Scott Holland, '22
Over the past fifty years in the United States, a constant battle has been fought against the government to legalize marijuana. Millions of American adults want to enjoy the benefits of this drug, legally, as they do with other legal drugs such as alcohol. The war for the legalization of marijuana, however, has been won across many states, and will surely be enacted by every state over the next two decades. But it is time for Americans to start thinking broader than just legalizing marijuana; it is time that America decriminalizes all drugs. When first presented with this idea, many people are understandably distraught about the idea; images of hard drugs destroying lives crosses peoples’ minds. However, if done correctly, this will not be the result of this process.
America currently spends 100 billion dollars a year policing the drug problem in America. Not to mention, there are people arrested, detained, or even imprisoned for using drugs deemed as “illegal.” There is no debate that this is a terrible use of taxpayer dollars. Granted that no harm is done to others, why should someone be jailed for making a decision that only harms themselves? Decriminalizing drugs would prevent the useless incarceration of thousands of people. Illegal drug cartels are extremely prevalent in America, and rather than fighting their consumers, the focus on eradicating the cartels themselves can increase.
The question arises then, what do you do with those found to possess a substance deemed “unsafe” or “hazardous” by the government. Rather than spending nights behind bars, with an addict's urge to use again only growing, you can send the person to a mandatory therapeutic rehabilitation program. The money saved from over policing the people found with these drugs and incarcerating them can instead go to institutions that actually help them.
The United States would not be alone if they implemented this policy; Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, and the benefits so far outweigh the cons. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year from overdosing on opioids and other destructive drugs. A study by the National Library of Medicine found that “drug misuse” went down 18% by 2015, and the number of addicted teens drastically decreased as well.
America already has programs like needle exchanges for heroin addicts to help make drug use safer for its citizens. This policy, however, is incongruent with the other laws in America. Someone who got a needle to make their drug use safer could then be arrested for actually using it. Decriminalization of these drugs could also successfully take one more step towards legalization to benefit more people. A plethora of drug related deaths are caused by other toxic materials being added to the product; a regulated, legalized system would make drug use safer while also eradicating cartels and cartel related crime. America is far from this happening, though, and in the meantime we have to stop treating our drug addicted citizens as criminals, and more like patients who need medical care.
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