Given that a lot of states are working toward decriminalizing drugs, it’s imperative to understand how that would impact addiction. In the past, the country had a strict, punitive stance on drug use. People who were caught with drugs on their person would face jail or prison time depending on the amount.
This had the effect of flooding the prison system and often punishing people who have an addiction to drugs. The ideology driving this system was that people who did drugs were criminals and needed punishment. Over the years, people are beginning to realize that those who do drugs and face addiction suffer from a disease, not a moral shortcoming.
Given that ideology shift, policy makers have started to see drug addiction as a matter of public health, not criminal activity. To treat it as a public health concern, policy makers need to decriminalize drug use.
However, decriminalization is not the same as legalization. Decriminalizing drugs means that drug abuse isn’t punishable by law and is handled by counselors, psychologists and social workers instead of law enforcement officers. The distribution and sale of drugs would still be illegal in the states where it was applied.
One of the major benefits of decriminalization is that people who need treatment for drug and alcohol abuse will have an opportunity to receive care instead of punishment. People with a drug addiction need professional help, not prison bars.
The states will also have more money to invest in treatment and education for drug abuse, instead of spending money to house people in prisons and jails.
Some people argue that decriminalizing drugs will have the effect of making people who have a genetic predisposition toward drug abuse more likely to use since there isn’t the worry about punishment.
What is Legalization?
Legalization makes the distribution and sale of drugs legal, which allows corporations to mass produce drugs and gives states permission to tax them. The taxes from drug sales can go toward helping fund drug education or other treatment centers for the people who need it. Another benefit of legalization is that it can help keep drugs away from kids as the regulatory effects help create barriers to them using.
Education also helps with stigma. Stigma often keeps people from getting the help they need for an addiction problem. Often, people receive the idea from a young age that people who have an addiction are bad people in need of punishment.
Mostly, people don’t want to have that label attached to them because of how it implies that they are bad people.
Legalization and decriminalization seem like counter-intuitive ways of dealing with the addiction problem that we have, however, there are real benefits to legalization and decimalization. In a lot of situations, decriminalization has led to legalization.
Addiction is a disease, not a moral shortcoming. The faster that society really comes to terms with that fact, the quicker people can get the help they need. The war on drugs is not a war against bad people, but a fight against a disease.