Surprisingly or not, despite the fact that numerous philosophers and scholars in ethics discussed the issue of illicit drugs, no ethical agreement has been found as for whether drugs should be legalized. Despite the growing complexity of drug abuse issues and the increasing complicatedness of drug legalization debate, we are still at the beginning of the road toward balancing the needs of legalization and decriminalization with the punitive principles in the current system of criminal justice. It appears however, and the current state of research confirms this truth, that we operate the notions and concepts which we do not even understand.
As a result, it is morally wrong to defend either legalization or criminalization of drugs, when neither philosophers nor legal professionals can find a common agreement on what legalization, criminalization, and punishment are. Certainly, it is easy to say that drugs should be legalized to improve the quality of legal control, or as Hitchens asserts to reduce the symptoms of glaucoma and to provide chemotherapy patients with pain relief, in case of marijuana (41). Moreover, it is easy to promote an idea of strict anti-drug policies which would guarantee severe punishment for those guilty of drug offense.
The problem is that in the current state of research the two opposing sides of the debate seem unwilling and reluctant to look deeper into the arguments they use to protect their viewpoints. Proponents of legalization do not take into account that public access to drugs will inevitably increase the rates of drug use among all population groups; those who advocate for continuous criminalization of drugs easily forget that imprisoning and punishing dealers do not decrease the scope of drug sales (Boyum 867).
It appears the parties of this continuous ethical debate are too blind to review the relevance of their assertions and to look beyond the limits of their conventional arguments. Moreover, no one seems to be willing to unite all existing arguments and all research results into a single and universally accepted policy line. For example, Rubin reviews drug use from the viewpoint of evolution, where drug abuse by young people stands out as a kind of “handicap competition”, which can hardly be eliminated and has biological roots (12).
In his turn, Kan suggests that the world will always exist between the two opposite lines of drug trade and drug prohibition (4). Apart from the fact that all these arguments need to be integrated into a single relevant theory of drug legalization, we ourselves are not well educated about the essence and the meaning of “legalization”, “decriminalization”, and “drug offense. ” It is difficult not to agree to Husak: “for a number of reasons, the traditional definition of decriminalization is deceptively simple” (22).
Moreover, there is no general agreement as for what decriminalization is. Different authors provide different interpretations and seem to use multiple decriminalization meanings in ways that would fit their specific philosophic purposes. For example, Gray suggests that decriminalization of drugs is nothing else but simple tolerance toward their use (218), while for Stares decriminalization stands out as the removal of punitive actions for possession and use of drugs (78).
There is no unanimous agreement as for whether legalization means decriminalizing all drugs or criminalizing certain types of drugs. Finally, given the relevance of punitive principles to which we adhere, we lack sufficient philosophic knowledge to decide whether using and possessing drugs is a good ethical or legal reason to punish an individual. As a result, no one will be able to resolve the issue of drug legalization, to develop a balanced policy, and to change the current status quo unless these controversies are resolved.
Otherwise the current debate over decriminalization of drugs will remain a set of assumptions and beliefs without any chance to turn into a systematic ethical and legal knowledge. Works Cited Boyum, D. “Prohibition and Legalization: Beyond the False Dichotomy. ” Social Research, vol. 68, no. 3 (2001): p. 865-68. Gray, J. P. Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It. Temple University Press, 2001. Hitchens, C.
“The Problem: Legalize It. ” Foreign Policy, vol. 160 (2008): p. 41-2. Husak, D. “Four Points About Drug Decriminalization. ” Criminal Justice Ethics, vol. 22, no. 1 (2003): p. 21-9. Kan, P. R. “To Legalize or Not To Legalize? ” Foreign Policy, vol. 157 (2007): p. 4. Rubin, P. H. “Why Illegal Drugs? ” Regulation, Winter 2006-2007, p. 10-2. Stares, P. B. Global Habit: The Drug Problem in a Borderless World. Brookings Institution Press, 1996.