Drugs have been around for thousands of years, whether it was used as medicine, for religious ceremonies, or for recreation. They became illegal in the past 100 years or so when the effects could be studied extensively. Making drugs illegal created a black market and made them impossible to regulate and tax.
One can see that society has not benefited from this legislative move and it has caused more problems. The decriminalization of using drugs sounds crazy at first, but it’s quite the opposite. There will always be a demand for drugs, therefore, who supplies it is where the problem lies.
Decriminalizing the use of all drugs can allow the government to regulate and tax them which can positively impact our drug addicted population. This can put money back into our economy from sales and taxes while saving money do to a population decrease in prisons.
To start, having control over a problem makes solving it more probable and that’s what the United States lacks when it comes to drugs that are illegal. A great example of this was in the 1920s when the United States made the production, distribution and sale of alcohol illegal; more commonly known as Prohibition. The American people adapted and a black market was quickly established by organized crime syndicates. It wasn’t until Prohibition was repealed that the black market went away.
Not being able to regulate drugs causes law enforcement to constantly battle with searching for drugs and their owners while putting their own lives at risk. Regulating drugs would make them safer than those bought on the street that can be, and typically are, laced with other drugs that can cause more addiction, harm, and even death without actually overdosing. If the use of drugs were decriminalized, the government can have the majority of control over the market which would cause the demand for drugs on the black market to drop dramatically.
Laws regarding how much an individual can have in their possession would be implemented to prevent the resale and distribution of drugs on the street. When selling drugs is someone’s way of life, they believe they have to use violence to earn respect and protect their market. These suppliers on the black market would no longer have business to sell to and have to find legitimate employment. Less drugs and violence on the streets results in a decrease in crime.
Second, decriminalizing the use of drugs would allow the prices to rise to a competitive level with other extreme pain medicine such as, Oxycodone, which is practically identical to heroin. Heroin, however, can be up to one tenth of the price on the black market making it an attractive buy to those addicted to opioids. This price attraction can be eliminated with decriminalization and furthermore, a tax.
An example of taxing benefits can be found in the legalization of marijuana. The tax revenue generated from marijuana alone was around $270 in Washington state per year while Colorado exceeded $140 million in 2016, according to Tax Foundation. The tax revenue from marijuana and other drugs can funnel right back into helping those addicted to get medical help with the goal of turning their lives around or fund advertising against the use of drugs that cause harm.
This may sound familiar, and that’s because something similar was implemented for the use of cigarettes. According to the Center for Disease Control, cigarette has decreased from 42.4 percent in 1965 to just 16.8 percent in 2014. This shows that regulating, taxing, and advertisements informing the public about the effects of drugs can contribute to a major decline in use.
Lastly, the amount of inmates would decline dramatically if the use of drugs were decriminalized. As of February 2017, the Bureau of Prisons recorded that 46.3 percent of the prison population are drug offenders. Imagine the amount of money the government could save if the prison population decreased by 46.3 percent. Money that could find those offenders that are addicted medical help and adjust into a sober lifestyle.
According to Vera Institute of Justice, in the 40 states surveyed, the total amount of taxpayer money used towards prisons was at $38,903,304 in 2010. One can assume that this figure has increased since 2010 do to inflation, population increase, and with the other ten states not surveyed. Of the cost in 2010, 46.3 percent or $18,012,229.75, was spent on drug offenders that need medical help to recover from addiction.
Instead, those addicted to drugs are punished for not having the strength to fight the harmful chemicals that their body is addicted to. Drugs should be viewed as a health issue rather than a criminal issue. If they can receive help to recover from addiction than the demand for such harmful drugs will decrease. This help can be provided through programs funded by taxing the newly regulated drugs and the millions of dollar saved from decreased prison population. Furthermore, the decriminalization of using drugs will force many black market networks to cripple and go out of business here in the United States. Since there is a direct correlation between drugs and crime, one will also notice a decrease in crime. Those that choose to continue to use such drugs will have to purchase it at a higher cost. This can cause the remaining population of addicts to reflect on the benefits of continued use and potentially cause them to quit.
Bradley Hohlbein is a student at Edison State Community Colloege.
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