legalization and decriminalization
Objective: Write an argumentative paper (800-900 words) on the topic of drug legalization or decriminalization. Please note that there is a difference between
legalization and decriminalization. Be specific about which one you���ll address, and be specific about which drugs.
Readings: Husak, ���Four Points about Drug Decriminalization���
De Marneffe, ���Against the Legalization of Heroin���
(you may use points from Sher and Shapiro, but focus on the two articles above)
Format and Requirements:
1. You must use one of the outlines provided on the next page to structure your paper. Don���t skip anything���each paragraph is required. You should have 8 separate
paragraphs, one for each element in the outline. No more, and no fewer.
2. Have a clear thesis statement as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. The thesis statement will state what you���re going to do or prove in the paper
(ex: I will show that Husak���s arguments in favor of drug decriminalization fail.).
3. This is a moral issue, so your arguments will address the moral dimensions of this issue rather than merely the factual. Moral dimensions are the SBHAP?
dimensions you addressed in your journal assignment or some combination of those.
a. For example, if you���re citing a fact (drugs like cocaine and heroin are addictive), you must explain why that���s morally relevant to your case (why is addiction
morally objectionable? What���s bad about it and why?). This is where you���ll use answers from your journal. If you think of other moral dimensions, go ahead and use
4. Your paper must include 3 quotations from our assigned readings. The quotations should be relevant to your case and should not be taken out of context.
5. Citations:
a. Use quotation marks if you take three or more words in a row from the readings, cite the author, and give the page number in parentheses after the quote, like
i. Example: De Marneffe argues that ���the benefits of keeping drug use down must be substantial in order to justify
drug control��� (34).
b. You don���t need a works cited page or bibliography for our assigned readings.
c. You do need a works cited page if you use quotes from outside our assigned readings. You don���t have to cite anything other than the assigned readings, but if
you do, cite it.
6. This paper should be a formal, professional piece of writing. You may use ���I���, ���me���, and ���my���, but please do not use informal language or slang.
7. Formatting:
a. The document should be typed and proofread for grammar and mechanics. Poor grammar detracts from the clarity of your writing.
b. I don���t have a preference for spacing or font. Just make sure you indent the beginning of each new paragraph.
8. Do not include your name on the document you submit.
#1: Argue AGAINST a position or author
�� Goal: show why an author is wrong about the topic, or show why a particular position fails. (possible thesis statements on next page)
I. Introduction: thesis statement must be the last sentence of this paragraph.
II. Summarize first argument you oppose (do not offer any of your own interpretation in this part; stick to the text)
III. Explain why the first argument fails
IV. Summarize second argument you oppose
V. Explain why the second argument fails
VI. Consider an objection: how would someone defend their position against what you���ve said in III and V? In other words, how might you be wrong? What���s the
best argument against you?
VII. Reply to that objection (most important part!). Explain why the objection is a good one, and then explain why you your answer is better.
VIII. Conclusion
Tips and strategies:
�� The weakest strategy is to look up a bunch of statistics to support your case. A fact on its own isn���t enough to establish that we should do something. Instead,
it���s how we interpret the moral meaning of facts. Use only the SBHAP? dimensions from the journal in your arguments.
�� Don���t Google. It���s a waste of energy. Just stick to your journal and notes, and stick to the assigned texts.
�� A stronger strategy: Focus on the moral dimensions (SBHAP?) of the situation. Ask yourself: if it were true that x, would it be enough to convince me that we
should do y?
#2: Argue in FAVOR of a specific position
�� Goal: Show why your position is morally superior to other possibilities. (possible thesis statements on next page)
I. Introduction: thesis statement must be the last sentence of this paragraph
II. Give your first argument in favor of your position
III. What is a possible objection to your first argument?
IV. Reply to that objection���how would you defend your position against the objection?
V. Give your second argument in favor of your position
VI. Consider an objection to your second argument
VII. Reply to that objection
VIII. Conclusion
�� What a good objection does: It shows that you���ve thought through the issue enough to consider how you might be wrong. It shows you���re taking many perspectives
into account, and trying to solve a problem we all face.
�� For the objection, think about how a very smart friend who disagrees with you might look for weaknesses in your argument���not to belittle you, but to help you
think about the issue. What���s the best argument against you?
�� When you reply, acknowledge what���s good about what your opponents have to say���and then explain why the strengths of your answer outweigh the problems with your
Suggestions for thesis statements for Outline #1:
�� I will argue that Peter de Marneffe���s position against the legalization of heroin fails.
�� I will argue that Douglas Husak is wrong about drug decriminalization.
�� I will show that arguments against drug legalization fail in the case of marijuana.
�� I will show that arguments against drug legalization fail in the case of medical marijuana.
Suggestions for thesis statements for Outline #2:
�� I will argue that drug use ought to be decriminalized.
�� I will argue that drug use ought to be legalized.
�� I will argue that marijuana ought to be legalized for both medical and recreational use.
�� I will argue that all currently illegal drugs ought to remain illegal.


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