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Over the last years, the legalization of marijuana in America has been a highly controversial and heated issue. According to various reports, approximately 55 percent of the US citizens still do not believe in the legalization of marijuana, and the remaining 45 percent believe that it is more beneficial to legalize marijuana (Dickerson, 2014). Critics of the legalization argue that the various policies that are meant to eradicate, criminalize, and interdict the consumption of drugs have not worked. In other words, they have placed the burden on taxpayers by being wasteful of police enforcement. How real these acquisitions are firm to justify. Although the US has been struggling to create a unified policy on drug abuse that would keep its streets safe, it has remained active in the establishment of policies that prevent illegal drug use and on policies on the treatment of drug addiction.
Current Drug Policy and its Intention in Prevention of usage of Illegal Drugs
Zero tolerance is a policy that was introduced in the United States by Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush, with the aim of preventing the transfer of drugs within the US borders. Notably, the primary intention of the policy was to get hold of the drug users instead of the suppliers and the transporters (Drug Policy Alliance, n.d). When making this policy the underlying assumption was that placing harsh sentences on personal use would reduce the demand for the drugs and therefore have an impact on the suppliers. Zero tolerance policy did not need additional laws but rather the existing laws were passed with fewer leniencies. The policy can be viewed as an absolute dichotomy between the no use and legality of no use. Additionally, the policy was contrasting the opinions of people who emphasize on the disparity in harmfulness among various drugs, and they would like to differentiate between problem drug use and occasional drug use. While harm reductionist state that uses marijuana and other drugs is undesirable, they insist that more effort should be put in helping problem drug users rather than fighting all the drug users.
The policy is mostly applied in learning institutions where consumption of marijuana and other substances is prevalent. Notably, the drug policy is considered as a comprehensive and cost-effective policy that helps students by bolstering the educational environment and student community. The policy indicates that any student found using or in possession of this illegal drug among others will be subjected to harsh treatment like expulsion, suspension or even face law enforcement agencies (Dickerson, 2014). In California, consumption of marijuana is high secondary schools, colleges, and even universities. Therefore, by establishing this policy, the government ensures that any student, parent, staff or any visitor caught in possession of marijuana in school is automatically punished.
Additionally, in the U.S military services, arbitrary testing is needed for the entire workforce, and severe punishments are imposed on the violators. Using evidence from one the most recent studies, it is apparent that the zero tolerance of usage of illegal drugs has played a critical role in reducing cases of substance use in the military. The zero tolerance also prohibits graduation of candidates who are caught using drugs while in the army school. Moreover, zero tolerance policy requires regular testing of marijuana consumption in the civilian workforce. Therefore, since the highest population in California is unemployed and looking for jobs, they will avoid taking marijuana to increase their chances of being employed.
The Changes that have happened around this Policy
The federal government of the United States established the zero tolerance policy in the 1980s with the aim of combating drug lords and drug trafficking. The policy received a lot of recognition when an attorney in San Diego started a program that was given a title “zero-tolerance.” The program was meant at combating drug offenses that happened in seagoing vessels. Later the term was used in other programs that related to the environment and racial segregation. In the recent past, there have been criticisms of zero-tolerance policies, especially bin schools. Unlike in its initial implementation, the policy has currently undermined the major objective and has yielded negative results. Zero –tolerance policy has become a known epidemic termed as “school-to-prison pipeline” (Juvenile Law Center, 2014). The policy has increased the chances of students, especially from low –income families and students of color, ending up in criminal justice system. Currently, most schools are employing school resource officers, whereby a police station is stationed in the around the school campus. Therefore, the zero tolerance has drifted from its primary role to implementation of policies without substantial reconsideration or rehabilitation measures for students who are addicts.
Changes That Could Be Made To Improve the Policy
Critics of zero tolerance policies on drug argue that the policy violates the Law Enforcement Code of Conduct that was passed by (IACP) International Association of Chiefs of Police. Accordingly, the Law Enforcement Code of Conduct states that the fundamental duties of police are to serve the community, safeguard property and lives, protect the innocent and to ensure that peace is kept at all levels. In addition, the code requires police to behave in a fair and courteous manner by treating citizens in a decent and respectable manner. Police are also obliged not to use unnecessary force as per the law. Instead of following these values, zero tolerance policing destroys several critical requisites including openness to public, police accountability, as well as community cooperation (International Association of Chiefs of Police, n.d). These values have significantly affected the effectiveness of the policy. The policy should be modified to improve zero tolerance policing and to enhance the protection on suspects of drug abuse. Ultimately, such changes will not improve the credibility of policing; it will play a significant role in eradicating substance abuse.
Besides, zero tolerance has proved to violate the principal of health and human, health growth of families, children and communities, and more importantly, education standards. In other words, zero tolerance does not offer service for all (Drug Policy Alliance, n.d).The policy should be improved to ensure that that the services provided are inclusive for all rather than exclusive. The policy should also be enhanced to accommodate investigation on a case-by-case basis. Over the last decade, there have been various scenarios where unreasonably harsh penalties have been taken for offenses that may not have defensible, such sanctions because of an inadequate investigation. Most of these have even caused loss of lives (Lupkin, 2016). When the investigation is done on a case-by-case basis, investigators will have adequate time to make concrete decisions, which are justified.
The policies may also be required to improve the discretion of the legal system and the police. In most cases, enforcers have been forced to make the punishments fit the crime, which limits the offenders from defending themselves. In reality, the best response to a crime should be equal to the punishment that inflicted. For instance, if an offender breaks the law, the criminal is required to suffer in return (Dickerson, 2014). Nevertheless, the punishment should be equal to the crime that was committed otherwise; it will be unconstitutional.
In addition, the policy may also be changed to categorize levels of punishment. Currently, the punishment is the same regardless of the quantity of marijuana you take or possess. Mostly, this can make the offenders to go all out which can cause a significant increase of drug abusers. As a result, it would increase the cost that is associated with the prevention and treatment of drug addiction.
- Dickerson, S. L. (2014). (In) tolerable Zero Tolerance Policy. eJournal of Education Policy , 1-11.
- Drug Policy Alliance. (n.d). Zero tolerance drug policies. Drug Policy. Retrieved from: http://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/zero-tolerance/our-priorities
- International Association of Chiefs of Police. (n.d). Ethics Toolkiit. International Association of Chiefs of Police .Retrieved from: http://www.iacp.org/ethics
- Juvenile Law Center. (2014, January 7). Zero-Tolerance Policies: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from JLC: http://www.jlc.org/blog/zero-tolerance-policies-good-bad-and-ugly
- Lupkin, S. (2016, March 25). Here’s How Zero-Tolerance Drug Policies Have Damaged Public Health Worldwide. Vice News .Retrieved from: https://news.vice.com/article/heres-how-zero-tolerance-drug-policies-damaged-public-health-worldwide
- Rosenberger, L. (1996). America’s Drug War Debacle. New York: Ashgate