Most people’s initial reaction to the idea of ending ‘The War on Drugs’ is:
“What?? That’s a horrible idea, everyone’s gonna turn into a junkie”.
These people probably don’t know much about the psychology of addiction or how Portugal decriminalized all drugs and lo and behold, there weren’t drug addicts walking around everywhere.
In fact, it had the opposite effect. Heroin use rates went down, overdoses went down, teenage drug use went down, theft rates went down, etc.
What would happen if the U.S. did the same?
Health and Safety
Portugal had a heroin epidemic at the beginning of the millennium and decided to decriminalize drugs. Instead of arresting users and throwing them in jail, they used that money to heal drug users. Portugal treats drug abuse as a mental health problem, rather than a criminal justice problem.
They understood that addictions are coping mechanisms. They are symptoms of the main problem, which is usually depression or stress. Someone feels depressed, they seek a coping mechanism. Greater the pain, greater the coping mechanism. Someone who was abused as a kid is going to require more extreme coping mechanisms, than someone who was raised in a healthy setting.
To defeat drug addiction, we need to help people develop better coping mechanisms, like playing music, exercise, meditation, gardening or going for a hike to release stress.
Why do we do the things we do? Because they make us happy. If someone is willing to risk their lives and be ostracized from society, just to feel happiness for a short period of time, is that not a case of extreme depression? To me, it seems wrong to punish someone for that, rather than lend them a hand. Labeling someone a ‘drug addict’ and ‘criminal’ is only going to make it harder for them to quit and reach out for help. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Outcasts are then forced to stick together, and that makes it even more difficult to improve because they’re now enabling each other.
We’ve been fighting drugs for decades and in many areas, opiate death rates have been increasing. Why do we keep doing the same things, and expecting different results? What exactly is the goal of ‘The War on Drugs’?
In states where cannabis has been legalized, painkiller overdoses have decreased by nearly 25%! Also, we’ve found that underage smoking rates have decreased with legalization, contrary to popular belief.
According to The Federal Bureau of Prisons, nearly 50% of prisoners are locked up for drug-related crimes, many of which are non-violent. So, by decriminalizing drugs, we would instantly slash crime rates by half. That’s huge. Of the remaining half, large chunks are crimes related to drug dealing.
People need to smuggle drugs. Then, they need to protect those drugs, as well as the money, which leads to gangs, guns, violence, robberies, and corruption.
As long as there is a demand, there will be a supplier. People spend billions of dollars a year on drugs. Wouldn’t it be better if that money went to local farmers and dispensaries improving our own economy, getting rid of crime and increasing tax revenues that can be used for education or healthcare? Rather than supporting an underground black market.
Most people don’t understand how much it costs to lock someone up. The average prisoner in New York costs over $60,000 a year, according to TheCrimeReport.org. That’s A LOT of money coming out of our taxes, that would be much better spent on education or healthcare. You arrest someone for selling marijuana, there’s probably 10 more within a mile radius if you’re in a city.
Given the choice, I doubt many people would choose to give up a chunk of their paycheck to enforce laws that are counter-productive and arguably, immoral.
Police Officer and Citizen Relationship
By the time I entered college, most of my friends smoked or had immediate family members that smoked. Technically, the majority of my high school classmates were ‘criminals’. They were valedictorians, honor roll students, scholarship recipients, but in the eyes of the law, they were criminals.
This creates a divide and tension between the people and the police.
When a police officer arrests a murderer, everyone applauds and commends him.
When a police officer arrests a rapist, everyone applauds and commends him.
When a police officer arrests a drug user, you kinda feel bad for the drug user.
As a kid, I got excited and would salute a police officer whenever I saw one. Nowadays, when I walk by a police officer, I sometimes get paranoid even if I’m sober and not doing anything illegal.
The few friends I have who are police officers hate what the War on Drugs has done to the Police-Citizen dynamic. They joined the force to stop violent criminals but most of the time they’re stuck dealing with drug laws they don’t agree with.
Ending ‘The War on Drugs’ is much more than about being able to get high. It’s about stopping all the violence that comes with the drugs black market. It’s about getting people the help they truly need. There’s little kids with epilepsy and other conditions who’ve had their lives saved by cannabis. It breaks my heart to think of all the lives that could’ve been eased and saved by illegal drugs.
Not all drugs are the same. Many of these illegal drugs and very powerful medicines. Studies are showing psychedelics, cannabis, MDMA all have amazing healing properties if they’re created and administered properly.
There’re so many other benefits to ending the War on Drugs. I’ll need to write a Part 2 and maybe even a Part 3.
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