Is war on drugs a war on people??? Medicalisation of narcotics is the need of the hour
The term, “ addict “ means any individual who habitually uses any narcotic drug so as to endanger the public morals, health, safety or welfare or who is so far addicted to the use of narcotic drugs as to have lost the power of self control with reference to his addiction.
There are two distinct facts that were highlighted seventy four years ago on the heels of the passage of the Harrison Narcotic Drug are, Firstly, due to the absence of access to legitimate sources of drugs, addicts will look to the criminal underworld for the drugs they cannot otherwise obtain. Secondly, drug addiction is a disease and addicts need medical care.
In spite of these two important considerations, under a policy of prohibition, the United States has attempted to eradicate drug use by imposing criminal sanctions on drug users and dealers. In furtherance of this policy, the United States has made a herculean effort spending nearly seventy five years of untold billions of dollars circumvent the reality that drug addiction is a public health problem not a law enforcement problem.
Hence, the results of prohibition have been predictable. The criminalisation of narcotics, cocaine, marijuana, has not solved the problem of their utilisation. Further prohibition has not effectively limited the availibilty of drugs. Rather by eliminating accessto legitimate sources of drugs, prohibition has virtually ensured the continued profitability of the illicit drug trade and an ample supply of illicit drugs for the addicts. What prohibition has accomplished has been to ignore the addicts need for medical treatment while making the illicit drug trade a multi-billion dollor business. This situation in turn has lead to a vast increase in drug related crime and spawned an evil worse then addiction : the disintegration and demoralization of our cities.
In response to such failings, this Article recommends, as an alternative to a drug policy based on law enforcement, a measured and carefuly implemented program of drug decriminalizaton based on public health system. An alternate name for this policy is “ medicalization” of drugs.
While decriminalization of drugs will not eradicate the evil of drug abuse, it will alleviate many of the problems that prohibition has created. First and foremost, decriminalization will eliminate the profits of the illegal drug trade by giving addicts to access legitimate source of drugs. Elimination of black market profits will effectively eliminate itself, and all of its attendant evils.
The case for decriminalization on an economic level is overwhelming, decriminalization is not without its risks. Providing legal access to currently illicit substances carries with it the chance, although by no means the certainity that the number of people using and abusing drugs will increase.
Comprehensive new drug treatment programs, funded with tax-money saved for dismantling the massive drug-law enforcement bureaucracy, would, however , provide a humane response to any increase in the drug- using population, but whether the benefits of decriminalization both in economic and social terms, outweigh any consequent rise in drug use and abbuse, in view of the proposed comprehensive drug treatment programs.
In order to reduce the black market in illegal drugs, should begin in taking incremental steps towards making drugs less of a criminal justice responsibility and more of a public health responsibility. Therefore this article makes the following recommendations, which focus on taking the profit motive away from black market resources and on expanding public health responsibility.
1. The drug policies and practices should be revised to ensure that no narcotics addict needs to get his or her drug from the “black market”.
2. Ban all advertising of drugs including alchohol and tabacco.
3. Allow Cancer patients to use Schedule 1 drugs for intractable pain.
4. Institute a clean needle exchange program as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS.
5. The quasi-federal government shoul lead a coordinated approach to adolescent drug education
6. Develop community based programs designed to reach at-risk youths. These would include education, employment and mentor programs.
Special recommendations for redefining the role of criminal justice system in the fight against drugs.
1. Establish a high level commission to study the potential impact of decriminalization. Particular emphasis should be placed on developing substance control policies based uponn the relative potential for harm which a drug possesses. The commission should also be responsible for determining if there should be a national standard for decriminalization and what role states will play.
2. Immediate eliminate criminal penalties for simple possession of basic drugs such as marijuana, weed. Revise all other criminal statutes on drugs in accordance with the findings of the commission concerning the relative harm of drugs.
3. Increase the penalties for driving while impaired.
4. Impose mandatory jail terms on those who finance the importation and/or distribution of illicit drugs.
5. Adopt legislation to make it a crime to sell to children any drug that possesses the potential for serious harm to health of children. Such legislation would include cigarettes and alchohol as well as those drugs currently deemed illicit.
6. Legislation in order to build adequate accomodation and rehab facilities to the addicts to free them out of the vicous cycle of addictive drugs should be increased
Decriminalization is a means to a much desired end getting the criminal justice system out of the business of trying to control the health problem of drug abuse and putting that responsibility where it belongs- in the hands of our public health system. The goal in the war of drugs should not be less supply, more jails or even death penalty. It should be less profit for black marketers and less demand. This goal will only be achieved through increased efforts at treatment and prevention. The drug traffickers can be beaten and the public health throughout the world can be improved if we are willing to substitute common sense for rhetoric, myth and blind persistence.