Should Drugs Be Decriminalized?
Recreational drug use has been controversial for years. Government has deemed the use of certain drugs to be dangerous, addictive, costly, and fatal. Governmental agencies have passed laws to make drugs illegal and then have focused a great deal of attention and money trying to prohibit the use of these drugs, and many people support these sanctions because they view the illegality of drugs to be the main protection against the destruction of our society (Trebach, n.d.). Restricting behavior doesn’t generally stop people from engaging in that behavior; prohibition tends to result in people finding more creative ways to obtain and use drugs. However, just knowing that trying to control people’s behavior by criminalizing drug use does not work still leaves us looking for a solution, so what other options exist? This paper will discuss the pros and cons about one option: decriminalizing drugs.
The obvious place to start is by defining terminology. What does decriminalization mean? Decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization; these are two different options for dealing with illegal drug use. Legalization means that the government authorizes the use and sale of certain drugs to adults (The Drug Policy Forum of Texas [DPFT], 2004). A current example of this would be restaurants that serve alcohol; even though alcohol is legal for adults, restaurants are still required to have a license to serve liquor. For some drugs such as marijuana, legalization will also allow the government to regulate the drug enough to tax sales, so instead of spending money to fight drug possession, the government will now make money by taxing it (Thimmesch, 2013). People can use and possess drugs on a limited basis, and selling drugs will no longer be a criminal offense (Boyle, 2014).
Decriminalization simply takes away any criminal penalties for possession of a currently illegal drug (Thimmesch, 2013); thus, decriminalization would allow people to use drugs without fear of being arrested or put in jail. Decriminalization allows limited growing of drugs and permits people to possess only a small amount of any drug. This restriction on possession is designed to prevent people from becoming dealers. At this point, decriminalization in the United States is usually limited to marijuana (DPFT, 2013).
A significant aspect of decriminalization is that instead of being looked at as a criminal violation, it allows drug use to be viewed from a public health position. This difference is significant, because instead of focusing on the “supply problem,” decriminalization addresses the “demand problem” and is more pro-active at helping drug users deal with their addiction than the current system (Riddell, 2012). The concept of treating drug addiction like a public health issue instead of a criminal one has been around for years, but society has not welcomed this viewpoint in spite of years of evidence that prohibition is not...