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


DEA Statement Response
There is a language surrounding the legalization debate that is not difficult to learn. Here is some of the terminology frequently used by those who support or oppose legalization.  
Legalization - Simply put, this means making legal what is currently illegal. Used in the context of drug policy, it is a broad term that can mean different things to different people. To some it means making all illegal drugs legal for anyone to use; to others it means making certain illegal drugs legal for certain people to use. There is no specific definition of legalization because the parameters of legalization differ among supporters. The term must be further defined by asking: Who will be able to use? Which drugs? At what potency? Where and when? With what regulations? Regulated by whom or by which institutions? Enforced by whom or by which institutions? We agree that there is no single definition for "legalization" and that it means different things to different people.  It could, in fact, encompass a wide range of policies, ranging from allowing tobacco in vending machines, to the legal prescription of morphine.

Given the fact that "legalization" has no clear definition, it is profoundly stupid of the DEA to try to dismiss all discussion of "legalization" as destructive.  An intelligent response requires more discretion than that, as the DEA should recognize from their own words here.

Decriminalization - This term is used to describe the removal of, or reduction in, criminal penalties for particular acts. Used in the context of drug policy, it is a broad term that often encompasses a range of measures such as removal of criminal sanctions for simple possession of drugs or lowering of penalties for possession of small amounts of illegal drugs. By any name, the DEA is opposed to any change in current policies.
Scheduled Drugs - This term refers to the tiered system at the state and federal levels of regulating psychoactive drugs and access to them. The schedules draw distinctions among drugs with high abuse potential, such as marijuana and heroin, for which the medical and scientific communities have concluded that there are no currently accepted medical or therapeutic uses, and other drugs with abuse potential but accepted medical or therapeutic uses. The classifications are illustrated on page 21.  
Harm Reduction - This term refers to a public health concept of lowering the health consequences resulting from certain behaviors. In the context of drug policy, it is often used to describe specific programs which attempt to lower addict transmission of infectious disease. The term "harm minimization" is also frequently used.



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