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The Next Step in the War on Drugs

W. Scott Cole

Posted on April 4, 2019 00:57

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I saw the story on the news and my first thought was, “It’s about time someone started the process.” I thought Colorado would be the first to go there again. I was wrong.

Colorado was the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana, but it turns out they are not the first to introduce a bill in their legislature that would start the process to decriminalize all other Schedule 2 drugs. They aren’t even the second. If the bill that was introduced a couple of days ago makes it through the legislature and is signed into law by the governor, Colorado will be the sixth state.

Drugs are not being decriminalized completely, but in California, Utah, Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Alaska, possession has been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. There are exceptions in all five states. More than three convictions will still get you a felony charge, and manufacturing and distribution has remained a felony.

The movement started quietly in 2014, and by the lack of an uproar, it is becoming clear that, in spite of critic’s worst fears, drug addicts are not committing more crimes. As a matter of fact, in Oklahoma, the number of new felony charges being filed dropped 26% in one year, and while new misdemeanor charges did rise, the number was nowhere near 26%.

One state, California, applies their law retroactively, allowing those convicted of felony drug possession in the past to apply to the courts to have their convictions reduced to a misdemeanor. Their prison population declined by 15,000 since enactment of the law and they saved $68 million in the first year alone. The Utah prison population has dropped nine percent and there has been a 74% reduction in new prison commitments for drug possession crimes. By 2024, Alaska expects to see a 13% decline in prison population and save $380 million. Connecticut has also seen a 74% drop, theirs being in the prison population of people convicted for possession, along with an 80% drop in pretrial commitments.

There are many benefits to this new approach. As was pointed out by the Representative that sponsored the bill here in Colorado, it makes no sense to send these people to the Department of Corrections where there are little or no resources to help them when they are placed in jail or out on probation. Better they be diverted into drug treatment classes and hopefully find their way to living drug free.

Society (and the person who successfully completes a treatment program) has one more huge benefit. Those people will not have a felony record. That makes job hunts and housing much easier and without a felony, those people will be able to find higher paying jobs. That means fewer people needing public assistance just to survive. It means more families staying together, and it means maybe, just maybe, the United States will finally stop sending more of its citizens to prison than any other country in the world.

Sending people to prison because they are addicts has helped nobody. It’s time we gave compassion a chance. So far, it looks like it is working.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on April 4, 2019 00:57

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Source: HuffPost

Substance use and abuse touches virtually every family in the United States. The New York Times ran a front page story...

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