The other theory is that drugs do not cause crime; rather crime is caused due to the illegality of the drugs. This theory argues that: (1) most users are recreational users, (2) individuals under the influence of drugs do not often commit crimes because of the drugs; rather they have a history of emotional problems, (3) drugs are expensive because their demand is so high and dealers can sell for whatever price they want causing more profit to drug dealers and making it harder for buyers to obtain. As we know from a policing standpoint, crime is committed when the opportunity is present. Drugs are an opportunity for crime because they are so profitable; and as the course of history has determined, have always been in demand. This affects law enforcement officials because many crimes are related to the constant demand for drugs in America We spend on average of $40 billion a year on drug enforcement and the War on Drugs. Officers lose their lives every year in this “War” in-order to help keep America drug free, protect society against gangs and kingpins that manufacture and distribute these drugs, and protect individuals from the harmful effects that are believed to occur from these drugs. Our drug policies in America are very inefficient and ineffective, costing billions of dollars a year, filling prisons full of drug users and dealers, and costing both law enforcement and innocent bystanders their lives. I do not advocate legalization, but rather reform of our current policies.
References
Barkan, S. (2009). Criminology: a sociological understanding. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson
Prentice Hall.
White, H., Tick, P. Loeber, R. & Stouthamer-Loeber, M. (2002). Illegal Acts Committed by
Adolescents under the Influence of Alcohol and Drugs. Journal of Research of Crime and
Delinquency 39:131-152…...

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