Legalization has its benefits

Prohibition does not work. There is no greater failure in American politics than the utter disaster that is the “war on drugs.”

Arresting addicts, jailing them and shaming them with an unemployable nametag is no path to reform. Blame addicts for the initial choice to use, or wax philosophical about the semantics of addiction vs. disease, but what does that accomplish? A more fruitful endeavor strives to meet the challenge of treating addicts to the point of successfully rejoining society. Easier said than done, of course, but adjusting our strategy might grant us leverage to approach this problem from a different angle and realize actual progress.

Many people exhibit a predictably visceral reaction to ending prohibition in favor of regulated legalization: addicts would use more, addiction prevalence would skyrocket, and chaos would ensue. Let us admit, first of all, that chaos is essentially what we have now. Legalization seems counterintuitive, but plenty of efficacious examples suggest our negative reactions do not accurately predict reality. Vancouver, Switzerland, and Portugal have all been through the opioid ringer. All three places enforced a similarly draconian war on drugs, yet none saw progress. What happened when desperation forced their attempts at regulated legalization? Opioid use and drug-related violence plummeted.

Illegal products move underground into the hands of criminals, increase in potency and toxicity (read: fentanyl), foster violence and produce overdoses. Legalization affords us the opportunity to usurp control of the market, monitor potency, eliminate concomitant violence and prevent overdose. It also liberates the cash flow and resources previously used to police, allowing us to shunt said resources elsewhere. This was true of alcohol during prohibition, and we are seeing it play out now with heroin.

Drew Frase

Eau Claire