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|The Drug Legalization Debate|
Myths and Misconceptions of Drug Legalization - US Dept. of Justice
Chapter Eight: Individual Rights and the Legalization of Drugs
I. Their Argument
Although proponents of legalization do not rely upon this argument very much any more, a traditional response of the legalizers was that "It's my body and I have a right to do with it as I please so long as I'm the only one affected." This is called the Individual Autonomy argument.
II. Our Argument
The obvious flaw with the Individual Autonomy argument, and the reason why it is not used much any more, is the simple fact that drug use does affect other people. Indeed, this entire manual is in large part a collection of reasons and examples as to how drug use affects not only the individual, but also innocent third-parties and society at large. But for the sake of clarity, let us iterate and expand upon these points.
First, drug use increases crime - and consequently harms other people - in at least three different ways. For a discussion of this, please see Chapter Two.
Second, drug use by pregnant women causes in utero damage to the fetus. Children born of cocaine mothers have three times the mortality rate and four times the low birth-weight as children born of normal mothers.143 Similarly, "coke babies" tend to have emotional traits similar to those found in people with antisocial personality disorders.144 Unfortunately, the same mothers who are most likely to damage their children in this way are also the least likely to seek professional help and treatment.145
Third, drug abuse closely correlates to child abuse. For example, in Philadelphia, cocaine is implicated in half of the cases in which parents beat their children to death, and in 80% of all abuse cases. 146 In the District of Columbia, 90% of those reported for child abuse were substance abusers. 147 In 1984 the Legal Aid Society in New York City handled 3,3 10 abuse and neglect cases in the city. By 1989 it was handling more than 24,000.148 What happened? Crack did, beginning in 1985. Sixty percent of abuse and neglect cases involved drug allegations. 149 The number of children wounded and killed by stray bullets in tragic drive-by shootings pales in comparison to the impact of cocaine in the over 1,200 child abuse murders in 1989.150 But these problems are not mere statistics - they are horror stories. In San Francisco, a woman who was freebasing cocaine gave birth to twins on her living room floor. She continued to freebase and let her children die unattended.
Fourth, drug use, like alcohol use, is responsible for a large percentage of automobile accidents in the United States. In Maryland, 32% of car crash victims tested positive for marijuana.152
Fifth, drug use among pilots and train operators also leads to accidents. Recall the Conrail disaster discussed in Chapter Four, wherein 16 people were killed and 175 were injured because the train operators were high on marijuana. Furthermore, a study conducted by Stanford University found that 24 hours after smoking one joint, pilots could not safely land a plane.153
Sixth and finally, consider all of the economic and social costs associated with drug use in our
society-costs that equate to tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity, higher taxes, and increased insurance premiums.
In short, few people use the Individual Autonomy argument any more because it is painfully
obvious that drug use affects not only the individual user, but also the user's family, innocent third parties, and society as a whole.
143 Ken Auletta, "Six doses of reality are injected in the argument for legal drugs," New York
Daily News, December 17, 1989 (citing Dr. Karla Damus, director of research and epidemiology for the Bureau of Maternity Services).
145 James Q. Wilson, "Against the Legalization of Drugs," Commentary, February 1990.
146 Robert E. Peterson, "Legalization: The Myth Exposed," in Searching for Alternatives:
Control Policy in the United States, Hoover Institution Press, 1991
148 George Will, "The Children's Passage of Pain," Washington Post, May 1, 1994.
150 Robert E. Peterson, "Legalization: The Myth Exposed," in Searching for Alternatives: Drug Control Policy in the United States, Hoover Institution Press, 1991
151 Arguments Against the Legalization of Drugs," Drug Abuse Update, September 1988.
152 Marsh Keith Schuchard, "Marijuana: An Environmental Pollutant," Publication of the
National Parent's Resource Institute for Drug Education.
153 Rosanna Creighton & Jeffrey Kushner, "Legalizing Drugs is Not the Answer," Drug
Awareness Information Newsletter.
Chapter Eight Summary Sheet: Individual Rights and the Legalization of Drugs
If they say...
I should be allowed to use drugs because I'm the only one affected.
Then you say...
Drug use causes increased crime. [see Chapter Two].
Drug use by pregnant mothers causes in utero damage to the fetus. Specifically, it increases the risk of mortality three-fold and the risk of low birth-weight four-fold. [Ken Auletta, "Six doses of reality are injected in the argument for legal drugs," New York Daily News, December 17, 1989 (citing Dr. Karla Dainus)].
Drug use causes child abuse. In Philadelphia, cocaine is implicated in half of the cases in which parents beat their children to death, and in 80% of all abuse cases. In the District of Columbia, 90% of those reported for child abuse were substance abusers. [Robert E. Peterson, "Legalization: The Myth Exposed," in Searching for Alternatives: Drug Control Policy in the United States, Hoover Institution Press, 1991 ].
Drug use plays a large part in automobile accidents. In Maryland, 32% of car crash victims tested positive for marijuana. [Marsha Keith Schuchard, "Marijuana: An Environmental Pollutant," Publication of the National Parent's Resource Institute for Drug Education].
Drug use also causes pilots and train conductors to have accidents. Recall the Conrail disaster discussed in Chapter Four, in which 16 people died and 175 were injured. [see Chapter Four]. Also, a study conducted by Stanford University showed that 24 hours after smoking one joint, pilots could not safely land a plane. [Rosanna Creighton & Jeffrey Kushner, "Legalizing Drugs is Not the Answer," Drug Awareness Information Newsletter].
Drug use costs society billions of dollars in lost
productivity, taxes, and higher insurance premiums. [see Chapter
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DRCNet Library | Schaffer Library | The Drug Legalization Debate
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
Major Studies of Drug and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Licit and Illicit Drugs
Short History of the Marijuana Laws
The Drug Hang-Up
Congressional Transcripts of the Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
Frequently Asked Questions About Drugs
Basic Facts About the Drug War
Charts and Graphs about Drugs
Information on Alcohol
Guide to Heroin - Frequently Asked Questions About Heroin
LSD, Mescaline, and Psychedelics
Drugs and Driving
Children and Drugs
Drug Abuse Treatment Resource List
American Society for Action on Pain
Let Us Pay Taxes
Marijuana Business News
Reefer Madness Collection
Medical Marijuana Throughout History
Drug Legalization Debate
Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition
Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years
DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
Legal References on Drugs
GAO Documents on Drugs
Response to the Drug Enforcement Agency
|Drug Information Articles|
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