Pubdate: Fri, 03 Oct 2008
Source: Daily Campus, The (UConn, CT Edu)
Copyright: 2008 ThesDaily Campus
Author: Rachel Antony-Levine


In the article "Criminalization best deterrent against drugs," [Oct.
2, 2008] the author presents information in support of criminalizing
drug abuse that would more appropriately be used against such
arguments. The author mentions, "there are enough drugs controlled by
the doctors in government that are already abused," and cites
"painkillers" as an example. Many find this a compelling reason for
the prescription of medicinal marijuana for pain since it is not
physically addicting like painkillers and less likely to cause
physical harm. The author points out how several prescription
medications are sold on the street, but unless she is arguing for the
full criminalization of all addictive prescription drugs, then her
argument seems to misdirect the point.

While the author paints drug addicts as harmful to everyone around
them and suggests that criminalization can effectively curb future
drug use, the author ignores that the bigger threats to society are
the drug lords and drug peddlers - not the users. The illegalization
of certain drugs effectively creates the black market for them and
thus creates a significant criminal environment. The United States'
approach to drug use sees higher drug related crime than their
European counterparts.

Criminalization does not deter future drug use, but rather entraps
victims in a vicious cycle. Illicit drugs are more readily accessible
in prison, and the culture often encourages new types and greater
severities of addiction. Some approaches used in Europe allow users to
be rehabilitated while weaning future users of addictive substances,
but that can only come with the governments' allowing people to be
open about their substance abuse and be allowed to slowly be weaned
off of it, as opposed to incarcerating them.

The prison systems are over-filled with drug related felons when it
would be more appropriate to fill them with violent offenders. There
is no logical reason to effectively bar young people from an education
and meaningful employment in order to make a point.

Megan [Lynch]'s piece ["Criminalization best deterrent against
drugs,"] seems to reflect a general skepticism about ending drug
prohibition that I believe stems from a fundamental misunderstanding
of the effects and purposes of laws.

This is a crucial problem that we need to address not only to tackle
our country's problems with crime and drug abuse, but also our place
in this country, as people and as students.

I think Megan starts with the assumption that laws are there to make
us safe, which many people would agree with, but she doesn't offer a
perspective on how exactly this happens. Do laws somehow physically
stop us from doing certain things? Do laws merely deter us from doing
those things? Do laws encourage us to do other things? It seems that a
temptation would be to make every bad thing someone could do illegal,
and then somehow, these activities would just not get done.

But I think that the laws that put people in jail for non-violent drug
offenses do only one thing: provide a calculable risk. In other words,
they don't do any of the things listed above, they only provide
another factor that the illegal businessman, just like the legal
businessman must factor into his costs of production and pass on to
his consumer.

So, even though I agree with Megan's statement that it is important to
protect people from drug addicts, I don't agree with the latter part
of that sentence, "and this is where criminalization comes into play."

Nevertheless, Megan might have touched on the most important questions
in this whole debate: Do prisons make us safer? Where does
criminalization come into play?

Rachel Antony-Levine

San Francisco
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