It’s Time to Rethink the War on Drugs

[Statements, opinion, and views expressed in this column are those of the author named and are not necessarily those of the and Thought Process Enterprises team.]

“All research and successful drug policy show that treatment should be increased and law enforcement decreased while abolishing mandatory minimum sentences,” a line from rock band System of a Down’s “Prison.”

Though not 100% accurate, the line highlights the faults in the United State’s drug policy. America treats drug use as a serious criminal offense, along the same lines as violent crimes. This policy places undue strain on the criminal justice and prison systems.

We arrest so many people for drug use that the United States now has the largest prison population in the world and the second highest per capita, behind Seychelles, which is possibly the only time Seychelles is ever talked about.

Mandatory minimum sentences aid the problem by increasing jail time for offenders. They’ve had no discernible affect on decreasing crime and place sentencing power in the hands of prosecutors, whose careers are furthered by being tough on defendants.

It’s been over six decades since Henry J. Anslinger defined the Federal policy of criminalizing drug use and over four decades since President Nixon declared a ‘War on Drugs,’ and the Federal government hasn’t made a dent in drug use.

Drugs are bad. Marijuana has negative health affects, but so do cigarettes, alcohol, soda, aspartame, cell phone use, tanning beds and possibly everything. Hard drugs have far more devastating health effects, but just because something is harmful doesn’t mean the government should arrest people for using it.

Advocating rehabilitation policy isn’t about advocating drug use, ignoring drug trafficking or necessarily decriminalization. It’s about changing a policy that has had no success, has greatly increased the role of the Federal government in our lives and continually eliminates potentially productive citizens by placing them in jail.

There are violent drug offenders that are harmful to society and these should be fought. Placing nonviolent offenders in jail only increases the chance they’ll become a violent offender.

When a person is convicted and sentenced of drug use, they now have a criminal record severely limiting their future prosperity and increasing the chance they will return to drug use. They will bounce in and out of jail, have increased and more serious levels of criminal activity, and possibly die of overdose. The government has made itself the enemy of drug users, when it could have become the helping hand of recovery.

Rehabilitation policies focus on treating drug use as an addiction and giving people the help they need to recover, allowing them to become productive citizens. There’s no shortage of rock stars and politicians that abused drugs and ended up okay, so why don’t we give the inner city drug offenders a chance? Nations such as Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have had great success with rehabilitation policies.

The government’s job isn’t about rounding up nonviolent citizens and placing them in fenced in areas. It’s not their job to prevent us from doing things that are bad for us. It’s not their job to wage war without end on concepts.

America’s been trying the same policy for decades now with no success, and it’s only hurting our society and resource allocation.

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