Friday, April 26, 2013

Drugs: to Legalize or Not to Legalize?

by Miranda Jacobs
       In the United States, drug prohibition is such a relentless effort that we actually call it the “War on Drugs.”  I believe that we should end this “war” and begin an effort that is more about helping individuals who have fallen prey to drug addiction and less about incarcerating them.  Our drug laws should be made more lenient not only because of the crippling effect of incarcerating people for drug use, but also the necessity of drugs for medical purposes.
       While I do not agree that all drugs should be legalized for recreational use, I do believe that all drugs, as long as the drugs in question are safe and unlikely to cause healthy issues if administered correctly, should be legal for medical use.  If a drug is beneficial and able to provide relief to suffering patients, prohibiting medical use of the drug is unethical.  There are hundreds of thousands of individuals who suffer tormenting pain every day, and they should not be stripped of their right to relieve their pain solely because there are people who abuse drugs.

       Worse yet, our country prevents people who are dying a slow and painful death from ending their lives by illegalizing euthanasia.  People who are genuinely suffering, cannot be cured, and want to end their suffering in a relaxed and professional way do not have the legal right to control their own lives and must instead endure the pain as they slowly loose grip on life. After denying them the right to end their suffering, we also deny them pain medications to help them die with dignity and end with some quality left in their lives. 
       To make matters worse, those people are then told that they cannot have access to the variety of drugs that are powerful enough to help them through their suffering and possibly mentally-stimulating enough to provide them with some sort of entertainment.  Patients are trapped inside a box of suffering where they have no options for relief other than a few drugs that doctors administer to them daily.  There is no excuse to deny patients the full range of drugs that have been created and discovered (again, assuming that the drugs in question are safe and unlikely to cause adverse effects when administered correctly, such as marijuana).
       The second major problem with drug prohibition is the outcome of incarcerating people for using drugs.  When a person is arrested for using illegal drugs and is sentenced a prison term, their chances for success in life are significantly lowered.  For example, let us imagine that an 18-year-old boy is arrested for drug possession and sentenced to seven years in prison.  While in prison, he will not be able to grow financially, gain work experience, or even gain experience as an individual living on his own.  If he decides to go to college after being released from prison, he will likely have no money and will certainly be unable to receive any financial aid to attend school.  Much of what follows in life will be just as difficult.  Most employers will not hire someone with a criminal record, and the military will never be an option.  Background checks will ensure that even trying to get an apartment will be difficult.
       Some people do succeed after getting out of prison. However, for some people, even after working as hard as possible to find work, success just doesn’t happen.  Many people who have a criminal record envision their future as a struggle to make ends meet while working long hours for little money.  Of course, life does not always have to turn out this way for people who come out of prison; but, it does turn out that way for many, which discourages those who may have had a chance of success but did not consider the attempt as realistic.  So, many people return to the life they had before they went to prison. 
       All of these consequences are the result of someone committing a crime, and someone may think, “Well, they deserved it.  They broke the law.”  But is doing a drug really bad enough for someone’s life to become such a struggle?  While we should have no sympathy for those who commit crimes like robbery and murder, I do not believe that we should view people who are imprisoned for drug use as simply criminals among the rest.  Determining what exactly should be done about drugs and whether or not all of them should be legalized is an extremely difficult question to answer.  If drugs remain illegal, it is absolutely necessary that all drugs are legalized at least for medical use and laws are made to reduce the negative outcomes of being imprisoned for drug use.  If drugs are legalized, I do believe that they should be heavily regulated. 
       After a decision is eventually made, however, our country will continue to face dilemmas with the issue of drugs.  An issue that will likely appear is whether or not employers should be able to test employees for drug use.  Sure, drugs might be legal; but what if someone cannot get a job because employers don’t want to hire people who use drugs?  There is nothing unfair about employers giving drug tests, and there are some employees that should absolutely be drug tested (such as police officers and fire fighters).  But, when responsible adults who use drugs safely and are occasionally fired from jobs or cannot get jobs because they are tested for drugs, we will have yet another problem to solve.


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