drugs - The Case for the Prohibition of Prohibition For as...

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The Case for the Prohibition of Prohibition For as long as people have used drugs there has always been a corresponding attempt by governments to limit abuse amongst its citizens. Governments will typically try to control drug use in an effort to reduce the poverty, crime, and suffering associated with drug abuse. Since America’s first drug law in 1880, there has always been a dispute over the true nature of society’s ethical obligation to intervene in the drug use of its citizens. The current prohibition of drugs is incredibly expensive and has arguably had relatively little success, and has thus lent itself to heated debate over whether or not the harms of legalizing drugs outweigh the harms of prohibition. James Q Wilson, in his essay “Against the Legalization of Drugs” makes the argument that prohibition has greatly limited the growth of drug use in America, and is thus worth the cost and intrusion into the individual lives of Americans. Drug laws have historically faced intense opposition both from the objective standpoint that prohibition is ineffective and actually quite harmful to America, as well as the followers of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” which asserts the primacy of personal freedoms over the good intentions of a paternalistic government. Upon consideration of both sides of the issue, it is clear that as long as Americans value the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the federal government has no right to prohibit adults from using drugs. Prohibition is not only contradictory to America’s most fundamental values, but is also harmful to American society as a whole. Follick 2
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Although America’s first law intended to thwart drug trade was enacted in 1880 in an effort to halt opium shipments from China, it was not until 1971 that the modern “War on Drugs” came to be. With the new War on Drugs came stricter penalties for drug charges, greatly increased police presence, and greater international pressure to halt drug trafficking. All of this was in the hope that increased police action would raise the prices and the legal risks of drugs to the point where potential users would either choose not to do drugs or simply be unable to do so. Although clearly well-intentioned, to date prohibition has been largely ineffective. According to the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, despite increasing amounts of money being spent on prohibition, drugs have become more accessible, cheaper, and more potent. Clearly there is something wrong with the current system. James Q Wilson, however, whole heartedly supports federal prohibition in his essay “Against the Legalization of Drugs”. According to Wilson, the War on Drugs has been a success, ending the exponential growth of the “heroin epidemic” of the 1970’s. Currently there is roughly the same number of heroin addicts now as in 1976, but
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This note was uploaded on 03/29/2008 for the course PHIL 140g taught by Professor Kwon during the Fall '07 term at USC.

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drugs - The Case for the Prohibition of Prohibition For as...

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