Everyone knows we have a huge drug problem in this country. And that is despite having spent over $1 Trillion since 1980, (currently, $51 Billion annually) on enforcement.
Nearly half a million drug related prisoners make us, far and away, the world’s most prolific jailer – So much for the “Land of the Free!”
Citizens who use and abuse drugs, nearly invariably end up either living in high crime neighborhoods or frequenting such places for this deadly merchandise. As the need for the drug permeates their lives, often the need for the drug, itself becomes the catalyst for more crime.
So, really all we manage to do for $51 Billion per year is to create more criminals, and make our citizens less safe.
There’s a fairly simple reason for this: Prohibition of vices doesn’t work. It never has. Like alcohol in the 1920’s, prohibiting drugs (prostitution too, by the way) results only in a black market for those products, an increase in organized crime, danger to our citizens, and a high incarceration rate.
We have to stop the erroneous notion that if we just spend more, we will get better results. We won’t. That’s not how addiction (or for that matter how humanity) works.
I believe we need to decriminalize all drugs and legalize those that are safe – such as Marijuana (including hash) and Shrooms. (Difference being that if decriminalized, unauthorized dealers still go to jail, but if legalized, we can allow (only) legitimate business enterprise and taxation).
I’m quite aware that a large part of the opioid crisis stems from the misuse of prescription drugs, and we will have to put tighter regulations on those legally prescribed drugs to do our level best to create fewer dealers, but again, under my proposal, only unauthorized dealers will be charged/incarcerated for drugs. Users whose only infraction is use will be left alone.
I do still believe we need to spend that $51 Billion per year to lessen drug use. In fact, I think we need to augment that with the tax revenues connected to the legal sale of drugs. Instead of spending that money on incarceration/enforcement, however, I believe we should spend it in treatment and prevention education – much like we did cigarettes in the 1990s and 2000s.
Some who mostly agree with me think we should overtax drugs. I disagree. That results in a viable black market. The best way to kill the black market is to tax fairly rather than as a back door to prohibition. $70 for 1/8 is too much for marijuana when I can buy from my local black market guy for $25.
We did a good job reducing cigarette use in the United States, as a result of education, marketing, and tighter regulations and I believe that is an effective model for reducing drug use as well. Rehab should not cost $15,000. That prices the most desperate users out of the market and leaves them out of options. Indeed, it is, for most, nothing but a death sentence. We can and we should fix that.
Treatment needs to be accessible, affordable, and mindful that a lot of drug addiction stems not from a party atmosphere but from the self-treatment of countless emotional and mental conditions that may themselves require professional treatment– not just from drug counselors, but from trained psychiatric and psychological professionals. That is to say that while for some, drug addiction might be the problem, for others it is but a symptom.
Decriminalization and legalization won’t be easy due to the combination of the profitability of the prison industrial complex (including private prisons (which must be terminated)), the attitude of religious moralists, and the fact that change never comes easily. But if we have any hope at all of lessening the pain of opioid addiction it lies in being smart for once about the way forward instead of assuming that assertion of our authoritative will stands any chance of ever resulting in anything but greater misery and failure.
Prohibition of vices has never worked and it never will. It’s time to do it differently.
#Widdifield2020 #TruthMatters #PeopleMatter