Pubdate: Mon, 13 Jun 2016
Source: New Age, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2016 TNA Media (Pty.)
Author: Chelsea Lotz


Decriminalising Drugs Is Straightforward; People Are Empowered With Choice

ONE of the key traits of humanity is the ability to implement laws 
and change them as new evidence, facts and data become available, 
thus creating greater awareness.

Such is the evolution of society, to build and refine knowledge due 
to new findings and information. In 1971, the Misuse of Drugs Act was 
implemented in the UK, causing a wave of punitive legislation 
throughout the world. Suddenly, the recreational drug culture of the 
1960s had come to an end, bringing with it a darker era of obscured 
drug use run by crime syndicates holding a monopoly over the masses.

Not only did this legislation create criminals, it empowered 
criminals by enabling them to become wealthy from illegal drug trade. 
Drug use shifted away from popular reality enhancing recreational 
drugs such as LSD and mushrooms, to Class A drugs which cause 
destruction and death; cocaine, MDMA, heroin, and methylphenethylamine.

While the world wages a war on drugs, drug use has only increased; 
money spent on law enforcement has quadrupled internationally. 
Richard Branson said the war on drugs has been the most "epic, costly 
failure" of our time.

Clearly the war on drugs has failed, after 50 years drug use is 
higher than ever before. So why are governments still spending 
billions on measures that have yielded no long-term results? 
Decriminalising drugs not only allows the government to monitor and 
evaluate drug use but to focus on control and rehabilitation.

Drug use thrives when illegal, with corporations and syndicates using 
the drug trade for profit. Prisons are overfull of people who have 
committed minor drugrelated offences.

The imprisonment of mostly innocent people for recreational drug use 
not only exhausts tax funds but reduces prison spaces for real 
criminals, such as murderers. Those who are arrested for minor drug 
offences become demoralised after years in prison, making it more 
likely for drug victims to turn to a life of crime once out of prison.

Many people are also unfairly arrested, such as those using cannabis 
for pain relief or cancer treatment. The logic behind decriminalising 
drugs is straightforward. People feel empowered when given a choice 
over their own health and supported when they are able to seek 
rehabilitation for addiction, without punishment or condemnation. The 
case for ending the war on drugs and decriminalising drugs has many 
merits. In 2001 Portugal became the first nation to decriminalise every drug.

While many contested the new legislation, in 2009 the Cato institute 
published its findings, proving that the initiative was a resounding 
success. Portugal experienced a 50% reduction in drug-related deaths, 
and the rate of drug use dramatically declined. In 2011 the New 
Yorker mentioned how the government has vans patrolling the streets 
of Portugal, offering chemical alternatives to addicts trying to wean 
themselves off hard drugs.

Decriminalising drugs also dramatically reduced the rate of HIV-Aids 
cases, and HIV infection rates fell by 17%.

Statistics have shown a massive surge over the course of 10 years in 
victims visiting health services to end addiction. By educating 
society on drugs, people are more enabled to make informed decisions 
and therefore are less likely to engage in drug abuse.

Psychologists say a peaceful society starts with a stable family, yet 
drugs and alcohol are the primary cause of broken families.

Drugs cannot be counted as the number one killer in society. There 
are far more deaths from alcohol alone and cigarettes, than drugs. A 
survey in the US reported that cigarettes are the cause of 400 000 
deaths a year, alcohol caused 100 000 deaths, Class A drugs caused 
600 deaths, while cannabis caused no deaths.

Therefore it has to be questioned as to why alcohol and tobacco are 
legal, the main contributors to death and destruction of society, 
while billions spent on the war on drugs cause very little deaths in 
comparison. The drugs industry generates $300bn (R4.6 trillion) a 
year money that criminals profit from.

The war on drugs is essentially funding crime. Corporate companies 
have also had a part in this, only a few years ago HSBC was found 
guilty of laundering $881m of drug cartel money.

By reforming drug sentencing and policies, the government is able to 
save lives and the breakdown families, eliminate criminal monopoly on 
the drug trade, reduce crime, redirect tax funds, monitor and control 
supply and production, reduce HIV-Aids, and rehabilitate criminals.

The pros far outweigh the cons. As proven in many case studies, 
decriminalising drugs is categorically more effective than the war on 
drugs. Not only does it allow the government to rehabilitate society, 
but it allows society to thrive as the money spent on prisons, 
sentencing and criminals can be spent on more worthy causes.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom