DRCNet Reponse to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization


Drug Legalization Would Have an Adverse Effect on Low-Income Communities.

DEA Statement


Some proponents of legalization claim that current strict drug control policies have a disproportionately adverse effect on poor communities.


This is obviously true. See, for example, the report, Young Black Men and the Criminal Justice System, by the Sentencing Project.
The drug laws of the United States, and efforts to stop drug trafficking and abuse, are designed to protect all people from the harm and degradation that illegal drugs cause. The truth is that the drug laws were originally based on racism. See Historical References.
If one economic group or another is disproportionately affected by the implementation of current laws, that problem should be dealt with in its proper context--not by legalizing drugs. The original intent of the laws was to discriminate against racial minorities. It is simply not possible to solve the great racial disparities of the War on Drugs without major reform. The DEA is opposed to reform of all types.
The participants at the forum, several of them city police chiefs, disagreed with the notion that legalization would improve the lot of the poor. It isn't the poor that bear the brunt of the drug laws - it is one particular section of the poor -- poor blacks.
Legalization proponents argue that fewer people would be arrested for drug trafficking crime and the violence associated with turf protection would be reduced if drugs were legalized. That argument assumes that drug-related violence is limited to rival drug gangs disputing turf, when in fact, most drug violence is committed by people under the influence of drugs. As previously stated in the response to Claim I, the DEA's statement is clearly untrue. Alcohol is the only drug with any consistent connection to drug-induced violence. The violence associated with illegal drugs is the result of the illegal drug market. See the Dept. of Justice report Psychoactive Substances and Violence.
The incidence of dysfunctional families, unemployability, family violence, and ruined lives would increase in low-income communities, just as it would in every other community. This is simple fear-mongering and ignores the fact that the largest single cause of unemployability for black men is a prison record. Jailing large numbers of black men for non-violent drug offenses effectively renders them unemployable for life, because few employers will hire a black man with a prison record.
All communities would see increased aberrant behavior because of increased drug use; increased occurrences of child neglect; increased family disintegration; increased fetal damage caused by mothers' drug use; increased social welfare costs; loss of workforce productivity; increased auto accidents because drivers are driving under the influence of drugs; increased industrial accidents caused by impaired workers; increased absenteeism; and increases in emergency room visits and overdose deaths. In short, all Americans would see a moral decline of society.


All of these problems are far more prevalent because of alcohol than with any of the illegal drugs. The DEA does not recommend that we bring back alcohol Prohibition to deal with those problems.

The DEA also lumps all drugs together, even though they have widely varied effects. With marijuana, in particular, there is no evidence that any of these effects would occur if drugs were "legalized".

Drug use in the inner city is a manifestation of other problems in the inner city; these problems would not go away if more drugs were available. No one is contending that these problems would go away under any system. However, by using our tax dollars for constructive solutions, rather than prison, we would greatly reduce many of the related problems.

When the DEA says "if more drugs were available" they ignore the fact that their own statistics show that they have never had a significant effect on drug availability.

If proponents truly believe that legalization would have a positive effect on communities, we challenge them to set up a trial program in their own community. The citizens of San Francisco did just that -- for the limited purpose of legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. They seemed to be quite pleased with their trial program, but the DEA has done everything in their power to stop it.
Some facts which help to confirm the observations of the forum participants may be used in debates:


  • In his 1994 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Herbert Kleber addresses the drug situation: "Our current drug situation follows a pattern of earlier drug epidemics. As the use of drugs drops from epidemic to endemic levels, disadvantaged groups are more likely than others to continue using drugs because of their greater availability and fewer alternative opportunities.
Dr. Kleber ignores the original racist intent behind the laws. See Historical References.
  • That is why minority communities want not only treatment facilities but also fair laws, justly applied to reduce the horrendous toll of drug-related crime in their neighborhoods.
Dr. Kleber, like the DEA, fails to note that by far the majority of the violence associated with illegal drugs is the result of the great profits involved in illegal drugs. See Psychoactive Substances and Violence.
  • The illegal, open air drug bazaars that flourish in southeastern Washington DC and the South Bronx would not be tolerated in Georgetown or Scarsdale."
The people from Georgetown and Scarsdale have better employment options than the people in the South Bronx.




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