Cross Currents: Is the legalization of conventional drugs a good idea?

The Channels Opinion Page | CROSS CURRENTS


Alloy Zarate

Illustration by Alloy Zarate, 2020

Oregon just passed a law that decriminalized all drugs and provided easier access to rehabilitation services for people who are caught in possession of hard drugs or would like to quit. There are plenty of other countries who have similar laws in effect to test these waters. Here are the two arguments for and against easing-up on such harsh prohibitions and penalties for possessing drugs all across the spectrum.


Alvaro Abrego Trancozo

Drugs, they’re everywhere. 

From your first aid kit to your local dealer in the streets. Although some are easier to access than others, it would be best to keep them illegal.

Just because they’re everywhere doesn’t mean they should be legalized. They can cause serious health problems while the culture increases and encourages people to take more and hit the next level.

Drugs can cause serious long term effects; although the fun of the short-term effects last a while, they won’t last forever. For some drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, the effects can be tissue damage to the nose, hallucinations and violent behavior that only get worse.

If addiction were to occur because of the use of any of these drugs, those afflicted will eventually want to keep supporting their habit in one way or another. People can be led to commit other crimes from not making smart decisions.

Apparently “17% of state prisoners and 18% of federal inmates reported that they committed the crimes … in order to obtain money to buy drugs,” Writer Buddy T wrote for Verywell Mind.

Legalization of drugs will make people have the temptation to try them since there won’t be that many restrictions.

Some states have made efforts to try and decriminalize drugs, which would then make drug offenders go into rehab instead of having problems with the criminal justice system. However, this will not completely eliminate drug use because the idea of there being a world without people consuming drugs is an illusion. 

Drug abuse is usually the result of a lack of parenting or having peers that use drugs. But other factors that cause children to end up using include the availability of drugs, trafficking patterns and beliefs that make it seem like drug abuse is tolerated.

If legalization were to occur then easier access could make it easier for children to start using or think that it’s okay.

Drug use won’t go away. Maybe it’ll decrease, but not completely.

Most drugs besides marijuana kill you; If children have to grow seeing the effects that drugs have on people, then it’ll affect them as well.


Eric Evelhoch

The recent decision by Oregon voters to pass a ballot measure decriminalizing drug possession is the latest step in positive changes to United States drug policy.

Measure 110 calls for making any non-commercial possession of a controlled substance punishable by a maximum $100 fine. More importantly, it establishes a drug addiction treatment and recovery program to be partially funded by state cannabis tax revenue as well as prision savings.

The first example that comes to mind is Portugal, which coupled decriminalizing drugs with increasing social services in 2001. The country went from having amongst the highest amount of drug overdose deaths in Europe to one of the lowest. More recently, Norway became the second European country to decriminalize in 2018.

Another element is that in recent years studies have shown that small doses of substances such as MDMA and psilocybin can be effective for treating mental issues such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression

Organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies have worked with the Food and Drug Administration to expand clinical studies into these and similar treatment methods.

However, progress here is hampered by a lack of acceptance and funding by the federal government. If enough states adopt similar decriminalization policies, it can create the necessary pressure to open access to federal funding.

Finally, the issue of prison savings is vital. Shifting from an incarceration and punishment-based system to a rehabilitation model has had success when employed internationally. Treating drug use and addiction as an illness would allow law enforcement to focus more on the larger criminal elements and reduce the non-violent prison population.

U.S. public opinion tends to move gradually when it comes to social change.

Recent polling shows that cannabis legalization is supported across the political spectrum, a major departure from when California became the first state to allow for medicinal use in 1996.

If Oregon shows similar successes in the coming years as seen internationally with drug decriminalization policies, public opinion may shift to support it.

It’s an experiment well worth trying. Should decriminalization succeed, as it has elsewhere while creating better treatment methods, the potential societal benefits are tremendous.