Legalization Of Drugs: The Myths And The Facts
Robert L. Maginnis, Familly Research Council

Despite data which strongly supports the continuation of effective drug abuse prevention, treatment and enforcement programs, some prominent Americans support legalizing illicit drugs. For example: George Shultz, former President Reagan's Secretary of State, says that "Legalization would destroy dealer profits and remove their incentive to get young people addicted."[1]

Nobel laureate in economics Milton Friedman says that the criminalization of certain drugs undermines respect for the law and creates "a decadent moral climate." He states that legalizing drugs like marijuana and cocaine would "thus strike a double blow; reduce crime activity directly, and at the same time increase the efficacy of law enforcement and crime prevention."[2]

U.S. Federal District Judge Robert Sweet says the nation should learn the lesson of prohibition and the crime that ensued when alcohol was illegal. "Look at tobacco, the most addictive drug, and we've reduced [use] by a third."[3]

Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke commented on former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders' call for a study to legalize drugs. "I think what the Surgeon General said was absolutely courageous and correct."[4]

Aryeh Neier, president of billionaire philanthropist George Soros's Open Society Institute, states, "The current [drug] policy is wasteful and it promotes crime and disease.... From every standpoint, it is a failure."[5]

Many other officials disagree. Lee P. Brown, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House, labels legalization "a formula for self-destruction"[6] and warns that decriminalization of drugs would mean genocide for the black community.[7]

Wayne Roques, a much-published Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman, says, "Drug policies which legalize drugs would decimate the inner cities and gravely wound the suburban populations.... Legalization is a morally and intellectually bankrupt concept."[8]

Most Americans want to know the truth about drugs and expect public policy to be based on facts and not myths. Yet myths about legalization

abound. Consider:

Myth #1:

lllicit Drugs Are No Worse Than Legal Drugs Like Alcohol And Tobacco

Marianne Apostolides of the pro-legalization Lindesmith Center wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "Marijuana is safer than other substances such as nicotine and steroids. Most people who use marijuana have no problem with it."[9]

Yale law professor Steven B. Duke, who wrote America's Longest War: Rethinking Our Tragic Crusade Against Drugs, believes,"Our biggest, worst drug problem is the tobacco problem. Legalizing drugs will reduce the use of alcohol, which is far more damaging than any popular illegal drug."[10]

The fact that some dangerous substances are legal does not mean that all dangerous substances should also be legal -- especially when there are significant differences between the substances in question. Clearly, alcohol and tobacco can be quite harmful. They have a major impact on morbidity and mortality in the United States. Alcohol is a cause or contributing factor in most traffic deaths and nearly half of all murders, sexual assaults, robberies and other violent crimes. More than 40,000 babies are born at risk each year because their mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy.[11]

Similarly, tobacco kills over 400,000 people each year in the United States, and the British medical journal, Lancet, estimates that tobacco is the cause of death for 20 percent of the people in the developed world.[12]

Nevertheless, a given dose of cocaine or crack is far more dangerous than a drink of alcohol. Alcohol has an addiction rate of 10 percent, whereas cocaine has an addiction rate as high as 75 percent.[13]

And when cocaine is combined with marijuana, it can be deadly. According to a study in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, an increase in heart rate due to cocaine was markedly enhanced if preceded by smoking marijuana.[14] The dual use creates greater risk of overdose and more severe cardiovascular effects from the cocaine. An article in Schizophrenia Research found that up to 60 percent of schizophrenic patients used non-prescription psychoactive drugs.[15]

By itself, marijuana is a dangerous drug as well. A joint of marijuana is far more carcinogenic than a cigarette. Microbiologist Tom Klein of the University of South Florida reports, "We've tried working with [marijuana smoke], and it's so toxic, you just get it near the immune system and it [the immune system] dies." Klein found that THC [tetrahydrocannabinol -- the active ingredient in marijuana] suppresses some immune system responses and enhances others.[16]

A study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that marijuana smoke is often contaminated by the fungus, Aspergillus.[17] Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that cases of allergic sinus infection with the same fungus came from recreational use of contaminated marijuana.[18]

A study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that cannabis [marijuana] users react very slowly in performing motor tasks and suffer disability in personal, social and vocational areas. They also indicate a higher score for neurotic and psychotic behavior.[19]

A study in American Review of Respiratory Diseases found that marijuana smoke is as irritating as tobacco smoke; when used together, marijuana and tobacco cause the small oxygen-exchanging parts of the lung to shed cells that first become inflamed.[20]

A 1995 study in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that illicit drugs such as marijuana and cocaine can interfere with male sperm production.[21] A study in Cancer found that the children of women who smoke marijuana are 11 times more likely to contract leukemia.[22]

Mothers who smoke marijuana also contribute to low birth weight and developmental problems for their children and increase the risk of abnormalities similar to those caused by fetal alcohol syndrome by as much as 500 percent.[23]

Kasi Sridhar, a professor at the University of Miami's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Research Center, reports finding large numbers of marijuana smokers among younger cancer patients. While only 17 percent of the patients in his study were marijuana smokers, two-thirds of the patients younger than 45 smoked cannabis.[24]

Since the 1970s there have been more than 10,500 scientific studies which demonstrate the adverse consequences of marijuana use.[25] Many of these studies draw upon data collected when most of the marijuana available in the U.S. was far less potent than that available today. Indeed, drug czar Lee Brown says that marijuana on the streets today is up to 10 times more potent than a generation ago. This fact contributes to its addictive nature.[26]

Myth #2:

Legalization Will Drive The Crime Rate Down

Syndicated columnist Abigail Van Buren endorses Legalization. She wrote in her column, "Dear Abby," that, "The legalization of drugs would put drug dealers out of business."She added that it would also reduce the prison population and create a perpetual source of tax revenue.[27]

Former Surgeon General Elders told a National Press Club luncheon,"Sixty percent of violent crimes are drug- or alcohol-related.... Many times they're robbing, stealing and all of these things to get money to buy drugs.... I do feel that we would markedly reduce our crime rate if drugs were legalized."[28]

Professor Steven Duke told an America Online computer network audience, "Without a doubt, the problem of violent crime would be ameliorated [by legalizing drugs]. I think drug prohibition causes half of our serious crime."[29]

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Ma.) supports legalization. "We make a mistake, with the serious law enforcement problems we have today, to get the police to arrest people who smoke marijuana.... We are wasting $10 billion a year trying to physically interdict drugs."[30]

The new president of the American Bar Association, George Bushnell, favors legalizing marijuana and cocaine. He believes legalization will cut crime.[31]

Legalizers believe most black market and organized syndicate involvement in the drug business would die and that drug-induced crime would decrease with drug legalization. But these assertions are not supported by the facts. The United States experimented with legalization and it failed. From 1919 to 1922, government-sponsored clinics handed out free drugs to addicts in hopes of controlling their behavior. The effort failed. Society's revulsion against drugs, combined with enforcement, successfully eradicated the menace at that time.[32]

California decriminalized marijuana in 1976, and, within the first six months, arrests for driving under the influence of drugs rose 46 percent for adults and 71.4 percent for juveniles.[33] Decriminalizing marijuana in Alaska and Oregon in the 1970s resulted in the doubling of use.[34] Patrick Murphy, a court-appointed lawyer for 31,000 abused and neglected children in Chicago, says that more than 80 percent of the cases of physical and sexual abuse of children now involve drugs. There is no evidence that legalizing drugs will reduce these crimes, and there is evidence that suggests it would worsen the problem.[35]

Legalization would decrease drug distribution crime because most of those activities would become lawful. But would legalization necessarily reduce other drug-related crime like robbery, rape, and assault? Presumably legalization would reduce the cost of drugs and thus addicts might commit fewer crimes to pay for their habits. But less expensive drugs might also feed their habit better, and more drugs means more side effects like paranoia, irritability and violence. Suggestions that crime can somehow be eliminated by redefining it are spurious. Free drugs or legalizing bad drugs would not make criminal addicts into productive citizens. Dr. Mitchell S. Rosenthal, expert on drugs and adolescents and president of Phoenix House, a resident treatment center in New York, said, "If you give somebody free drugs you don't turn him into a responsible employee, husband, or father."[36] The Justice Department reports that most inmates (77.4 percent male and 83.6 percent female) have a drug history and the majority were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their current offense. And a surprisingly large number of convicted felons admit their crime motive was to get money for drugs. For example, 12 percent of all violent offenses and 24.4 percent of all property offenses were drug-money motivated.[37]

Even if drugs were legalized some restrictions still would be necessary. For example, restricting the sale of legalized drugs to minors, pregnant women, police, military, pilots and prisoners would be necessary but would still provide a black market niche. Pro-legalizers contend that government could tax drugs, thus off-setting the social costs of abuse. But history proves that efforts to tax imported drugs like opium created a black market. Earlier this century Chinese syndicates smuggled legal opium into this country to avoid tariffs. Even today, there is ample crime based on the legal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. For example, organized crime smuggles cigarettes from states with low tobacco taxes into those with high taxes, and such activities are accompanied by violence against legal suppliers.[38]

If now-illegal drugs were decriminalized, the government would have to determine the allowable potency for commercial drugs. But no government can okay toxic substances, so a black market would be created for higher potency drugs and those that remained banned, like the new "designer drugs."Even pro-drug forces do not call for blanket legalization of drugs like LSD, crack, or PCP. Therefore, we would continue to have drug-related crime and illegal drug distribution organizations that would push these drugs on youngsters, who would be more easily induced into drug abuse through the availability and social sanctioning of marijuana. Drug abuse is closely correlated with crime. The National Youth Survey found that 25 percent of youths who admitted to cocaine or heroin use also committed 40 percent of all the index crimes reported. The survey also found that youths who tested positive for cannabinoids have more than twice as many non-drug-related felony referrals to juvenile court as compared with those found to have tested negative.[39]

The extent to which individuals commit "drug-related crimes only" is overstated. Most incarcerated "drug"offenders violated other laws as well. Princeton University professor John Dilulio found that only 2 percent -- i.e., 700 -- of those in federal prisons were convicted of pure drug possession. They generally committed other and violent crimes to earn a sentence.[40]

However, 70 percent of current inmates were on illegal drugs when arrested and, if drugs become cheaper, violent crime could reasonably be expected to increase.[41]

Myth #3:

Legalization Makes Economic Sense

Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke believes drugs can be a revenue source for the government. "Remove the profit motive, and you put the dealers out of business... have government stores and buy marijuana cigarettes... nicely wrapped, purity and potency guaranteed with a tax stamp."[42]

Ethan Nadelmann, a former Princeton University professor and now director of the Lindesmith Center, states: "Make sure that junkies have access to clean needles; make it easy for addicts to obtain methadone; give heroin-maintenance programs a chance to work; decriminalize marijuana; stop spending billions on incarcerating drug users and drug dealers. We know we can reduce drug abuse more effectively by spending that money on education, pre and post natal care and job-training programs."[43]

Nadelmann told the Rolling Stone audience, "...The Pentagon's interdiction efforts, which cost U.S. taxpayers close to $1 billion... had no impact on the flow of drugs.... [The] drug war has been most efficient at filling up the country's prisons and jails."[44]

Dr. Robert Dupont, founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and president of the Institute for Behavior and Health in Rockville, Maryland, refutes the economic myth. "We now have two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. We have 113 million current users of alcohol and 60 million tobacco users. The reason marijuana and cocaine use is so much lower is because they are illegal drugs. Cocaine and marijuana are more attractive than alcohol and tobacco. If we remove the prohibition of illegality we would have a number of users of marijuana and cocaine similar to that of tobacco and alcohol."[45]

Health costs associated with legalization would be very high. And legalization would have consequences elsewhere. For example, the Drug Enforcement Administration says legalization of drugs will cost society between $140-210 billion a year in lost productivity and job-related accidents. And insurance companies would pass on accident expenses to consumers.[46] The Institute for Health Policy at Brandeis University found that in 1990 dollars the societal cost of substance abuse is in excess of $238 billion, of which $67 billion is for illicit drugs. The report states, "As the number one health problem in the country, substance abuse places a major burden on the nation's health care system and contributes to the high cost of health care. In fact, substance abuse -- the problematic use of alcohol, illicit drugs and tobacco -- places an enormous burden on American society asa whole."[47]

The claim that legalization provides an opportunity to tax new products is misleading. For example, total tax revenue from the sale of alcohol is $13.1 billion a year, but alcohol extracts over $100 billion a year in social costs such as health care and lost productivity.[48] There is no evidence to demonstrate that taxing cocaine, heroin, and marijuana would bolster revenues any more than do alcohol and tobacco, nor would the revenue from such taxation offset the social and medical costs these illicit drugs would impose. The pro-drug lobby argues that legalization will save on enforcement costs. But elimination of drug enforcement would provide little funding for other uses. The government now spends 3.3 percent of its budget on the criminal justice system and half of that goes to enforcement. Less than 12 percent of law enforcement money goes to drug law enforcement.[49] Former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph Califano cautions that in a post-legalization world, "Madison Avenue hucksters would make it as attractive to do a few lines [of cocaine] as to down a few beers."[50] This would line the pockets of legal drug producers, but it will clearly hurt the American taxpayer and American families.

Myth #4:

Criminalization Of Drugs Is Like Alcohol Prohibition

Conservative columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., writes that the"...New York Bar in 1986 advocated the repeal of all federal legislation dealing with drugs, leaving it to the states to write their own policies. This will remind you of the 21st Amendment: when prohibition was repealed in 1933, each state was left free to write its own liquor laws."[51]

Lindesmith Institute director Nadelmann argues that "Prohibition...financed the rise of organized crime and failed miserably as social policy. Likewise, the war on drugs has created new, well-financed, and violent criminal conspiracies and failed to achieve any of its goals."[52]

Prohibition was a solitary effort by this country while the rest of the world was essentially "wet." However, most drugs are illegal throughout much of the world. This makes enforcement much easier. History shows that prohibition curbed alcohol abuse. Alcohol use declined by 30 to 50 percent; deaths from cirrhosis of the liver fell from 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 to 10.7 in 1929; and admissions to state mental hospitals for alcohol psychosis fell from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928.[53] Mark Moore, Harvard professor of criminal justice, wrote: "The real lesson of prohibition is that society can, indeed, make a dent in the consumption of drugs through laws."[54]

The DEA found that during prohibition, suicide rates decreased 50 percent. The incidence of alcohol-related arrests also declined 50 percent.[55] Yale history professor David F. Musto comments on the myth that prohibition is a good parallel for illicit drug legalization:"Unless drugs were legal for everyone, including children...illicit sale of drugs would continue. Legalization would create more drug-addicted babies, not to mention drug-impaired drivers."[56]

Myth #5:

Other Nations Have Successfully Legalized Drug

Mr. Nadelmann points to foreign nations when he writes, "We can learn much from Europe and Australia, where governments have turned their backs on the 'war on drugs.' They began by accepting the obvious: that it is both futile and dangerous to try to create a drug-free society."[57]

Dr. John Marks of Liverpool, England promotes Great Britain's"enlightened" drug programs. "The results are zero drug-related deaths, zero HIV infection among injecting drug takers, a... reduction of... 96 percent [in] acquisitive crime. And perhaps most puzzling of all, a fall in the incidence of addiction, among the public at large of... 92 percent."[58]

History provides evidence that legalization of drugs in foreign nations has not been successful. For example, opium was legalized in China earlier this century. That decision resulted in 90 million addicts and it took a half-century to repair the damage.[59]

Egypt allowed unrestricted trade of cocaine and heroin in the 1920s. An epidemic of addiction resulted. Even in Iran and Thailand, countries where drugs are readily available, the prevalence of addiction continues to soar.[60]

Modern-day Netherlands is often cited as a country which has successfully legalized drugs. Marijuana is sold over the counter and police seldom arrest cocaine and heroin users. But official tolerance has led to significant increases in addiction. Amsterdam's officials blame the significant rise in crime on the liberal drug policy. The city's 7,000 addicts are blamed for 80 percent of all property crime and Amsterdam's rate of burglary is now twice that of Newark, New Jersey.[61] Drug problems have forced the city to increase the size of the police force and the city fathers are now rethinking the drug policy.[62]

Dr. K. F. Gunning, president of the Dutch National Committee on Drug Prevention, cites some revealing statistics about drug abuse and crime. Cannabis use among students increased 250 percent from 1984 to 1992. During the same period, shootings rose 40 percent, car thefts increased 62 percent, and hold-ups rose 69 percent.[63]

Sweden legalized doctor prescriptions of amphetamines in 1965. During the first year of legalization, the number of intravenous"speed" addicts rose 88.5 percent. A study of men arrested during the legalization period showed a high correlation between intravenous use and a variety of crimes.[64]

Dr. Nils Bejorot, director of the Swedish Carnegie Institute and professor of social medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, believes the solution to the growing drug problem is consistent social and legal harassment of both users and dealers.[65]

Great Britain experimented with controlled distribution of heroin between 1959 and 1968. According to the British Medical Journal, the number of heroin addicts doubled every sixteen months and the increase in addicts was accompanied by an increase in criminal activity as well.[66] And British authorities found that heroin addicts have a very good chance of dying prematurely. On the crime front, Scotland Yard had to increase its narcotics squad 100 percent to combat the crime caused by the "legal" addicts.[67]

The Swiss opened a "legalized drug" area in Zurich seven years ago and local addicts were given drugs, clean needles, and emergency medical care. Unfortunately, the liberal policy backfired and the number of addicts surged to 3,500; violence surged, too. "Needle Park," as it came to be known, was a place of open warfare among rival gangs, and even police faced gunfire. Their cars were attacked and overturned. In February 1995, officials ended the experiment, conceding that it had evolved into a grotesque spectacle.[68]

In April 1994, the mayors of 21 major European cities formed a group called "European Cities Against Drugs," an acknowledgement that legalization had failed.[69]

There are some countries, especially in the Middle East, which extract a high price for drug trafficking. These countries enjoy relative freedom from the plague of drug abuse and crime associated with illicit sales. This is never mentioned by Legalization proponents.

Myth #6:

Legalization Would Lead To Health Benefits

Nadelmann states, "We should immediately decriminalize the sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana and make it easily available by prescription to those suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other diseases."[70] He tells Rolling Stone readers, "DEA's own administrative law judge Francis Young declared in 1988, marijuana is possibly One of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."[71]

Arnold S. Trebach, former president of the Drug Policy Foundation, calls for the medical use of certain illegal drugs. He claims there is "no scientific or ethical reason why government denies heroin and marijuana to people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases."[72]

In January 1994 the Clinton Administration decided to review the federal ban against the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Allen St. Pierre, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), commented on the review decision: "It's encouraging to see that the public health service is going to get information about the efficacy of marijuana as a therapeutic agent.... If marijuana can never be made available to people suffering pain or going blind, it's never going to be legalized more generally."[73]

Legalization advocates cite cases like that of James Burton, who has glaucoma. Drug agents seized his home for growing marijuana, and he now lives in the Netherlands where "I can buy or grow marijuana here legally, and if I don't have the marijuana, I'll go blind."[74]

Burton has a rare form of low-tension glaucoma. At Burton's trial, ophthalmologist Dr. John Merritt testified that Burton needed marijuana to keep him from going blind.[75] Others claim that marijuana can be used to treat the side-effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting and the "wasting"phenomenon associated with AIDS. There is substantial and contradictory evidence indicating that illicit drugs should not be legalized for medical purposes. Most advocates for medical use of illicit drugs only address marijuana. Consider the evidence: Philip Lee, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced in July 1994, "The scientific evidence doesn't support using marijuana to treat glaucoma or nausea caused by AIDS or cancer treatment." Harvard medical school professor Lester Grinspoon has challenged Lee's decision. Grinspoon said there is only anecdotal evidence that marijuana smoking is beneficial because "the government has prevented the scientific studies for years."[76]

The DEA reports that marijuana is not accepted as medicine by a single American health association.[77]

Dr. David Ettinger, professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, states, "There is no indication that marijuana is effective in treating nausea and vomiting resulting from radiation treatment or other causes."[78]

A research review published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy found no scientific studies that confirmed the benefit of the use of crude marijuana on HIV-wasting syndrome. The use of marijuana might actually be counter-productive because it poses a needles and serious endangerment to the already compromised immune systems of AIDS patients.[79]

Two studies in a 1991 book entitled Drugs of Abuse: Immunity and Immunodeficiency found that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, suppresses or interferes with the function of white blood cells, which fight bacterial infection.[80] Any reduction in the fighting power of white blood cells could accelerate an HIV-positive patient's transition to AIDS. Additionally, marijuana increases the health risk to AIDS patients because the smoke causes pulmonary problems. Glaucoma studies found that THC can decrease intraocular pressure. However, in order to ingest sufficient THC, the patient would have to be stoned all day. Alcohol also decreases intraocular pressure. According to Dr. Keith Green, who has served on the boards of eight eye journals, "Marijuana... has little potential future as a glaucoma medication."[81]

Myth #7:

Legalize To Reduce Addiction Rates

Mayor Schmoke told the 1993 Drug Policy Foundation conference,"The United States' war on drugs and similar campaigns in other countries have failed. Only a harm reduction policy, led by public health experts and emphasizing treatment, can be expected to reduce addiction."[82]

Previous efforts to legalize drugs like marijuana saw an increase in abuse. The National Families in Action found that during the decade when 11 states decriminalized marijuana, regular use tripled among adolescents, doubled among young adults, and quadrupled among older adults.[83] Today, there are more than 8,000 emergency room visits for marijuana abuse each year, and 77,000 persons each year are admitted to treatment programs for marijuana abuse.[84]

It is alleged that the problem may be worse today because marijuana is more addictive. The pro-legalization Lindesmith Institute challenged this in a recent Wall Street Journal letter. "The myth that marijuana is three times as potent [and therefore more addictive] as it was in the 1970s is based on a statistically invalid comparison. The potency of today's marijuana is measured by a large and diverse number of confiscated marijuana samples. The potency of 1970s marijuana was measured by a small and unrepresentative number of DEA-seized samples."[85]

But the DEA cites tests of THC content. For example, the marijuana seized at Woodstock '69 had 1 percent THC; in 1974 the average THC was 3.6 percent; in 1984 it was 4.4 percent; and samples analyzed in 1992 were 29.86 percent. Based on these findings, DEA claims that marijuana may be between 30 and 60 times as potent as were the joints in the 1960s.[86]

ONDCP director Lee Brown confirms the addictive nature of marijuana. "The public may have grown more blasJ about marijuana over the years; the marijuana on the streets today is up to 10 times more potent than that available to teenagers a generation ago."[87]

Cocaine is, of course, more addictive than marijuana. President William Howard Taft identified cocaine as "More appalling in its effects than any other habit-forming drug in the United States." He wanted it banned back in 1910. And the ranks of cocaine addicts grew before the substance was outlawed in 1915.[88]

During the late 1960s, Dr. Marie Nyswander experimented with opiate addicts at the Rockefeller University, giving them free morphine, and saw the addicts' daily tolerance for morphine rise swiftly. Her partner, Dr. Vincent Dole, commented, "The doses on which you could keep them comfortable kept going up and up; the addicts were never really satisfied or happy. It was not an encouraging experience."[89]

Nyswander noted, "Most drug abusers simply want to get high. Because the body daily develops more tolerance for abused drugs, addicts must use escalating dosages to achieve euphoria."[90]

The DEA says that up to 75 percent of crack cocaine users could become addicts. And Mitchell Rosenthal believes that cheap and legal cocaine would increase addiction. He explains that "given unlimited access to cocaine, lab animals will consume increasingly greater amounts until they die.... [He points out that] in the U.S. there are between 650,000 and 2.4 million cocaine addicts."[91]

Dr. Mark Gold, formerly the research director at Fair Oaks Hospital in Summit, New Jersey, now a professor at the University of Florida medical school and a recognized expert on cocaine, states, "Whereas one out of ten alcohol users become alcoholics, one out of four users of cocaine become addicted. If, for example, cocaine becomes legalized and use rose from 6 million to 60 million, this would mean we would have 15 million addicts in need of treatment, without prospects for a complete cure, constantly relapsing."[92]

Dr. Herbert Kleber of Columbia University suggests that legalizing cocaine would increase use up to sixfold. And Joseph A. Califano, founding president of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, notes that any "stamp of legality"on cocaine would lead to big increases in the number of addicts and "light a new flame beneath health care spending."[93]

Myth #8:

Legalization Is A Civil Liberties Issue

NORML's Allen St. Pierre states, "If you took the illegality out, pot wouldn't mean anything to rappers.... [B]ut it's an injustice they can sing about."[94]

Chicago commodities trader Richard Dennis has contributed more than $1 million to the pro-legalization Drug Policy Foundation. He opposes criminal penalties for drug use and states, "It's a self-evident proposition that people shouldn't go to jail for things they do to themselves."[95]

To legalize behavior is in large measure to condone it. DEA agent Wayne Roques visits many high schools in Florida to discuss illicit drugs. At every session at least one student defends use of illicit drugs explaining, "Surgeon General Elders supports legalization. So drugs must be okay."[96]

Illicit drug use is not a victimless crime because the user, his family, and society suffer social and economic costs. For example, drug use by pregnant mothers causes in utero damage to the child. It increases the risk of mortality threefold and the risk of low birth weight fourfold. Drug abuse is a key factor in most child abuse cases. In Philadelphia, cocaine is implicated in half of the cases in which parents beat their children to death, and in 80 percent of all abuse cases.[97]

In the nation's capital, 90 percent of reported child abusers are also illicit drug abusers. In nearby Maryland, one-third of all car accidents involve drivers who test positive for marijuana. And a few years ago, a Conrail disaster took the lives of 16 and hurt another 175, because the train conductors were intoxicated with illegal drugs.[98] If those drugs were legal, the result would have been no less lethal to the innocent victims.


There is no "civil right" to do what is wrong or harmful to yourself, your family, or your society. The facts show that legalization is a mistake for America because: Illegal drugs are more addictive and dangerous than the legal drugs alcohol and tobacco, which is verified by thousands of scientific studies. Legalization would result in more crime such as driving while intoxicated; child abuse, including child pornography; random violent crime; and a prosperous black market. Legalization has no economic justification. Taxing illicit drugs would offset only a small fraction of the social costs. Banning illicit drugs is not like alcohol "Prohibition." Drug laws reduce abuse and the medical costs associated with abuse. Legalization would do the opposite. Other nations have learned that liberalizing drug policies only leads to more addicts and unacceptable social consequences. Illicit drugs offer no offsetting health benefits. Rather, marijuana damages most major body systems and provides minimal help for glaucoma victims and only when they are constantly stoned. Cocaine is far more addictive than alcohol, and marijuana is at least 10 times more potent today than a generation ago.

Robert Maginnis is a policy analyst with the Family Research Council, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization.


1. "Views from the Front," Police News Spring 1994: 45.

2. Milton Friedman, "The Same Mistake," Police News Spring 1994: 48-49.

3. Christopher Connell, "Elders Suggests Legalizing Drugs; Critics Go Ballistic" Juneau Empire 8 December 1993.

4. Connell, 8 December 1993.

5. Carolyn Skorneck, "Billionaire Gives $6 Million for Alternative Approach to Drugs" The Associated Press 9 July 1994.

6. Connell, 8 December 1993.

7. Robert LeConte, "A Drug Economy," Police News Spring 1994: 40-42.

8. Wayne J. Roques, Legalization: An Idea Whose Time Will Never Come, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (Miami Field Division: U.S. Department of Justice, 27 December 1994).

9. Marianne Apostolides, letter, Wall Street Journal 16 February 1995: A15.

10. Steven B. Duke, interview, Friday at Four, America Online, 2 December 1994.

11. Roques, 27 December 1994.

12. Roques.

13. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Drug Legalization: Myths and Misconceptions (Seattle: U.S. Department of Justice, 1994) 43.

14. Marijuana Research Review 1 (Portland: Drug Watch Oregon, October 1994). The original article appears in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 48 (1994): 715-721.

15. Marijuana Research Review, February 1994. The original article is found in Schizophrenia Research 11 (1993): 3-8.

16. Daniel P. Ray, "Marijuana Use Linked to Cancer," The Miami Herald 8 February 1994.

17. Marijuana Research Review 1 (Portland: Drug Watch Oregon, July 1994). The original article appears in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 71 (1983): 389-393.

18. Marijuana Research Review, July 1994. The original article appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association 256 (1986): 3249-3253.

19. Marijuana Research Review, July 1994. The original article appears in Drug and Alcohol Dependence 21 (1988): 147-152.

20. Marijuana Research Review, July 1994. This article appears in American Review of Respiratory Diseases 135 (1987): 1271-1275.

21. Stuart S. Howards, "Treatment of Male Infertility," The New England Journal of Medicine 332 (1995): 312-317.

22. Leslie L. Robison, "Maternal Drug Use and Risk of Childhood Nonlymphoblastic Leukemia Among Offspring," Cancer 63 (1989): 1904-1911.

23. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization 43.

24. Ray, 8 February 1994.

25. Marijuana Research Review, July 1994.

26. "National Survey Finds Teen Drug Use Up; 13% of 8th-Graders Have Used Marijuana," St. Louis Post-Dispatch 13 December 1994: A-1.

27. Drug Policy Action (Washington, D.C.: Drug Policy Foundation, July/August 1994) 18.

28.Connell, 8 December 1993.

29. Duke, 2 December 1994.

30. "Let Pot Smokers Go," The Washington Times 22 February 1995: A-12.

31. "Next ABA Boss: Legalize Drugs," USA Today 28 June 1994.

32.Jill Jonnes, "Forgotten History of Legal Drugs," The Baltimore Sun 16 February 1995.

33. Peggy Mann, Reasons to Oppose Legalizing Illegal Drugs (Danvers: Committee of Correspondence, Inc., September, 1988) 3.

34. Wayne J. Roques, "Decriminalizing Drugs Would Be A Disaster," The Miami Herald 20 January 1995.

35. Don Feder, "Legalizers Plan Harvard Pot Party," The Boston Herald 19 May 1994.

36. Mark S. Gold, The Good News About Drugs and Alcohol (New York: Viliard Books, 1991).

37. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Source book of Criminal Justice Statistics -- 1992, NCJ-143496 (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1992) 603-604. 38. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization 43.

39. John Bradford et al, "Substance Abuse and Criminal Behavior," Clinical Forensic Psychiatry 15 (1992): 605-621.

40. "MTV Show Favors Drug Legalization," Drug Policy Report 1 September 1994.

41. Rachel Ehrenfeld, "Retreating from the War on Drugs," The Washington Times 28 February 1995: A-21.

42. Gold 246.

43. Ethan Nadelmann, "Dear Abby" letter, The Oregonian 22 June 1994.

44. Ethan Nadelmann and Jann S. Wenner, "Toward a Sane National Drug Policy," Rolling Stone 5 May 1994: 24-26.

45. Mann 3.

46. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization 32.

47. Substance Abuse: The Nation's Number One Health Problem, Institute for Health Policy, Brandeis University, prepared for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey, October 1993: 8-16.

48. Substance Abuse 8-16.

49. Roques, Legalization 27 December 1994.

50.The Drug Policy Letter (Washington, D.C.: The Drug Policy Foundation, 22 Spring 1994).

51. William F. Buckley, Jr., "It's Time to Deal with the L Word," The Miami Herald 29 September 1994: A-19.

52. Nadelmann and Wenner 24-26.

53. Gold 245.

54. Gold 245.

55. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization 39.

56. Barbara Reynolds, "Give Elders Credit for Daring to Speak Out on Drugs," USA Today 17 December 1993: A-13.

57. Nadelmann, 22 June 1994.

58. The Drug Policy Letter, 22 Spring 1994.

59. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization.

60. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization.

61. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization. See also: Roques, Legalization 27 December 1994.

62. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization. See also: Roques, Legalization.

63. K. F. Gunning, "Statistics on the Netherlands," President, Dutch National Committee on Drug Prevention, Rotterdam, Holland 22 September 1993.

64. Newton Miller, Response to Ted Koppel's 'Legalization of Drugs in the United States.' (River Edge: Kids Centers of America, Inc.).

65. Miller.

66. Lee P. Brown, "Eight Myths About Drugs," Vital Speeches of the Day, City News Publishing Co. 15 July 1994.

67. Lee P. Brown, 15 July 1994. See also: U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization.

68. Lee P. Brown, 15 July 1994. See also: U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization and Bernard D. Kaplan, "Legalized Drug Program Collapses in Zurich." Richmond Times-Dispatch 26 February 1995: F-3.

69. Roques, Legalization.

70. Nadelmann and Wenner 24-26.

71. Nadelmann and Wenner 24-26.

72. Arnold S. Trebach, "Dear Friend" letter (Washington, D.C.: Drug Policy Foundation, 27 June 1994).

73. "Clinton Team Will Review Medical Use of Marijuana," The Orlando Sentinel 6 January 1994: A-1.

74. Andrew Schneider and Mary Pat Flaherty, "Government Seized Home of Man Who Was Going Blind," The Pittsburgh Press (1991): 9-10.

75. Schneider and Flaherty 9-10.

76. Paul Leavitt and Dennis Cauchon, "Race Not 'An Issue' in O. J. Case," USA Today 19 July 1994: A-3.

77. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization, 54.

78. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization 52.

79. Marijuana Research Review, October 1994. The original article appears in Annals of Pharmacotherapy 28 (1993): 595-597.

80. Marijuana Research Review, February 1994. The original articles appear in H. Friedman, ed., Drugs of Abuse: Immuno and Immunodeficiency (New York: Plenum Press, 1991). The specific studies are: Julie Y. Djeu et al., "Adverse Effect of Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol on Human Neutrophil Function" (1991): 57-62 and Bernard Watzl, "Influence of Marijuana Components (THC and CBD) on Human Mononuclear Cell Cytokine Secretion In Vitro" (1991): 63-70.

81.U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization 51.

82. The Drug Policy Letter, 22 Spring 1994.

83. Sue Rusche, National Families in Action, (Atlanta: Drug Abuse Update, 30 June 1994).

84. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization 9.

85. Apostolides A15.

86. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization.

87. "National Survey Finds Teen Drug Use Up," St. Louis Post-Dispatch 13 December 1994: A-1.

88. Jonnes, 16 February 1995.

89. Jonnes.

90. Jonnes.

91. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization.

92. Mann 3.

93. Max Frankel, "Word & Image; Drug War, II," The New York Times 29 January 1995: Sec. 6, 22.

94. Dennis Cauchon. "High Times Return," USA Today 19 March 1993: D-2.

95. Cynthia Cotts, "Smart Money," Rolling Stone 5 May 1994: 42-43.

96. Wayne J. Roques, personal interview, 20 February 1995.

97. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization 57.

98. U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Legalization 57.

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