A little preface to this: This speech was written for a public speaking class (intro, not argumentation as I said in the other thread) so the weird format was for the class, not by choice. I'm sure my opinions won't be particularly popular, as I advocate across-the-board decriminilization of all federally controlled substances. If this is gonna offend you just stop reading now. Here it is. Jake F******* COMM 1110 Principles of Public Speaking 05NOV03 THE WAR ON DRUGS: OUR DOMESTIC VIETNAM Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience that the U.S. Government should end its current war on drugs by decriminalizing all illegal and illicit drugs. Central Idea: The war on drugs is wasteful, harmful, and should be terminated. I. Attention: I would like you all to imagine a 16 year-old boy named Sam. Sam isnâ€™t a normal teenager, however. He has a drug problem. Sam is out one day after school with some friends, and they are getting ready to indulge in their favorite pastime: shooting heroin. Sam prepares his fix, waiting for the needle to come from one of his friends. The hypo finally gets to him, and Sam takes the fix up into the hypo, knocks all the bubbles out, and injects it into his arm. What Sam doesnâ€™t know heâ€™s injecting, along with his heroin fix, is the Hepatitis B that his friend was kind enough to share along with the hypo. Sam doesnâ€™t realize that heâ€™s been infected with this disease, which is terminal, until itâ€™s far too late. Letâ€™s consider another situation. This one involves Sandra, a 36 year-old AIDS patient. Sandra suffers in ways unimaginable to you and me; some days she canâ€™t even bring herself to eat. Sandra has, however, found a drug that can help ease her pain. One of her friends persuaded her to try marijuana in order to ease her pain and nausea. She tried it, and found that her nausea was somewhat alleviated and the pain was lessened considerably. She begins using marijuana regularly, buying her supply from a local dealer. Everythingâ€™s going fine until one day, when she is arrested by an undercover narcotics agent for purchasing marijuana from him. The district attorney in her case drops the charges against her, out of pity for her situation, but she is no longer comfortable with buying marijuana and she returns to her former agony. You may be asking yourself now, â€œWhy do these people have to suffer?â€ The answer is that they are suffering due to outdated and draconian United States laws outlawing the use of certain substances deemed by the government to be illegal. I want you all tonight to consider with me the effects of these drug laws and whether or not they are effective. Iâ€™ll take into consideration how the current laws hurt people and waste money, what should be done about these laws, and what effect a reform of these laws might have. Connective: Letâ€™s now examine the problems presented by the war on drugs and what the harms of the current drug laws are. II. Need: A. Statement: The United Statesâ€™ current war on drugs does much more harm than good by perpetuating addiction, wasting money, and preventing substances with medical properties from getting to patients. B. Illustration: Take, for example, the situations I presented to you in the beginning of the speech. John and Sandra are in no way helped by the war on drugs. If John were able to use heroin in a clean environment, with hypodermic needles that were not contaminated, he might not have contracted a terminal disease. If Sandra were able to use marijuana, she might be able to ease her pain and her passing from AIDS. Both of these people are average American citizens who are victims of the drug war. C. Ramification: There are several problems of the drug war in addition to those suffered by John and Sandra. These are as follows: 1. There is a stigma attached to drug use among teenagers. The prevalence of popular music artists such as Bradley Nowell of Sublime and his song â€œSmoke Two Jointsâ€ and any number of popular hip-hop and rap artists who glorify the use of marijuana and other drugs, coupled with the fact that marijuana and other drugs are illegal, leads rebellious teenagers to try drugs. My first experience with marijuana was a result of my wanting to rebel against the authority of my parents. 2. Prison overcrowding is also a major problem due to nonviolent drug offenders who are placed alongside violent offenders. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 20% of the over 2 million people held in state prisons in 2001 were sentenced for nonviolent drug offenses. This totals approximately 400,000 inmates who are in jail for drug offenses. When you break this statistic down, and consider that it costs on average $20,000 a year to house a prisoner, the total spent to house nonviolent drug offenders a year comes to approximately $8 billion, which is more than one dollar a year for every person in the world. If we were in this class to shoulder this burden alone, it would amount to half a billion dollars a piece per year to house just the nonviolent drug offenders. 3. According to William F. Buckley, a noted conservative journalist and editor of the conservative biweekly National Review, the war on drugs is â€œa plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, â€¦ occupies an estimated 50 per cent of the trial time in our judiciary, and takes the time of 400,000 policemen.â€ $75 billion a year. This is an enormous figure, totaling slightly less than the planned expenditure by the U.S. in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year. $75 billion a year to find what one journalist referred to as â€œour domestic Vietnam.â€ D. Pointing: This problem, ladies and gentlemen, affects you in many very personal ways. What if, for example, one of you was to contract AIDS or cancer at some point in the future and be unable to ease your suffering by taking a naturally-occurring drug? What if someone you know â€“ a parent, sibling, friend, or even child â€“ suffers from a drug addiction but canâ€™t go to get help for fear of persecution? With the current overcrowding situation in prisons, more and more violent offenders are being released into the public. Would you rather have a murderer, rapist, or child molester living next to your family, or a reformed former drug addict? Finally, do you like the fact that your hard-earned money is being taken by the government and wasted in the losing cause of fighting illegal drugs? Connective: As you can see, there exists in the status quo a serious problem. What can be done to rectify this problem? III. Satisfaction: A. Statement: The United States government should initiate a phased repeal and reform of all laws affecting the personal use of illegal and illicit drugs. B. Explanation: By â€œphased repeal and reform,â€ I mean not the total legalization of drugs. I propose the decriminalization of illegal drugs for personal use. Decriminalization refers to the removal of the laws that prohibit personal use, but still punishes those who traffic in illegal drugs. My proposed plan would channel the savings from the termination of prosecution and persecution of drug users into clinics which would help educate, treat, and cure drug addiction problems. Weâ€™re talking about a fundamental change in policy here; the view of drug addiction as a medical rather than a criminal problem. C. Theoretical demonstrations: 1. Decriminalization would allow addicts of â€œhardâ€ drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, to seek treatment for their addictions rather than perpetuating the cycle of addiction by demonizing them and following treatment with prosecution. According to a recent issue of Time magazine, there is now a clinic in Vancouver, Canada which is referred to as â€œThe first legal â€˜safe injection siteâ€™ in North America.â€ Heroin and cocaine users will be able to shoot up under medical supervision, using sterile needles and in a safe place. Why couldnâ€™t such a program work in the U.S.? 2. Decriminalization would allow people who suffer from cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis among other ailments to use the drug which best eases their suffering without fear of persecution from law enforcement officials. Our friend Sandra would again be able to ease her pain and suffering. 3. The prison overcrowding situation would be alleviated, because when you stop imprisoning drug offenders, violent offenders no longer have to be paroled prior to the end of their sentences in order to make room for the drug offenders. This would allow America to keep rapists, murderers, molesters, and other violent offenders in jail while treating addicts outside of the judicial system. 4. The enormous amounts of money that will be saved by eliminating the costly war on drugs can be channeled into any number of programs, such as treatment programs for addicts and more effective drug education programs for children. D. Practical experience: 1. As mentioned above, the clinic in Vancouver which allows heroin users to safely shoot up could be an effective way to help reduce addiction, as the users could be educated about the dangers of their habits and could be treated for their addictions. For example, our friend John from the introduction wouldnâ€™t have to use the same hypo as the rest of his friends. 2. Drug use is already de facto legal in Amsterdam, which boasts some impressive statistics. According to National Review, â€œin 1985, 28 percent of hard-drug users were younger than 26 years old. In 1995, 4 percent were under 26. Meaning? Hard-drug experimentation is rapidly declining among the young. Another datum: Crime by drug users is down.â€ If the reports from Amsterdam are reflective of what might occur in America, then the future under the proposed laws doesnâ€™t look too bad. 3. Medical marijuanaâ€™s effectiveness is already being tested in California, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. According to Dr. Igor Grant, the director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Research, â€œthere is no â€˜substantial, systematic effectâ€™ of ling-term, regular cannabis consumption on the brain.â€ The drugâ€™s efficacy has already been proven in several states and Canada, where patients are able to smoke marijuana. E. Meeting objections: 1. You might be asking yourself now, â€œBut if drugs are legal, wonâ€™t more people want to do them?â€ The answer is, hopefully, no. The decriminalization of these drugs will be followed by newer and better education about the potential harms of drugs. Also, said decriminalization will allow more research to be done on various drugs and better educational data will be attained. 2. Another question that I had when formulating this idea was,â€What if somebody is using a now-legal drug and commits a crime, such as DUI?â€ My best answer to this is that with the decriminalization of drugs, DUI laws must be toughened. The solution, as I see it, is to treat all currently illegal drugs as we currently treat a legal drug, alcohol. DUI penalties, however, must be increased in order to deter users from getting behind the wheel after smoking a joint or shooting up. 3. Another, more whimsical sounding objection to my plan is that it might hurt the black market economy. Even though this sounds like a joke, it is not, as large sectors of the American economy depend on black markets. However, decriminalization will allow government regulation and taxation of drugs, thereby eliminating the need for a black market to support those sections of the economy. Connective: How can we see the proposal affecting our lives in the future? IV. Visualization. A. If we institute the proposal, there will probably be very few noticeable effects immediately. People currently incarcerated for drug offenses would continue to serve the remainder of their sentences, heroin users would continue to use dangerous methods of getting high, and medical marijuana patients would continue to feel a stigma. This is why an intensive public education campaign is necessary to inform people of the changes in the law. In two years, weâ€™ll start to see more of a change. Some drug offenders would be going home from jail. â€œSafe shoot-upâ€ clinics and treatment clinics would begin to receive government funding and help start a reduction in addiction. Cancer and AIDS patients would be able to ease their pain without fear of stigma of persecution. In ten years, weâ€™ll begin to see a drastic change, as addiction rates decrease dramatically, drug offenders are returned to being productive members of society, and terminal patients are able to pass with ease. B. If, however, we donâ€™t institute the proposal, the status quo of course will remain the same. In two years, prisons will become more and more crowded. Addiction rates may go up. In ten years from today, however, we may be faced with a frightening picture. More and more taxpayer money will be wasted. Prison overcrowding will be at extreme highs. Addiction rates will go up. According to National Review, in 1991, there were about 600,000 heroin users in the U.S. Ten years later, in 2001, this number had increased to 980,000. Who can say what this number may be in 2013? 50 years from now, if my proposal isnâ€™t implemented, we could see a world overrun with addiction. Connective: The war on drugs, as we have seen, is a problem which must be fixed. What can you do? V. Action: You can write your legislators, support candidates for office who want decriminalization, and campaign at home for decriminalization. The war on drugs is a losing fight. If you donâ€™t do anything, will you be able to live with knowing that there was something you could have done? You need to take action today so people like John can have a better, drug-free future and patients like Sandra can ease their passing. References Buckley, W. F. (1996, February 12). The War on Drugs is Lost. National Review, 48(2), 34-38. Buckley, W. F. (1996, July 15). On the Right: Down Amsterdam Way. National Review, 48(13), 59. Buckley, W. F. (2001, April 16). On the Right: Hard Lessons from Traffic?. National Review, 53(7), 62. Shooting up Legally up North. (2003, July 7). Time, 162(1), 21. U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2002). Prison Statistics. Retrieved November 4, 2003 from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/prisons.htm. Vastag, B. (2003, August 20). Medical News and Perspectives: Medical Marijuana Center Opens Doors. Journal of the American Medical Association, 290, 877-879.