There are growing calls from stakeholders across the spectrum of society for the war on drugs to be ended. Drug criminalization policies have failed and have, in fact, made the drug epidemic worse. While some successes were achieved in capturing and disrupting drug traffickers, these criminal organizations have continued to adapt and flourish over recent decades.
Drug decriminalization context
Experts have argued that the drug war worsens the drug epidemic through the so-called “balloon effect.” As soon as one drug trafficking organization is dismantled, another is ready to take its place, filling the same demand which never disappears—this has happened countless times. For instance, when the US sponsored an anti-drug campaign in Colombia, the business simply moved to Mexico. And it explains why in Mexico, the demise of one drug cartel is the beginning of another.
Another outcome of the war on drugs is the proliferation of increasingly deadlier drugs that are easier to produce and more addictive. Since the war on drugs has clearly failed, drug experts are calling for alternative approaches, including the legalization and regulation of drugs.
Decriminalizing drugs would have a profound effect on society. It would remove the stigma associated with drug use and stop pushing drug users to the edges of society. It might also acknowledge drug use as a reaction to a social system that often alienates and disenfranchises certain members of society. Decriminalization may also help to refocus resources on the high levels of poverty and despair that lead to drug use, while also providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to come up with solutions for the upliftment of portions of society.
Treating drug use as a health issue, and not a criminal offense, may reduce unpleasant confrontations with law enforcement officials. Furthermore, if drugs are legalized, we may see a significant reduction in the need for criminal dealers, making inner cities and schools safer.
Applications for drug decriminalization
Drug decriminalization can:
- Save millions spent on law enforcement and criminal justice programs to combat drug possession. This money could instead be used to address mental health issues, poverty, and other factors that are at the root of the drug abuse problem.
- Remove the stigma around drug use and hopefully, make drug use safer by removing it from dark alleys and back streets where needle sharing leads to the spread of infectious diseases.
- Lead to safer local communities by reducing income generating opportunities for drug dealers, thereby lessening gang-related crime and violence.
- Make illicit drugs that are not made according to government-regulated quality controls less attractive to buy, limiting the damage they cause.
Questions to comment on
- Do you think there will be a dramatic increase in people using drugs and becoming addicted if drugs are decriminalized?
- Even if drugs are decriminalized, how would the government address societal problems that stem from drug use? Or even cause drug use?