October 1991

Legalization of Drugs of Abuse and the Pediatrician

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, Fairfax Hospital, Falls Church, Va.

Am J Dis Child. 1991;145(10):1153-1158. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1991.02160100085028

• Growing numbers of individuals are proposing that drugs be legalized in the United States, with claims that federal, state, and local efforts to prohibit the use of illicit drugs are irrational and unenforceable. "Drug reform" advocates include persons of all political persuasions. Ironically, the call for drug reform comes at a time when trends in drug abuse, as reflected in national and state surveys, show a promising decline. It also is contradictory to at least one recent public opinion poll, in which respondents opposed the legalization of marijuana by a five-to-one margin. While their position is by no means unanimous, proponents of drug reform generally base their arguments on several key premises, such as elimination of or reductions in drug trafficking, enforcement, and interdiction expenditures; increased tax revenues from the legal sale of drugs; and reductions in health-care expenses associated with drug treatment. Reform advocates further claim that legalization would not be followed by an increase in drug use. The validity of each of these arguments is highly questionable. Legalization is a simplistic, short-sighted solution to a complex issue with public health, economic, criminal justice, and societal ramifications. Legalization would, moreover, abrogate the position taken in 1961 by the United States and 114 other nations in ratifying the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The impact of drug reform merits an unbiased study by an independent agency. Until that time, pediatricians should inform themselves of the arguments for and against drug reform and be prepared to educate patients and their families about the issue.

(AJDC. 1991;145:1153-1158)