Dealing With Drug Abuse Through the Criminal Justice System
Many countries in the developed world are decriminalizing the use of marijuana. In Portugal, the government decriminalized recreational or medical use of marijuana and heroin at a time when the country was experiencing a heroin addiction crisis. When it became legal to use these drugs, the number of addicts across all ages went down instead of increasing. In the United States, it is still illegal to use these drugs recreationally in most of the states. Individuals found in possession of drugs, even in small quantities, are often sent to prison. Ironically, the problem of drug use and addiction is more prevalent in the United States than it is in Portugal where it has been legalized. As such, I believe drug abuse should not be dealt with through the criminal justice system.
The government should appreciate the fact that those who use drugs have a medical problem that needs treatment. Most of these addicts often start using hard drugs because of peer pressure or the desire to overcome pain. They find it difficult overcoming their condition because the government prohibits the use of the substance. When the use of these drugs is decriminalized, addicts can easily seek medical attention instead of hiding from the authorities. While drug trafficking and selling should be prohibited, those using the product should not be subjected to prosecution to enable them to come forward and seek medical help. The resources used to track, arrest, prosecute, and imprison drug abusers should instead be directed to programs that can help them overcome their addiction. Decriminalizing drug use will also allow the justice system more time to prosecute other criminals, including those who make harmful drugs available in the country.