Drug Legalization

"Drug Legalization" 


May 1995

The illegal or harmful use of psychoactive drugs is a major threat to all world communities and to future generations.  Drug Watch International is a volunteer drug prevention network of experts from a wide range of professions whose mission is to help assure a healthier and safer world through drug prevention.

Lie: The illegal use of psychoactive drugs is a "victimless" crime.

Truth:  Illegal drug use is not a victimless crime.  Drug users commit crimes under the influence of drugs, cause car, plane and train crashes, cause industrial and numerous other accidents — creating unsafe and unhealthy conditions.  Drug users destroy families and take rights and freedom from law-abiding citizens.

Lie:  Drug legalization is not the same as decriminalization or "harm reduction."

Truth:  A policy of decriminalization (or "harm reduction" as it is sometimes called) seeks to circumvent the law by protecting the "drug user."  It is de facto legalization.

Lie: Drug use would not increase if drugs were legalized or decriminalized.

Truth: Between 1972 and 1979 eleven states decriminalized marijuana.  By 1979 drug use tripled among adolescents, doubled among young adults, and quadrupled among older adults.

Lie: The lax drug laws of the Netherlands have not resulted in increased drug use.

Truth:  Following a policy of tolerance of cannabis products, there was an enormous increase in the use of cannabis, especially among young people.  From 1980 to 1992 cannabis use increased 248% for ages 10 through 15.

Lie: The English Government is considering a policy of decriminalization.

Truth:  In October 1994, Prime Minister John Major wrote, "Drugs are a menace to our society.  They can wreck the lives of individuals and their families.  They are a frequent cause of crime . . . The Government is firmly against legalisation or decriminalisation of any drug controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971."  Drug laws have been toughened.

Lie: Sweden's restrictive drug policy has not been effective.

Truth:  In the mid 1970's a restrictive drug policy was initiated.  Drug use declined noticeably among young persons, and continues its decline today.  Experimental use of cannabis and other drugs is very low in Sweden, and drug use among young people is very limited.

Lie: Australia and New Zealand have decriminalized the use of drugs.

Truth:  Contrary to news media, most Australian states have not decriminalized marijuana.  Although a pro drug group is very active in universities, in July 1995 the students of Auckland University voted against decriminalization.  The New Zealand Health Minister recently issued a proclamation "Cannabis Causes Harm."

Lie: Drugs are legal in Switzerland, and this has caused no problems.

Truth:  Federal law prohibits all production, trafficking, possession, and consumption of drugs for non-medical purposes. However, in 1985 needle exchange programs were initiated.  In 1989, Needle Park opened in Zurich, allowing addicts free rein in a specified location.  Stupefied addicts lay slumped on a carpet of blood-spattered syringes, cotton swabs and refuse.  After a string of murders and violence, Zurich closed "Needle Park" and Letten Station, another addict haven.

Lie: The use of illegal drugs is a personal right.

Truth:  No one has the "personal right" to endanger the health, safety, and well being of others.  Public health and welfare far outweigh self-interest.

"The responsible use of drugs does not exist.  Drugs destroy.  And things that destroy must never be made legal.  If we allow drugs to be legalized, nothing will stem the progress of evil."

Dutch Citizens.


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The legalization or decriminalization of drugs would make harmful, psychoactive, and addictive substances affordable, available, convenient, and marketable.  It would expand the use of drugs.  It would remove the social stigma attached to illegal drug use and would send a message of tolerance for drug use, especially to youth.


Drug legalization or decriminalization is opposed by a vast majority of Americans and people around the world.  Leaders in drug prevention, education, treatment, and law enforcement adamantly oppose it, as do many political leaders.  However, pro-drug advocacy groups, who support the permissive use of illicit drugs, although small in number, are making headlines.  They are influencing legislation and having a significant impact on the national policy debate in the United States and in other countries. Pro-drug lobby groups use a variety of strategies which range from outright legalization to de facto legalization under the guise of "medicalization," "harm reduction," crime reduction, hemp/marijuana for the environment, free needle distribution to addicts, marijuana cigarettes as medicine, and controlled legalization through taxation.



Illicit drugs are illegal because of their intoxicating effect on the brain, damaging impact on the body, adverse impact on behavior, and potential for abuse.  Their use threatens the health, welfare, and safety of all people, of users and non-users alike.

Legalization would decrease price and increase drug availability.  Availability is a leading factor associated with increased drug use.  Increased use of addictive substances leads to increased addiction.  As a public health measure, statistics show that Prohibition was a tremendous success.

Many drug users commit murder, child and spouse abuse, rape, property damage, assault and other violent crimes under the influence of drugs.  Drug users, many of whom are unable to hold jobs, commit robberies not only to obtain drugs, but to purchase food, shelter, clothing and other goods and services.  Increased violent crime and increased numbers of criminals will result in even larger prison populations.

Legalizing drugs will not eliminate illegal trafficking of drugs nor the violence associated with the illegal drug trade.  A black market would still exist unless all psychoactive and addictive drugs in all strengths were made available to all ages in unlimited quantity at no cost.

Drug laws deter people from using drugs.  Surveys indicate that the fear of getting in trouble with the law constitutes a major reason not to use drugs.  Fear of the American legal system is a major concern of foreign drug lords.  Drug laws have turned drug users to a drug-free lifestyle through mandatory treatment.  Forty to fifty percent of patients  are in treatment as a result of the criminal justice system.

A study of international drug policy and its effects on countries has shown that countries with lax drug law enforcement have had an increase in drug addiction and crime.  Conversely, those with strong drug policies have reduced drug use and enjoy low crime rates.

The United States and many countries would be in violation of international treaty if they created a legal market in cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs.  The U.S. is a signatory to the Single Convention on Narcotics & the Convention on Psychotropic Substances and has agreed with other members of the United Nations to control and penalize drug manufacturing, trafficking, and use.  Recently 112 nations reaffirmed their commitment to strong drug laws.