I wasn't going to cover this topic so soon because I didn't want to seem like a pro-drug advocate and lose readership before I gained any, but after Phillip Seymour Hoffman's passing and the subsequent barrage of hateful speak about a "useless junkie," as some have put it, I feel compelled to speak up on the subject of drugs - or more specifically on addiction. I'm not here to say that drugs are good and that everyone should give them a chance. I don't believe that all drugs are good and I especially do not believe that they are for everyone. It is a choice to try a substance for the first time, even one that is dangerous and could eventually kill you. Addiction, however, is not a choice.
The war on drugs has failed. It has failed our country and our allies world wide helping us fight it. Violence and corruption control the streets of our poorest cities with people fighting and shooting each other in order to obtain prime real estate. Towns and cities in some of our southern countries live in fear for their lives as their roads are used to transport drugs, their children are used as drug mules, sales people, foot soldiers, or accidentally shot as innocent bystanders. Families moved to poverty because they can't grow the crops that have sustained their families for years (as in the case of coca growers in Peru). In our country, minorities are disproportionately affected by our war on drugs - whether that be a disparaging difference in incarceration rates or murder rates that rival some of the most extremely hostile places on this planet.
I propose a new war. I propose a war on addiction. Legalize drugs. All of them. Doing that gives the government direct control on distribution, consumers direct control of dosages and quality, and everyone in the country a new market to invest in. Remember from my previous post that we are not arguing morality so take a breath and continue reading.
Case studies are important, especially when another country has done something you are considering doing. Dredging through the misinformation about drugs you come across a very interesting case study: the decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal in 2001. Here was a country plagued with HIV from shared needles, overdose deaths, addiction, adolescent drug use, and no help for addicts. Since the law passed, overdose deaths decreased, HIV rates decreased, drug use among children ages 13-15 decreased, and the number of people seeking AND getting help for addiction increased. A once failing war on drugs was refocused to target the main problem that drugs present, addiction, and the results have been great.
"That's Portugal and this is America!" I don't have to guess, I have heard that statement before and I know someone will be thinking it. You are right. That is there and this is here, but really what that statement implies is "Portugal is better than us... We can't do that" and I disagree with that sentiment. America is the greatest country in the world. While there may be people in this country that should be neutered for fear that whatever gene controls intolerance gets passed down, those people are still entitled to their opinions. Opinions, however, are like assholes: everyone has one and they all stink (admittedly, including my own). What I do believe in, however, is this countries strength: it's people. I don't fall in the same line of thought that "Portugal is not America so we can't do it" because I don't think there is anything America CAN'T do.
I don't ask that everyone that reads this agree with me. It would be ludicrous to think that everyone on the internet is going to agree with what I say. What I do ask, is that you give it thought. Give thought to freedom of choice. Give thought to removing illegal drugs from our streets and putting legal drugs in our stores. Give thought to ending the war on drugs. Most importantly, however, give thought to beginning the war on addiction.
Now if you'll excuse me, I haven't checked Facebook in 10 minutes. I think I'm experiencing withdrawal.