U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Crime File: Heroin

NCJ Number
Date Published
0 pages
Publication Series
This video cassette, number 19 in the Crime File series, portrays a panel discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of criminalizing heroin use, with particular attention to contrasting the British and American systems for controlling heroin use.
Panelist John Kaplan, visiting law professor at Harvard University, argues for the criminalization of heroin trafficking and use, because heroin addiction has such debilitating social consequences. He views law enforcement as an effective means for maintaining heroin supply and demand at manageable levels. He believes that the criminalization of heroin use facilitates addicts' seeking treatment because of the criminal justice system's imposition of sanctions for continued addiction. Panelist Edward Dennis, Jr., U.S. Attorney for Philadelphia, Pa., does not give much credence to the argument that the high price of heroin fostered by its criminalization presses addicts into property crime to support their habits. He states there is no evidence that addicts who commit crimes would be any less acquisitive were they not addicts. Dennis also discusses the appropriate drug law enforcement focus of various jurisdiction -- Federal, State, and local. Panelist Arnold Trebach, professor at American University, describes the decriminalized system for medically dispensing heroin through licensed physicians in Great Britain. He argues that this system is to be preferred, because it does not stigmatize addicts and eliminates the violence associated with the drug 'war' between law enforcement officials and drug traffickers. Dennis and Kaplan argue that England's system would create different law enforcement problems and increase the number of heroin addicts and attendant social problems.

Date Published: January 1, 1984