No credible evidence shows that the numerous drug laws enactments and stringent enforcement by the anti narcotics police unit that there is any significant reduction in drug use while theses efforts seem to promotes the opposite. The problem persists due to lack of attacking the root problem but rather attacking supply without even raising a finger to demand. This phenomenon accelerates the epidemic as the suppliers of the drugs will simply move to another market that is not momentarily targeted by police.
In the new markets are schools going kids who have no idea about drugs but will be tempted to try out as is common with the rebellious and adventurous nature of teenagers thereby making the first fateful step towards addiction. Economists have recently been complaining about the amount of money that the government is using for the fight against drug use over the years since the problem arose. Research on teenagers has shown that 98% of them have at one time in their lives tried or smoke pot the street name for marijuana.
This completely shows that the billions of dollars spent in the fight against drugs goes to waste. Institutions and federal authorities do not accomplish what they are mandated to do in the fight against drugs. Religious leaders and anti drug activists have been quoting the number of young people in rehabilitation centers as result of drug use and thus calling for more stringent measures and spending on the fight against drug use. This is happening despite surveys that show that rehabilitating the users is more cost effective than domestic law enforcement.
A survey conducted by Rand Corporation in the middle 1990s showed that indeed drug abuse treatment was 10 times more effective than drug prohibition measures. A 1998 study on state budgets showed that only 4% of the funds allocated to the fight against drugs were used in the treatment of drug use against the remainder’s use on the enforcement of prohibition measures (CASA, 2001). The fight against drug use and users has taken a wrong approach though with a good intent. In 2003 it was reported that there were 7 million Americans already hooked on drugs (Office of Applied Studies, 2004).
Given such a huge number of users out there it requires a more systematic approach. Drug users are grouped in the same class as criminals thereby criminalizing individuals whose drug use problem has nothing to do with criminal activities. The wide spread drug abuse should be treated as a public health issue instead of the common perceived image of an organized violent criminal offenders that the authorities seem to have taken. Numerous and endless street raids will put violent and nonviolent drug offenders in prison and sentence them under the same draconian federal laws that calls for a minimum sentence of five years.
The problem with these raids is that they make no attempt of identifying the violent from nonviolent and simple users from sellers. For example, a nonviolent light drug user in possession of two grams of crack nabbed in a street raid gets the same sentence as the supplier. This creates resentment in the light drug user for he feels that the degree of the unfairly criminalized act does not count and thus he loses nothing in increasing his dosage or engaging in the actual selling itself. The long run effect of such a stand increases the users and renders more energetic minds useless under heavy drug use.
The unfortunate thing about drug use is that it is most prevalent in the young people who have gone through the education system under the government’s sponsorship and in returns produces nothing equally compensating to the government in economic development and growth. (Mauser, Stelle and Moberg, 1999) The legalization of the use means that new production and manufacturing industries will come up to meet the demand in more a convenient government approved climate. As is the norm, factories and the consumers alike will be subject to taxation and thus earning the government a lot of revenue.
With an estimated customer base of over 7 million people in the local market as of 2003 (as said earlier), the industry is bound to grow immensely. This will as a result create many employment opportunities and stimulate growth in other industries. From another angle of view the government will have put a check on the amount of unaccounted for domestic currency that flows out to the countries of origin of the drugs such as Colombia, Mexico and Mongolia. Other countries in the world have legalized the use of certain drugs. Belgium is one of them allowing the smoking of Marijuana in coffee houses.
Countries such as this constitute potential foreign markets to our new industries. Acceptance of the inadequateness or failure of the government in the fight against drug use could save the country a lot of money in that the money allocated for the prevention and one that is allocated for the treatment in drug rehabilitation centers could all be utilized in the common goal of treating the consequences of drug use instead of fighting it and supporting it in an indirect way. Although drug related arrests have continued to go down gradually from 41, 293 in 1999 to 27, 780 in 2007 the number of drug users is increasing (DEA, 2008).
Persons may be tempted to try drugs with the inner feeling that if their first drug trial use turns disastrous they have the free government facilities that offer free treatment to turn to. Legalization of drug use will remove the “Rated” label among teenage recreational drug users. The association of drug users with macho men is the major luring factor of the inexperienced to the drug use habit. Sociologists have been able to pinpoint the connection in peer and role model pressure to drug and other substance abuse. With legalization the habit will cease to generate the excitement that it presently does among the youth.
One may wonder how this will lead to economic benefits to the nation. The result is that the actual habit of drug abuse will go down as less and less people will be interested in this ”common” habit. Summary This subject has elicited a lot of emotional reactions and debate whether the economic benefits of legalizing drugs surpasses the moral and social values in a drugs free society. The problem in these debates is that all drugs have been grouped together rendering other drugs that have some though limited, medicinal properties. In Asia for example marijuana is still used to treat malaria and constipation.
It is also credited with therapeutically treating a number of other ailments. America can in no way benefit from this freely as the drug is prohibited. However the challenge the economist pose is whether the failure of one option doesn’t call for a change in tactics and approach. I think legalizing drugs is the next best suited option of fighting the problem.
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