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The Pros and Cons of the War on Drugs Versus Drug Legalization

Jun 27, 2023 | 0 comments

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Jun 27, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Motivation/problem statement

Illegal drugs usage has torn the American social and health fabric apart from many decades. Success presidents has fought it including the state governments. However, the war on drugs has shown minima indications of success. The problem of drugs has been in existence but all statistics have indicated failure of all approaches applied in the fight against drugs. This essay explores both alternatives; war against drugs and legalization of drugs to give an insight of pros and cons of both


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The essay used Meta-analysis-descriptive research design; that yield both quantitative and qualitative data. Because there is already a lot of information and researches on the aspects of the topic, a meta-analysis-descriptive study design was appropriate for the purposes as it focused on combining results from different studies and contrasting them, with the hope of identifying a conclusive pattern among the different results of the studies, disagreement sources among the results, or any other interesting relationship that can be gotten in the context of numerous studies


Results indicated that was on drugs has been inexistence in United States from many decades and has not been successful. Furthermore, it is costly, needs a lot of time, and the policies are not effective.

Legalization on the other hand may decriminalize drugs, ensure regulation of the drugs but can also lead to abuse of drugs amongst the people


It is time for United States to change its game plan on solving the drugs issue. The government can selectively legalize some drugs, and continue with the war of drugs with vigor

War on drugs verses legalization in America

War on drugs is a term that can be described as a campaign of drugs prohibition, with the aim of reducing the illegal usage of drugs, and illegal trade on drugs. War on drugs initiative incorporates a set of policies on illegal psychoactive drugs intended to discourage drug production, consumption and distribution. According to Engdahl war on drugs includes prevention of new addictions, and rehabilitation of the individuals addicted (22). Hudson asserted that the estimation by the Drug Policy Alliance indicates that United States spends about $51 billion on war of drugs annually (41). However, despite the tremendous investments and efforts to fight illegal drugs, the global war on drugs has significantly failed, with devastating consequences on the societies and individuals around the world. Roleff pointed out that over the past 30 years, United States has been fighting the war on drugs and this has come with heavy financial price to the Americans (110). Much effort, time and money go into the attempts to eliminate trafficking, use of illegal drugs and dealings by United States. As much as many people believe that this war on drugs should continue and it is worth fighting, others believe that United States will never won the war on drugs. They suggest that an alternative plan should be legalization since it will help in saving millions of dollars for the country. This research paper will examine the war on drugs, its history in addition to the arguments against and in favor of war on drugs.

According to Schaffer, illegal use of drugs can be traced back in the beginning of the 20th century (128). During those years, about 2%- 5% of the whole United States population was addicted to the drugs (para 4). The two fundamental reasons brought forward to explain the high rate of addiction to drugs in the begging of the 20th century, was first, the morphine use to relieve pain to the patients who have been medically operated. Throughout the surgery, Bagley and William stated that the patients were being given the morphine medication and also during the recovery phase in the hospital (39). Therefore, the patients after spending a lot of time in hospital, they would be discharged with an operated body in addition to morphine addiction. Engdahl asserted that the prevalence of the addiction was high amongst the Civil War soldiers to the pound that it was referred to as the “disease of the soldiers” (36). Furthermore, the second reason for the high addiction to drugs in the early 20th century was because of the targeted audience. Besides the soldiers, Hudson pointed out that women also formed a large percentage of the morphine addicted population (261). During that period, morphine was sold in the drug stores over the counters to assist women in dealing with different forms of diseases and ailments. Shannon asserted that, in fact, morphine s addiction were majorly due to lack of lack of sufficient knowledge on the drug. Therefore, the resultant addiction was as a result of the insufficient information on the effects if the drug and accidental its use (276).

Duke and Albert asserted that the success of the United States national campaign and war against drugs for many years has been unclear (97). At the level of interdiction, the war on drugs has not been successful in preventing entry of illegal drugs into United States. Evidence shows that there exists a constant supply of illicit drugs in all forms and that there has been a drop in their prices in the streets (Rodriguez 32). For instance, in a survey conducted by Michael, the price of one gram of cocaine in 1981 was priced as little as $400. Moreover, the price dropped in 2001 to about $200 per gram (106). Similarly, the survey indicated that that in 1981, one gram of heroin in the streets was being priced for $3,200 and by 2001, the priced has drastically dropped to $2000 (para 5).

The effort of fighting illegal drugs has not has much success in reduction of drugs usage. Lyman & Potter stated that it is estimated that 7% of American during the past 30 days, have used illegal drugs (154). Despite the fact that the percentage is low compared to the rate which was higher in 1970s, usage of drugs throughout the 1990s has been on a steady increase (Lyman & Potter 156). Moreover, the usage of drugs has also increased amongst the high school seniors in the past decade (para 6). It is very hard to find out whether the statistics could be different significantly without the anti-drug campaign by the government that has been massive. The efforts of the criminal justice have been also successful by flooding the prison and the court systems with the drug offenders. In 1996, the statistics from the Bureau of justice indicated that in the state and the federal courts system, approximately 43% of the sentences were for the offenses of drugs (Gilliard, & Beck 397). A large number of these prisoners otherwise do not have any tendency to crime. However, under mandatory prison sentences based on the sentencing statues, most of them are under the mandatory prison sentences. These incarcerations deprives the society and them lots of productivity

Engdahl stated that there are about 1.5 million people currently in federal and state jails and prisons in the whole of United States (33). The cost of setting up a single drug dealer behind bars is estimated to be $450,000. The cost comprises of the following; $30,000 of housing the prisoner annually. Averagely, seeing takes 5 years, therefore housing one prison for five years costs approximately $150,000. Arrest and conviction costs which is estimated to be $150,000(Schaffe 65). If the costs could be transferred to be used in provision of other services, $450,000 can offer education and treatment to about 200 people in United States. Additionally, incarcerating prisoners in jails incurs another $15 for the welfare costs (para 2).

The biggest problem that United States faces is the illegal drugs transportation from other foreign countries into United States. For instance, Koutouzis and Pascale indicated that about 90% of marijuana and 80% of cocaine that enters United States originate from the Latin America (182). The two major transit routes include the route through central American and passes through Mexico, and the second route starts from Venezuela and crosses the Caribbean island (Koutouzis and Pascale 184).the drugs are majorly produced in the Andes region which covers Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, and then transited via Mexico, central America and west indies, which are the centers of trafficking of the international mafia who are allied to the drug cartels in Columbia who lays down laws in the area.

United States used every resources and tried almost everything in their capability to stop exportation of drugs from the Latin America., all to no avail. Some of the interventions that has been used by United States include the following; border interdiction, crop eradication, private military forces and military special forces. Bagley & Walker indicated that all these measures that has been adopted by united states at best has only impacted about 15% of the illegal drugs trade but in most instances has been in vain (77). According to Bagley & Walker averagely in Latin American routes, a drug trafficker can afford to lose up to 90% of their drug businesses and will still remain with some profits (para 7). Moreover, the counter-drug policy of United States that is highly militarized in nature in Latin America in the long run has led to “push down, pop up” or “balloon effect” characterized by the military crackdown in one areas or region, and consequently production increase in another place. The effect has been increased supply of drugs with the lowering of the prices. The ineffective nature of the United States policies in combatting illegal drugs is also reflected domestically in a study conducted by Tonry and Matthew on malign effects of crime and drug control policies on black Americans (1-44). The study examined empirical issues canvassed by Michael about 15 years ago in Malign Neglect. To find out the extent of the differences in blacks and whites for offending, victimization, arrests, drug use, imprisonment, sentencing and capital punishment have changed. The study found out that drugs and sentencing policing contributing to disparities for decades have not been changed. Moreover, the explanation given for that is that the majority who are the whites do not empathize with the minority blacks who end up in prisons that is consequently because of the recent policies on punishment have replaced Jim Crow Laws, Urban Ghetto And Slavery as a method of where dominance is used as maintenance over blacks in the united states (Tonry and Matthew 10-44).

In Latin America, drug cartels are very profitable and powerful. Columbia since 1970s has been a home most of the sophisticated and violent organizations that traffic drugs in the world. Shannon indicated that marijuana traffickers in Columbia in 1970s began exporting small amounts of cocaine hidden in suitcase to United States (49). During that time, Shannon, observed that the jungle labs could process cocaine for as a little as $1500 per kilogram and these could then be sold to the American streets for as much as $50,000 per kilogram (52). These exorbitant profits attracted many different characters to the drug trafficking business. Shannon, pointed out that one of the famous cartels during that time was the Medellin Cartel which was made of Pablo Escobar, Ochoa Brothers and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha. The cartel grew investing in airplanes to traffic drugs, an island in Caribbean for refueling (55). However, Medellin no longer exists since the government dismantled it, shot their gang leader, Escobar while the others turned in. despite the dismantling of the cartel, Colombian National Police and the DEA believe that there are an estimated 300 active organizations that smuggle drugs n Columbia currently. Cocaine is transported to all the industrialized nation through the ships and the profits are incredibly high. This is echoed in a study conducted by Thoumi on Columbian illegal drugs (102-116). The aim of the study was to identify the effects of the illegal drugs industry on Columbia and the reactions and policies from the government. The findings of the study indicated that the illegal economy has helped to boost the economy of Columbia for many decades especially in real estates (Thoumi 102-16). However, a negative aspect is the funding paramilitary movements and left-wing guerillas, and this has caused social crisis and destruction of productive activities in Columbia.

The war on drugs by United States has taken many decades, money and efforts. Moreover, different attack plans has been applied by different presidents and other govern and law officers to combat the devastating illegal drugs effects. However, United States still has a long way to go to completely contain the problem. However, there are some people who believe in the school of through that United States should abandon the war against drugs and legalize them instead.

According to Roleff, advocates of legalization of drugs claimed that the drug fight or drug war has not been won by United States and in fact the drug trafficking is unconquerable (226). The legalization advocates argue that drugs are available widely, many people still take them, and any efforts of changing this is futile. Therefore, they content that the only workable alternative is to legalize it. Their argument is that if the drugs are regulated and legalized, drug abuse problem could be then be addressed as a medical problem (para 2).

According to Schaffer, legalization of drugs is still considered radical idea and does to enjoy much support (115). Most people believe that through legalization of drugs, consumptions of the drugs will rise with their associated social costs such as decreased job productivity, mental health, disease, education al impairments, and auto accidents would be on the rise. They argue that comparison of drugs with alcohol are inaccurate. Despite the fact that many social costs and troubles are attributable to abuse of alcohol, the nature of addictive drugs such as heroine and cocaine’s greater hand alcohol substantially. Furthermore, unlike alcohol all the other illegal drugs are consumed within aim of immediate intoxication which can be devastating if legalized

However, legalization of marijuana, controversies arises. Since its popularity way back from 1960, proposals to decriminalize or legitimize it have been part of the debate on policies. Duke and Albert observed that the growing acceptance of these proposals by the public has led some states in United States to reduce marijuana possession criminal penalties to an equivalent of a ticket for traffic, and to legitimize marijuana uses for the medical purposes (129). Moreover, Rodriguez indicated that there is no evidence suggesting that the changes have been relate directly to increased use of marijuana (81). Legalization advocates have advocated for complete elimination of the associated penalties with the possession and trafficking of marijuana. They argue that there is no clear relations between marijuana and other drugs and if there exists any link, it will be severed if the drag is removed from the underworld. On the other and, the opponents of legalization of marijuana also argue contrary to that by legalizing it will result to adverse social consequences. On the basis of legalizing marijuana on the grounds of medical uses, the opponents argue that there are purer and far better available medications for the conditions in which marijuana is a propose as a treatment.

Moreover, the argument of the propones of drug legalization claim that the current enforcement of drug law is ineffective and costly. To begin, the law enforcement officers spent a lot of tax money on different crusades against drugs. According to Duke and Albert, the current war on drugs at the federal level costs 9 billion dollars and 18 billion at the local and state levels (151). From 1980 to 1982, Riga also pointed out that 100 billion dollars were spend on drug wars. In 1990, the report from the National Institute of Drug Abuse indicated that about 6 million citizens were drug users who are steady, a doubling number of 1980. Certainly the expensive drug has not reduced addiction of drugs (53).

Furthermore, Michael argued that legitimization of the drugs would reduce drug dealing profits (137). The illegal business of drugs if very profitable since the products prices increased when the good is illegal. Lyman stated that when the demand of a product is high and the government illegalizes it, the black marker definitely supplies the demand (14). Duke and Albert stated that earnings from drug traffic annually average to 60 million dollars and sometime hits 100 billion dollars (94). In Ten American States, marijuana is the largest cash crop and also the second largest cash crop after corn in United States. The illegal drug market in United States is on eight of the total global market, which makes it the largest global illegal drug market (Rodriguez 109). Additionally, the drug sellers show off their expensive clothing and jewelry to the kids, by legalizing the drugs, I would remove the glamorous type of traffickers who are the kids young festival.


In conclusion, war on drugs elicit countless arguments, but this essay believe the war on drugs is worth fighting. Sometimes it may look like united states is not making any progress in their war on drugs, but Americans need to keep in mind that progress on the war does not come overnight. United States has had war on drugs for many decades, but the problem has been reduced or solved by enforcing laws that are tough, educating the public about the negative effects of the drug. With the government’s strategy of combining prevention/education, treatment and enforcement, therefore has been a significant decrease in crime and drug use. However, as long as in United States there is high demand for the drugs, there will be supply. The essay believe that if United States can control and influence drugs demand by eliminating it all together.

Work cited

Engdahl, Sylvia. The War on Drugs. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2009. Print.

Hudson, David L. The War on Drugs. New York, NY: Chelsea House, 2011. Print.

Roleff, Tamara L. War on Drugs: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, Calif: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Print.

Schaffer, Clifford.Basic Facts About the War on Drugs. , n.d.. Internet resource. Retrieved from http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/basicfax.htm

Koutouzis, Michel, and Pascale Perez. Atlas Mondial Des Drogues. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1996. Print.

Bagley, Bruce M, and William O. Walker. Drug Trafficking in the Americas. Coral Gables, Fla: University of Miami, North-South Center, 1994. Print.

Shannon, Elaine. Desperados: Latin Drug Lords, U.s. Lawmen, and the War America Can’t Win. New York: Viking, 1988. Print.

Duke, Steven B, and Albert C. Gross. America’s Longest War: Rethinking Our Tragic Crusade against Drugs. New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1993. Print.

Rodriguez, L. Jacabo. “Time to End the Drug War.” CATO Institute 13 Dec. 1997. 23 Feb. 2004

Riga, Peter J. “The Drug War Is a Crime: Let’s Try Decriminalization.” San Diego, CA; Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1996: 52-54.

Cala, Michael. The Price and Purity of Illicit Drugs: 1981 Through the Second Quarter of 2003. November 2004.

Lyman, M. & Potter, G. (2003). Drugs in Society, 4e. Cincinnatti: Anderson LexisNexis

Thoumi, Francisco E. “Illegal Drugs in Colombia: From Illegal Economic Boom to Social

Crisis.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Cross

National Drug Policy 582 (2002): 102-16. JSTOR. Sage Publications Inc. in Association with the American Academy of Political and Social Science, July 2002. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Tonry, Michael, and Matthew Melewski. “”The Malign Effects of Drug and Crime Control Policies on Black Americans.” 37.1 (2008): 1-44. JSTOR. University of Chicago Press. Web. 09 Oct. 2014.

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