Should the United States Decriminalize Drugs?

Should the United States Decriminalize Drugs?


The American Conservative reports that: “He said, “We’re losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war.”

Those words came from Donald Trump 27 years ago at luncheon hosted by the Miami Herald. He also blamed our politicians who “don’t have any guts.” However, now that he is in the ultimate position of political power, he has not demonstrated the courage to make the positive reforms he once publicly advocated.”

Not to pick on Trump specifically, but this scenario is all too common: Politicians and policy makers often tout the benefits of decriminalization and talk a good game, but then when it comes time to actually make policies, they back down and go with the more traditional, punitive arrangements are already in place.

In other words, everybody actually wants the benefits of a decriminalized nation when it comes to drug policy, but no one actually has the guts to put everything on the line and risk implementing it. Because honestly, what if it is a complete disaster? This is a high risk, high reward decision we are talking about. Which is exactly why politicians are shying away from it in terms of actually taking action.

It would be difficult to project exactly how the economic impacts would shift and change if most drug crimes were seriously decriminalized. One could argue that the prison industrial complex has a very strong interest in seeing harsh drug laws continue.

The fact is that addiction and alcoholism are still very personal issues, and they sort of stand outside of the law. In other words, it doesn’t really have much bearing on things that alcohol is legal while cocaine is illegal. Both substances can be fairly easily obtained by most people, and both substances have the potential to become a destructive force in your life if left unchecked.

Another case in point: Just because marijuana is becoming less and less criminalized in the United States does not really have any bearing on its potential as a gateway drug, or even on its potential to become a tool for medicating emotions and escaping reality. In other words, just because weed is legal now does not make it any less harmful.

Decriminalization could actually create a new sort of problem, the sort of slow burnout that can be seen by alcohol and its overall effects on society. We may even be starting to see the slow effect of legalized marijuana seep into the culture: Less ambition from the masses, less productivity, maybe more sick days taken, who knows? If you make it okay to use drugs on a regular basis then you can expect to see the effects of that slowly infiltrate the whole of society. You can also project that this new behavior will have an impact on future generations who are watching their parents partake so freely. Would marijuana and harder drugs become a typical rite of passage? And what would the downstream effects of that be?

Part of the problem with drug laws is that they really punish the poor. If you are in jail for drug crime today then there is a greater than 50 percent chance that you are there because you were too poor to post bail. This also has the effect of creating racism within our justice system, as a disproportionate number of minorities get charged with drug crimes.

So what is the solution? One idea is to pour all of our money and resources into prevention and treatment instead of punishment, as something like only about 10 percent of the prisoners who would actually benefit from substance abuse treatment actually get it.

Another idea is to seek recovery and treatment at the personal level. Sometimes a run in with the law is the wake up call that an addict or alcoholic needs to finally admit and accept their disease. Without accepting our disease we cannot move forward with a solution.

Even if a drug is perfectly legal it can still destroy your life if you are not willing to surrender and embrace recovery. Therefore the best thing that you can do in this situation is to ask for help and seek out inpatient treatment. There are many forms of substance abuse services, from counseling to AA meetings to long term rehab, but most of us would do well to start out by seeking a 28 day inpatient program.

Going to treatment in a 28 day facility gives you a real chance to catch your breath and figure out what you want to do with your life. Without going to inpatient treatment it is very likely that your addiction will keep you from making any sort of headway. You may get a few days clean and sober only to run into some form of self sabotage at some point and lose all of your progress again. Being in a rehab facility insures that you will accumulate at least a solid month of recovery. At that point you will be better equipped to really decide for yourself how important your sobriety is to your life, and how adamantly you want to keep pursuing it.

If you start to experience the benefits of addiction recovery then it is likely that you will want to dive into recovery head first and keep pursuing it for the duration. When I left treatment I knew that I had to keep pushing myself to make more and more positive changes so that I would not fall back into “stinking thinking” and my old ways of addiction. It was only through the continuous reinvention of the self–accomplished through taking more and more positive action–that I was able to “outrun the threat of relapse” and maintain my sobriety.

Treatment worked for me when other approaches had failed. I used to argue that drugs should not be illegal, that it was wrong for them to be illegal, and that the world had “done me wrong” as a result of this.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter what the legality of drugs are if I am completely addicted to them and they ruin my life. The truth is, I needed to quit for myself, regardless of the legal issues involved.

The truth is that I had to get past my own issues and hang ups and ask for help so that I could turn my life around. Doing so and going to treatment was the best decision I ever made. And it still doesn’t matter to me what drugs are legal and which are not.