This House supports the legalisation of drugs

Current drugs policy in many Western countries is loosely based on the principle that drugs are criminalised in proportion to their harmfulness. Typically, whilst alcohol and nicotine are legal, a wide variety of other stimulants and narcotics (for example, heroin, cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy and amphetamines) are deemed illegal. Usually the penalty attached to possession of these drugs varies according to their perceived harmfulness; for example, a “hard” drug like heroin attracts harsher punishment than a “soft” drug like cannabis. Supplying others with a drug also usually attracts a harsher penalty than possessing a small amount for purely personal use. Some countries, such as the UK, attempt to codify harmfulness by operating a grading system for illegal drugs (‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’)[1]; in others, assumptions about harmfulness are expressed through policing and sentencing policy.

Across the world, approaches to drugs vary, from liberal policies in the Netherlands where many “soft” drugs are in effect tolerated, to the harsh policies of Singapore, which hands out the death penalty for certain drug-related crimes. However, “hard” drugs such as heroin and cocaine are pretty much universally illegal. In debating this topic, the proposition needs to be clear about the implications of their case; typically they need to argue for the legalisation of “hard” drugs as well as “soft” ones. They may also wish to present some kind of model or plan whereby the quality and marketing of drugs is regulated (for example, in ways similar to controls on tobacco and alcohol in many countries).

[1] Wikipedia, ‘List of controlled drugs in the United Kingdom’, en.wikipedia.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_controlled_drugs_in_the_United_Kingdom

 

Title 
People should be free to take drugs
Point 

Individuals are sovereign over their own bodies, and should be free to make choices which affect them and not other individuals. Since the pleasure gained from drugs and the extent to which this weighs against potential risks is fundamentally subjective, it is not up to the state to legislate in this area. Rather than pouring wasted resources into attempting to suppress drug use, the state would be better off running information campaigns to educate people about the risks and consequences of taking different types of drugs.

Counterpoint 

This point makes the assumption that drug use only affects the individual concerned; in reality, drug usage can have a significant effect on people close to the user, as well as wider society. People who can be affected include family who have to care for a user and victims of drug-related crimes. In addition, in countries with welfare states, there is an additional significant societal cost as many drug users cannot hold down jobs.[1] Studies in the USA have shown that parents often put their need for drugs above the wellbeing of their children.[2]

This being the case, it is clear that the harms of drugs far outweigh governmental duty to protect individual freedoms.

Furthermore, doing drugs may be a free choice at first, but after a certain period the drug user is no longer to choose for himself/herself because addiction overruns their judgement.

[1] BBC News, ‘Drugs cost society £18.8bn’, 12 February 2002,   http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1816215.stm

[2] National Drug Intelligence Center, ‘The Impact of Drugs on Society’, National Drug Threat Assessment 2006, January 2006, http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs11/18862/impact.htm

Title 
Prohibition does not work; instead, it glamorizes drugs
Point 

Those who want to use drugs will take them whether they are legal or not – and more are doing so than ever before. In 1970 there was something like 1,000 problematic drug users in the UK, now there are over 250,000.[1] Legalization will also remove the glamour which surrounds an underground activity and so make drug use less attractive to impressionable teenagers. For example, statistics suggest that cannabis use in the UK declined after its classification was lowered from ‘B’ to ‘C’.[2]

[1] Home Affairs Select Committee, ‘The Government’s Drug Policy: Is It Working?’, parliament.uk, 22 May 2002, http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200102/cmselect/c...

[2] Travis, Alan, ‘Cannabis use down since legal change’, The Guardian,   26th October 2007, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/oct/26/drugsandalcohol.homeaffairs

Counterpoint 

Prohibition may not be working in the UK but that does not mean that prohibition is not working everywhere. In the US, the Drug Enforcement Agency states that “Overall drug use in the United States is down by more than a third since the late 1970s. That’s 9.5 million people fewer using illegal drugs. We’ve reduced cocaine use by an astounding 70% during the last 15 years.”[1]

[1] U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, ‘Fact 1: We have made significant progress in fighting drug use and drug trafficking in America. Now is not the time to abandon our efforts’, http://www.justice.gov/dea/demand/speakout/01so.htm

Title 
Drugs are safer when legal
Point 

Currently in the UK, purity of illegal Amphetamine is normally under 5%, and some tablets sold as ecstasy contain no MDMA at all. Instead, drugs are adulterated (“cut”) with substances from chalk and talcum powder to completely different drugs.[1]

At least when drugs are legalised the state can regulate their sale to make sure that they are clean and not cut with other dangerous substances. This will minimise the risk to users.

[1] Drugscope, ‘How Pure Are Street Drugs?’, updated January 2005, http://www.drugscope.org.uk/resources/faqs/faqpages/how-pure-are-street-...

Counterpoint 

Part of the reason that drugs are illegal is because of the health ramifications, which exist even if a drug is pure.

To give a brief summary of some health harms that come from unadulterated drugs:

 “Cocaine can cause such long-term problems as tremors, seizures, psychosis, and heart or respiratory failure.

Marijuana and hashish can cause rapid heart rate and memory impairment soon after use. Long-term effects include cognitive problems, infertility, weakened immune system, and possible lung damage.

Narcotics such as heroin can bring on respiratory and circulatory depression, dizziness, impotence, constipation, and withdrawal sickness. Overdoses can lead to seizures and death.” [1]

[1] Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, ‘Effects of Alcohol and Drugs on your Health’, University of North Carolina, http://www.med.unc.edu/alcohol/prevention/health.html

Title 
Legalisation reduces crime
Point 

The illegality of drugs fuels a huge amount of crime that could be eliminated if drugs were legalised. Price controls would mean that addicts would no longer have to steal to fund their habits, and a state-provided drug services would put dealers out of business, starving criminal gangs of their main source of funding. For example, an Italian Mafia family were making around $44bn a year from cocaine smuggling. [1] This represents something like 3% of Italy’s entire GDP – and that from only one crime syndicate.

[1] Kington, Tom, ‘Italian police raids reveal how an 80-year-old gangster held sway over the feared Calabrian mafia’, The Observer, 18 July 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/18/ndrangheta-mafia-italy-police

Counterpoint 

Drugs affect how people think, and they take away their ability to control their actions rationally, and so people on drugs are more likely to commit crimes. The US Drug Enforcement Administration states, “Crime, violence and drug use go hand in hand. Six times as many homicides are committed by people under the influence of drugs, as by those who are looking for money to buy drugs. Most drug crimes aren’t committed by people trying to pay for drugs; they’re committed by people on drugs.”[1]

[1] U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, ‘Summary of the Top Ten Facts on Legalization’, 2010, http://www.justice.gov/dea/demand/speakout/index.html

Title 
Drugs currently fund terrorism and regional instability
Point 

The Taliban gets most of its revenue from poppies, which provide the opium for heroin. They do this by intimidating local farmers who would otherwise sell their harvest at market. They then demand “protection money” as well, or else either another local warlord or the ‘protectors’ themselves would rob the farmer. Something like 22,700 people have died in Mexico since January 2007 from gangsters who want to protect their revenue and almost the entire continent of South America, from Brazil to Colombia, has had their governments destabilised by drug lords.[1]  The hugely-costly but unsuccessful war on drugs could be ended, starving terrorists of the profits of drug production. As a result peace and development could be brought to unstable drug-producing states such as Colombia and Afghanistan.

[1] Mexico under siege, The drug war on our doorstep, Los Angeles Times , 27 September 2011, http://projects.latimes.com/mexico-drug-war/#/its-a-war

Counterpoint 

Whether legal or illegal, drugs will still be a source of income for warlords and terrorist groups. Instead of starving them off, the dealers become more competitive and lower their prices. The only way to stop these people using drugs as a source of income is to remove poppies from Afghan fields, to destroy coca plantations.

Title 
The law is hypocritical
Point 

In most countries where drugs are illegal, tobacco and alcohol, which arguably have equally devastating consequences in society, are legal. In a UK study, alcohol was shown to have the worst effects of any drug, yet the current law recognises that people should be able to choose whether they drink or not.[1] The same should be true of drugs.

[1] Professor David Nutt, ‘Drug Harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis’, The Lancet, Vol 376, Issue 9752, pp. 1558-1565, 6th November 2010, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2810%2961...

Counterpoint 

Perhaps alcohol and tobacco should also be illegal. However, one of the reasons why alcohol ranks so badly in such studies is because of its legality; if other drugs were legal, we would see their usage go up and therefore the negative social effects they produce rise as well.

Title 
Legal drugs would increase tax revenue
Point 

In 2009-2010, the tax revenue from tobacco in the UK was £10.5 billion.[1] If the state legalizes drugs, it can tax them and use the revenue from this practise to fund treatment. At the moment such treatment is difficult to justify as it appears to be spending ordinary taxpayers’ money on junkies.

[1] Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, ‘Tax Revenue From Tobacco’, accessed 16th June 2011 - http://www.the-tma.org.uk/tma-publications-research/facts-figures/tax-re...

Counterpoint 

If the state is to make money from taxing drugs, this undercuts the (supposed) advantages of lower-priced drugs and will just encourage a black market to continue. In the UK, there is large black market for tobacco; it is suspected that tax has not been paid on 21% of cigarettes and 58% of hand rolling tobacco consumed.[1]  Furthermore, for the state to take revenue from this practise is morally wrong, whatever use the money is put to. The point of drug treatment is to help abusers off drugs, but under the proposition’s system the state would have a financial interest in prolonging addiction.

[1] Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, ‘Tobacco Smuggling and Crossborder Shopping’, http://www.the-tma.org.uk/policy-legislation/tobacco-smuggling-crossbord...

Title 
Drugs are dangerous, and the governement should discourage its use
Point 

The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens; if a substance will do people and society significant harm, then that substance should be banned.  There is no such thing as a safe form of a drug. Legalization can only make drugs purer, and therefore perhaps more deadly and addictive. Many illegal drugs are closely related to potentially dangerous medicines, whose prescription is tightly restricted to trained professionals, but the proposition would effectively be allowing anyone to take anything they wished regardless of the known medical dangers.

However entrenched in modern culture drugs may be, legalising them will only make them appear more acceptable. The state has a duty to send out the right message, and its health campaigns will be fundamentally undermined by the suggestion that drugs are harmless, which is what will be understood from their legalisation – just like when cannabis was downgraded in the UK.

Counterpoint 

Many things that can be dangerous are legal, from drugs such as alcohol, to activities such as skydiving, or even rugby. However, millions of people are able to drink or play sports without harming themselves or society. It would seem draconian and extremely paternalistic for the government to ban everything that has the potential to be dangerous; instead, they should educate people about the dangers, but trust them to make decisions about their own lives.

The State has no authority to force its own morality on the general populace unless these drugs can be proven to harm others. The State is the facilitator of the voters’ desires in a democracy. So, a State enforced, morality goes against the obligations of the State to its people.

Title 
More people will take drugs if they are legal
Point 

Considering that drug use has so many negative consequences, it would be disastrous to have it increase. However, the free availability of drugs once they are legal will make it far easier for individuals to buy and use them. In most cases, under 1% of the population of OECD countries regularly use illegal drugs; many more drink alcohol or smoke tobacco.[1] This must at least partly to do with the illegality. Indeed, in an Australian survey, 29% of those who had never used cannabis cited the illegality of the substance as their reason for never using the drug, while 19% of those who had ceased use of cannabis cited its illegality as their reason.[2]

[1] UN Office on Drugs and Crime, World Drug Report 2009, http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/WDR-2009.html?ref=menutop

[2] NSW Bureau of Crime and Statistics, ‘Does Prohibition Deter Cannabis use?’, 23 August 2001, http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/vwFiles/mr_cj...$file/mr_cjb58.pdf

Counterpoint 

When drugs are illegal, this does not stop people from using them.  A Canadian report on the matter concluded, "The licit or illicit status of substances has little impact on their use."[1] In addition, even though drugs are illegal, it is not hard to access them. In a Spanish survey, 92.9% of Spanish students said that it was very easy to access illegal drugs – even though only 11.6% used cannabis, which was the most used.[2] Even using the survey quoted by opposition, it is clear that the majority of people surveyed did not view the illegality of cannabis as a reason not to use it.

[1] Parliament of Canada House of Commons, Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs, report issued November, 2002, http://www.parl.gc.ca/committeebusiness/StudyActivityHome.aspx?Cmte=SNUD&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=37&Ses=2&Stac=626199

[2] Eurocare, ‘92.9 % of Spanish students say that access to drugs is very easy’, 26 March 2010, http://www.eurocare.org/library/latest_news/92_9_of_spanish_students_say...

Title 
Drugs will either be too cheap or too expensive
Point 

Low prices for drugs will hugely increase consumption of drugs, amongst all groups - addicts, previously casual users, and those who were not previously users. If drug provision is strictly regulated, an illegal black market may remain.

Counterpoint 

In a capitalist system reliant on supply and demand, the cost of a particular drug will always correspond to what people are willing to pay for them. So, there is no reason why a black market should spring up under a legalised system of drug sale.

Bibliography 

BBC News, ‘Drugs cost society £18.8bn’, 12 February 2002,   http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1816215.stm

Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, ‘Effects of Alcohol and Drugs on your Health’, University of North Carolina, http://www.med.unc.edu/alcohol/prevention/health.html

Drugscope, ‘How Pure Are Street Drugs?’, updated January 2005, http://www.drugscope.org.uk/resources/faqs/faqpages/how-pure-are-street-...

Eurocare, ‘92.9 % of Spanish students say that access to drugs is very easy’, 26 March 2010, http://www.eurocare.org/library/latest_news/92_9_of_spanish_students_say_that_access_to_drugs_is_very_easy

Kington, Tom, ‘Italian police raids reveal how an 80-year-old gangster held sway over the feared Calabrian mafia’, The Observer, 18 July 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/18/ndrangheta-mafia-italy-police

Home Affairs Select Committee, ‘The Government’s Drug Policy: Is It Working?’, parliament.uk, 22 May 2002, http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200102/cmselect/c...

Mexico under siege, The drug war on our doorstep, Los Angeles Times , 27 September 2011, http://projects.latimes.com/mexico-drug-war/#/its-a-war

National Drug Intelligence Center, ‘The Impact of Drugs on Society’, National Drug Threat Assessment 2006, January 2006, http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs11/18862/impact.htm

NSW Bureau of Crime and Statistics, ‘Does Prohibition Deter Cannabis use?’, 23 August 2001, http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/vwFiles/mr_cjb58.pdf/$file/mr_cjb58.pdf

Professor David Nutt, ‘Drug Harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis’, The Lancet, Vol 376, Issue 9752, pp. 1558-1565, 6th November 2010, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2810%2961...

Parliament of Canada House of Commons, Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs, report issued November, 2002, http://www.parl.gc.ca/committeebusiness/StudyActivityHome.aspx?Cmte=SNUD&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=37&Ses=2&Stac=626199

Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, ‘Tobacco Smuggling and Crossborder Shopping’, http://www.the-tma.org.uk/policy-legislation/tobacco-smuggling-crossborder-shopping/

Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, ‘Tax Revenue From Tobacco’, accessed 16th June 2011 - http://www.the-tma.org.uk/tma-publications-research/facts-figures/tax-re...

Travis, Alan, ‘Cannabis use down since legal change’, The Guardian,   26th October 2007, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/oct/26/drugsandalcohol.homeaffairs

UN Office on Drugs and Crime, World Drug Report 2009, http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/WDR-2009.html?ref=menutop

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, ‘Summary of the Top Ten Facts on Legalization’, 2010, http://www.justice.gov/dea/demand/speakout/index.html

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, ‘Fact 1: We have made significant progress in fighting drug use and drug trafficking in America. Now is not the time to abandon our efforts’, http://www.justice.gov/dea/demand/speakout/01so.htm

Wikipedia, ‘List of controlled drugs in the United Kingdom’, en.wikipedia.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_controlled_drugs_in_the_United_Kingdom

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