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Decriminalization of Drugs


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The Decriminalization of Drugs: Costs and Benefits to Society The University of Pennsylvania Michael F. Harker March 21, 2009 Criminology 200-401 Instructor: John MacDonald Abstract History In 1973 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was formed to control drugs in America. Cocaine became popular again towards the end of the 1970’s followed by crack in the 1980’s (DuPont, 1995, p. 463). These two drugs helped to account for a large increase in violence that was spreading like a pandemic. Today the DEA still faces large problems with crime due to drugs;however it is now in the form of organized crime. It is becoming increasingly difficult to stop shipments of drugs into and out of the U.S. as the leaders of drug cartelsare beginning to set up headquarters in foreign countries. If the U.S. does not take some action with reducing the penalty for certain drugs, then these drug lords will continue with their violent ways, and America will face even more problems with drugs than it currently does. The Problems Faced Today and Their Solutions A major concern of many proponents of decriminalization is that of the economic burden on society. Gary E. Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, stated,“legalization means we educate, regulate, tax and control the estimated four hundred billion dollar a year drug industry” (Johnson, 2001). By reducing the amount of money that is spend on the whole system for controlling drugs, the government would have more money to spend on much needed programs, such as that for education. The minimum sentencing for specific drug felonies has led to the overcrowding that we currently experience in the prison system in the U.S. (Farr, 1990, 228). The majority of violent crimes occur in young adults, and since 1992 adolescent drug use has increased greatly, as well as the acceptance of attitudes towards drug use (DuPont, 1995, p.

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