A critical evaluation of alternatives approaches towards drugs

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A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF ALTERNATIVES APPROACHES TOWARDS DRUGS

INTRODUCTION

The issue of combating drug use and its commercialization has been one of increasingly debate since the turn of the century. One on hand stands the believers that the mainstream strategy –which focuses on total prohibition- should continue to be enforced and implemented worldwide, as it is thought to be the only onethat attacks the root of the problem. On the other hand, alternative policies have been recently gaining momentum based on the success they have proved in countries like Portugal and the Netherlands. Some of the new policies attack the drug problem from another perspective; having as a goal a radical change in the demand’s (consumers of drugs) behavior without recurring to legal threats orconsequences. Therefore, decriminalization of drugs and the issue of gedogen have been evaluated as possible action plans for the new policies.

This essay will focus on the use of alternative policies and their economic effect. More specifically, the essay will ponder the actions taken by countries to decriminalize the use of illicit substances. The analysis will mainly concentrate on the use ofcannabis and ecstasy; nevertheless, some examples using other drugs such as heroine and cocaine will be explained to emphasize certain points. The paper is organized as follows. First, an analysis of background information, including the reasons prohibition failed, will be provided. It will be explained the reasons countries decide to consider alternatives policies to combat drug use. Next, a generaldescription of the policies adopted by Portugal and the Netherlands will be given. The reasons why drug users benefit the most from these policies will also be explained. Finally, the essay will finish by illustrating the groups involved and which of them face the costs of decriminalization.

In order to understand the different approaches to the drug problem, it is important to establish somedefinitions for words that, interpreted differently, may give the wrong message. For the purpose of this study, Hughes and Stevens’ (2010) definitions of some of these words will be taken in account. “Legalization is defined as the complete removal of sanctions, making a certain behavior legal and applying no criminal or administrative penalty. Decriminalization is defined as the removal ofsanctions under the criminal law, with optional use of administrative sanctions (e.g. provision of civil fines or court-ordered therapeutic response” (Hughes and Stevens, 2010).

In the eye of the Dutch approach to illicit drugs, the concept of gedogen is broadly defined as a regulatory system of organized toleration and targeted repression (Uitermark, 2004). It emphasizes the practice ofdiscriminatory enforcement; only those illegalities that are considered to cause social problems are targeted for repression. So, establishing whether something has negative externalities or not is what ultimately will decide the degree of public intervention.

Different kinds of drugs and substances will be mentioned and discussed throughout the paper. The following table shows a description of themain drug classes we will touch upon with their corresponding related substances and pharmacological effects. It is worth mentioning that terms like ‘cannabis’, ‘hashish’ and ‘marijuana’ will be used interchangeably because their differences lay in biochemical properties not relevant to the scope of this essay. Moreover, the negatives externalities that come with the use, sale and production of drugswill not be mentioned again for enough has been said regarding this topic. The paper assumes the reader has a general knowledge of the negative properties of drugs and why it is so pertinent to deter their use to increase social wellbeing in a nation.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

A need to evaluate alternative approaches to the drug problems rose as a result of the poor efficiency that the...
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