.. nity to travel around Western Europe, and among all of the places I visit, I find Amsterdam to be one the most intriguing. Specifically, living in and watching a city function, in which drug use is considered a health problem rather than a criminal issue, will be different than anything I have ever seen. I have always been curious as to the extent of which the drug policy was abused by the people of the Netherlands, in relation to the strictly enforced drug policies of the United States. However, recent studies show that the use of both soft drugs (marijuana, hashish, and mushrooms) and hard drugs (ecstasy, cocaine, and heroine) are significantly lower in the Netherlands per percentage of the population, than in the United States (Dutch Embassy).
As a result, I find myself questioning the United States of Americas War on Drugs, and the money, time, and work the Criminal Justice department devotes to enforcing a system of laws that apparently are not working. I have researched the city of Amsterdam quite extensively. Among all of the things I learned about the city, I found the citys tolerance to sexual expression and drug use remarkable. Rather than punishing citizens for their personal choice to use cannabis products, the city uses coffee shops as places to separate marijuana smokers from the under world ( 12). These coffee shops are strictly licensed and taxed, and not only serve as a convenient and respectable place to purchase and smoke cannabis products, but also serve as a source of revenue for a booming city (). The Dutch government takes a libertarian approach to human rights, in that it believes that what citizens do with their own bodies is of no concern to the police or the control of state.
In accordance, the government runs an array of programs that are considered unthinkable by the standards of American law. For example, the Dutch government exchanges used syringes for clean ones to control the spread of diseases among hard-core drug abusers. The Netherlandss hands-on approach of helping and dealing with hard drug abusers is a refreshing and different approach at solving a seemingly uncontrollable problem, especially after watching the United States condemn and shun those citizens who have lost control of their lives. The result of the Netherlands tolerant society is astonishing, as its citizens do not abuse their freedom. According to a survey by the Center for Drug Research at the University of Amsterdam, only two to three percent of Dutch over the age of twelve 12 had used marijuana over a one-month period (Media Awareness Project).
In contrast, in the United States, a 1996 government study concluded around five percent of the population used the drug at least once a month (Media Awareness Project). Other studies concluded that United States high school seniors use cannabis almost six percent more than high school seniors from Amsterdam (Drug Policy and Crime Statistics). Overall, these studies showed a significantly greater abuse of cannabis by people under the age of eighteen in the United States, than in the Netherlands (Drug Policy and Crime Statistics). In addition, not only is hard and soft drug use significantly lower in Amsterdam, crime is also considerably lower in Netherlands. Both the United States murder rate, and crime related deaths, average around eight times more than that of the Netherlands (Drug Policy and Crime Statistics). Meanwhile, the United States spends fifty-four dollars more per capita on drug related law enforcement (Drug Policy and Crime Statistics). This is alarming, as these figures depict The War on Drugs as a waste of money and resources. Is there really a War on Drugs in America.
Well, lets compare our War on Drugs to a protypical war fought between two conflicting powers. In a war, two opposing sides have soldiers. In this case, The US has police, DEA, Customs Agents, Swat Teams, and Special Task Forces to name a few. What does the enemy have? Better yet, who is the enemy? Well, the enemy is our own people. Eighty percent of drug arrest are for personal use.
The people arrested have careers, families, and in most cases are otherwise law abiding and tax paying citizens. It is well known that wars cost money. The War on Drugs is no exception, annually costing eighteen billion dollars federally and fifty billion dollars nationally (). In a war, both sides feel justified, but are willing to negotiate. In the War on Drugs, both sides feel justified, but one is not willing to negotiate. War always prisoners on both sides.
However, in this war, only one side takes prisoners. Seven-hundred thousand are locked up every year( ). Wars are traditionally fought on battlegrounds. The War on Drugs is fought on our streets and effects our children. The war is not against drugs, but is against our Human Rights as defined in The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution.
The Declaration of Independence states that we have unalienable rights and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the US Constitution state that there are other rights than those listed in the Bill of Rights and that those powers that the people did not expressly give to the government still belong to the people. The people retain their inalienable rights as they have not given the government the power to act as their moral dictator. Further, the principle of inalienable rights, one of the principles upon which this nation was founded, tells us by logic that property rights are the most important rights we have. If we do not have the inalienable right to own property then we ourselves are slaves to those who do. If we do have the right to own property than we have the right to use that property as we see fit, so long as we do not harm others by such use.
If we do not have the right to use our property as we see fit, then the ownership of that property is a sham; it means nothing and we are in fact slaves. Our most basic property is ourselves, that is, our bodies and our minds. If we are not slaves to the government (or to those who control the government) then we have the inalienable right to use our bodies and our minds as we wish, even if it harms us, just so long as we do not harm others or their property. This fact, in a truly liberty-loving society, is not debatable, it is a given and cannot legitimately be taken from us, otherwise there is no true liberty, no free society, just a society of slaves or quasi-slaves. Bibliography Works Cited Marks, Alexandra.
US is losing the War on Drugs. The Christian Science Monitor 5 Jan 2000: 1-2. Going Dutch?. The Economist (US). 15 Jan 2000, 55-57. Massing, Michael.
Beyond Legalization. The Nation 20 Sept 1999: 19-21 MacCoun, Robert J., Reuter, Peter. Does Europe Do It Better?. The Nation 20 Sept 1999: 28-31. Drug Policy and Crime Statistics.
Dutch Embassy. 6 Aug 1998. (http://www.netherlands-embassy.org/drug-inf.htm). The Netherlands: Dutch Marijuana Use Lower Than US. Media Awareness Project. 16 Apr 1998. (http://www.mapinc.org/). Legal Issues Essays.