Tag: decriminalize

Morality Should Not Determine Legality

By Ian Brzeski | United States

For many people, morality is relatively subjective. To some, sex before marriage is a sin, and to others, it is perfectly reasonable. Some people love taking drugs, and others are appalled by them. People of all kinds differ in their values on these issues and on many others such as access to guns, homosexuality, and prostitution. Whether or not committing a particular act falls under someone’s values, everyone should realize that committing victimless “crimes” should not be punished by the state.

What are Victimless Crimes?

In essence, a victimless crime is a “crime” under the law where there is no identifiable victim. It is performed when no other person or party is involved in the action taking place beside the perpetrator or consenting adults. Consuming drugs is a prime example of a victimless crime. The only party that person would potentially be harming in that act alone would be himself. He or she willingly chose to engage in this act; thus, there is no victim. The same goes for that person when they engage in obtaining the drugs through consensual means. These means include joining into a contract with his “dealer.” The two adults here both agree on terms in this exchange. The dealer provides the drugs, and the consumer provides a means of exchange for his desired goods, presumably money.

Freedom of Choice

Locking people up like caged animals for committing victimless, nonviolent crime is complete nonsense. It does not matter what a person’s morality says about drugs. One could think that they are awful and downright immoral, but that does not change the fact people can do as they please as long as no other person is harmed or brought into unwanted affairs. Those people, out of their own free will, chose to engage in that exchange and then go on with their lives as they please. Nobody was hurt, and everything was purely consensual. Fundamentally, it is not that much different than going out and buying groceries.

If you do not like drugs, don’t do them. Nobody forces you to take them, and if somebody does force you, then that is a crime in itself as it takes away your freedom to make those decisions for yourself. Just as people want the freedom to decide to say no to drugs, others should also have the freedom to take drugs without fear of being imprisoned by the state. It is inconceivable to think that drug abusers belong in a prison cell. Drug abusers need help, not prison time.

While incredible amounts of funding have gone towards decreasing drug use, the drug addiction rate is the same as it was about 40-50 years ago. Instead of spending over a trillion dollars in incarcerating these people, spending should be focused on helping these addicts. Portugal decided to do this about 17 years ago, decriminalizing all drug use and focused their spending on rehabilitation for drug users. At one point, about 1% of Portugal’s population were drug abusers, and now that number has been halved.

The same decriminalization practices should be used for prostitution, pornography, owning guns, and any other victimless crime. If you do not like any of these things, then don’t partake in them- it’s as simple as that. Not to mention that decriminalizing and accepting all of these would make them safer. No more back alley pimps who abuse and drug their prostitutes to make a quick buck. No more sketchy and untrusting drug dealers who may lace their products. No more massive cartels as the majority of their products would be legally imported in the country; thus, losing the majority of their funding. Everything listed here would run as a legitimate business which would then promote competition, naturally making these businesses safer. Interdiction on all of these things is no different from the prohibition of alcohol, and we all know how well that went.

Legalization in Amsterdam

I recently went to Amsterdam where marijuana, certain psychedelic drugs, and prostitution are all legal. The prostitution is all kept in one sector of the city, known as the Red Light District. The Red Light District was bustling with people and seemed as if it were just another business center. These businesses are basically “forced” to care for the health of their laborers as they would have an incentive to because it would be horrible for business if one of their workers had some disease such as an STD. One could find drugs anywhere, but nobody is forcing others to take them. If you want to smoke a blunt, then you can, and if you do not want to, then you do not have to.

The overall cleanliness of the city was surprising. One would think that by allowing drug use and prostitution, the city would be pretty dirty, but that is not true in the slightest. Homeless people and garbage on the streets were not to be found, at least from my experience. Amsterdam has experimented with decriminalizing some of these victimless crimes, and it seems to be going pretty well for them.

Victimless crimes are not real crimes. People should not be punished for doing things that do not harm others or their property, and we must put an end to decades of government control over people’s choice of how they treat their bodies.


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The Best Way to Stop Crime Before it Happens

Thomas Calabro | United States

Perhaps one of the most polarizing debates in our political environment is how to prevent crime from happening. This is a legitimate issue to debate as we desire security from threats against us. But the fear of crime usually leads us to the inclination of sacrificing our constitutional freedoms for “security”. For most of these cases, the inclination is utilized by politicians who harp on these emotions to instill a greater requirement to implement their policies. They wish to be the heroes that stopped crime and saved our society violence by providing more tools for the local and federal governments, and seizing our rights to privacy, to bear arms, and to live peacefully.

There are those who oppose these policies and call for protecting our constitutional rights, these so called “heroes” rebuke by delegitimize the rights and liberties being violated. Those rights are portrayed as a risk for flourishing more crime, and are not even protected by the constitution. If this tactic of disparaging their opponents argument fails their next move is to simplify the argument to this context to either preserving liberty or obtaining security. But rather than using more direct approaches that sacrifices our rights, we should focus on the indirect approach of not creating the crime in the first place.

We should not support policies that create instability in the world, and lead to insurgency groups retaliating against us for creating chaos. It is easier to understand why radical groups rise up to attack an intruding country when you think in terms of China invading the US. This is a point that many view as equating the US to terrorists, but should be seen as an acknowledgment that many will react to situations in similar ways. Viewing those in the Middle East as different from us detracts the ability to fully understand their actions as very similar to what ours would have been if we were in that same scenario. We would not end terrorism by detracting from our current interventionist foreign policy, as that would likely not be the case. However, reducing instability in the world would prevent more groups from rising from power vacuums, especially those that are provided arms by the US, that will be used later against our troops.

We should start asking “Why” a perpetrator would commit a heinous crime rather than “How.” Looking at the psychological, social, and cultural issues of a group, and understanding why people from this group commit violent crimes, is a reasonable way to notice a pattern that ultimately leads to violence. Yet many refuse to look in this way and instead focus on the tools used in the process. The idea of prohibiting the use of this item from some, or even all, and hoping to stop a plotted attempt has grown popular in todays society, providing a “quick fix” that will supposedly save the day. But this not only threatens the individual liberty of each law abiding American, it also may have unintended consequences, simply leading some to find other ways to obtain these goods and perpetrate acts of evil. By looking at the causes of acts of violence, we may find a more disturbing fact in our society that drives people to take the lives of others, and create new strategies to fix this permanently.

Finally we should question whether the crime is really harmful. We should be a country  with citizens that abide to the laws, but the laws that we follow must be reasonable and follow the very principles of our country. We must understand that not all laws truly follow the principles of this country, and to keep them around is to approve of their purpose in our country.  If we are to uphold the principles of our Country to make the US a symbol of liberty, we should look at our past mistakes of infringing on American’s freedoms to make sure they are corrected in our present and will never happen again in our future.


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How Portugal Is Winning The War On Drugs

By Andrew Lepore | United States

Recently, stigma had decreased about addiction as we learn more about it. As a result, our approach to solving the problem has changed. For the last 75 years, the attitude toward drugs was zero tolerance, and the solution to the problem of addiction has been punitive rather than rehabilitative.

Baby steps are being taken towards legalization by many countries around the world, the most significant being Portugal which in 2001 decriminalized possession of all substances in small amounts. The move saw relatively widespread support, many seeing the drug war to be a massive waste and failure, believing that there are better ways to handle addiction than harsh punishment.

But not everybody supported the move, some were in opposition claiming addiction rates will spike and Portugal will simply become Europe’s new center of Narco-Tourism.

It is 2018 now, 17 years later, and the decriminalization efforts have seen extraordinary success.

Portugal’s serious drug problem began in 1974. Previous to that year, addiction rates were at a normal level correlating similarly to other countries in Europe. In that year, Portugal’s longtime fascist dictatorship fell to a leftist democratic coup called what came to be known as Carnation Revolution.

Due to various factors, the country was flooded with drugs. Many experts attribute this spike in drug usage rates to many migrating from former colonies and other underdeveloped nations to Portugal, many of which were outsiders and sometimes criminals, who used drugs fully illegal in Portugal at the time. With the spike of drug usage came a rise in HIV, crime rates, and, of course, addiction.

The solution put forth by the Portuguese government was no surprise. They tried harsher penalties for drug offenders and more money being funneled into law enforcement and the drug war.

Despite a more authoritarian approach being taken, the situation continued to degrade. By the late 1990’s, Portugal had the highest rate of drug related AIDS deaths in the entire EU and heroin addiction reached an astonishing 1% of the population. Drug usage was rampant and little could be done to stop it. With so much resources being funneled into the war on drugs, crime rates had reached an all time high.

With the approach at the time failing so miserably, Portuguese officials understood they needed to make a drastic shift in strategy. They came to the conclusion that hardcore criminalization was not the answer to the problem. They decided to do an experiment which no other Western Nations had tried, decriminalization, rehabilitation rather than punitive punishment.

The new Portuguese policy regarding drugs consisted of a decriminalization of personal use of narcotics. This meant one would not be legally penalized for using and possessing a certain quantity of drugs defined as the amount for personal use of up to 10 days. Drug traffickers do still receive a legal penalty for the sale and trafficking of drugs, although the penalties are just a fraction of the penalty received for the same crime in the United States and many other European nations.

Many were in favor of the new approach, but as with any radical change, many were also in opposition. They suspected the situation would just get worse and worse. “How could making it easier for drug users going to make the situation any better?” they said.

Despite what the statists, fearmongers, and those who followed them said about the dangers of decriminalizing drugs in Portugal, the country has seen astounding and unprecedented results.

The rate of drug usage has been slowly but steadily declining since decriminalization; they went from a country with one of the highest drug usage rates in the EU, to falling below the European average.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation; the fall in usage may be because of other factors, but it shows decriminalization does not cause more drug usage. Data as shown in the graphs below:

 

 

 

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Despite what refuting groups claim, the drug overdose rate has fallen drastically since decriminalization.

Certain organizations such as the World Federation of Drugs will mislead people by claiming that by measuring “the number of people who died with traces of any illicit drug in their body”, the number of overdose deaths in Portugal has in fact increased. This claim was easily debunked, given an individual can be deceased with trace amounts of drugs in their body, without the drugs having anything do do with their deaths.

The number taken as the standard for the internationally accepted measure of overdoses and drug related deaths is a clinical assessments made by physicians, rather than toxicological tests. According to this measure, deaths due to drug use or overdose have decreased significantly – from approximately 80 in 2001, to 16 in 2012. This correlation may be indicative of causation due to the fact drug users have safer environments and methods to use than previous to decriminalization.

Drug related HIV and AIDs diagnosis’ have been steadily decreasing since decriminalization. This is another example where correlation can actually be attributed to causation. Decriminalization put an emphasis on harm reduction, and allowed addicts to more easily use in clean environments. Below is a graph of newly diagnosed cases of HIV and AIDS among drug users.

 

 

As you can probably tell, in relation to drug harm statistics, decriminalization in Portugal has been a very large success. Although this is by no means a final solution, and it is far from a libertarian ideal for personal responsibility of the substances you consume without state interference.

This is in an essential step in the right direction, though.

The direction of convincing the world that not only is it immoral for the state to impose its will on its subjects through the initiation of force, but it is self-defeating to do so. The authoritarian solution to a problem always exacerbates the problem itself , as seen in Portugal before decriminalization, and the United States today.

Portugal has stepped up and set an example for the world. It has shown that the traditional solution to drug addiction, which was attempting to suppress through iron fist of government, is not the most moral nor efficient means of solving the problem. Hopefully, the world follows Portugal’s example and takes steps to end the 75-year-old worldwide tyranny of the war on drugs.


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California Kicks Off 2018 With Statewide Legalization Of Marijuana, Kinda

By Emily Merrell | CALIFORNIA

A law in California kicked in on the New Year allowing anybody 21 or over to grow up to six plants of marijuana, own one ounce, as they join Oregon, Colorado, and New Mexico into recreational pot legalization. California legislature voted on the law in November 2016, which has given many licensed retailers to sell marijuana.

“It’s been so long since people could walk into a place and feel safe and secure and be able to get something good without going into  a back alley.” Says Jeff Deakin who waited outside a dispensary with his wife in Oakland before opening.

While the laws are not perfect; no purchasing before 6 AM or after 10 PM, no use in vehicles (even if you’re a passenger), no smoking in public places, etc. this is only one step in a direction towards freedom for drug users.

Marijuana purchasers will also be heavily taxed, as they are in other states where the plant is legalized. California is imposing an increase of 15% tax on all pot sales and in Oakland taxes for pot users will increase from 14.25% to 34.25%. This is creating a 70% increase in marijuana cost overall for users, which will give the state a predicted seven billion dollars in revenue.

While this looks like a step in the right direction, it also isn’t. The state is using the drug to increase taxation which is unnecessary. Yes, marijuana users can now smoke freely in private places. But, they will also have heavy regulation and have to pay a huge price for it. This is the same case in other marijuana legalized states, however, it just proves that the state is here to regulate what we do no matter what.

However, there is one more bright side. The more states that legalize marijuana, the less evil it will look like to the public eye that still alienates it. The people may even start to judge the state more and question its regulations. This is one step in the right direction while giving pot users the right to put what they want in their body. We still have a long way to go, though.

 

The Illegal War on Drugs

By Eric Lee | USA

Since the ratification of the Constitution in 1789, the federal government has expanded exponentially. Voter apathy, the misguided good intentions of many, and the malicious lust for power of a select few have combined to create a massive, labyrinthine bureaucracy that constantly interferes with the lives of the citizens whose rights it is entrusted with defending. Symptomatic of this trend is the War on Drugs, a stellar example of the federal government’s unconstitutional expansion and abuse of power. Acting of its own volition, the federal government has inverted the Constitution and given itself the power to decide what substances can be possessed by the individual, and in its zeal to protect Americans from their own questionable decisions, has stomped on the rights of the individual. In theory and in practice, the war on drugs is unconstitutional, and it is well past time for this illegal crusade against certain substances to cease.

The regulation of controlled substances within state boundaries is well outside the realm of federal authority. Congress is given very specific powers, and the regulation of various substances is not one of those powers. This is left up to the states, as per the Tenth Amendment’s requirement that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people” (Constitution of the United States). According to Laurence M. Vance of New American, since Congress is not authorized to regulate such matters, it would take a constitutional amendment to ban drugs such as heroin, marijuana, or cocaine, just as a constitutional amendment had to be ratified to ban alcohol and enact Prohibition, a horrific failure in its own right (Vance 5). However, in Gonzales v. Raich (2005), the Supreme Court held that since Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce, it also has the power to regulate anything that might affect interstate commerce. As a result, it declared that the DEA’s destruction of privately grown marijuana plants, earmarked for personal medical use and legal under California state law, was constitutional. The fact that the small-scale cultivation of plants is neither interstate nor commerce, nor has any effect on interstate commerce, was seen as inconsequential (Gonzales). The idea that there can be blanket bans on naturally growing plants under the guise of regulating commerce is ridiculous. By this logic, Congress could ban the interstate transport of apple juice, and send federal agents out to destroy the nation’s apple trees in pursuit of its goal. In his dissent, Justice Thomas saw the dangerous folly of the ruling, reasoning that “if Congress can regulate [marijuana cultivation] under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything- and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers” (Gonzales). Despite the preposterous legalese that the government uses to shroud its excesses, the federal government never had and never will have the authority to ban drugs, barring a future constitutional amendment.

Even if we pretend that the federal government had the authority to launch a war on drugs, it is undeniable that civil liberties have been violated many times in pursuit of its goals. In drug cases, the Fourth Amendment has been shredded. Probable cause is no longer necessary to obtain a warrant, and evidence from searches undergone without a proper warrant has been used in court. According to Judge Robert W. Sweet, “these holdings have been characterized as ‘the drug exception to the Fourth Amendment.’” The idea that the government can kick down your door based on the “good faith” of a police officer or “anonymous tips and tips from informants known to be corrupt and unreliable” and then use that evidence in court against you is a “debasement of the rule of law” (Buckley et al. 15-16). Thanks to a drug-related case, the Supreme Court now views probable cause as “a fluid concept- turning on the assessment of probabilities in particular factual contexts–not readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules” (Illinois v. Gates). This standard is not one conducive to the defense of privacy rights. It leaves much up to interpretation, and there will inevitably be certain judges that stretch the “fluid concept” of probable cause to ridiculous and disturbing levels. Of course, illegal invasions of privacy are the only way to realistically restrict drug use, as few people are going to call the police to inform them of a nearby consensual sale or the smell of burning marijuana. As Ethan A. Nadelmann, former professor of political science at Princeton University, puts it, no endeavor meant to keep people from exercising their right to self-determination “can succeed so long as we remain a free society, bound by our Constitution” (Buckley et al. 5). Americans must choose between keeping their constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure or preventing their neighbor from smoking a joint, and it is fairly clear which road we should go down. In recent years, the war on drugs has been the primary catalyst in the destruction of our Fourth Amendment rights, and it is time for the erosion to stop.

The federal war on drugs is quite possibly the greatest attack on constitutional law in the history of the United States. The federal government has taken it upon itself to hunt down and punish Americans for ingesting substances into their own bodies, and has trampled over the rights of everyone in their zest to capture a select view. If Americans are to preserve the remaining scraps of federalism and privacy rights, they must reverse this trend of ever-increasing federal power and ever-more-lax restrictions on search and seizure. The American people are walking down the road to the gallows of the Constitution and the death of limited government, and it is imperative that we turn down a different path before we lose other fundamental rights.

Works Cited
Buckley Jr., Wm. F., and Others. “The War on Drugs Is Lost.” National Review 1996 feb: 34-48. Web. 4 Sept. 2017.
“The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription.” National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Web.
“GONZALES v. RAICH.” Web. 4 Sept. 2017.
“ILLINOIS v. GATES ET UX.” Web. 4 Sept. 2017.
Vance, Laurence M. “The Other Unconstitutional War.” New American 2011 nov: 20-24. Web. 4 Sept. 2017.