Any printed out research/e-mail sources.
I: Introductary parapgraph (Done)
II: US drug policy 2013 (done)
III: How do we approach this problem in the US? (done)
IV: The Dutch experiment (done)
V: The Portuguese interpretation of the issue (done)
VI: Swiss liberalism and medical Heroine (almost done)
VII:: Conclusion (need research) (connect the ideas not only to legalization, but a ratification of US drug laws as well)
VIII: Source-list and credits
I: As an outsider looking into American politics, Democrats and Republicans usually can’t agree on many things in Washington or on State level in the American political view. Something clear however to both a Democrat and a Republican in our nation today, is that drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and everything in between is a basis of many problems. It`s a major cause of billions of dollars per year, not taxed for and tons of money for victims harmed due to drugs (white house). Debates have frequently been brought up and discussed regarding legalization of drug-use in the United States without any White House changes on the Drug Policy platform (white house). We have a very divided society in this matter all saying how do we approach this astronomical problem? This research paper will be a deeper look into the problematics with drugs, from drug wars to inside theories from all around the world on legalization of drugs and their experiences. From Amsterdam with legal Marijuana to Switzerland and medical Heroine. With this information, parallels will be drawn to US ideas and standpoints on this issue and our path towards the future. Should we do as the Portuguese, Swiss and Dutch and legalize drugs, is this a beneficial idea to our society?
II: From the early 1960`s drug transporting have been a centralized problem regarding smuggling for the United States. Due to high pricing and demand, traffickers such as Pablo Escobar, military junta and guerrilla leader put up trafficking routes from Colombia to the United States through Mexico (C.Russell). Nowadays Mexico has cut off Colombia and drug transporters from carters jump the US-Mexico border like never before. The most exported item from Mexico is cocaine and the problematic effects around it is found in our nation (C.Russell). From Sinaloa-cartel smugglers to others, traffickers all a misunderstanding on the «from-rags-to-riches» idea and they are fast-forwarding towards trouble. They fight for influence and money and United States public officials gives them heck of a reason to come here. The average hour wage for a drug trafficker can be close to 1 million $, more than many of people in Mexico can earn for decades. US drug policy is outdated focusing more on border security-issues than prevention of the problem (R.King). Drug policy today is divided in two categories according to the book «Drug policy and the public good» written out in a Yale study of the Mexican Drug war and way of solving it for the US.
«Contemporary drug policy can be divided into two broad areas: interventions to control the supply of illegal drugs and programs designed to reduce the demand for drugs» – Thomas S. Fabor. When we examine and grade how governmental drug policy has affected US positively, even the hardest nay-sayers would have problems defending the positive outcome of these policies. As prices increase, the demand for drug trafficking escalates proportionally and the already harmed US border-force will suffer even more. (T. Fabor) The goal for the US policy-makers would obviously be to shrink the demand and our options for doing this as somewhat limited now. As we look at these governmental policies, they have failed us all in one way or another by not shrinking the demand of drugs and reason to smuggle drugs to the US (B, Dolin. R, Branson, J Ostrowski). In this sense for US, many people look towards new ways of solving this problem. As long as we have demand for drugs, they will continue to arrive on US soil so why not shrink the demand by legalization?
In the US per 2013, you have a big taboo around drug-use and an discrimination against drug-addicts «they made a bad choice, they deserve it» is many people`s idea. What about forgiveness for the bad choice, what about reconciling with them at a governmental level? Instead of criminalizing the problem, view it as a social problem in which these people need help in a governmental controlled way (B, Dolin. R, Branson, J Ostrowski). The US drug-policy has failed in many ways, it is costing a lot to sentence all the «criminals», prisons are full and the national debt is rising due to this. Billions of $ are transferred illegally throughout the states that could possibly turn into tax money. Today we have 300.000 in prison for drug crimes, that is the highest in the world. (P. Smith) What if you cut all those expenses and got billions of extra tax money into the government with taxes on drugs? Earlier, alcohol was prohibited and a big illegal market was on rolling in all the big cities. The government realized how much money they lost due to this. Throughout the world we find many nations trying several approaches to the drug-problem, our system is currently among the worst in the world so why not taking foreign influence into account to help our policy on this issue?
III: As we are to examine how to approach the drug-problem in the US, we need to see foreign influence in the context of the drug problem to analyze what`s best for the US. We need to look towards other nations and how they choose to deal with drug policies and their statistics regarding this. Different countries have different policies that could be taken into consideration for own back yard. Since 1976, the Netherlands starting legalizing up to 30 grams Marijuana for the public in Amsterdam and the rest of the nation (Princeton, T. Fabor). The Dutch politicians after hours upon hours with an insolvable problem decided to try to control the usage be legalizing the drug Cannabis and Marijuana (K. O`brien). Two main reasons for this is to prevent a increase of the criminal drug market around the dutch capital. Another reasoning is to increase tax amount coming in from tourism and tax-payments of drugs. It is legal but insanely expensive so the government makes tons of money on this idea of legalization. Amsterdam is a synonym to drug trafficking and liberation worldwide due to this their pro-gateway standpoint (R. MacCoun). As you walk through the streets here, you can see, feel and smell that the dutch have a different approach to drug laws. A pothead`s paradise or a asthmatic`s hell is Amsterdam in a nutshell is The Netherlands described as.
Liberation can be find throughout the tiny flat wind-mill state, not only in Amsterdam regarding drug laws and governmental acceptance for legalization of the stimulating substances banned in most other nations. This theory called «gateway-theory» has been opposed in the US by politicians for centuries. However, as the professors of Yale examined through their analysis on the Mexican drug war, United States have had more criminal troubles than the Dutch for sure In Holland, they took a standpoint to shrink the demand for illegal drugs and take governmental control of it (T. Fabor). They view it simply as a social issue if you are a drug-addict, not a criminal issue (Princeton, K`Obrien) The stigmatization of drug addicts in the US are disgraceful as we view them as less worth than us due to their vague choices previously taken. Con-gateway-theorists have put on an argument saying that legalization stimulates higher usage of cannabis and marijuana. However, when we look at the evidence from studies done by the Drug Research center (RAND) it says that US 15-16 year old are more likely to use these drugs than Dutch people (R.MacCoun). More interesting it gets when you examine data from studies regarding 17-34 year old in Western nations such as France, UK, US, Netherlands, Belgium and others.
When you look at this study, quite extraordinary it is to see that Dutch people have a lower average use of the drug with only 10 % of the people using it. France and UK have more than the doubled amount of users in comparison. Imagine you being a 17 year old high-school student in the US seeking to buy illegal drugs. You either have siblings, friends or others that can give stimulate to your need (T. Fabor). Legalization is not as this study shows the primary cause of high average usage of the drugs. In the United States today as RAND-studies also shows, it is easier to obtain Cannabis-usage than in Netherlands (R. MacCoun, D.Rose). The Dutch approach to the problem is small amount of legalization, 30 grams of so, not free usage as many non-legalizing politicians claim here and often (Princeton). Since the legalization itself is not a reasoning for higher usage, rather a factor important to shrink the illegal demand and put in governmental control and stimulation, this is an interesting way of approaching the problem.
If you disagree with the Dutch approach, you would most likely put on a question sounding like this: «but what about the usage of other drugs»?. The interesting thing about the gateway perception and interpretation of the issue is that the coffee-house model`s goal is to separate the markets to weaken the demand and usage (R. MacCoun). The goal is not to get a higher percent-usage of cannabis-addicts as some people might state though the studies show differently. In Holland with the Dutch gateway system, you can see a successful statistic that would answer the previous question about the other drug usage in a good way. The Netherlands rank lower than many of its European neighbors being situated in the middle of a study chart regarding cocaine, amphetamine and other drugs. The coffee-house model have been yearly examined by RAND to see if this is a solution for US regarding drug usage and policies (R. MacCoun).
Since 1976, this gateway model has worked as predicted by the Dutch politicians and officials. The amount of drug-addicts and users have dropped from 13 % to 7 % since the late 70s/early 80s. With this is mind and all the evidence on the table, why don`t we approach the debates in Washington with these studies in mind? We are so focused in the US on the border war and security along the border that we forget why the drug-traffickers come here to sell drugs (B. Keizer) They come here because it is high demand, it`s illegal and therefore you can make good money. With the Dutch approach you could get more tax-money in, governmental control and stimulation and according to the RAND studies, less addicts where US is top-ranked per 2013. So you tell me why this is a bad idea! (R. MacCoun).
IV: (Site sources from here and all the way throughout the paper)
Drug addicts and problems surrounding this seemingly endless circle of pain and trouble, had throughout the 1980`s a European nation in check-mate. Ranked at the top of drug addicts in Europe with almost 1 % of the population as Heroine addicts and highest AIDS death`s per year. The Portuguese government in Lisbon in 1997 continued to have higher penalties for usage and carrying drugs than other nations. The result in Portugal were more people in jail and more convicts, government spent more money on persecutions and things got worse. As descriptions are coming from Portugal, does it seem similar to US with criminalized interpretation of the issue? This nation located in the south-west corner of the continent and borders Spain needed a different approach to the problem. Desperate for change, they all took a very different way of this issue, the Portuguese took a stand different from every other nation, decriminalizing personal drug use totally. The Netherlands in comparison, have not decriminalized the whole issue, they`ve put up a gateway-system to split the markets, yet you cannot buy all drugs freely there only Marijuana and Cannabis. However, you have a limit for personal use, 1g for Heroine, 5g for Marijuana and other requirements on other drugs in Portugal. The Portuguese interpretation of the drug issue is that it is a public-health problem, therefore the government should regulate drug usage to stimulate the amount of addicts. This way of thinking is in strict contrast to most of the western world and US seeing the issue mostly as a criminalized issue, not a public-health issue needing to be dealt with by the government.
The portuguese realize that people will misuse this system and when done dealers or others carrying the higher amount of drugs than legal, will be sentenced to a 3-person court. This court consists of a judge, lawyer and a psychologist. Instead of throwing people into jail where you will continue the usage most likely, this system gives you a chance for help in rehab or other places. According to the President of Drugs and Drugs addiction, Joao Goulao,
«The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s».
This quote shows as most sources give the idea of, that this system have helped decriminalizing the issue and turned it into a public health problem. You have brought the addicts out of the shadows and helped more people than before due to this. The idea of decriminalization and legalization is exactly this, to decrease the amount of addicts and people in jail to save federal money and help more people. This Portuguese interpretation is highly discussable on both sides, yet it is possible to draw parallels between the successes of Dutch drug policy and Portuguese decriminalization.
We can see that high penalties lead in Portugal in the 80`s and 90`s to more governmental spendings and more convicts/addicts in jail. Glen Greenwald, a psychiatrist studying drug abuse and trends around the world for the Cato-institute in D.C explained the idea of decriminalization in regard to the Portuguese mind-set this way:
«Now instead of being put into prison, addicts are going to treatment centers and they`re learning how to control their drug usage or getting off drugs entirely.»
Dealers in Portugal are too jailed, you still have sentences for people misusing the idea. The essence of Portuguese legalization and the contrasts from most countries on drugs such as LSD, cocaine, Heroine and others is that Portugal believes that drug legalization turns the problem from a criminalized problem to a public-health problem. You will therefore in contrast to criminalizing drug-policy favorers, have less people in jail and less public-money spent on the issue as the Portuguese studies show from the 90`s until now. In Portugal, legalization didn’t turn the nation into a drug mecca but it increased the amount of people getting help for their drug issue and put the addicts away from the shadows. The legalization itself is not the entire reasoning for the good results, but this combined with the judicial system and governmental control has all stimulated and helped this nation recover from being the worst ranked in Europe, to a decent positioning on this scale in contrast to anti-gateway and anti-legilizational countries such as UK, (RAND) US, France and others. The European Drug Addiction society is in opposition to the Portuguese idea on decriminalization, stating that it has increased the amount of drugs used in Portugal, in these ten years after passing the decriminalization law.
They claim that Portugal is worse off with this law passed, and it the situation for the addicts is now somewhat worse than before. It`s fairly understandable that the European study research center is against anything radical being old-fashioned and not willing to be radical on this issue. The decriminalization and bringing addicts out of the shadows, is being human and a helpful Samaritan to these people having problems. To say that the addicts are worse off, makes no sense when the RAND studies earlier stated shows differently. Spain was worse off than Portugal after this idea came into action, this is in opposition to what the European research center says (RAND). The EMCDDA also says that the amount of HIV-killings have increased in Portugal regarding the decriminalization. This is hard to believe when Joao Goulao, president of the Portuguese research center for drug abuse says this idea has decreased the HIV deaths by half. This has been done by allowing the addicts to buy legal drug-accesories so the spread of HIV by using these many times would decrease. The idea for EMCDDA is that decriminalization is too radical when in reality it has had more effect than the idea Portugal portrayed back in 1997-1999 with increase in penalties and spending on the issue. Legalization is not the perfect idea, it is hard to find an ideal way of solving the drug issue since it`s so complex. When you look at the legalization in Portugal however, compared to the increase of problems in US, you should at least be able to discuss this idea in a US-courthouse without being viewed as a pothead or a dangerous radical.
US are not the only country refusing to change the drug-policy into a more pioneer-way of approaching the problem. Russia is home to over 1 million HIV victims, many of these drug addicts seeking a better future and a life free from drugs. Ratification in drug-policies have the goal usually to be decriminalizing the issue or splitting the markets as the Dutch politicians seek (gateway-theory). These theories have been debated and discussed frequently in regard to their efficiency and way of helping the addicts. As a drug addict in Russia, you would have no help from government. One theory put into action that has a universal recognition for being well-structured and successful is the Swiss drug-policy ideology. The Swiss believe in substitutional treatment for Heroine addicts offering methadone and buprenorphine by reception from a governmental doctor in Switzerland. The aim of this is to avoid Heroine users seeking cheap Heroine and risking getting AIDS or other similar diseases due to germ spreading of the drug-equipment. Some US states have taken parts of the Swiss idea into reality but not the whole picture.
Critics say that the Swiss idea leads to higher Heroine addiction and a higher number of new drug addicts similar to the idea of critics regarding legalization in general. Studies from several sources however contradict the critical perception of this new interpretation of the issue that the Swiss has shown as a pioneer in this field. Carlos Nordt and Rudolf Stohler took this challenge into their own hands through a study at the Zurich Psychiatric University hospital. Their goal was to show the critics how the Swiss system was reforming, needed and helpful to the Heroine addicts. Through this study the two scientists analyzed 7200 patients in Zurich using the governmental subsidized drugs as methadone or others. Their results were quite extraordinary as they discovered that this system works as the new Heroine addicts dropped from 850 to 150 in seven years in this Swiss metropolitan city. Dr. Nordt explains the Swiss way of dealing with it in contrast to other nations like this:
Dr Nordt states this in his research from Zurich:
«As the Swiss population supported this drug policy, this medicalisation of opiate dependence changed the image of heroin use as a rebellious act to an illness that needs therapy. Finally, heroin seems to have become a ‘loser drug’, with its attractiveness fading for young people.»
The swiss system is set up in a four pillar structure focusing on prevention, treatment, harm-reduction and enforcement. The Swiss realized that the need for the addicts are not to be stapled as failures, rather as people in need of help from the government. Throughout the world the Swiss is viewed as pioneers in successful drug-policy that have been adapted around the world with good structure as the four pillars shows, a scientific back-bone to their actions and with marvelous results in regard to decreasing the amount of drug addicts in Switzerland. The critics will stay on their point of Swiss drug-policy leading to higher amount of addicts and longer period of addiction for the people involved. To those people, look at the stats that Dr. Nordt and others have discovered. This is not a black/white issue, it is way more complex than that. The Swiss ratified the drug-laws with good results regarding Heroine-addicts. They introduced a so-called «Needle-Park» where the Heroine addicts could come to find safe equipment to do their drugs to prevent the spreading of HIV and other diseases. In this park addicts could take their drugs in a safe environment etc.
It is still illegal to buy other drugs in Switzerland such as cannabis, marijuana and others. It is therefore a ratified drug-policy theory yet different than the decriminalization in Portugal and the gateway-theory in the Netherlands. Partially the Swiss may have similar problems as the US regarding different drugs such as marijuana and others, yet they have found a good solution to decrease the amount of Heroine addicts and HIV-positives that is definitely worth considering in all nations!
VI: US policy are not ideal in this issue, we have a universal recognition with US politicians that drugs are a big problem yet no steadfast way of solving the problem. When politicians are to choose a path for the future, there is not a dream solution. Both solutions will benefit some parts and harm others, it`s just on of those types of issues. If you however look at Switzerland, Portugal or at the Netherlands, you have several approaches that would benefit the user, the public and our national debt bringing in more tax money. The policy now is not ideal, old-fashioned and when we have an examination, not the best for a US society. With this in mind, what path should the US take? You can see that criminalizing the drugs does not work, from prohibition in the 1920s to drug-laws today. The taboo of drug users are still there, they are still in the darkness without having their problems being recognized as a public health issue like smoking cigarettes. The way in which US can solve this is however not a single thing, but a new reformed drug-policy focusing more on the ideas from Europe. This is a complex issue, don`t get the stats wrong but it is an issue in which people are in need of help. Look at how government based methadone helped the Swiss, look at how decriminalization helped the Portuguese or how low Dutch stats for 15/16 years old are compared to the US. Legalization has a stereo-typical attitude connected to it in this nation to stupidity and too liberal. However, no matter what you say about legalization, decriminalization or other drug approaches, results have been shown that are more beneficial than our system, it has helped other nations in several ways. Therefore in the next congressional debate, maybe a ratified US drug-law would`t be the worst idea? Nevertheless the outcome of that debate, something needs to be done and opportunities are there for that exact purpose right before our nose.
US drug law sources:
ttp://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2012/dec/17/us_has_330000_drug_offenders_pri – US has 300.000 drug offenders in Prison – Philipp Smith – web
Dutch drug sources:
Portuguese drug law sources:
Swiss drug law sources: