The Decriminalization of Drugs

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Hailey Kruse Professor Holste Critical Thinking (HUM 115) 6 Dec. 2020 Argumentative Essay Outline

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The Decriminalization of Drugs

Exordium: Despite harsh legal consequences, drugs are still a major issue in the United States.

• (EVIDENCE): Many Americans are arrested on drug-related charges each year.

o (BOE 1): “According to estimated crime statistics released by the F.B.I. in September, there were 1,654,282 arrests for drugs in 2018, a number that has increased every year since 2015” (Stellin, The New York Times).

o (BOE 2): “The percentage of drug arrests that have been for possession (instead of

for sale or manufacturing charges) has also risen, to 86 percent last year from around 67 percent in 1989. And the majority of drug arrests have involved small quantities” (Stellin, The New York Times).


• President Nixon declared a war on drugs in the 1970s. Harsh sentences for drug offenses were passed. People of color were disproportionately targeted (Pearl, Center for American Progress).

• It is clear that the war on drugs has failed.

• Policymakers need to look at alternate ways of tackling the drug epidemic in the United States.


• The possession of drugs should be decriminalized:

o taxpayers’ money would be spent on treatment facilities instead of incarceration.

o people who use drugs would be more likely to come forward and seek help without the fear of facing legal repercussions.



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o the racial disparities of drug law enforcement would be diminished.

Confirmatio: Decriminalizing drug possession would lower the amount of money spent on incarceration and allow for taxpayers’ money to be redirected to treatment programs.

• (EVIDENCE): It costs millions of dollars each year to incarcerate people on drug-related charges.

o (BOE): “State governments spent another $7 billion in 2015 to incarcerate

individuals for drug-related charges. North Carolina, for example, spent more than

$70 million incarcerating people for drug possession” (Pearl, Center for American


The legal consequences of substance use may prevent people from coming forward and seeking treatment.

• (EVIDENCE): The drug problem has gotten increasingly worse in the United States, whereas places where drugs are decriminalized, such as Portugal, have seen dramatic improvements in drug-related issues.

o (BOE 1): “…[U.S.] overdose fatalities have increased dramatically for 3 decades,

with a record number of 71,966 estimated deaths in 2019” (Stephenson, JAMA Network).

o (BOE 2): “In 2001… Portugal became the first country to decriminalize the

possession and consumption of all illicit substances… and the ensuing years saw dramatic drops in problematic drug use, HIV and hepatitis infection rates, overdose deaths, drug-related crime and incarceration rates” (Ferreira, The Guardian).

Decriminalizing the possession of drugs would aid in diminishing the racial injustices that exist in the criminal justice system today.

• (EVIDENCE): People of color are more likely to be arrested and receive harsher sentences for drug law violations (Race and the Drug War, Drug Policy Alliance).

o (BOE 1): “Black people comprise just 13% of the U.S. population and use drugs at

similar rates as other groups – but they comprise 29% of those arrested for drug law



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violations and 35% of those incarcerated in state prison for drug possession” (Davies, Drug Policy Alliance).

o (BOE 2): “Higher arrest and incarceration rates for [black] communities are not

reflective of increased prevalence of drug use, but rather of law enforcement’s focus on urban areas, lower income communities and communities of color” (Race and the Drug War, Drug Policy Alliance).

o (BOE 3): “Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a

mandatory minimum sentence for black people as for white people charged with the same offense” (Race and the Drug War, Drug Policy Alliance).

Refuatio: Opponents believe that drug possession should not be decriminalized and that there are benefits to receiving jail time for drug-related activity.

• (EVIDENCE): There is evidence to show that being incarcerated can help people on their road to rehabilitation.

o (BOE 1): “The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that people who

get treatment due to some kind of legal pressure tend to keep their treatment appointments more frequently than people who are not under legal pressure…” (Oxford Treatment Center).

o (BOE 2): “…an article in Psychology Today reports that a common relapse trigger

is spending time with former drinking or using buddies… People who are incarcerated face no such triggers” (Oxford Treatment Center).

However, the negative aspects of life after prison far outweigh the benefits of being imprisoned.

• (EVIDENCE 1): People who use drugs are likely to relapse when they return home after being incarcerated.

o (BOE): “Marianne Parshley, the governor of the American College of Physicians Oregon chapter… said that the risk of deadly overdose is significantly increased when a person dealing with addiction is incarcerated: ‘The time of highest risk is in the two weeks post discharge from correctional institutions’” (Lennard, The Intercept).

• (EVIDENCE 2): It becomes more difficult for people with criminal records to build a better life for themselves once they are released from jail.

o (BOE): “The NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored

People] reports that a criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a job offer or job callback by close to 50%” (Oxford Treatment Center).



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• Drugs need to be treated as a public health issue and not a criminal justice issue.

• Long-lasting effects of drug arrests are detrimental to public health and safety.

• Decriminalizing drugs would help relieve people of color from the disproportionate burden the war on drugs placed on their communities.








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Works Cited

Davies, Jag. “4 Reasons Why The U.S Needs to Decriminalize Drugs – And Why We’re Closer Than You Think.” Drug Policy Alliance, 2017, needs-decriminalize-drugs-and-why-were-closer-you-think.

Ferreira, Susana. “Portugal’s Radical Drug Policy Is Working: Why Hasn’t the World Copied It?” The Guardian, 2017, policy-is-working-why-hasnt-the-world-copied-it.

Lennard, Natasha. “Oregon’s Decriminalization Vote Might Be Biggest Step Yet to Ending War on Drugs.” The Intercept, 2020, decriminalization/.

Pearl, Betsy. “Ending the War on Drugs: By the Numbers.” Center for American Progress, 2018, drugs-numbers/.

“Race and the Drug War.” Drug Policy Alliance,

“Rehabilitation vs. Incarceration: Rehabilitation in the Criminal Justice System.” Oxford Treatment Center, 2020,

Stellin, Susan. “Is The ‘War on Drugs’ Over? Arrest Statistics Say No.” The New York Times, 2019, no.html.

Stephenson, Joan. “Drug Overdose Deaths Head Toward Record Number in 2020, CDC Warns.” JAMA Network, 2020,



  • Exordium:
  • Narratio:
  • Propositio:
  • Confirmatio:
  • Refuatio:
  • Peroratio:

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