- Meet Corey, a father to a 4 year old daughter, serving 17 years in Louisiana, simply for possessing half an ounce of marijuana.
- Now meet Nicole, a mother separated from her 3 young children while being held pre-trial for months in a Houston jail, simply for being convicted for possessing heroin residue in an empty bag. This conviction also meant she’d lose her student financial aid, job opportunities, and food stamps she needed so that she could feed her children.
- Now meet Matthew, from the Hood County jail in Texas. His addiction has led the legal system to keep punishing him, and he went to prison 5 times and got zero help.
- Matthew was sentenced to 15 years for possession of an amount of methamphetamine so small the laboratory couldn’t even weigh it, and the result could only read a trace.
- With the way the legal system is currently set, drug addicts do not get the help they need, they are simply punished and left to drown in their addiction. This is why the US needs to decriminalize drug possession.
- Now, let’s get one thing out of the way. Decriminalization is not the same as legalization. Decriminalization means it’s still illegal to possess or use any illegal drugs, but possession is a misdemeanor rather than a criminal violation under certain quantity limits. This means that the offender may receive a fine or court-ordered rehab, but not imprisonment.
- Stats from countries who’ve reduced or eliminated criminal penalties for drug possession find that more people will enter drug treatment programs. This is likely because of the fact that money that is normally spent on arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning people in possession of illegal drugs, now can be redirected towards more and better drug treatment programs and can allow people who are addicted to find treatment and fix their problems rather than throw them in cages and let them continue their problems as soon as they get back out.
- This redirection of resources also allows for law enforcement to focus their efforts on larger scale crimes that have an impact further beyond the perpetrator. This means that the people hurting themselves through their crimes will get the help that they need while people whose crimes’ effects reach further than themselves will get the attention that they need as well.
- On top of that, with drug possession being decriminalized, a lot of room would be freed in prisons allowing for less funding to have to go to enlarging prisons or making more of them. This is supported by stats at unodc.org that show the percentage of drug arrests that are for possession vs sales/manufacturing, with over 80% of drug arrests being for possession alone.
- Decriminalization of drug possession would also significantly reduce the stigma associated with drug use so that addicts are more encouraged to come out of the shadows to seek treatment and support for their issues.
- Putting people in prison for drug use also does not mean they’ll stop once they’re let back out. Prisons are full of people serving time on drug-related charges but most experts agree that a sentence will rarely deter drug use, especially among young people. The Prison Policy Initiative finds that at least 1 in 4 people who go to jail get arrested again in the same year, particularly those dealing with poverty, mental illness, and substance use disorders, whose problems only get worse when they end up incarcerated. These people do not need to be thrown in cages, they need help and the legal system decides to punish them rather than get them the help they need.
- Another factor to consider with incarcerating drug users, especially addicts, is withdrawal. See, when your body is addicted to a substance, it’ll build a dependence on it and cutting it out completely leads to symptoms of withdrawal as this substance your body now relies on has completely disappeared.
- When a drug addict is incarcerated, obviously they aren’t getting any more of whatever substance they are addicted to. This means that their body will experience withdrawal symptoms and some of these withdrawal symptoms can be fatal. Most people who quit using a substance their body depends on often get off of it slowly rather than cutting it out to avoid withdrawal.
- If addicts can get help instead of being incarcerated, they can cut these dangerous substances out of their lives slowly to avoid withdrawal rather than get rid of them entirely and experience potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms in prison.
- So all in all, this is why the US should decriminalize drug possession and the citizens should push for it as well. Anyone in this room can make an impact through something as simple as voting in the future for someone who supports this policy or signing a petition pushing for it.
- Addicts are not the perpetrators, they are the victims. It’s not right to throw people like Corey, Nicole, and Matthew into prison for their issues instead of helping them beat their addiction to make the most out of their lives. Decriminalizing drug possession is good for everyone. The government and law enforcement agencies save money and time, users and addicts get help with escaping their issues, and society as a whole will benefit from the decriminalization of drug possession.
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