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Answers to Specific Arguments on Drug Legalization

by Clifford A. Schaffer

If we legalize/decriminalize drugs then everyone will become drug addicts.

Every major study of drug policy agreed that there is no evidence to support this belief and, even if drug use did increase, decriminalization would still be a better approach. In Europe, several countries have decriminalized drugs and actually seen a significant drop in drug use.

We need a combined approach of education, treatment, prevention, and stiff law enforcement.

This is a smoke screen, designed to cloud the issue and make your opponent seem like they are taking the most rational, balanced approach while you are the one who is suggesting the extremist measures. Don't let them get away with it. You can kick all of their extraneous arguments out of the way and refocus the issue

We agree one hundred percent on education, treatment, and prevention. The only place where we part company is on prisons. My opponent wants to build prisons larger than the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. I don't think that is necessarily a good idea.

We have to keep these drugs illegal to protect our children.

I agree. That's why I am looking for a better solution -- because what we are doing now is obviously not working. In fact, the current policy is one of the main reasons that drug users find it profitable to get kids involved in drugs and distribute drugs free on school campuses. I believe that we can find a better approach which would stop this.

My son/daughter was turned into a psycho by drugs so we have to stamp out this evil menace.

(Keep in mind that the person who says this kind of thing is probably under tremendous emotional stress so it would not be polite or productive to suggest that their kid was probably a psycho all along. Keep a gentle, sympathetic demeanor.)

We have made these drugs as illegal as they can be and these kinds of tragedies still happen. The fact that your son/daughter became a victim of these drugs shows, in itself, that the current policy did not work for you and your family. All it really does is to make it harder to provide treatment for the people who need it. I believe that there may be a better way to handle the problem, that just might have saved your son/daughter. Don't you think that we should at least explore the possibility of a better way to handle the problem?


What happened to your child is certainly a tragedy. But tell me, would your child have been better off if they spent twenty years in prison?

I used to be a junkie until I was saved from the life of evil and I know that drugs should not be legalized!

1) It is illegal now and that didn't stop you. All it really does is keep most people from getting help sooner because we are spending all of our money on prisons and we cannot provide adequate treatment.

2) Would you be better off if you had spent twenty years in prison? If we really did it the way you are suggesting, you would still be in prison and would not be here to talk to me.

You just want to legalize it -- you commie scum!

Of course, I have my own ideas about what might be a good solution to the problem, but that is not the point. The point is that we need to bring all of our best minds together to consider your ideas for a better solution, as well as mine. The only way that we will ever find a better approach is by an open and honest discussion of the evidence and all of the possible approaches to the problem.

They tried this in Europe with Needle Park and it didn't work so they are going back to throwing people in prison.

Absolutely not true. Europe, in general, is committed to decriminalization and we invite anyone to talk to the law enforcement officials in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, or Liverpool, and see for themselves. There have been some policies which the European officials admit did not work as well as others, such as Needle Park, but they are still committed to a non-criminal approach to drugs. In addition, England, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, and Colombia have all taken steps toward the legalization or decriminalization of drugs. In addition, both the head of Interpol and the British Association of Chiefs of Police have called for an end to drug prohibition.

What do you think we should do about drugs?

I have my own ideas about what might be a good solution to the problem, but that is not the point, because I don't have all the answers and nobody else does either. The point is that we need to bring all of our best minds together to consider your ideas for a better solution, as well as mine. The only way that we will ever find a better approach is by an open and honest discussion of the evidence and all of the possible approaches to the problem.

For starters, we might just take the recommendations of any major study of drug policy that you like and start from there. (Then hand them a list of the studies of drug policy.)

Well, why don't we legalize murder, and robbery, and all the other crimes, and then we won't have a crime problem.

Drug use and murder are not the same in any sense so this is a silly comparison to begin with. But let's consider this arguments on its merits. There are about 25,000 homicides in the United States each year, and there are about thirty million people who use illegal drugs.

If we had thirty million murderers or robbers, we would have to find another way to deal with the problem, simply because the criminal justice system could not handle the load. This is the case with the drug problem. It doesn't matter whether we want to put all the drug users or dealers in prison, it simply is not possible to do it by any stretch of the imagination.

But that avoids the real issue. The real issue is what is the most effective way to deal with the problem. Even if we all agree that drugs are bad, all of the evidence states that prison only makes the problem worse.

We should make all the drug users get treatment and put all the drug dealers in jail.

Let's suppose I agree with you one hundred percent and I will run out right now and place the order for the new prison cells we will need. Now, please tell me, exactly how many prison cells will we need to build to carry out your plan?

If they say:

I don't know.

That is precisely the problem. No one has ever thought it through as to what it will take to succeed with prison.

Aren't you really promoting drug use?

Not at all, and let me give you example. I personally think that cigars are one of the most disgusting things I have ever encountered. They are addictive, dangerous to the health of the smoker and the people around them, and they smell awful. I will do everything I reasonably can to keep people from smoking them in my presence, and to encourage them to quit. However, at the same time, I have the good sense to recognize that it would not accomplish anything to throw George Burns in jail.

We can't legalize drugs because it would send the wrong message to our children.

How many millions of people should we put in prison to send just the right message?

Is this really the best way you can think of to send a message to children? If you can't do any better than that, perhaps we should be spending our money on some simple courses in basic communication or child-rearing.

We have so many problems with alcohol and tobacco already. Why do you want to add to that?

Maybe you missed something. These drugs are already here. Even the DEA admits that it has never had a significant impact on the drug markets at any time. It is a not a question of adding to anything. It is a question of finding the most effective way to deal with a problem we already have.

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