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Contemporary Criminology - Should drugs be decriminalised

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Kevin Abon

on 1 October 2013

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Transcript of Contemporary Criminology - Should drugs be decriminalised

Should drugs be decriminalised?
Introduction
The debate of drug decriminlisation has been argued constantly within today's society. Alcohol, for one, is classified as a drug, however, we still keep it legalised even though it has caused problems such as violent crimes and irrational actions resulting to crime. This Prezi argues that decriminalisation is the ideal option because:
Drug laws are ineffective and immoral in general
There have been many arguments concerning the decriminalisation and the war on drugs.
Statistics on drug-related crime + Other countries which have decriminalised drugs
The economy of drugs
This section describes the economy of drugs. Money is gained from illegal drug trafficking and smuggling through the existence of the Black Market. Furthermore, as alluded by the first argument, the war on drugs puts strain on government funding and resources as well as the Criminal Justice System.
Medical benefits of some illicit drugs
This section argues that there are some drugs which are prefectly safe depending on the type of substance and the amount of the dose. The benefits of drugs such as marijuana and cocaine are greater than alcohol, and does not cause violent crime. So we ask the question; Are there any benefits for decriminalising drugs?
Our arguments to support the decriminalisation include:
1. Introductory subtopic: Drug laws in general are ineffective and immoral
2. The decriminalisation of drugs will decrease criminal efforts to gain funds as well as foreign strategies of decriminalisation as well as decrease government strain
3. If drugs were to be decriminalised, the Black Market trade and trafficking/smuggling will reduce
4. The medical viewpoints on some illicit drugs as well as any health benefits of decriminalisation
Vollmer's view has been supported from a number of sources. Barbour (2005) had pointed out that the amount of profit gained from illegal drugs has created a large incentive for criminals. Therefore, for every drug bust conducted, another drug operation will replace it. As stated by Barbour (2005), "As long as Americans want to use drugs, and are willing to defy the law and pay high prices to do so, drug busts are futile. Other profit-seeking smugglers and dealers will always be ready to step in and take the place of those arrested" (p. 122). This demonstrates the existing drug laws cause drugs to be a rare and expensive commodity which suppliers and organisations use to gain profits from addicted individuals.
This also proves to be a moral issue due to the fact that addicted individuals are practically forced to by drugs in order to quell their urges and suppliers/dealers are making money of the addiction of others. Furthermore, Vollmer suggested that the government should focus on changing prohibition of drugs to the control and dispensation of habit-inducing drugs. This way, profit cannot be made and dealers would start to find other jobs (Vollmer, 1969). The prohibition of drugs also proved to be a sole reasons why drug prices are so high and profit margins so extreme. Heartstein (2003) used one example of cocaine where a reasonable amount costs $500 to make. However, the price grows to enormous amounts when it's being sold; around $100,000. The reason why the price is so high is because the the Black Market thrives off the existence of drug prohibition laws.
President George Bush had mentioned that "overall drug use in the United States has been reduced by 50 percent over the last 20 years" (Stossel, 2005). However, these statistics were gained from surveys. Questions such as "Have you used an illicit drug in the past month?" will most likely not retrieve a reliable response due to the incriminating question. Furthermore, drug use had increased by 10 percent while funding was increased by 50 percent in order to criminalise drug use (Stossel, 2005). This is why Stossel questioned the effectiveness of drug prohibition laws.
In terms of questioning the morality of drug laws and adding on to Vollmer's argument, Heartstein (2003) had simply put it into four relevant points
1. Prohibition creates and enforces the absolute need for denial
2. Prohibition drives the addiction syndrome underground, thereby making it more difficult to see the real negative effects
3. Prohibition drives drug users underground, thus causing treatment to be delayed, and more difficult or impossible to receive
4. Prohibition creates a social stigma that makes the user who is already a victim into a demonsied monster in the so-called conventional wisdom of all those who have no experience in the area

So basically, they are instantly called a 'junkie' or a 'crack head' despite the majority of society having little knowledge of the effects or addiction rate
Male offending which is drug related
Observing figure 1, it is noticeable that illicit drug offences remains among the highest rating crimes in Australia among males with an astonishing 431% of all crimes per 100,000 of the population. In 2010-11, there was a decline to 424 % but even with this decline, to have illicit drugs up so highly in a country that prides itself in being clean is a daunting statistic. However, theft is one of the highest crimes as well among males. This may be caused to obtain the funds needed to support a drug habit
Female offending which is drug related
From figure 2, it is observed that in 2009-10, illicit drug offences among the female population were approximately 108% per 100,00 with a small decline to 100% in 2010-11. Even with the decline, it is still identifiable that illicit drugs are still a drawback as they rate the third highest offence type after both AICI and theft among female offences.
Drug use within Australia from 1996-2007
As seen previously, the most frequent drug that drug offenders are caught using is Cannabis. In Australia, the United States and other countries, there is a continuing interest in reform of cannabis control laws in order to reduce the high enforcement costs and adverse individual consequences of the criminalisation of cannabis possession for personal use. The major impetus for reform has been that the prohibition of cannabis possession has entailed relatively high costs, both in terms of enforcement resources and in terms of adverse individual consequences (Single, 1999).
If Australia is in the view of wanting to bring down enforcement costs and individual consequences, statistics they can look to are of countries that have chosen to decriminalise soft drugs in the form of cannabis and how they have benefited.
Dispite the legalisation of soft drugs in the Netherlands since 1976, it has not led to an enormus growth in utilization, as critics feared, and the police have found it much easier to keep an eye on the trade (Leuw, 1994). The soft drugs market in the Netherlands heavily depends on the produce from within the country and the government had also started cashing in on these profits. In 2007 alone, about 730 coffee shops were estimated to have sold 265,000 kgs of soft drugs mainly grown in the country. According to police estimates, about 60%-80% of the cannabis grown in the Netherlands are exported with the rest being sold in the local market (Bieleman & Goeree, 2000).
The government has found that it has gained enormously from the sale of the drug in coffee shops. It was disclosed that the Dutch government rakes in over $617 million in value with tax added from the sales conducted in coffee shops. On the national scale, the total turnover for the sale of soft drugs is estimated to be $3.2 billion only comparable to that of the Dutch public transport system. The grower's gain as well; the coffee shops pay up to 5,000 euros per kilo depending on the quality. In this example, we see a local economy thrive due to the decriminalisation of drugs.
With this Dutch example, another illustration is in Portugal where in the late 1990's and early 2000's, rates of hard and soft-drug usage in Portugal were soaring, along with hepatits and HIV rates. Faced with both a public health crisis and a public relations disaster, Portugal's elected officials took a bold step. They decided to decriminalise the possession of all illicit drugs ranging from cannabis to heroin but keep the criminal sanctions on distribution and trafficking. The goals achieved have been easing the burden on the nation's criminal justice system and improving the people's overall health by treating addiction as an illness, not a crime Huges & Stevens (2010). Australia can learn from both Portugal and the Netherlands.
Prohibition of illicit drugs within today's economy is known to increase the price of drugs, stimulate underground, organised illegal activity and result in a large number of other economic and social costs (Thornton 2004 and Husak 2003). Whenever there's a demand, there will be suppliers, but it is clear that with decriminalisation the black market and all crimes and violence associated with it will greatly decrease (Kleber 1994). Enormous pressure is put on the justice system as police waste their resources combating illicit drug use and tax payers' money is used to keep many drug-related offenders in overcrowded prisons. With these substances being made legal the police could make better use of their resources, and less strain will be put on the penal system. Furthermore, the government will be able to tax the legal drugs to which the money could be redirected into health care facilities and other institutions to combat our drug-related problems.
The Black Market
The Situation Now:
Definition: “Drug trafficking is a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws” (“drug trafficking” 2013).

The prohibition of drugs creates an underground market to form as a result of the high demand for illegal goods (Jenner 2011). The black market for drugs is considered to be one of the largest and most successful within the world as a result of the illegal nature of the substances sold. There's a high incarceration risk which increases production costs as individuals take many precautionary steps to ensure they don't get caught (Thornton 2004). This results in a small amount of major suppliers which creates a monopolistic industry where business greatly mark up drug prices to fund organised crime groups (Jenner 2011). Organised crime flourishes and so do all other crimes associated with those groups (“Australian Government” 2012). During all stages of drug production and delivery, if at any time an individual breaches contract, the justice system will not be called in to settle the dispute as they can't enforce contracts for illegal good (Thornton 2004). To settle the dispute, often individuals result to violence (Jenner 2011). This overall also diverts resources and attention from treatment, prevention and education programs that could assist addicts.

Police and Prison Resources
The 2012 Foreign Minister Bob Carr stated that decriminalising drug use would greatly benefit society as resources can be redirected within the police. Their time and energy would not be wasted on waiting around at railway stations with sniffer dogs to catch small traces of marijuana, instead they can begin “doing the things they ought to be doing” (“Australian Government” 2012).

Drug decriminalisation removes the possibility of incarceration and fines for both the buyers and the sellers of drugs (Tedeschi 2007). Therefore legalising drugs significantly reduces the amount of crime, freeing up the police, the courts and the prisons (Thornton 2004). Overcrowding is currently a major issue within prisons, with 11% of that population being drug offenders, with each individual expecting to serve 3-6 years on average (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013). There is simply not enough space or resources to incarcerate so many drug-related offenders A lot of money made from tax is directed to holding offenders within prison. It costs well over $500 a day to keep an individual in prison. If drug supplying and using was made legal, less individuals would be in prison and less tax dollars can be spent on holding offenders there and can be directed to more rehabilitative and preventative programs and facilities.

Government Tax
Currently there is a tax on alcohol and cigarettes and potentially the same could be done with certain drugs after they are made legal. For Example, in 2010 the Australian government raised approximately $7 billion from alcohol tax. Regardless of the tax amount, it is certain that it would add enormously to the prices the newly legal drugs (Husak 2003). Taxes on drugs will have two major benefits as their high price will discourage consumption (Tedeschi 2007) and it also feeds money back into the economy. Every year, the government wastes millions of dollars attempting to fight the producers of illegal drugs (Tedeschi 2007). With production made legal, those funds as well as the large revenue from taxes can be used for drug prevention, education and treatment strategies (Thornton 2004). This way taxpayers fund drug control, attacking the issue at its roots as opposed to merely dealing with the aftermath of detaining individuals in prison. Through these programs individuals will learn to be more productive citizens and can contribute more to society.


The dangers of the legal drug - Alcohol
One of the greatest medical benefits of marijuana is that unlike other drugs, it is not possible to die directly due to an overdose. Acute toxicity (temporary overdose) is safe, and will generally result in dizziness, drowsiness and difficulty in concentrating (Loiacono, 2013). Extreme cases can lead to dysphoria and a decreased sex drive, however when comparing this to alcoholism, it is obvious that there are far less worries for an individual to be smoking excessive amounts of marijuana alone than that person drinking excessive amounts of alcohol alone, as this could lead to multiple worries, such as nausea, vomiting, decreased libido, acute intoxication or alcohol poisoning (Dale & Rang, 2007). Alcohol poisoning can potentially lead to death if untreated. Other temporary effects can involve depression, aggression uninhibited behaviour and impaired judgement, coordination and motor function, the list goes on.
Excessive and constant consumption of alcohol can lead to multiple organ failures, including the liver and brain, which could lead to seizures, strokes or liver failure (Dale & Rang, 2007). When investigating alcohol at a scientific level, it has been found that in an average sitting with 5 alcoholic beverages, a person can consume enough ethanol to reach an equivalent of 250g of most other drugs (Dale & Rang, 2007).
From a medical point of view, it is often accepted that the dangers of alcohol are worse than that of smoking, be it marijuana or cigarettes. A 14 year research study conducted in Germany found that heavy drinking will kill an individual at a significantly faster rate, with the mean age of death between 58 and 60 years of age (Preece, 2012). This estimate displays a 20 year difference among the general population. Similarly, the effects of alcoholism as opposed to smoking is shown to be a faster process, with smoking related death cases being due to cancer, which occur at a later stage in life compared to alcohol-attributable deaths (Preece, 2012). If alcohol is more dangerous than both cigarettes and cannabis, wouldn't it be more beneficial for cannabis to be decriminalized?
Cannabis and its effects
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a psychoactive drug, meaning the effects of the drug will act primarily on the central nervous system. Cannabis has the chemical compound Tetrahydrocannabinol, known by most as THC. THC is the reason for the side effects caused by smoking or ingesting marijuana (Loiacono, 2013). There is always strong speculation that marijuana, much like every other illicit drug, is incredibly dangerous and should stay criminalized. However, from a medical standpoint this is not necessarily the case. The effects that marijuana has on the central nervous system tend to relate to a sense of relaxation and euphoria, and actually increase sensory awareness, primarily of sight and sound (Loiacono, 2013). Unlike alcohol, cannabis does not produce any feelings of aggression (Dale & Rang, 2007). Marijuana can also act as an analgesic and an antiemetic, meaning it can both dull pain and prevent feelings of nausea (Loiacono, 2013). One of the most well known effects of cannabis is that it causes feelings of hunger, which is known as "having the munchies".
There are effects relating to impairment of learning and motor functions, however in appropriate doses they are not as significant on the body as alcohol (Dale & Rang, 2007). A common misconception of the effects of Marijuana acts similarly to LSD, where moments of paranoid delusions occur. While these moments can happen, they are incredibly rare and are only prominent in chronic users and with high dosages of cannabis (Dale & Rang, 2007). Decriminalizing marijuana would provide great benefits. Not just for the individuals who enjoy the sensation of feeling high, but also those who have many medical issues.
Clinical use of Marijuana
One of the biggest arguments towards the decriminalization of cannabis involves the effectiveness of cannabis in the medical industry. Cannabis presents itself to be a highly effective means of treatment. Its main reacting compound THC has been shown to be an easily maintained drug which is beneficial to patients. For example, when used in appropriate doses, medicinal marijuana can be used to relieve muscular pain and spasms with multiple sclerosis patients, relieve pain and improve the appetite of those with HIV-AIDS, and are also used as an antiemetic for nausea due to chemotherapy (Dale & Rang, 2007). The use of THC for medical purposes is strongly pressed upon, asking for licensing to use THC for clinical use due to results obtained through clinical trials which have shown THC to be highly beneficial within medicine.
A study conducted in 2009 by Spanish researchers found that through using THC brain cancer cells were actually killed completely (Mozes, 2009). This study, conducted on mice found that by directly introducing THC to the brain triggered a cellular self-digestion process known as "autophagy", in which the cancer cells were killed; leaving normal brain cells unharmed (Mozes, 2009).
Also within cannabis is a further chemical component known as cannabidol. Recent studies in Temple University of Pharmacy in Pennsylvania displayed that cannabidol would prevent the onset of pain associated with the chemicals and drugs used in breast cancer chemotherapy, and would not produce and psycho-active effects such as euphoria or increased appetite that would normally occur through other chemicals found in marijuana (ScienceDaily, 2011). Cannabidol has also been shown to decrease the growth rate in tumors related to breast cancer, and when combined with other well known working drugs, could potentially result in breast cancer tumors reducing in size and being eliminated from the body (ScienceDaily, 2011).
Case Study
http://edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2013/02/13/dnt-driving-under-influence-marijuana.kiro.html – MARIJUANA DRIVING EXPERIMENT
A 2013 social experiment conducted by news empire CNN involved testing the effects marijuana plays on driving skills. The experiment involved an infrequent marijuana user, a weekly user and a daily user for medicinal purposes. Following smoking 0.1g of marijuana, the three individuals were placed on a race track, and were asked to complete a standard driving course whilst accompanied by a driving instructor. Following each initial test the three volunteers would then continue smoking more marijuana before completing the test a second and third time. Whilst it was indeed shown that marijuana can impair reaction speeds and general driving skills, the three motorists exceeded the original expectations that marijuana would gravely impair their motor skills. The results indicated that for the infrequent driver, driving skills decreased after being four times above the legal limit of 5 nanograms. For the occasional and frequent marijuana smoker, driving skills were impaired up to seven times the legal limit. Whilst this is not scientific proof, it does raise the issue of drug driving in comparison to drink driving. It does not take a lot of alcohol consumption before motor function and decision making is impaired, whereas this social experiments tends to suggest that even the occasional cannabis smoker could drive perfectly fine after taking a considerable amount of marijuana.

Effects of Ecstasy
There is another drug that has previously been used throughout medicine. This is ecstasy. The affiliation with ecstasy nowadays revolves around people taking this drug and ending up in hospital. What isn't known by many is that it isn't just ecstasy that they are taking. Pure ecstasy, known as MDMA, is entirely harmless if taken in a proper dosage. The main reason for hospitalisation is the added ingredient in recreational ecstasy, known as PMMA (Hopper, 2012). PMMA causes the body temperature to sky rocket to the point where it is lethal. This is why a single pill could sometimes result in death. One pill of pure ecstasy will not do this, nor will two or three (Hopper, 2012). The pure form of ecstasy does have its own side effects, however these are minor and are very similar to alcohol, causing dehydration, nausea, blurred vision and depression (Dale & Rang, 2007)). If it's good for one drug, why is the other illegal? Sadly it is impossible to tell pure ecstasy from ecstasy with PMMA without proper scientific testing, so maintaining recreational regulation is extremely difficult. However if pure ecstasy is maintained through hospitals, its uses in medicine could begin anew.
Clinical use of Ecstasy
Much like marijuana, ecstasy's current potential in medicine is hindered due to its illegality. There was a point in time where ecstasy was legal. The original intention was to have MDMA used as a clotting agent, however this was not effective. Following the widespread label as a party drug, ecstasy became a prohibited substance. Although not many clinical trials can be performed with the drug, there have been some which suggest that ecstasy can act as an effective method of treatment for schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson's Disease (Hopper, 2012). Further research into ecstasy has been undertaken a joint British-Australian team and found evidence that an altered form of MDMA could act as treatment for various blood cancers such as leukaemia (Nordqvist, 2011). The study found that psychotropic drugs such as ecstasy are effective in containing the development of white blood cancer cells. Originally, using pure ecstasy the amount needed to obtain this result would likely result in death, however due to scientific alterations these modified compounds are 100 times more powerful than pure ecstasy, and only need a small dosage to begin (Nordqvist, 2011). Again, the successes of these trials and studies are constantly overshadowed by the reputation that PMMA ecstasy has. Further trials are necessary to truly understand the value of pure ecstasy and the potential it may have in the medical field, but for this to happen ecstasy must be decriminalized.
CONTROLLED DRUG USE/SAFE INJECTING HOUSES/CLEAN NEEDLE DISTRIBUTIONS
Not all drugs can be used for medical purposes. However, this does not mean that those drugs do not impact the medical field. There are many risks associated with the method of injecting drugs, such as needle sharing or using old needles. Sharing or using old needles has been shown to be extremely dangerous, and could lead to many diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. In order to combat issues such as these, action must be undertaken by the government. Just because a drug is illegal doesn't mean that it will not be taken, so if these illicit drugs are going to be taken, it is better they are taken in a manner that proper care is taken and that the potential for contracting a disease such as HIV is minimal.
One such method that governments should focus on is the use of a needle exchange program. A 1994 research study indicated that upon the introduction of a syringe exchange program more injection drug users would adopt this method of obtaining syringes, and did not increase drug abuse in new users (Watters, Estilo, Clark, Lorvick, 1994). They also found that through these facilities, less syringes would be discarded unsafely, or used by multiple drug users, which in itself is a preventative measure of contracting diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C (Watters et al, 1994).
A similar study conducted here in Melbourne in 2008 questioned four hundred injecting drug users across four suburbs in order to obtain a general opinion on the implementation of safe injecting rooms (Fry, Fox, Rumbold, 2008). The results showed that 77 percent of those questioned said they would use a safe injecting room if it was provided in Melbourne.
August Vollmer
There have been many arguments concerning the decriminalisation of drugs and the war involving drugs

August Vollmer mentioned in his 1936 book "The Police and Modern Society" that drug laws were ineffective in nature. He was one of the earliest thinkers who considered the issue of drug prohibition
He believed that drug laws are an expensive way of fixing an 'evil' problem. The prohibition on drugs caused an underground drug culture which consisted of "narcotic smugglers and supply agents" which have grown wealthy through the practice of illegal drug trading (Vollmer, 1969). Simply, drug laws have caused drug related smuggling and trafficking through the Black Market
It has been argued that if prohibition laws on drugs did not exist, then drugs would be more accessible and cheaper, which will consequently lower the overall price of drugs (Heartstein, 2003). Heartstein noted that the current profit margin was around 300 percent. If drugs were not considered to be illegal and the risk to sell was lowered, the profit margin would decrease to around 100 percent. This notion adds on to the previous argument about profit gain.
In addition to demonization and demoralisation, Grey mentioned how a well known Jazz Musician was demoralised on her deathbed from drug possession. Laws which prohibit the use and possession of drugs created a social stigma towards users. Billie Holiday who was a Jazz musician abused alcohol during her career and developed liver and heart problems which later grew to be life-threatening. The police came and arrested her for the possession of heroin and they proceeded to take her fingerprints and mug shot despite Ms Holiday being on her deathbed. Grey (2010) stated that once the population are educated on the effects of drugs without the full extent of knowledge about the social and psychological effects of it, they begin to see drug users as “crazed addicts” or “junkies”. It was also noted that people, drug users or not, are still human. They still possess goals, ambitions, needs and wants and drug use does not change that. However, people feel like they have the right to allow people who use drugs to be “stereotyped, demonised, prosecuted, and jailed” (Grey, 2010).
Lastly, Heartstein (2003) had also mentioned the benefits of the decriminalisation of drugs. Since drug use and trade is underground, society does not benefit from the profits. If decriminalisation were to occur, black market trade will be dealt a crippling blow since drugs would be sold within the free market. This would also stop turf wars conducted by dealers who aim to gain the optimum selling space for the maximum amount of profits. Pharmacies would also be in charge of selling drugs and this would result in the detection of abusers who are in need of treatment or rehabilitation. And lastly, the tax revenue gained from the trade of drugs would pay for these mentioned treatment strategies (Heartstein, 2003).  
Many individuals, with fear of incarceration and other violent repercussions, will result to buying from the supplier of legal drugs. Drug traffickers will no longer bring in the same amount of revenue and slowly, criminals would be likely to leave the drug market and the underground drug trafficking will be non-existent (Jenner 2011). Organised criminal groups would also have lost one of their large sources of income, slightly disabling the group.
The situation after decriminalising
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In conclusion...
The decriminalisation of drugs have been supported by a number of sources. The existence of drug laws are thought to be immoral due to the fact that people's addictions are being profited on, as well as the existence of Black Market organisations making drug laws ineffective. Countries such as Portugal and Netherlands have employed decriminalisation strategies which proved to be beneficial to the government and society. Lastly, the medical benefits of drugs such as cocaine and marijuana make decriminalisation ideal for the medical sector and control measures such as safe-injecting stations will keep drug use in check
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