COLE RAINEY     03/05/2019

  --The drug war has cost the United States over a trillion dollars since 1970. 

  While we still lead the world in drug use, which has remained stagnant since the beginning of the drug war. We are home to the largest prison population in the world, with a staggering 46 percent of inmates incarcerated for non-violent, victimless drug crimes. The way a substance is banned follows a simple pattern. First the public has to be scared of the substance, then authorities ban the substance to make the people feel safe. Now there’s no legal way to obtain the substance, thus increasing the value of the substance significantly. Now the government has created a black market, allowing organized crime to gain a new source of income. Organized crime thus increases and a vicious cycle of criminals becoming more violent, the frequency of violent crime increasing and police using harsher tactics becomes the norm. Decriminalizing hard drugs would greatly reduce their value on the black market, thus putting criminals out of business.

  This is exactly what happened during prohibition, alcohol consumption remained the same as speakeasies opened up and a black market was formed. Organized crime increased, as the mafia and other criminal enterprises would distribute alcohol to speakeasies across the country. Violent crime increased as well. Had the government left the situation alone and let people make decisions for themselves, criminal organizations wouldn’t have gotten so powerful and wealthy. Stats from the 1997 World Drugs Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated the value of the drug market in the United States at $4 trillion annually. In order to put criminals out of business, the government needs to decriminalize most controlled substances.

  In Portugal they decriminalized all drugs and the results speak for themselves. It cut drug use by nearly 50%, reduced violent crime, the police spend their time on important matters instead of victimless drug crimes and the tax revenue from the legalization of these drugs is used for rehab and drug programs that help former drug users find a job. This model, if implemented in the United States, would reduce our prison population, reduce violent crime, cut drug use, aid in the recovery of former addicts and put criminals out of business. Who would buy from a sketch dude in a hoodie in an alley somewhere when you can get the drug from a doctor at market value? It’s not the responsibility of the government to punish people for making decisions that effect nobody but themselves. However distributing illegal substances on the black market should be met with jail time.

  Aside from decriminalizing all drugs, we ought to legalize some as well. The legalization of marijuana in several states has lead to massive tax revenue and economic opportunity for many. The old tired argument that legalization leads to increased use is disputed by many. Including the National Academy of Sciences who says “There is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use." When it comes to use by young people, several recent reports have found that in the majority of states that have approved medical marijuana, use among teenagers has actually decreased. Experts say this is due to a diminished “forbidden fruit” effect and decreased access to marijuana as it moves from the unregulated streets – where there are no age requirements – to inside licensed dispensaries, where you need to be 21 to purchase marijuana. Legalizing Medical marijuana at least would allow doctors  to not rely as heavily on opioids and it would offer many people symptom relief from diseases like cancer.

  In my opinion, it’s not the government’s responsibility to decide what we put in our body. If you want to smoke something that carries a risk of addiction, then you ought to be fully informed of the consequences, but not restricted in doing so. If the government can tell us we can or cannot smoke pot, who’s to say they can’t ban unhealthy food because of obesity. Obesity was at 2% in 1960. It is now at 27%. The same unhealthy foods were available then as now, it’s not the substance, it’s us. Our country was founded on the idea of individual responsibility, the idea that we carve our own destiny. Drugs like heroin, cocaine, crack and fentanyl that have no medical purpose should be illegal to sell, but possession charges should be greatly reduced, decriminalize these drugs so their black market value goes down.

  If possession of heroin was a misdemeanor instead of a class B felony the value of street heroin would reduce and violent crime would as well. Also the Swiss have given out over 10 million doses of PURE heroin to their patient population in the last 20 years and there’s been zero heroin related deaths. This is because pharmaceutical heroin is as dangerous of whiskey. So many people are dying from heroin in the US because all too often it’s cut with rat poison, fentanyl and God knows what else. Also because alternatives to opioids like marijuana are illegal in many states. It still has the potential to kill someone in its purest form, but so does Whiskey, Alcohol and Oxycodone. Chronic pain patients would kill to be prescribed pure heroin. It is simply an opiate and if regulated by the FDA it would be safe to prescribe. Strict laws against substance possession simply incentivize criminals to reap the tax free black market for all its worth.

  Other drugs, such as psychedelic drugs like psilocybin (magic mushrooms) have proven to have medical benefits. It aids in creative thinking, increases empathy and has been proven to create an overall sense of well being. The benefits of legalizing magic mushrooms are substantial: In fear conditioned mice it was found to empower the mice to get over their fear and promoted new neuron growth and regeneration in their brains. Also a study performed by the University of Arizona in 2006 discovered that psilocybin mushrooms are very effective in alleviating the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in people. And in a small double-blind study, Johns Hopkins researchers report that a substantial majority of people suffering cancer-related anxiety or depression found considerable relief for up to six months from a single large dose of psilocybin. Oregon and Colorado are working to legalize psilocybin, which would be a major step in the right direction. As the people would be able to make the decision for themselves and all the drugs would be tested and regulated by the FDA. This would prevent needless death from tainted street designer drugs. LSD also has proven to have medical benefits: According to a study by the University of Aberdeen psychedelics work more directly, by mimicking serotonin. This means that one of their main effects is to stimulate a serotonin receptor, located in the prefrontal cortex, called “5-HT2A.” The stimulation of the 5-HT2A receptor leads to two very important results: 1. The production of “Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor” (BDNF). BDNF is like Miracle-Gro for your brain. It stimulates growth, connections, and activity. 2. It leads to an increased transmission of “Glutamate.” Glutamate is the  neurotransmitter most responsible for brain functions like cognition, learning, and memory. Legalizing these drugs medically would give doctors an alternative to chemically designed drugs that have dangerous side effects.

  As a Trump Republican, I believe it is not the government’s responsibility to incarcerate as many drug offenders as possible. Cops should be busy catching child molesters in chat rooms or targeting gangs, the amount of resources expended (over a trillion dollars) in the name of the drug war has all been in vein. As the rate of drug usage in the United States has barely shifted since 1970. The United States should decriminalize hard drugs, but selling drugs on the black market should still be illegal. Drug dealers will still target those who cannot obtain a prescription or get the drug legally. The black market for drugs is massive so a decriminalization of drugs would result in criminal enterprises going out of business, reduced violent crime and it would fit the long standing American tradition of rugged individualism. The war on drugs is an effort to further promote the prison industrial complex, aid criminal enterprise and determine right from wrong for the American people.