Addressing the Nation’s Drug Epidemic

Drug policy is one of the hottest topics encompassing the last several decades. Most of us have experienced, firsthand a loved one or friend facing drug related legal repercussions. Employing many marketing strategies, the United States has pushed for a war on drugs, promoting various campaigns in an attempt to prevent the nation’s youth from trying drugs. Sadly, statistics show an ever-increasing population of inmates becoming incarcerated for drug related charges filling our prisons to the max.

Currently, drug related offenses boast the most arrests of any crime. Furthermore, of the people arrested on drug related charges, more than 80% are for simple possession. This has led many people to consider if current drug policy in the U.S. is effectively addressing such a widely pervasive social issue.

The U.S. for the most part, enforces a position known as drug prohibition. This simply means that the sale, acquisition, use and possession of recreational substances are completely illegal. In recent years, we have seen this policy wane slightly in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, although in most of the country, strict prohibition policies still remain in effect.

The opposite of drug prohibition would to be have a policy of drug legalization. This would mean using, selling, and possession of recreational drugs would be completely legal. In the United States, this policy is only in effect for substances such as alcohol and tobacco and only for adults who have reached a certain age.

While, current drug policy seems to have very little impact on keeping our citizens out of prison, most people would not support legalizing these dangerous substances but feel there may be a better way to regulate drugs. Thus, some feel there is an option in between that would better address this serious issue.

Drug decriminalization is the policy many are beginning to consider as an answer to a pervasive problem with large legal and financial implications to individuals, families, and society. Drug decriminalization is not legalization but rather making the possession of illegal substances for personal use not a criminal offense. Under this system, a person caught possessing, acquiring, or using illegal substances would be fined in a similar manner to that of a traffic citation. While the substances would remain completely illegal, a violation would not result in a criminal
conviction. It is important to note that under this policy selling drugs would remain a criminal offense.

Current policy has been a contributing factor to the out of control rates of incarceration, as well as legal discrimination which prevents many who have been convicted from obtaining meaningful employment, government benefits, and housing. While drug decriminalization is a controversial topic, addressing a vastly difficult and complicated social issue, many pose it may be the best way to address the nation’s drug epidemic.