FEDERAL DRUG LAWS The possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs is prohibited by federal law. Strict penalties are provided for drug convictions, including mandatory prison sentences for many crimes. Penalties increase significantly when the use of illicit drugs results in death or serious bodily harm. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) includes all substances that were in some way regulated by current federal law in one of five lists.
This assignment is based on medical use of the substance, potential for abuse, and liability for safety or dependency. More information can be found in Title 21 of the Controlled Substances Act of the United States Code (USC). Federal drug laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, regulate drug possession, trafficking, and manufacture. Other Schedule I & II drugs (and any medications that contain gamma-hydroxybutyric acid).
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposes criminal drug prohibition. Not only is prohibition a proven failure as a drug control strategy, but it also subjects otherwise law-abiding citizens to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate for what they do in private. By trying to enforce drug laws, the government violates the fundamental rights of privacy and personal autonomy that are guaranteed by our Constitution. The ACLU believes that unless they harm others, people should not be punished, even if they harm themselves.
There are better ways to control drug use, ways that will ultimately lead to a healthier, freer and less crime-ridden society. Drug prohibition promises a healthier society by denying people the opportunity to become drug users and possibly addicts. While it is impossible to predict exactly how drug use patterns would change with a regulated manufacturing and distribution system, the strictest prohibition rules are that illegal markets are controlled by producers, not consumers, and prohibition encourages the sale and consumption of more potent and dangerous forms of drugs. Not only has drug prohibition failed to curb or reduce the harmful effects of drug use, but it has also created other serious social problems.
Without the ban, it would be easier to provide help to drug addicts who would like to quit their habits, because the money that is now being wasted on law enforcement could be used for preventive social programs and treatments. Allocating huge sums of money to law enforcement reduces the funding available for drug education, preventive social programs, and treatment. While drug incarcerations are one of the main causes of increased local tax burdens, they have not stopped the sale and use of drugs or improved public safety. For more information on state or local laws that apply to possession, distribution, use, and other drug-related activities, consult the state legislature, the state's sentencing commission, or the criminal code.
What would change with decriminalization is not so much the availability of drugs as the conditions under which they would be available. Hundreds of thousands of other law-abiding people have been arrested and jailed for drug possession. Inner-city communities suffer most from both the problem of drug abuse and the consequences of drug prohibition. As crack use increased in the late 1980s, millions of dollars were spent fighting street drugs and incarcerating tens of thousands of low-level offenders, while only a few public drug treatment spaces were created.
While this military approach continues to devour billions of tax dollars and send tens of thousands of people to prison, illegal drug trafficking thrives, violence intensifies, and drug abuse continues to weaken lives. These laws also support artificially high prices and ensure that commercial disputes between drug traffickers and their customers are not resolved in the courts of law, but with automatic weapons on the streets.