Decriminalization as a Solution to the Drug Problem in America

I have never done drugs in my life; however, the war on drugs still affects you and me as American citizens I have seen first-hand the injustices of the criminalization of marijuana. My family has been affected by drug use and addiction. My cousin has now been sober for many years, and I suspect my brother has relapsed after several years of not using it. Growing up my parents, though unsupportive of my brother’s smoking habits, were more worried that he would get caught than the dangers of marijuana itself. The truth is that marijuana doesn’t ruin your life, the prohibition of it does. You can lose the custody of your kids, lose your job, be denied financial aid, or serve jail time, all for being caught at the wrong time with a joint in your pocket. I am not advocating for the promotion of drugs to become “socially acceptable,” nor do I believe that they should be used in the first place. However, our current system simply does not work.

Our government needs a system that treats addicts as addicts and not criminals, otherwise, we are increasing the rate of recidivism in drug users, instead of helping them overcome their problem. The criminalization of marijuana promotes an oppressive agenda, costs taxpayers billions per year, and is an outdated and ineffective policy. The “War on Drugs” as you know it is a lie; a political ruse. The masterminds behind its conception, namely Richard Nixon, constructed it with the intention of disrupting minorities and policing political dissidents. John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s Domestic Affairs Advisor, came forward with the revelation in 1994 that the “War on Drugs“ was a complete fallacy.

The Nixon administration intended to criminalize marijuana and make the American public associate “potheads”i blacks and hippiesi as criminals, which conveniently allowed him to persecute the two largest groups of anti-war protestors. This “War on Drugs” has lead to racial imbalance in the judiciary system, The law legally defines “crack cocaine” and “powder cocaine” as two different controlled substances, even though they are the same drug. It discriminates against “powder cocaine,” a “black drug,” giving up to 100 times harsher punishments and sentences than “crack cocaine,” a “white drugt”. In today’s society, a black man is more likely to get arrested for drugs, and more likely to serve a longer sentence than a white man who is committing an equali or greater crime.

The only difference between these two men is the color of their skin America has the second-highest incarceration rate in the world. For every 100,000 American adults, 693 are currently serving time in a federal or state prison. Communist, autocratic nations that we criticize for their human rights violations have lower incarceration rates than we do Cuba’s is 510, Russia’s is 450, and China’s is 164‘ 50% of those incarcerated in America are serving a sentence related to drugs, 89% of those drug charges being related to the possession or use of marijuana Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug in several states, putting it with the likes of Heroin and LSD, and putting it a step above cocaine and opium, meaning that the punishments for carrying marijuana are higher than carrying cocaine. By an extra two years, minimum. Not only is our criminalization of marijuana promoting a false- ideology of American superiority and freedom, it is costing taxpayers billions of dollars per year, and handing out felonies to the institutionalized left and right, creating a higher rate of recidivism due to the inability to find a job.

Portugal‘s drug policy, enacted in 2001, has seen a 60% increase in patients at rehabs, a 90% reduction in drug—related HIV infections, and a decrease in drug use by adolescents and other “at risk“ groups. All Portugal has done is decriminalized drug use; reduced the penalties of possessing a drug from years in prison, to a small fine akin to that of a parking ticket. With less money spent on mass incarceration, the government was able to introduce many domestic programs that distributed sterilized needles, aided addicts in overcoming their addiction through rehab and help re-introduce former addicts back into society with training and employment support. This new policy has also hurt drug traffickers, as the price of street drugs has declined quite significantly, incentivizing dealers to look elsewhere for profits. If the United States were to merely decriminalize marijuana, government spending would reduce government spending by over one billion dollars.

Regulating it federally, as seen in Colorado, would increase tax revenues by nearly $50 billion per year. The way the American justice system prosecutes drug users is unfair. Punishments are too harsh and “correction facilities” do nothing to help addicts overcome their issues. Even if marijuana is seen as “had,” our current policies do more harm to society than the drug itself. You don’t have to be a drug user, or even support the use of drugs to want to help improve the lives of institutionalized addicts, and to heal the racial divide. The time has come for discussion on how America can reform its drug policy to help users overcome their addictions, instead of giving them severe punishments and creating a positive feedback loop that breaks apart families, ruins lives, and contradicts the core American principles of freedom, equality, and justice for all.

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