BSHS 455 Week 5 Take A Stand Paper 1

Take a Stand

Take a Stand

The war on drugs is ongoing. Measures are being taken in the United States to gain control of the widespread drug usage legally and punitively every day. Although, measures are being taken to slow down the process of wealth of the black market and drug dealers they have not been very successful. Several reasons as to why the measures have not been successful can be given but one of the main reasons is that of there are several reasons behind such failure on the part of the U.S. administration and one of the primary reasons of such failure is constructing and implementing polices on drug control. Research and studies show that punishing or bringing about harsh punitive measures against the dealers and users cannot control drug abuse or illegal drug dealing. One way to address drug related problems would be legalization and decriminalization in which could lead to eventually solving the problem.

Due to the zero-tolerance policy of drug-control being non-effective in helping to restrict drug use and abuse there is a need to begin a new strategy. Incidents of the past and data collected through observational studies show that the zero-tolerance policy that is now in place by the U.S. Administration have in fact has instigated the drug trade more. Knowing that the drug trade was initiated more by the zero-tolerance policy shows the blemishes of the federal and state government and have “made criminal forfeitures into a cash cow, private corrections into a highly profitable industry, social workers and doctors into informants, and children of the convicted mothers into wards of the state” (“The War on Drugs: Winners and Losers”, 2009). With such flaws in order to address the problem a new approach will need to be taken. In this instance the harm-reduction model would be more effective than the zero-tolerance policy. The harm-reduction model is more useful in nature than the zero-tolerance policy approach. Applying this model will ensure that a greater number of people are helped and for the greater good. To be unambiguous, “Advocates of harm-reduction approaches assume that certain drugs will always be abused. By recognizing that many college students abuse alcohol, for example, efforts might be turned toward preventing the students from driving while intoxicated by providing free transportation. A more realistic approach to intravenous drug use might be able to halt the spread of certain diseases by providing clean needles and syringes to people addicted to heroin” (McNeece & Madsen, n.d.). If the government chooses to adopt a drug policy with the legalization and decriminalization of drugs then these steps can be taken.

Criminalization of drug use has brought along multitudes of problems which have initiated the illegal use of drugs and subsequently drug abuse in a larger aspect. It is notable that, “Almost a fifth of prisoners who have ever used heroin used it first in prison, and more than half of prisoners have committed offences – usually stealing – to buy drugs” (McCartney, 2014). In Portugal they took the steps to implement a policy of decriminalizing illegal usage of drugs. There were plenty of naysayers such as scholars and policy makers who doubted implementing such policy would be effective. The policy was a success in Portugal and the naysayers were proven wrong. These naysayers anticipated that decriminalization of drugs would only add to will add to the current drug related problems however “contrary to predictions, the Portuguese decriminalization did not lead to major increases in drug use. Indeed, evidence indicates reductions in problematic use, drug-related harms and criminal justice overcrowding” (Hughes & Stevens, 2010). Zero-tolerance policy and prohibition has only involved enormous overheads with little positive results. Schmoke (1990) states that, “under the policy of prohibition, the United States has attempted to eradicate drug use by imposing criminal sanctions on drug-users and dealers. In furtherance of this policy, the United States has made a herculean effort – spending nearly seventy-five years and untold billions of dollars – to circumvent the reality that drug addiction is a public health problem, not a law enforcement problem” (“AN ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF DECRIMINALIZATION”, 1990, p.503). It has also been witnessed that, “The results of prohibition have been predictable. The criminalization of narcotics, cocaine and marijuana, has not solved the problem of their use. Millions of Americans regularly use illegal drugs for reason which vary as do the races, income levels, and degrees of independence of the individual users” (Schmoke, 1990, p.503-504). This shows that the zero-tolerance policy of criminalization of illegal drug usage and the policies of prohibition has not done much to address the real problems at hand of illegal drug-use.

Criminalization of drug has affected the criminal justice system in an in-depth manner. There are states that are willing to embrace the policy of decriminalization of drugs however the repugnance of naysayers of other states towards the policy has had a negative impact on the economy and criminal justice system. The prison system is over populated and incurs financial losses which putting at stake criminal justice procedures. Implementing of rigorous anti-drug policies initiates more chances of drug users to be imprisoned as well as a multitude of overflow in the prison system as a whole. Know that this problem exist then it is notable that, “Decades of stable incarceration ended suddenly in the mid-1970s, as the U.S. prison population soared from about 300,000 to 1.6 million inmates, and the incarceration rate from 100 per 100,000 to over 500 per 100,000” (Pfaff, 2015). Although seemingly surprising the number of incarceration it is a fact. More so, “The incarceration boom is unprecedented in American history and unseen anywhere else in the world; traditionally indistinguishable from its peers, the United States is now the world’s largest jailer, both in absolute numbers and in rate. Home to only five percent of the world’s population, it now houses over twenty percent of its prisoners” (Pfaff, 2015). To not recognize that the prison system is over populated due to the War on Drugs would be asinine. Duly noted that, “Though explanations differ, almost all analysts agree that a major cause has been the “War on Drugs.” The argument is intuitive and straight-forward: the prison boom has been driven by increases in the arrest, conviction, and incarceration – often for quite long terms – of perhaps often low-level drug offenders as part of federal, state, and local efforts to combat drug use and trafficking” (Pfaff, 2015). A deteriorated criminal justice system will be the results if the United States Administration continues to justify the criminalization of drugs which in turn will have the economy in jeopardy.

Decriminalizing and legalizing drugs would put an end to severe drug problems. The zero-tolerance policy has proven not to be effective on its own and the policy of prohibition has failed. Legalizing drugs would put allow the government to have some control on the drug trade. The War on Drugs has in fact cause a rise in price for drugs due to making it a little tougher but not impossible to get drugs in the United States. For the drug users the price has not stopped them from buying the addiction is too strong and they need to feed it. Legalizing drugs can cause other crimes and should be noted that, “if and when drugs are legalized, their price will collapse and so will the sundry drug-related motivations to commit crime. Consumers will no longer need to steal to support their habits. A packet of cocaine will be as tempting to grab from its owner as a pack of cigarettes today. Drug dealers will be pushed out of the retail market by known drug store retailers” (“Twelve reasons why drugs should be legalized”, n.d.). Legalizing drugs has the potential to free society of drug induced violence. Legalization will also mean that more focus can be placed on other crimes that are being committed. To legalize drugs would mean, “The considerable police efforts now expended against drug activity and drug-related crime (1/3 to ½ of resources) could be redirected toward protecting innocent people from those who would still commit crime in the absence of drug laws” (“Twelve reasons why drugs should be legalized”, n.d.).

A perfect example of legalizing and decriminalizing a drug would be the recent law with the adoption of marijuana usage for recreational use. All though it is not all states that are allowing marijuana to be used many have adopted the policy and has made a very lucrative profit off of it. Legalizing marijuana made one less drug on the streets that the government had to worry about being snuck in. Although, marijuana is a drug and all drugs are bad for you now the government can concentrate on harsher drugs I don’t see ever becoming legal. Part of legalizing the marijuana has cut down on overcrowding. So many cases of those in the correctional facility aredue to some type of drug problem whether using or dealing. Facilities have become so over crowded that there is now a federal court order to reduce crowding in lock up by allowing low-level prisoners to leave early. Prisoners can leave as early as months to a year earlier. Drug users and dealers with low-level drug charges will be released as well. For the users however this early release would only be beneficial if they are being released into a rehabilitation facility. If not they will be back on the streets in searching for drugs.

The War on Drugs, zero-tolerance policy and the policies of prohibition have not proven to be successful when addressing drug related problems. Punishing the dealers or brining about harsher punitive measures for the drug user and dealers is not what would curb the abuse or dealing but by legalization and decriminalization could drug problems be addressed and solved eventually.


Hughes, C.E. & Stevens, A. (2010). What Can We Learn From The Portuguese Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs? The British Journal of Criminology. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from

McCartney, M. (2014). Stop playing politics with illegal drug use. The BMJ. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from

McNeece, C.A. & Madsen, M.D. (n.d.). Preventing Alcohol and Drug Problems. [Print]


Schmoke, K.L. (1990). AN ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF DECRIMINALIZATION. HOFSTRA LAW REVIEW, Vol. 18. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from

The War on Drugs: Winner and Losers (2009). Films on Demand: Digital Educational Video. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from