So Natalie Si Wing


According to the World Health Organization, drugs are referred as substance that may ‘prevent or cure disease’ or boost ‘physical or mental welfare’ or simply affects the biochemistry or physiology or the body.  Also, drugs are defined as ‘articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease’ that would ‘affect the structure or any function’ of human body or animals (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2012). Moreover, if drugs are used for non-medical purposes, they are categorized as illicit drugs or recreational drugs. (World Health Organization) In conclusion, uses of drugs include medical treatment and prevention, improving mind and body function and for leisure.

Abuse of recreational drugs

Abuse of recreational drugs means the persistent and habitual use of recreational drugs in spite of knowing the health, social and mental hazard that the drugs would bring (World Health Organization).


According to the Oxford Dictionary, legalizing something means ‘making something that was previously illegal permissible by law’.

Legalization of Drugs

Freedom and the Harm Principle

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, people are born to have freedom, such as freedom of speech, religion and choice. Taking drugs would be one’s own choice and should not be interfered by anyone; even the government should have no rights in taking away such freedom. Moreover, taking drugs only harms the drug user’s health. According to John Stuart Mill’s harm

 principle, drugs should not be prohibited as long as the drug users do not harm others (Koppelman, 2006).

Crime Reduction and Tax Revenue

By legalizing drugs, the crime rate of larceny, thefts and shoplifting is likely to be reduced by half (Hartnett, 2005). Also, people would not steal or fight over drugs when drugs are legalized and easily accessible. By legalizing drugs, tax can also be generated from the trade of drugs while the black-market will be eliminated. Legalization can help to shift the money going into drug dealers from illegal organizations to some trustworthy manufactures.

Safer Drugs

When drugs are legalized, the quality of the drugs can be closely regulated and controlled.  In black market, many drugs are added with other substances, such as rat poison, to reduce the cost. These substances may have even worse effect on human bodies than the drug itself. With legalization, regulations over the quality of drugs can be set up and drug buyers who bought poor quality drugs can also find ways to report such problems.

Against Legalization of Drugs

Harm to Others

With drugs, like marijuana, legalized, it become a lot easier for the general public to have access to drugs. Moreover, people who previously take drugs before the legalization would have to spend less money, time and trouble in buying drugs without any risks of being arrested. All these encourage the increased use of drugs among the population.

With increased usage of drugs, the effect on society by the drug users canaffects people who are not taking drugs too. Taking drugs can affect ones mental health and gives hallucinations and other physical health hazards (Foundation for a Drug-free World, 2013). These impacts can lead to elevated rate of traffic accidents and violence (Wilson, 2000). Moreover, drugs can bring a lot of adverse health impacts when abused. For example, cannabis, a calming drug, can causes diseases on lungs and lead to asthma or create mental health problems (NHS Choices, 2008). Also, drugs like cocaine can lead to heart problems like heart attack. Increased use of drugs would worsen the health of the general public and increases the expenditure of governments on public healthcare and welfare. This indirectly harms the benefits of the non-drug users of the society when their resources are shared.

Economical Problems

Having drugs legalized, not only the medical expenses of governments have to be increased to treat people whose health is affected by the drugs adversely, money and resources are also needed to solve the problems of decreased productivity of labour due to effect of drugs and elevated numbers of traffic accidents and industrial accidents (Hartnett, 2005). 


People under the influence of drugs are more likely to commit crime. According to an article on Police Chief Magazine, there are six times more homicides are committed by people who took drugs and mentally influenced by the drugs than those who are searching for drugs (Hartnett, 2005). Some drugs can affect a person’s mind creating hallucinations or make the person feel agitated which can make people become more violent causing crimes and conflicts.

Alternative: Decriminalization of Drugs

Decriminalization of drugs is still considering possession of drugs as illegal but the consequence is less severe, such as small fines and community services. There will be ‘no criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount for personal consumption’ in the USA (NORML, 2013).

Decriminalization of drugs can brings some legal regulation to the drug markets to deter drug-related crimes and health problems according to Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Newman, 2013).

According to a report on the drug policies in Portugal, decriminalization of drugs, which has been implemented in Portugal for more than ten years, has a lot of benefits. For example, the rate of crimes due to drug consumption decreases (Domostawski, 2011). However, also from the same report, the number of deaths caused by using of drugs actually increased.

In general, decriminalization can act as an alternative to legalization for the harm reduction policies of drugs with different consequences and benefits.

Difference between Food and Drugs 

Food should be something that provides nutrition, nourishment and energy while drugs gives medical effects

(Edlund, 2011). These two sound quite different in terms of their uses and functions, yet the line between them had become blurred since some food can affect the functions of mind and body, such as coffee, while some drugs provide nutritional supplement. Moreover, not only drugs can cause addiction, food can also have such impact on humans’ health. Food that are rich in sugar, fat and salt would trigger and stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain, creating effects similar to effects of drugs and cause addiction (Goldberg, 2012).

Unhealthy Food

Some people suggest that unhealthy food should also be regulated like drugs because they also bring adverse
effect to people’s health and even causes addiction.

However, just as the case of legalization of drugs, the regulation of unhealthy food also brings about a lot of controversies.

For example, in the implementation of fat tax, a tax posed on fatty food and drinks, can bring in tax revenue while encouraging healthier diet (Alemman & Carreno, 2012). However, people should have the freedom to choose the food they like without harming others just like in the case of recreational drugs. Also, implementation would be difficult and incur many administrative costs (Alemman & Carreno, 2012).

See also:


Alemman, A & Carreno, I. (2012). ‘Fat taxes’ in Europe -  A Legal and Policy Analysis under EU and WTO Law. Retrieved from

Domostawski, A. (2011, June). Drug Policy in Portugal: The Benefits of Decriminalizing Drug Use. Retrieved from

Edlund, M. (2011, May 3). Is it a food or a drug? Retrieved from

Foundation for a Drug-free World. (2013). The Truth About Drugs. Retrieved from

Goldberg, J. (2012, July 23).  Food Addiction. Retrieved from

Hartnett, E. (2005, March). Drug Legalization: Why It Wouldn't Work in the United States. The Police Chief, 72(3). Retrieved from

Koppelman, A. (2006). Drug Policy and the Liberal Self. Northwestern University Law Review, 100 (1). Retrieved from

Newman, T. (2013, May 11). Former UN Head Kofi Annan and Former President of Brazil Cardoso Call for Decriminalization of Drugs. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

NHS Choices. (2008). The Effect of Drugs. Retrieved from

NORML. (2013, June). Sates That Have Decriminalized. Retrieved from

Pettinger, T. (2012, March 10). Pros and Cons of Fat Tax. Retrieved from

The United Nations. (2012). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Retrieved from

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2012, April 30). Guidance, Compliance & Regulatory Information of Cosmetics. Retrieved from

Wilson, J. Q. (2000, September 1). Legalizing Drugs Makes Matters Worse.  Retrieved from

World Health Organization. Lexicon of alcohol and drug terms. Retrieved from