Editor’s note: A Grade 12 English class at Prince Albert Collegiate Institute has been working on editorials on world issues. Daily Herald managing editor Perry Bergson visited their classroom last month to lend a hand. The results will be showing up the pages of the Daily Herald in coming weeks.
Do you think the U.S. government should continue the war on drugs which has an average spending of $1,716.77 per second of taxpayer money; money that could be used for other purposes such as schools, health, or infrastructure? The United States government is no closer to ending the war on drugs then when President Richard Nixon declared war in 1971.
It would be a mistake to think the war is on drugs. The war is on drug addicts. People are thrown in jail for smoking something that may be less problematic than legally drinking alcohol. It is outrageous their government tells the people this is good for society and for their own safety when all they are really doing is giving them a lifelong road block and a criminal record that may bar them from decent jobs or being treated with respect.
The war on drugs is profoundly confusing when the U.S. government could regulate drugs and earn themselves a $200 billion a year like they do with alcohol or cigarettes. It is sad that the war on drugs is a failure when we could be regulating them and earning revenue.
Portugal decriminalized their drugs more than 10 years ago and the results weren’t as dire as one would expect. The results were staggeringly positive:
- Rate of HIV infection from shared needles dropped from 1,400 yearly in 2000 to 400, a decline in six years of 77.5 per cent.
- Deaths from overdose dropped from 400 yearly to 290, a 27.8 per cent drop.
- From 2001-11, the jail rate of addicts in Portugal dropped by 50 per cent starting at 100,000 jailed yearly for drug related crimes.
- For usage in 7th–9th grades, the rate decreased from 14.1 per cent in 2001 to 10.6 per cent in 2006. For those in the 10th–12th grades, which increased from 14.1 per cent in 1995 to 27.6 per cent in 2001, the years of decriminalization has decreased to 21.6 percent in 2006.
How does this relate to Prince Albert? The “crime” created by addictions would go down, our jail cells would no longer be filled with people who need help breaking addictions. Law enforcement could redirect their energy to real criminals and away from drug-related incidents or the confiscation of drugs. The people addicted would no longer fear getting help. Gangs would no longer have a reason to fight for territory to sell drugs when they can be bought at a store. Innocent people with a hard life would no longer be used by the dealers who are the only people they could buy from. Also people with stressful jobs can relax easier and cheaper with say a gram of hash cannabis then with a 40 ounces of whiskey. Overall the lives of the people in Prince Albert would be safer and drug-related crime would decrease.
Sometimes things have to get ugly before they get beautiful. It is a risk to even have this controversial conversation but we can look with hope at Portugal’s results. Five years after they decriminalized drugs, things turned out way better then they predicted. So why can’t we take a deep breath and start the conversation?