This archived article was written by: Frank Saccomannto
Everyone talks about how marijuana should be legalized, as I do believe it should be, but what about all the other drugs? The United States has an opiate crisis on its hands and in 2016 there were more than 60,000 deaths from overdoses. The U.S.’s approach to dealing with this drug problem is to incarcerate the people who are using the drugs. This is not working as the number of deaths continues to rise.
Is there a solution to this problem? In 2001, the Portuguese government decided to take an entirely different approach to its drug problem. Instead of treating the drug problem as a crime, they decided to treat the drug problem as a public health issue.
The Portuguese government decriminalized all drugs, which meant those using the drugs would not be charged as a criminal. Instead of incarcerating those who were using the drugs, these people would be subject to a minor fine and be reommended to check-in to a rehab facility. They would not be put in jail or written up with a criminal citation.
You may be wondering, “Well wouldn’t that just prompt people to use drugs?” at first Portugal did see a spike in drug use among people. However, since then, the number of people who die of drug-induced deaths each year has significantly dropped. A 2017 poll ran by the European Drug Report and the New York Times shows in Portugal there are six drug induced deaths per one-million people, compared to the U.S. at 185 drug induced deaths per one-million.
Portugal is trying to help the people, rather than subjecting them to fines and jail time.
There is no end to the drug war. Yes the we can secure the boarder, take down the dealers and make the chemicals harder to get. But if people want drugs, they will get drugs.
The U.S. needs to take a different approach to the war on drugs. The government should treat it as a public health issue, instead of a major crime. Currently, the U.S. is incarcerating people who are suffering from an addiction, taking away what little hope they have left of getting clean. We need to stop pretending that addicts aren’t people; people can change if they have hope. Addicts get arrested time and time again with no change. Those who do want to change often times don’t have the means necessary to do so, and quitting an addiction alone almost always ends in a relapse. Addicts are afraid of getting arrested and jailed if they seek help. The only way to win the war on drugs is to end it.