Legalization of drugs

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An initiative in Zurich to legalize cannabis

The legalization of the use, possession, production and distribution of illegal drugs is a hotly debated topic in drug policy . The focus of the debate is on the legalization of so-called “ soft drugs ” such as certain cannabis products, but the legalization of so-called “hard drugs” is also being discussed.

Arguments of the proponents

The main arguments for legalizing drugs are as follows. These are often brought into the field together or not explicitly separated from one another.

Argumentation of freedom

This line of argument postulates a right to self-determination over one's own mind or body of the individual. The responsible person is free to choose whether to use drugs . The state has no right to intervene. A well-known proponent of this line of argument was Timothy Leary ; The liberal economist Milton Friedman also spoke out in favor of drug legalization with the freedom argument.

It is further argued that the reactance provoked by the prohibition could drive many adolescents into drug use (stimulus of the forbidden).

Criminological reasoning

Both the balance sheet of current US drug policy and the experience of alcohol prohibition in the United States lead to the conclusion that the prohibition of drugs does not limit their consumption, but rather promotes the growth of organized crime . Where there is a demand , a market is formed ; However, if this takes place illegally due to state repression, this lowers the inhibition threshold for illegal business practices. So formed z. For example, mafia- like structures emerged during the prohibition in the 1930s , which receded after the ban was lifted. With a ban, the state would reduce the transparency of the drug market and thus the possibilities for its regulation . Criminalization of drug consumption would also lead both consumers and producers into an attitude that is hostile to society and the state, without there being any intrinsic reason for this. According to the principle of Nulla poena sine lege , so-called drug crime is thus exclusively a product of prohibition .

Cost arguments

This argumentation is based on the thesis that the costs to society as a whole caused by prohibition are higher than the costs that would arise from legalization.

The economic costs of prohibition are made up as follows:

This thesis is supported by the fact that, even after about a century of prohibition policy, the rule of law has not succeeded in reducing the number of drug deaths and the related crime (e.g. procurement offenses). Even draconian penalties and stricter controls probably didn't work. It is significant that even in many prisons drugs are traded and that the state does not succeed in preventing these undesirable acts “under its nose”.

The proponents conclude from this that one - some or all - should legalize drugs and regulate their distribution through youth protection laws , taxes (an excise duty analogous to alcohol and tobacco taxes ) and quality guidelines and restrictions.

Proportionality argument

From a medical point of view, there are no reasons to treat cannabis products worse or more restrictively than the popular drugs tobacco and alcohol . In the case of drugs with a similar hazard potential, the state levies sanctions of varying severity and thus violates the rule of law of proportionality . On the other hand, some experts state that it is too seldom taken into account that most cannabis users do not consume daily, whereas the intensity of alcohol consumption is significantly higher precisely because of the social acceptance it has already gained. Because cannabis is forbidden, there is reason for the so-called proportionality argument, but it would by no means be constructive to automatically advocate the legalization of other narcotic substances.

The benefit of the ban does not provide a sufficient justification for this, since with "soft drugs" such as cannabis the risk of being reported for possession of the drug is low and the inhibition threshold for consuming cannabis is therefore low in any case. That is why the inhibition threshold hardly sinks when “soft drugs” are legalized.

With regard to cannabis, the gateway drug theory (see cannabis as a gateway drug ) is also questioned, for example in a study by Dieter Kleiber and Renate Soellner commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Health under Horst Seehofer in the 1990s .

Disease argumentation

This reasoning is mainly supported by the view that drug addiction is not a crime but an illness and that addicts should or must be helped rather than driven into crime. This argument is sometimes mixed up with the argument against legalization, which in part also calls for the support of drug addicts, but does not want to forego the presumed preventive effects of prohibition. On the contrary, some critical experts - such as the liberal psychiatrist Thomas Szasz in his book The Ritual of Drugs (original title Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts, and Pushers ) - state that continued drug use is by no means a sign of illness , but a self-determined and self-responsible lifestyle aspect , such as unhealthy diet (fast food), practicing risky sports or other risky hobbies . The declaration of consumers (just because they consciously damage their health) as (mentally) ill incapacitates them , undermines the self-determined decision to restrict consumption or for abstinence or self-discipline in general, and thus make their lives more difficult in favor of an expensive, superfluous one Job creation for doctors in a barely functioning or non-functioning (“because you cannot cure anything that is not sick”) care apparatus ( methadone substitution , weaning, psychiatry, etc.) Drug consumption is therefore entirely a social field - not medicine (with the exception of accompanying diseases ). Wanting to regulate social policy through doctors (especially in psychiatry, where not so long ago homosexuals were still “cured”) is always an abuse and damages both medicine and the state (see e.g. eugenics , National Socialist racial hygiene ). In the case of cannabis, the ban also makes its use as a raw material and in medicine considerably more difficult.

Liberalization of hard drugs

Some proponents of legalization of so-called "soft drugs" would like to see so-called "hard drugs" such as B .: cocaine , heroin and crack an amendment to the Narcotics Act . In contrast to the legalization of “soft drugs”, the use of “hard drugs” is only to be liberalized. They also demand that state-controlled dispensing points be set up for addicts of, for example, heroin, in order to give addicts the opportunity to consume chemically clean drugs under medical supervision at prices affordable through honest work. Proponents of decriminalization expect this to be the case

  • a drastic decrease in drug deaths (often caused by the use of chemically contaminated drugs or an overdose of drugs that are too concentrated),
  • a sharp drop in drug-related crime (lower prices) as well
  • a containment of diseases like AIDS and hepatitis C (with a guarantee of sterile syringes).
  • In addition, the foundations of the black market are being undermined here too .

The establishment of drug consumption rooms , which has been generally permitted in Germany since 1998, pursues similar short-term goals and is also possible with restrictions as part of a general drug prohibition.

According to the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition , psychoactive substances should generally be legalized under state age, quality and access controls, in order to minimize damage to society by criminal actors of the black market monopoly - and by corrupt officials.

Protection of minors

Effective youth protection requires state controls. When sellers have the option to trade legally, they are much easier to control than clandestine sellers.

Abuse of law

Some of the counter-arguments (listed below) are countered by the fact that they are illegal . For example, it is illegal or disproportionate to use bans to provide authorities with a means of early intervention in the event of undesirable psychosocial developments.

Arguments of the opponents

State welfare obligations

The basis of the argument against the legalization of drugs is the state's duty of care for the citizen. Contrary to the arguments about freedom , the state has the duty to prevent citizens from behaving harmful to their health. The duty of care goes beyond the civil liberties, especially since consumption-related damage to the health of the individual ultimately harms society (e.g. due to the stress on the health system and the reduced ability of consumers to work). Another role is played by the consideration of how far a drug addict can still act in a mature and self-determined manner ( loss of freedom ).

All of the following arguments are based on this affirmation of a state's duty of care that restricts personal freedoms.

Risk of a drug boom

Opponents of the legalization of so-called “soft drugs” fear that it could lead to a “drug boom”, as this would reduce the inhibition threshold for the consumption of previously illegal drugs.

Criminological reasoning

Occasionally - in reverse of the criminological argumentation mentioned above - the fear is expressed that organized crime will not simply vanish into thin air after the profitable black market collapses, but will then pursue other - still forbidden - income opportunities.

Cannabis as a gateway drug

In addition, opponents of the legalization of so-called “soft drugs” see them as entry-level drugs that bring users closer to so-called “hard drugs” and introduce them into the illegal drug scene. In practice, however, this introduction would not take place, rather the opposite is the case: this illegal drug scene, which is impossible to control, is created in the first place through illegalization.

As the “kick of illegality” would disappear with the liberalization of “soft drugs”, adolescents looking for this kick might find themselves prompted to switch to “harder” drugs, is often an argument of cannabis opponents. On closer inspection and taking statistics into account, however, this thesis seems unfounded. This can be illustrated using the example of the legal drugs tobacco and alcohol: although they are legally available and have been proven to be more dangerous when considering physical harm and the potential for addiction, the masses are therefore not switching to hard drugs.

Incompatibility with abstinence-oriented politics

As an argument against the controlled dispensing of so-called “hard drugs”, critics argue that drug addiction is indeed a disease, but it is already possible to get cheap or free clean syringes and to cure your addiction in a clinic using withdrawal therapy to let. A controlled release is therefore not necessary and undermines the motivation for withdrawal therapy.

Medical and psychological risks

The central argument is: because drugs can be harmful, they should be banned.

Medical research provides evidence that regular consumption of some illegal drugs, analogous to alcohol, could damage the brain. In developmental psychology it has been observed that intensive drug consumption during puberty can endanger the ability to cope with age-specific developmental tasks. Of course, this also applies to the intensive consumption of legal drugs.

Example cannabis:

The health dangers of cannabis abuse, especially in adolescents and adolescents, have been medically proven. The development of a cannabis addiction is not uncommon, the risk of mental disorders increases.

Since cannabis is often smoked in combination with tobacco, its consumption creates the well-known health problems of tobacco and smoke consumption, such as the increased risk of developing chronic bronchitis , cancer of the respiratory organs, or an underweight baby after consumption during pregnancy To bring to the world (since nicotine, in contrast to cannabis, is clearly teratogenic.) A possibly cannabis-specific increased risk for a small group of vulnerable people to develop schizophrenia is also discussed . In a number of mental illnesses, cannabis use, like other drugs, initially relieves symptoms, but over the long term it exacerbates the disease.

Lack of cultural conditions

Even a few cannabis users would not welcome legalization. Their argument against it is that a new majority of cannabis users would emerge who consumed the drug excessively, without much background knowledge and mainly uncultivated. The current situation consists in the fact that regular users have dealt intensively with the properties and risks of cannabis, while potential "occasional stoners" after legalization only resorted to cannabis in order to distinguish themselves.

Conversely, many (tobacco) smokers reject legalization because the population is aware that the difference “illegal = drugs, legal = luxury foods” is widespread and because legalization would blur the difference between tobacco and drug users.

Early intervention in the event of undesirable psychosocial developments

Another argument against the liberalization of so-called "soft drugs" is not directed against their consumption per se, but postulates that prohibition gives the competent authorities a means of intervening earlier and more efficiently than this in the event of early manifestations of psychosocial undesirable developments - often associated with drug consumption otherwise would be possible.

International agreements

Most countries in the world have undertaken to legally limit the availability of narcotics through the standard agreement on narcotics . Legalization of drugs in national legislation would therefore require this agreement to be terminated. Provided that the marketability of drugs is regulated by law, the unity agreement also allows the decriminalization of drug possession under restrictive conditions. Neither the Dutch tolerance model nor the heroin distribution to severely addicted persons practiced in many countries or the legal distribution of cannabis for medical purposes violate the standard agreement. However, the agreement calls on signatories to completely prohibit the possession of a drug if this can be shown to be the solution with the least negative consequences in the respective social circumstances.

Political advances


In 1992 absinthe with regulated thujone content was legalized in the EU . This was previously regulated very differently in the individual member states.

In Switzerland, the liberalization of “soft drugs” failed in parliament in 2004 when the National Council surprisingly refused to approve a government bill. As a result, the popular initiative 'for a sensible hemp policy with effective protection of minors' was launched, which aims to decriminalize consumption, ownership and cultivation for personal use. As a consultative body, the Federal Youth Session also dealt with the referendum and decided in the plenary session on November 23, 2007 with a clear majority a negative opinion. On November 30, 2008, the people voted on the initiative; the Social Democratic Party ( SPS ) passed the YES slogan with a large majority, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), while the Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP) recommended rejection by a large majority. In the end, the four-pillar concept of Swiss drug policy (including the dispensing of medical heroin) was confirmed in the vote, but the initiative with regard to cannabis was rejected (36% yes-votes for the hemp initiative).


Since the cannabis decision , there have been repeated discussions in Germany as to whether " soft drugs " should be legalized in order not to allow the trade to take place in illegality with its harmful effects. The drug commissioner rejected the proposal in the meantime, the Greens have announced a lawsuit before the Federal Constitutional Court . The Greens argue that it is in the public interest (Section 3 BtMG) if cannabis can be sold in parts of Berlin. In fact, the possession of small amounts of cannabis as an intoxicant is tolerated in Germany, but the federal states have sometimes set very different amounts, in North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin there are less strict regulations, so the procedure “can” up to 10 g in North Rhine-Westphalia can be set. The procedure can be discontinued in accordance with Section 31a of the BtMG if the person concerned only consumes small amounts for their own consumption. It should be stopped if the perpetrator is in a drug consumption room that has been specially approved by the federal states (Section 10a BtMG). According to Section 31a, the federal states decide on the limit values ​​independently.

The Schildower Kreis is a network of experts from criminal law, educational sciences, administrative sciences, criminology, social pedagogy and medicine and campaigns against drug prohibition. To this end, he works with the LEAP , which is led by members of law enforcement authorities, and the German Hemp Association.


The Rutte government decided to strictly regulate the drug trade; However, this project initially failed in some Dutch municipalities, which, according to the regulation, have a say. The new government will no longer pursue the implementation of the “Wietpass”, which should only be available for residents, so that tourists can buy drugs again.

North and South America

After referendums US states and other territories of legalized until April 2019 ten USA the cultivation, sale, possession and consumption of cannabis products completely.

In Central and South America, large quantities of plants are grown, from which drugs are produced after they are harvested. Big mafia-like organizations ( drug cartels ) make the largest part of the turnover . In Mexico, Vicente Fox , President of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, tried to win the drug war in Mexico with the help of the army ; this project failed. Fox has since called for the decriminalization of drugs within certain limits; César Gaviria (1990–1994 President of Colombia; 1994–2004 OAS General Secretary), Ernesto Zedillo (1994–2000 President of Mexico), Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995–2002 President of Brazil), Otto Pérez Molina (President of Guatemala since 2012 ) are calling for this ) and more and more experts, politicians and economists in the region.

At least soft drugs should be legalized and trade regulated by the state, since states could not win drug wars.

In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the cultivation and sale of marijuana. José Miguel Insulza (General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS) since 2005; Minister in Chile 1994–2005) welcomed the Uruguayan initiative.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ New York County Lawyers' Association: Report and Recommendations of the Drug Policy Task Force . In: NYCLA & Drug Reform Coordination Network . ( online ). Report and Recommendations of the Drug Policy Task Force ( Memento June 22, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  2. ^ Reeve, W. Paul: "Prohibition Failed to Stop the Liquor Flow in Utah". In: Utah History to Go. (First published in History Blazer , February 1995)
  3. The Day Beer Resumed Flowing, Legally
  4. Medical journal
  5. Answer2
  6. ^ Dieter Kleiber, Renate Soellner & Peter Tossmann: Cannabis consumption . Development tendencies, consumption patterns and risks . Juventa, 1998, ISBN 3-7799-1177-9 .
  7. a b Federal Youth Session : jugendsession.winter rejects hemp legalization. (PDF) (No longer available online.) In: Press release. Swiss Working Group of Youth Associations (SAJV), November 24, 2007, formerly in the original ; Retrieved on March 8, 2008 : “The youth session clearly rejected the legalization of hemp consumption, since legalization would have the wrong signal effect and young people would possibly consume harder drugs because the kick of illegality would be missing with hemp. The statement against legalization sees a particular danger in the fact that the effects of hemp consumption have not been fully scientifically clarified. "
  8. CA Chiriboga: Fetal alcohol and drug effects. In: The neurologist. Volume 9, Number 6, November 2003, ISSN  1074-7931 , pp. 267-279, doi : 10.1097 / 01.nrl.0000094941.96358.d1 , PMID 14629781 (review).
  9. Chronology at : Federal popular initiative 'for a sensible hemp policy with effective youth protection'. In: Chronology of popular initiatives. Swiss Federal Chancellery , March 5, 2008, accessed on March 8, 2008 .
  10. ↑ The drug commissioner and interior senator reject drug coffeeshop. In: Focus
  11. Greens want to sell drugs in the coffee shop themselves. In: rp-online
  12. Federal state comparison of the guidelines for the application of § 31a BtMG. In:
  13. Ludger Kazmierczak : A patchwork of hash regulations? ( Memento from November 3, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) In:
  14. DRUGS: Amsterdam wants to continue opening coffee shops to tourists in the future. University of Münster
  15. ^ A b Marijuana in Uruguay: America's Drug Experimental Laboratory. In: September 15, 2013, accessed June 21, 2014 .
  16. Uruguay: Parliament votes for legalization of marijuana. In: August 1, 2013, accessed June 21, 2014 .
  17. Drug legalized: Uruguay is the first country to allow marijuana sales. In: December 11, 2013, accessed June 21, 2014 .