Rethinking the Old Ways: 3 Pros and Cons of Decriminalizing Drug Addiction

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More states are decriminalizing drugs than ever before. Even though more states are moving towards treating drug addiction as non-criminal, the debate over the decriminalization of drugs remains hot. Is decriminalizing drugs a good idea? Here are three pros and three cons of decriminalizing drugs:

  1. PRO – Addicts may be more likely to seek help

With a criminal system, addicts may be afraid to seek medical help for their addiction. They may be afraid of the stigma associated with treatment, or they may worry about tipping off law enforcement about their drug use. If addicts can get the help they need without fear, they may be more likely to seek help.

  1. PRO – Treatment instead of time can help to make criminal sentences fairer

Although there may be some minimums or maximums in place, most criminal sentences are left to the judge’s discretion. Discretion is sentencing can lead to sentences that are wildly different for similar offenses. Race, gender and location bias can all, unfortunately, play a role in sentencing. Decriminalizing drug addiction removes this possibility and makes society more just.

  1. PRO – Appropriate rehabilitation can help addicts become community contributors

With the decriminalization of drugs, addicts can get appropriate help. The justice system isn’t equipped to offer rehabilitation services to addicts. Even with rehabilitative resources, addicts may not get the help that they need through a criminal system that’s meant to punish instead of rehabilitating. Decriminalizing drugs can help addicts get appropriate medical care to fight their addiction.

  1. CON – The price of drugs may go down

When an activity becomes legal, the price tends to go down. Lower prices for drugs may mean more drug users. In addition, there may be more related problems like an increase in operating while under the influence of drugs offenses.

  1. CON – More people may use drugs

Criminal consequences are a deterrent to behavior. One of the many reasons that an offense may be a crime is in order to encourage people to avoid that kind of behavior. If someone knows that they might go to jail if they use drugs, they may be less likely to use drugs.

Decriminalizing drug use removes this incentive and may result in an increase in addictions. Society likes to see justice done when something happens that’s considered wrong. Some people may believe that it’s inappropriate to remove a penalty from behavior that has the potential to hurt everyone in society.

  1. CON – It may not stop organized crime

Organized crime may continue to be a problem despite the decriminalization of drugs. Legalizing alcohol didn’t stop organized crime in the United States. Organized crime may still continue to divert resources from law enforcement even with the decriminalization of drug use.

Debating the decriminalization of drugs

While drug use remains illegal in many states, some states are starting to rethink their policies. There are both benefits and harm that may come from decriminalizing drugs. The debate continues as more states move to decriminalize drug use and rethink social policies.