America's war on drugs has been an abysmal failure, according to many critics. They claim that the drug trade continues largely unabated, leaving corruption and death in its wake. Consequently, they call for the legalization of drugs. This paper will argue against that proposal based on political models (incrementalism and rationalism) and the risks that would be created by legalization. No drug makes those risks more apparent than heroin, which has already wrought great harm.
Proponents of legalization maintain that drug use is endemic in society, so attempts at prohibition are fruitless. Worse, the war on drugs causes more harm than good. Such harm includes the thousands of addicts who are imprisoned rather than treated, billions of dollars spent to deter drug traffickers that could be better spent elsewhere, the corruption of government officials (both in the U.S. and abroad), and the countless deaths that could be prevented (Soros, 1997, p. C1).
Instead of trying to arrest and prosecute drug users, the so-called "harm reduction" movement says we should channel our energies to limiting the harm done by those who cannot or will not stop using drugs (Wren, 2000, p. 1). Legalizing or decriminalizing drug use would allows us to redirect much of the multibillion budget for drug interdiction to treatment. Moreover, the police could focus their attention on dangerous criminals rather than wasting their time apprehending drug addicts. "Harm reduction means first that adults who consume drugs without putting others in harm's way are not the government's business, whether their drug is marijuana, coca, heroin, ayahuasca, tobacco or alcohol" (Nadelmann, 1999).
Though many Americans support medical marijuana initiatives, the vast majority opposes the legalization of hard drugs such as heroin (Wren, 2000, P. 1), and with good reason. Heroin is a powerful narcotic derived from the poppy. The drug interferes with the brain's ...