It's time to end America's dopey drug policy
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 02:09
In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” Nearly half a century later, however, it seems the United States is losing the war on drugs, and with no end in sight.
Mere possession of a speck of some illegal substances is enough to put “criminals” in prison for years. By outlawing mind-altering substances, authorities hope to overcome the nation’s drug problem. However, the outdated policy doesn’t seem to be working. Luckily, there are other options.
Nearly a decade ago, Portugal decriminalized drug possession and use. HIV diagnoses, drug-related deaths, and adolescent drug use all decreased, according to soros.org. Street values of most drugs decreased, causing a decrease in organized crime. And although the United States is a long way away from decriminalizing drug possession, there is something to be learned from Portugal’s drug policy.
Not only is decriminalization of drug possession a smart move economically, there are social benefits as well. Many studies indicate that the rehabilitation of drug users is a better use of taxpayer money. Not only is rehab cheaper and more effective than prison sentences, it gives people the tools to manage their drug problem.
Americans are major consumers of illicit drugs, most of which comes over the Mexican border. Adoption of a policy like Portugal’s would not only bring in revenue and decrease crime here in the United States, it would significantly douse the violent fire raging among Mexican cartels.
Americans learned one important lesson from the alcohol prohibition of the early 1900s: It doesn’t work. Although consumption decreased somewhat, the nation experienced a sharp increase in organized crime. Eventually the Prohibition was repealed, those supporting it citing that it would generate tax revenue as well as weaken organized crime. Perhaps it’s time we apply what we learned from the Prohibition to the current era.
A drug policy like Portugal’s isn’t likely to happen in our lifetimes. But it is possible to create policies that encourage the justice system to utilize rehabs instead of prisons for those arrested for drug possession. It’s time for the United States to move forward from the 70s and replace the war on drugs with sensible drug policy.