Decriminalize: The debate over decriminalization of drugs


photo illustration: Emma Clute


The American war on drugs started in the early 70s, and it has led the country’s policies on drugs since then. But now a new debate about policy is coming up: should some drugs, specifically marijuana, be decriminalized?

The policies and decisions made for the war on drugs have had absolutely disastrous consequences, and have been a complete failure. In many people's opinion, including my own, America should reverse course and decriminalize many drugs.

The past policies of conviction for a minor drug offense have been terrible for this country. A minor drug offense can completely ruin a life. They land people ridiculous prison sentences due to mandatory minimum sentences, which has resulted in one of five people in prison being of for a drug offense, according to the Prison Policy Organization.

Part of the reason for America’s failures has been the way people treat and talk about drug addicts themselves. Instead of properly addressing addiction as something that people need help with, they are treated like criminals and sent to prison. The success of treatment and rehab in countries that have decriminalized show that this is not how anyone beats drugs. The Netherlands has had great success in treatment after they decriminalized because people are safe to get treatment for their addiction.

The war on drugs has also been a racist action. Nationwide, black people are 2.7 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana, despite similar usage rates, according to the Hamilton Project. Decriminalization would be a huge step in stopping racism in the criminal justice system, which has been a huge part of debate for years.

The nation’s continued effort in the war on drugs cost more than 50 billion a year for little success, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Despite this, drugs are still an epidemic in this nation, leading to thousands of deaths and arrests. It would save costs and be more effective to decriminalize.

This country has been facing the consequences of poor policy for far too long, and it is time that Americans finally make the right choice. America needs to address the injustice that is facing our country and decriminalize marijuana.

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