This is beautiful. The DEA recently released a list of their top 10 reasons to keep drugs illegal, specifically focusing on marijuana. As we break these misinformed ‘facts’ down, it seems that the DEA has no solid reasons that drugs should in fact be illegal. Let me demonstrate:
Fact #1: We have made significant progress in combating drug use and trafficking
I’m not sure where they get off claiming this, especially that little part about “95 percent of Americans don’t use drugs.” WAIT, back up, hold on. That’s a vague statement. What constitutes a drug? To me, drugs definitely include nicotine, alcohol, and prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt though and let’s say they meant ILLEGAL drugs. As a matter of fact, let’s just say they mean marijuana. Well, according to a certain National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 2008, 41% of Americans admit to having used marijuana in their lives (avg of 45.6% of males and 36.9% of females) and 10.2% within the past year. So I’d like to know where they get data to show that only “5% of Americans use drugs.”
Also, according to the health department, marijuana use rates among youth have remained generally the same and use of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycotin has gone up. Actually, over the past 20 years, lifetime user rates have increased for every drug tracked, according to the earlier cited National Survey of Drug Use and Health:
Fact #2: A balanced approach of prevention, enforcement, and treatment is the key in the fight against drugs.
Obviously, 70 years of marijuana prevention, enforcement, and treatment haven’t put a dent in use rates. They have, however, resulted in countless arrests and deaths, billions of dollars spent locking up non-violent criminals, and a racist system where wealthier whites receive treatment while poorer inner-city minorities are locked up. According to data from the U.S. Library of Medicine, Blacks and Latinos are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana and drugs in general, and men are about 9 times more likely to be arrested than women. What a great, fair, wholesome and affective approach to fight drugs.
Fact #3: Illegal drugs are illegal because they are harmful.
This one really angers me. If this were true, then alcohol and tobacco would be illegal too. Their annual death toll should silence all doubt to wether alcohol or tobacco are less harmful than marijuana. Just take a look at the top three: Tobacco, inactivity/poor diet, and alcohol! The bottom three? Illicit drugs, anti-inflamitories like asprin, and marijuana at the bottom with 0 deaths. You can argue all day about the pros and cons, but if you want an easy way to check out the harm, all you have to do is take a look at what’s killing people.
Fact #4: Smoked marijuana is not scientifically approved medicine. Marinol, the legal version of medical marijuana, is approved by science.
Well, there is a small grain of truth here, because smoked marijuana isn’t approved medicine. But that’s why medical marijuana advocates are not advocating the smoking of marijuana, but the vaporization and eating of it. Also, marinol is only synthetic THC and lacks many ingredients that natural cannabis has that work together to produce many of the medically beneficial effects. See this well-cited essay by NORML’s Paul Armentano.
Fact #5: Drug control spending is a minor portion of the U.S. budget. Compared to the social costs of drug abuse and addiction, government spending on drug control is minimal.
They started out with the truth in this one, if you look at the fact that the drug war funding is $15.5 billion a year, which is only 0.4% of the pentagon’s $3.7 trillion annual budget. But then they try to imply that social costs would be higher without prohibition. A Canadian study actually found that there aren’t any health costs associated with marijuana use (compared to high health costs of alcohol and tobacco use).
Fact #6: Legalization of drugs will lead to increased use and increased levels of addiction. Legalization has been tried before, and failed miserably.
The paragraph under this fact is incredibly misleading, especially because it claims that Alaska tried legalization. I’ll let Paul Armentano explain his issues with this shaky fact.
Fact#7: Crime, violence, and drug use go hand-in-hand.
This is perhaps the single most misleading fact of the ten, because almost all drug-related violence is due to prohibition and not to drug use. In fact, marijuana was found to “inhibit violent behavior,” (scroll down to “exploring the correlations”) while alcohol was the drug most correlated with an increase in violence.
Fact #8: Alcohol has caused significant health, social, and crime problems in this country, and legalized drugs would only make the situation worse.
Ok… the first problem here is that the DEA says “The Legalization Lobby claims that drugs [i.e. marijuana] are no more dangerous than marijuana.” Actually, we know for a fact that marijuana is far far safer than alcohol. The second issue I have with this is the DEA’s concern about people going to work after taking drugs the night before. Since a marijuana high lasts about 2-3 hours on average, this is a silly scare-tactic-style concern. Lastly, we already have cannabis users who drive high, and scientific studies show that cannabis-intoxicated drivers widely outperform alcohol-intoxicated drivers and even outperform sober drivers.
Fact #9: Europe’s more liberal drug policies are not the right model for America.
Under this fact the DEA claims that since legalization in Amsterdam, heroin addiction has increased. The problem is they don’t cite their source of this information. I did find, courtesy of the NORML stash blog, find the following statistic of the effect of legalization in the Netherlands:
Fact #10: Most non-violent drug users get treatment, not jail time.
I know some folks who could face jail time for marijuana possession. Others face the possible revocation of financial aid. It’s not only about jail time. If charged with cannabis possession, you can be subject from the following:
- If you’re convicted or enter a plea, you’ll be on probation and mandatory Urinalysis Tests will be performed.
- A conviction could impact child custody issues in family court.
- An arrest for Possession with Intent to Distribute or an arrest for the Manufacture of plants may result in the State attempting to Forfeit your home, your car, your cash and other assets which they can do even if charges are later dismissed or you are acquitted at trial! This heinous law is know as “Asset Forfeiture”.
- A conviction can impact Federally insured student loans
- A felony conviction deprives you of the right to vote
- A felony conviction deprives you of the right to possess firearms
- A conviction can get you tossed out of government subsidized housing
- A conviction can impair your ability to obtain food stamps and other welfare benefits
- Your ability to ever adopt children will be jeopardized
- You will be denied entry into Canada and possibly other countries
- A misdemeanor conviction remains on your record and available to the public for three years before it can be expunged, which may have an impact on current or future employment
- A felony conviction remains on your record and available to the public for five years before it can be expunged, which may have an impact on current or future employment. (via NORML stash blog)
The American people really need the truth about smart marijuana policy from unbiased scientific research. We can’t trust the folks in the arresting business to tell us the truth about drugs.