Illicit Drug Decriminalization and Legalization


Drugs, drug abuse and the society is now an issue of great concern in the whole world and many countries are debating on the issue of decriminalization and legalization of illicit drugs. Although a great lesson was learnt from the America’s great experiment on the prohibition of drugs and alcohol in1920-1933, majority of Americans are still opposing the ideas of legalization of illicit drugs as a long term solution and the debate has now hit the headlines in the media. The research on effect of legalization and decriminalization of illicit drugs in the society is aimed at investigating whether the benefits of the strategy outweighs the adverse effects.

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According to (Levinson, 2002) In the past, the anti-drug agencies in the United States has focused so much on criminalization of the society due to drug trafficking and even spent a lot of money on the programs to achieve this goal. However, there has been little consideration on the effect of the prohibited drugs on the health of the users. As a result, the war on drugs in the United States has been long. Little success as far as decline in the use of these drugs is concerned has however been achieved. Most researchers have felt that if the government would legalize these drugs but regulate their use as well as tax their sales, there would be a manageable control of drug abuse. Research has shown that, quite a number of drugs prohibited by the law are not harmful and yet so many deaths have resulted from more harmful but legalized drugs such as alcohol.

Illicit drug use and sales should be legalized and decriminalized

(Owen, 2001) argues that, when there was a great experiment on prohibition of drugs in America, the problem of drug use and drug abuse became worst. The thirteen years of the great experiment between1920-1933 were received with a great failure and only after the law was repealed that the decline in the use of alcohol in the society was noted. Prohibition caused overcrowding in the prisons and there was a general increase in the number of crimes related to drugs. Many users opted to continue using and selling drugs; an activity which was now against the law and as a result the law was disrespected so much. The cost of drugs and alcohol rose up and business people increased their effort in trading the alcohol their main interest being after much profit. The users also engaged in criminal activities in order to raise money to purchase the drugs. The law on drugs by President Reagan and Nixon was also found to increase racial disparity when the police and the courts were dealing with criminals.

According to (Goode, 2004) drugs like marijuana have very little effect on human health, they are less harmful and does not lead to much addiction as with the case of some of the legal drugs such as nicotine and alcohol and they therefore deserve decriminalization. Even the medical community agrees that there are benefits of drugs such as cannabis. However, the United States classifies cannabis together with heroin and many other very harmful drugs. The argument by those who oppose legalization of drugs is that it would be an encouragement for even the non-users to use the drugs as well as more trading and supply. They ague this would damage families and the community at large but this is a great misconception as study has shown.

(Levinson, 2002) argues that, in country like Netherlands, decriminalization of “soft drugs” has already achieved its objective. When Netherlands implemented their policy on decriminalization of drugs, it was first met with short-lived increase in the use of the drugs before the trend normalized at notable low levels. Today, studies have shown that the trend in the use of “soft drugs” is the same as that in the European Union. The drug use in both Netherlands and the European Union is much lower compared with the trend in the United States. As such, the policy of decriminalization of drugs in the Netherlands is considered as among the most successful among industrialized states. Such a policy views illicit drugs as a health issue affecting the general public but not as a criminal issue. As a result, the countries which have adopted decriminalization policy have been able to address the problem of addiction in the society. When the drugs are legalized, their use becomes safer because the government has an opportunity to control the production as well as the sale ensuring the drugs meet their required market standards. The businessmen also gain from the profit as a result of operating in a free and legal market. The general society benefits from the legalization as a result of the government using the profit collected inform of taxation of the drugs to improve the economic status of the society. Data collected from study conducted on the benefit of legalization of drugs on Dutch government indicates that, the society has become stable financially.

Examples of recent drugs enforcement and control strategies

(Martel, 2006) found that, in America, efforts to create a drug-free America resulted into an act enacted in1988. Other legislation that came after gave support to this policy by more severe criminalization on the operators of illicit drugs. More and more policy makers have since continued supporting decriminalization of marijuana and several countries have already decriminalized the drug. If a person is caught with a small amount of the drug he/she is being dealt with in the same way as that of a minor traffic violation. Some countries are releasing some of the individuals convicted on drugs conditionally as well as sorting for an alternative sentence for an individual who is being caught in possession of the drugs for the first time and still quite a number of countries have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

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Narcotic investigative techniques

(Rotenberg, 2002) argues that, when president bush came into power in 2001, there was an alarming increase in the use of illicit drugs and compared with the preceding decade, the trend had almost increased by 100%. More than 50% of 12th graders in America were found to have used illicit drugs before graduation. Among the aggressive techniques the president used to reduce this trend were setting ambitious and well balanced strategies aimed at preventing the use of drugs before it begun. He also encouraged healing of the drug users as well as disrupting active markets for the drugs. The strategy has been found to give positive results because in accordance to a survey conducted by the University of Michigan and results released in 2005, use of illicit drugs has greatly reduced since 2001 and the drop has been rated at 19%. This means that there are about 700,000 less young people using the drugs.

(DuPont, 2003) found that, the investigation techniques such as interdiction as well as diversion investigation have been found to be very workable in controlling the use of illicit drugs. Detectives working in the narcotics division work together with bureau of immigration to investigate the organizations dealing with trafficking of drugs. This is geared towards stopping large shipments of illegal drugs as well as prosecuting all participants of the exercise. Narcotic interdiction involves cooperation between the detectives and citizens who tip them. The detectives also rely on confidential informants as well as anonymous tips and surveillance of the suspected markets and houses. They also monitor areas of busy public transportation. On the other hand, diversion detectives investigate on the prescription drugs and other controlled substances that may have diverted from their required destinations. The diversions are normally designed by health workers who have been assigned the responsibility of handling the drugs but instead engage in frauds as well as forgery in obtaining the same drugs illegally. Detectives also investigate practitioners to know those who could be operating without licenses. The society and medical community are educated on drug diversion’s prevention as well as the effects of illegal drug use.

(Hughes, 2002) argues that, in the effort to implement these techniques, an individual is considered to have committed an offence if he/she tries to get a dangerous drug through forgery and fiction or by use of fraudulent telephone calls. It is also wrong to be found handling a dangerous drug to which the victim has not been prescribed. It is an offence to trade in pharmaceutics drugs without a proper license or practice medicine as well as similar practice without the required qualifications. Technical surveillance unit uses both audio and video technology on houses so as to obtain evidence during prosecution of the criminals. The detectives ensure they are informed about current technologies as well as their applications in enforcing the laws. Although they operate underground sometimes under risky environment, their information is reliable especially regarding investigations on felony such as homicides and auto theft.

Criminal sanctions for illegal drugs sales and use should continue

(Colin, 2005) found that, legalization and decriminalization of illicit drugs would be disadvantageous to the general society in that, harmful drugs that are psychoactive as well as addictive would be more affordable and readily available in the market. Legalization and decriminalization would only remove stigma associated with illicit drugs consequently causing tolerance for the drugs among youth. There are also a number of effects of illicit drugs on the users such as intoxication on the brain causing negative behavior on the user including the potential the illicit drugs have of abused. The health of the drug user is exposed to risks and even the general community is exposed to risks of insecurity as most dug users engage into criminal activities. If illicit drugs were to be legalized and decriminalized, their price would go down making them readily available to the youths and young adults. In fact the major problem that has to be dealt with regarding drug abuse is the availability of these drugs to the youth.

(John, 1999) found that, majority of drug users are related to murder as well as spouse abuse. They are also more likely to be engaged in rape cases and other forms of violent criminal acts as a result of the influence of the drugs. Since most users of drug cannot retain their jobs, they engage in robberies so as to obtain the drugs as well as buy food and other basic needs such as clothing and shelter. Because all the wrong doers of these acts have to be prosecuted, the end result would be congestion in the prisons. Trafficking of illegal drugs would still be operational even after illicit drugs are legalized or decriminalized and the associated crime would still be committed. As long as the users of all ages would not be provided with unlimited number of illicit drugs of their choice, there would still be black market trading on the drugs.

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(Goode, 2001) argues that, people are likely to avoid using illicit drugs to avoid falling into problem with the implementers of the law. Recent studies have shown that, countries that have had poor enforcement on drug policy there have received a notable increase in criminality as a result drug use and high levels of addiction. Countries with well implemented policies on control of illicit drugs have been reported to have had decline in crime related to drugs as well as drug use. If United States agrees to legalize illicit drugs especially cocaine and marijuana, it will have violated the international treaty of which it is a signatory. According to the drug watch international, the treaty is an agreement of 112 nations to control as well as penalize participants of illegal drug trafficking.

(Martel, 2006) found that, agents of drug trafficking sometimes face unhealthy competition from the business rivals in the market and this can lead to violent confrontation which is disrespect of law and order. Any policy intervention aimed to solve the problem of drug abuse must therefore put into consideration youth and young adult’s needs. The solution to drug and drug abuse problem is therefore not legalization or decriminalization of illicit drugs but timely recognition of the problem in the society. The community should take an initiative and suppress all the activities involving drug trafficking as well as gang activities related to drug trafficking.


(Goode, 2001) concluded that, decriminalization or legalization of illegal drug use has its advantages and disadvantages. However, from the lesson learnt in the America’s great experiment that took place in 1920-1933 on prohibition of alcohol, the advantages of legalization and decriminalization outweighs those of prohibition. The government only requires strengthening the laws and statues that affects investigation on the control and the supply of narcotics and other illicit drugs. This would ensure the harm caused by the illicit drugs to the individual users and the society at large is dismal.


Owen E. (2001): Current Literature on Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Storming Media pp24-32.

Goode F. (2004): The war on drugs: University of California Press pp45-52.

Levinson M. (2002): The Drug Problem: A New View Using the General Semantics Approach: Greenwood pp30-43.

Martel M. (2006): Public Policy, and the Marijuana Question: University of Toronto Press pp19-31.

Rotenberg S. (2002): The Clandestine Distribution of Heroin, Its Discovery and Suppression: University of Chicago Press pp31-45.

DuPont R. (2003): Drug Legalization, Harm Reduction, and Drug Policy: Blackwell synergy pp57-64.

Hughes J. (2002): Three Classics that Promoted the Scientific Study of Drug Dependence: Blackwell Synergy pp37-46.

Colin M. (2005): The Effect of Alcohol Prohibition on Illicit-Drug-Related Crimes: University of Chicago Press pp27-36.

John R. (1999): A Model Legalization Proposal: Sage Publisherspp35-44.

Goode E. (2001): The Drug Legalization Debate: WH Freeman & Company pp59-66.

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