When I talk with people about their opinions on drug laws, I am rarely surprised at what I hear.
Many of the adults I talk to grew up during the intense anti-drug propaganda of the ’70s and ’80s, when the government began to crack down in response to the irresponsible hippie movement of the ’60s.
These people often cite false evidence in support of drug laws.
For example, many note drug laws could decrease drug use and lessen harm from addiction and irresponsible behavior while under the influence.
They compare drugs to alcohol, saying the reason we have so many alcohol-related accidents is because alcohol is legal.
My response is, “Let’s make alcohol illegal.”
But of course prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s, and it wouldn’t work today.
The same is true for drug laws.
In fact, if one is to consider the overall scope of drug harm, it’s clear that more harm comes from America’s response to drug use rather than from the drugs themselves.
Don’t get me wrong — heroin is addictive. Marijuana can lead to apathy and laziness. But the numbers are interesting.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite research that says nicotine is as addictive as heroin.
So you may wonder why nicotine is legal.
The CDC says smoking accounts for one out of every five deaths in the United States each year, while drugs account for almost one in every 55.
But this number does not take into account whether the drugs are legal or not.
You may think drug laws help keep this number so low.
But they actually don’t.
Take Portugal, for example: they have decriminalized personal amounts of all drugs.
They also report proportional drug use and related death rates far below those of the U.S.
They have stood alongside addicts to provide rehabilitation and treatment, rather than further destroying their lives by imprisoning them.
This leads many people to consider why we would fund an outdated approach to drug use when it’s clearly inefficient.
Some people imagine those billions of tax dollars are better spent on rehabilitation programs, repaying our debt or, anything else.
Instead of trying and failing to control what citizens ingest this way, the government should focus on providing factual information so we can make an informed decision for ourselves.
They should also make it a point to continue enforcing routine safety laws in order to protect people from the crime that can result from irresponsible drug use.
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