The following is a guest opinion piece by Tony Carlson of Salmon Creek. His views (some very controversial) are not necessarily those of Lost Coast Outpost but are intended to stimulate discussion.
It’s time to reassess our country’s drug policy. (The war on drugs.) It has been one of the worst disasters that has ever happened to our country.
The bottom line is people are going to use drugs whether they are legal or illegal, and it is time for us to come to terms with this reality. Here are some of the positive things that would result if we changed the way we deal with this crisis. Just by legalizing three of the main drugs of choice, heroin, cocaine and marijuana:
- A. We would largely defund much of the organized crime and most of the street gangs in the U.S.
- B. We would save billions of tax dollars on prisons, and take a major burden off law enforcement.
- C. We would reduce crimes related to the procurement of expensive street drugs.
- D. It would seriously reduce the medical costs of users who are exposed to H.I.V., Hep. C, and other dangers associated with poor quality street drugs.
- E. It would take the profit out of the Mexican drug cartels and in doing so would end much of the violence in Mexico and seriously reduce the illegal traffic on our border with Mexico.
- F. It would reduce corruption in many governments that are influenced by drug money. If heroin were legal, the Taliban, without opium would loose a major source of revenue and probably become much less of a threat to its own people and the rest of the world.
So these are some of the positive things we would see. What about the downside? There are no simple solutions. The two main addictive drugs heroin and cocaine, if these drugs become available there would probably a surge in the beginning as users would take advantage the availability and the quality of these drugs. This is why these substances must be government controlled and each user must be evaluated as to the their personal needs and level of usage. Once a user is prescribed a dosage they should be encouraged to enter a treatment program and receive help in kicking their habit. And any female in the program should only be allowed to enter only if she agrees to go on birth control. (One of the greatest sins a person can do is bring a child into the world addicted to drugs.)
What about prescription drug abuse? No doubt it makes up a large portion of abusers and the doctors who prescribe these drugs should be able to recognize when a patient is becoming addicted and should have an option to refer the patient to a program that is set up to deal with these people and help them reduce or eliminate their addiction.
So the next issue is marijuana. Since there is no evidence that marijuana is physically addictive, the only argument that our society has made against it is that it is the gateway drug, but the fact is most people who use marijuana rarely move on to harder drugs. So it should not be in the same category as the addictive drugs but should be regulated like alcohol and turned over to the free market and be subjected to taxation.
There are other drugs that I have not addressed such as psychedelics and methamphetamine. People use meth because it’s cheap, most people use it because they can’t afford cocaine, although cocaine is a much more desirable drug. If cocaine were available meth would probably disappear.
As far as psychedelics, these substances need to be approached in an entirely different manner. There are several types and each one is unique and some can have severe negative psychological effects. But with some like psilocybin there is new research that suggests it can help to reduce depression especially for the terminally ill. But for people to have access to these they should be educated to understand just what the consequences of each substance can be and then only used in a controlled situation.
The next thing we can do to reduce the number of new users is to remove all of the glamour from it using a public relations campaign showing just how these substances can negatively impact your life, utilizing same kind of an ad campaign that has been so effectively used against tobacco.
In just 2010 alone our government spent 15 billion dollars on the war on drugs, and incarcerated tens of thousands of people who, for the most part, are only guilty of using or possessing these substances.
This sixty year campaign of drug eradication and prosecution has had no impact on how many people are addicts. No matter what we do there will always be a certain portion of our population who will use these drugs, so all we can do is try to keep the number as low as possible. We need to adopt a practical approach to this problem instead of intolerance and punishment. We need to focus on education and treatment.