Should Recreational Drug Use Be Criminalised?

Douglas Husak, a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University in the US, combines hard fact and rigorous moral reasoning in his cogent analysis of the drug law debate in his excellent book Legalize This! The case for decriminalising drugs. In this two part series (from Background Briefings section of website), I summarise his arguments to help the reader decide how they feel about the central question of the justice of drug laws. While Husak argues about the situation in the US, much of what is said is relevant to the UK and to many other countries.

Husak points out that we need to ask the right question when looking at drug policy. He emphasises that the onus has always been on those who want to change drug laws to justify why there should be changes. In fact, the onus should be on those who support current policy to justify their position. This rarely happens.

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The Regulation and Control of Drugs

Throughout history there have been all sorts of attempts to regulate or control the use of certain drugs. It is generally assumed and rarely argued that it is all done for the greatest good, to help reduce the health and social problems caused by drugs. However, a closer look at the origins of prohibition reveals a more complicated picture. Ideological, political and economic interests play a major role.

The earliest form of prohibitionist thought can probably be accredited to an Egyptian Priest who in 2000 BC wrote, ‘I, thy superior, forbid thee to go the taverns. Thou art degraded like the beasts.’

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The Regulation and Control of Drugs, Part 2

Continues to look at the development of laws regulating recreational drug use, in particular in America, which has influenced world drug policy so strongly. (881 words)

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Should Recreational Drug Use Be Criminalised? (Part 1)

Explores the regulation and control of drugs by looking at philosopher Douglas Husak’s views on the justice of US drug laws. (909 words)

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Should Recreational Drug Use Be Criminalised? (Part 2)

Continues to look at Douglas Husak’s arguments about prohibition and its consequences. (907 words)

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The Regulation and Control of Drugs, Part 1

Describes factors that have influenced the development of laws regulating recreational drug use, in particular influential happenings in America. (912 words)

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Historical Perspectives: Opium, Morphine and Opiates (Part 2)

Continues a brief history of the opiates, which includes describing the different responses of the United States and Britain to opiate problems in the earlier parts of the 19th century. (880 words)

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Drugs in Society

On the one hand, we tell our young people not to take psychoactive drugs and to keep away from people who are selling drugs. On the other hand, doctors and others are constantly encouraging us to take psychoactive drugs produced by the pharmaceutical industry—some of which are addictive—for a variety of conditions. (1,109 words)

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