Pros and Cons of Drug Legalization

Updated April 17, 2017

Although in recent years the emphasis on drug legalisation has been on marijuana, drug legalisation in general is a hot topic for debate. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the lobby for drug legalisation says drug use should be decriminalised because the war on drugs cannot be won. The DEA disagrees, citing gains in the fight against illegal drug use and saying that a balanced approach is effective.

Fewer Minor Offenders in Jails

Those in favour of drug legalisation state that jails are filled with non-violent "criminals" whose only crime was possession of soft drugs such as marijuana. Some £44 billion is spent in the United States on corrections, and one-third of those in jail and prisons were arrested for non-violent drug crimes. Almost £48 billion in policing and the court system goes toward for marijuana-related cases. Advocates of legalisation say a disproportionate amount of money is being spent policing and locking up petty drug users, and that money could be better spent elsewhere.

More Acceptability of Using Harmful Drugs

Those against legalising drugs state that legalising vices does not create a more virtuous society. Legalised gambling is cited as an example that tends to concentrate vices in one area, leading to an increase in prostitution and other vices, they say. The acceptance of drug use into the mainstream culture could result in wider proliferation of drugs that used to be illegal, as well as giving the false idea to the public that drug use is harmless. Teens and children would find it easier to obtain drugs, with potential physical and mental harm. In Nederlands, Colo., where medical marijuana is legal, there is one medical marijuana depot for every 175 residents, and one in 20 qualifies for medical marijuana. Ron Hyman, the state's registrar of vital statistics and director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's medical marijuana program, suggests that the legalisation of marijuana for medical use proliferates its use by those who have no medical need for it.

Government Tax Revenue

If illegal drugs were legalised, taxation would be an advantageous way for governments to tap into the drug economy, resulting in economic benefits for states, according to advocates. In California, as an example, marijuana is the largest cash crop, worth an estimated almost £9 billion annually. Taxes on marijuana alone could yield billions for the state.

Money Drain from Health Problems

A study by the Rand Corp., a non-profit research firm, states that legalising marijuana would "almost certainly" lead to increase in use and a decrease in cost to the user. Increased health risks would be likely, and this has the potential for an economic drain on state and federal health programs. Drug use, including that of marijuana, can be addictive and can lead to problems in education, work and relationships. Drug intoxication, including marijuana, leads to memory loss and impairs learning, states the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drug rehabilitation is a costly process.

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About the Author

Scott Wolfenden began writing in 2006 on the subject of mental health. He has written a book on ADHD, children's mental health, education and parenting partially based on experience teaching in public schools. He blogs for Learning Things, an educational products website. He graduated from Thomas Edison State College with a Bachelor of Arts in social science and additional coursework in psychology.