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Arguing a Position on Drugs
Legalizing Naturally Occurring Drugs
 by A Elbert

 Imagine the following scenario: a 12-year-old boy and his friends watch a movie that makes them think heroin is pretty cool.  
They pool their cash and hit the street.  It takes quite a while, but eventually they find a dealer.  The dealer doesn’t care that they are 
twelve as long as they have the cash.  In fact, they are young enough that they could easily be turned into future business for the dealer.  
He gives them a larger quantity than normal for the amount of cash they have, just on the off chance that they’ll come back for more.  
 You can insert any illegal drug you like into this situation, the outcome is likely to be the same.  Now imagine that the heroin is legal.  
It is sold in a special store, like a liquor store, where I.D. is checked at the door.  The 12-year-old and his friends can’t get in.  
The odds of finding someone old enough to go in for them are not good.  The penalties for contributing to a minor are stiffer than 
for alcohol and not many want to take that chance.      

 Drugs that occur naturally in plants and fungi, or are refined from these natural sources should be legalized.  This includes marijuana, 
mushrooms of the genera Panaeolus and Psilocybe, mescaline and all mescaline-containing cacti, heroin and other opiates, cocaine and coca leaves.  

In addition to being legalized, they must be regulated in a strict manner.  The law would have to include a minimum age requirement for purchase, 
penalties for contributing to a minor, penalties for minor in possession, and penalties for driving under the influence.  It would also have to 
include standards for potency and purity for safety reasons, and allow the sale of the drugs to be taxed.  

 Most people believe that these drugs are illegal because they are dangerous.  This is simply not true.  The first law against opium 
was passed in 1875 in San Francisco and only applied to smoking opium.  It was still legal in all other forms. “Only the smoking of 
opium was outlawed, because that was a peculiarly Chinese habit and the laws were specifically directed at the Chinese. The white 
people in the communities feared that Chinese men were luring white women to have sex in opium dens” (Keel, Drug Law Timeline).  
Cocaine laws have a similar racist twist:

Cocaine was outlawed because of fears that superhuman "Negro Cocaine Fiends" or "Cocainized Niggers" (actual terms used by 
newspapers in the early 1900's) take large amounts of cocaine which would make them go on a violent sexual rampage and rape 
white women. There is little evidence that any black men actually did this, if only because it would have been certain death. 
The United States set a record in 1905 with 105 recorded lynchings of black men. At the same time, police nationwide switched 
from .32 caliber pistols to .38 caliber pistols because it was believed that the superhuman "Negro Cocaine Fiend" could not be 
killed with the smaller gun. (Schaffer, Basic Facts About the War on Drugs)

 Marijuana suffered the same fate as opium and cocaine.  In 1937, “Marijuana was a repressive measure against 
Mexican workers who crossed the border seeking jobs during the Depression” (Schaffer, Basic Facts About the War on Drugs).  
All of these laws were passed out of fear and ignorance.  People believed these drug induced crimes happened often, but there is 
no evidence that any of these incidents actually occurred.   

 If these drugs were made legal, they could be controlled.  People are doing them anyway and as long as they are illegal, their use 
is completely unregulated.  As mentioned before, with proper laws and penalties, younger people would have a much more difficult time 
getting a hold of these drugs.  Some people might question the effects that a using parent would have on their children.  But in countries 
where some of these drugs are decriminalized, the users are healthier, they are gainfully employed and they have stable families that are 
well adjusted and healthy (Schaffer, Basic Facts About the War on Drugs).  

 Another good reason for legalization is the shaky basis of the original laws.  According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 
marijuana is a gateway drug.  This belief has never 

been proven by reliable scientific testing and is based on a comment by Henry Anslinger before Congress in the 1950's, that marijuana use 
led to use of other drugs, which was contradictory to a statement he made in 1937.  “Harry Anslinger, then head of the Federal Bureau of 
Narcotics testified before Congress and was asked specifically if there was any association between the use of marijuana and the use of 
harder drugs. He replied specifically that there was no such connection and that the users of the different types of drugs commonly did not 
associate with each other” (Schaffer, Basic Facts About the War on Drugs).  Mr. Anslinger changed his answer after he realized that his 
old motives were no longer acceptable.  

 Finally, most people would argue that these drugs are illegal because they are dangerous.  This is simply not true.  The average number of 
drug-related deaths in the United States is about 4,500 per year.  Compare this to 80,000 deaths per year for alcohol and 390,000 per year 
for tobacco (add another 50,000 for second hand smoke).  Forty-five hundred for all hard drugs combined doesn’t seem as bad compared 
to those numbers.  “There has never been a recorded death due to marijuana at any time in US history” (Schaffer, Basic Facts About the War on Drugs).
 In conclusion, you can see that most of the reasons that these drugs are illegal are unfounded and invalid. Legalization would decrease 
the availability to young people, the original laws were founded on racist principles, and these illegal drugs don’t cause nearly as many deaths 
as the very legal substances, alcohol and tobacco.

Works Cited
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drug Information”. 1999-2002. .
Keel, Robert. Drug Law Timeline. 
Schaffer, Clifford A. Basic Facts About the War on Drugs. 

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