Resolved: The illegal use of drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice.

Need help taking your debate skills to the next level? Click here to visit my Debate Academy to get personal coaching, purchase briefs, and more. Let’s work together to make you the best.

Resolved: The illegal use of drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice.

This topic is a load of hot garbage, legitimately one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I get where it was trying to go, but the wording is so poor, that debate on the actual topic will effectively be non-existent. It also does not belong in LD, at all. Nevertheless, we have to do what we have to do, so let’s get to it.

Definitions – You fortunately don’t really need to define terms per se. However, you will need to utilize the entirety of your case to define what it means to treat something as a matter of public health vs. a matter of criminal justice. Ostensibly, the resolution wants you to debate things like punishment vs. rehabilitation. The problem, however, is that’s a false dichotomy. There’s no reason there can’t be both. And some public health/mental health issues are actually addressed through imprisonment. It will be a challenge to navigate these things, and you’ll need to make sure your framework is tight.


1. Utilitarianism – This is a pretty basic position you can run on this topic. Basically, when we treat illegal drug use as a matter of criminal justice, everyone suffers. Drug users stay addicted, taxpayers pay for them to be in jail, and drugs keep being bought/sold on the illegal market. When we look at the cost/benefit of it all, it clearly harms way more people. Treating it as a public health issues allows for the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

2. False Dichotomy Kritik – I almost never advocate for Ks, but in this case, I actually think it’s really powerful, even on the Affirmative. You can argue that the resolution poses a false dichotomy between punishment and rehabilitation that doesn’t exist. No substantive debate can actually occur when the world created by the resolution is one of fantasy. Therefore, you pose an alternative resolution which says that drug addiction is effectively treated when approached from a perspective of public health. That affirmative is really easy to prove. And importantly, it also has impacts to the actual resolution if your judge is a toolbox and doesn’t buy the K.

3. Veil of Ignorance – This is also a very powerful position for this case. Imagine if you woke up the next day and were a drug addict. You wouldn’t want to just be locked up without any treatment or consideration. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to pay taxes for someone to be imprisoned in a similar fashion. It’s clear that from behind the veil, we would want to treat drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.


1. False Dichotomy K – I actually think this is the most powerful position on this resolution. The resolution should be negated not because drug use shouldn’t be a public health issue, but because that doesn’t mean it isn’t also treated as an issue of criminal justice. The two are not mutually exclusive. People can be treated while also paying penance for the crimes they’ve committed.

2. Fear – There are many philosophers who argue that fear is the most effective/only deterrent against crime. If we begin treating drug use as a public health issue, then that deterrent is eliminated. People will more readily try drugs and become addicted because they know that it isn’t so bad on the other end. Fear maintains law and order, and the government should prioritize that.

3. Doctrine of the Mean – Similar to the K, but not structured as such, the virtue position argues that we don’t need to fall on one extreme. We need the help of the law to deal with drug lords and cartels, but we can also provide better for the public health by helping addicts get the treatment they need. Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean would espouse taking such a middle ground.

Well, there you go. Hopefully this helps you navigate this garbage topic. And don’t forget to visit the Academy if you want private coaching or to purchase briefs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *