Essay on Drug Policies
Suggestions to improve current drug policies
Introduction: Current efforts to fight drug abuse
Drug abuse has turned into one of the most acute problems of today. As a result, many countries have recognized the need to combat this problem and have joined their efforts to address the issue. An example is the EU Action Plan on Drugs (2000-2004) that was supposed to coordinate efforts of the member states on combating drug trafficking and use. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the Europol Drugs Unit, later replaced through the European Police Office (Europol) were set up to help the bloc achieve better coordination in this area (EU Action Plan on Drugs).
However, the evaluation of the results achieved through the implementation of this plan by the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), published in October 2004, shows that little was achieved of what was stated in the initial plan. The problem with the evaluation of the plan was the lack of coordination between the member states and use of different evaluation criteria when assessing the impact of the plan (ENCOD Bulletin).
In the US, the Office of National Drug Control Policy is an executive body that coordinates the work on combating drug trafficking. The US Department of Justice includes the Drug Enforcement Administration (DFA) that oversees the import of substances in the country (US Embassy in Mexico).
Suggestions on improvement of the policies
To eradicate the problem of drug abuse or at least reduce it to a minimum, one needs to address the issue of why people abuse drugs or why they choose to engage in drug production and trafficking instead of more legal pursuit. The answer to the latter question is that financial benefits of this pursuit outweigh the potential dangers of imprisonment.
I would suggest to replace the prison terms for those people with fines that will be later used on drug-combating programs. Imprisoning members of drug gangs hardly contributes anything to society, as it merely removes these people from the environment where they can stop committing crimes. On the other hand, financial punishment will result in an inflow of funds that can be put to good use, assisting in sponsoring rehabilitation centers for drug addicts, creating employment programs for youth in depressed areas, and offering assistance to drug addicts who were able to conquer their dependence.
As the fine will replace prison terms, it would be possible to make them really substantial in size. Ideally, calculations could be made to fix the amount at such a level that the whole fortune made on drugs can be extracted from the criminal’s funds plus some of the additional income from other sources, if the perpetrator has legal business operations as well. The fine has to be set regardless of the availability of funds from the criminal and has to be paid later in life if the criminal claims to be unable to do this in the moment. In this case, a prison sentence has to be applied. Subsequently, the convicted person will have to devote a large part of one’s income to extinguishing the debt to the government.
The effect has to be to a great part psychological. It will make little sense for criminals to engage in illegal drug trafficking if they can expect that their fortune will later be taken away from them.
Another change in the policies could involve an alteration in punishment for people who do not trade in drugs, but were found guilty of using drugs themselves.
First, it would do good if the criteria for punishment could be harmonized across the nations. There has already been debate in the EU on the equal application of punishment, especially with regard to the liberal policies accepted by some countries like the Netherlands.
Second, it is unwise to punish young people, many of whom showed carelessness in making a decision to take drugs, with a severe measure, like imprisonment. Some of them might have tried drugs only once in a company of friends and are not likely to do it again. Thus, suspension of severe penalties for them could be worthwhile.
Another option for them might be compulsory involvement in drug-combating activities, such as educational programs for youth, fund-raising for charitable initiatives, or voluntary work in rehabilitation centers for drug addicts. These kinds of activities would help them to grasp the negative impact of drugs and assess the danger they are in through drug use. In case the violators refuse to engage in charitable activities, they can be subject to other, more severe measures.
Drawbacks of the proposed solutions
The outlined steps, however viable, have several limitations.
As for the first solution, replacement of the imprisonment with fines would inevitably reduce the seriousness of the punishment and might lead to a factual increase in criminal activities. Besides, it is not always easy to asses the amount of wealth accumulated by the person through illegal activities. If this is not enforced, the criminal would benefit financially from drug production and/or trafficking, and the enforcement agencies will not be able to nullify the effect from taking on extra risk from illegal activity.
The second suggestion, namely, replacement of punishment with voluntary activities for the criminals found guilty of drug abuse for the first time, seems to be less controversial. The only dubious moment is whether psychologically these people are going to benefit from the things they will be required to do. Undoubtedly educational as these activities are for the people who engage in them of their own accord, for those who are required to perform them, they may turn out to be less beneficial.
Drug abuse has grown into one of the greatest problems of today’s world, and so far efforts to fight it have not achieved desirable effect.
The first of the proposed solutions address the cornerstone of the drug production, its attractiveness as a professional pursuit due to the huge profits it brings. Its viability is somewhat challenged by the problems with its enforcement.
Both suggestions aim at substituting imprisonment with alternative actions, forcing criminals to take active action against one of the most serious problems of many countries.
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