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The Drug Debate
The Drug Debate
For over twenty years the drug debate has been argued over and over. The drug war in the United States has been historically seen as a costly, yet necessary component of public policy; a policy that has been under substantial political fire for years. As we enter a new century, many are reconsidering their feelings towards the drug war. Critics cite the billions of dollars spent every year as well as the overflowing prison problem as reasons to cut back, and even legalize some or all recreational drugs. Those who are in favor of the war on drugs encourage its funding and continuation because of the perceived link between drugs and crime, and the detrimental health effects and medical economic impact that illegal drugs have on the body. There is a growing trend among Americans that is pushing for the legalization or, at least, the regulation of drugs by the government. However, the consensus in American society is to keep drugs illegal and these philosophies are evidenced in the political policies of America. By taking a look at the approach of these policies, the pros and cons of drug legalization can be assessed.
The concern of the public and politicians has made for a storied history in the American drug war. To better understand the pros and cons of legalization, an understanding of the history of the American drug war must first be accomplished with a description of this issue. The beginning of the American war on drugs first began with the passing of the Harrison Act in 1914. Public pressure for national controls over narcotic and cocaine sales finally led to the Harrison Act of 1914. The act required the payment of a small tax every time a drug changed hands, from the manufacturer down to the doctor or pharmacist. The government used taxes to control availability and sale of drugs. The act also required registration of all physicians and pharmacists and made opiates and cocaine available only by prescription. In 1919, the act was expanded to prevent physicians from freely prescribing habit-forming opiates. On the heels of the restricting legislation in 1919 came the 18th Amendment in 1920, which began prohibition. At this time, alcohol was made an illegal substance just as narcotics where made illegal six years earlier by the Harrison Act. The advent of the Jones-Miller act in 1922 furthered the restrictions on illegally obtained narcotics such as heroin and opium (Hamid, 1998: 88). Marijuana, a drug at the center of the legalization argument, has been used as a medicine and an intoxicant for thousands of years in many parts of the world. Marijuana was not originally included in the Harrison Act but achieved illegal status on its own. In the United States, state and local laws have prohibited marijuana use since the early 1900’s, and by federal law since 1937. The war on drugs continued throughout the twentieth century and remained at the forefront of public opinion. “Concern over the use and abuse of illegal d
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