The talk of drug decriminalization has finally started to circulate around American political discourse. Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has introduced a mild stance in his platform, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s seminal legislation has laid the tracks for a complete drug decriminalization by November 2020.
A major concern from opponents is that a more liberal approach to drugs would create more addicts that would pervade society, eventually leading to the moral rot of the country. The simple truth is that most people aren’t addicts, and the answer to those who are is for them to get help. Humans have been using drugs for thousands of years, and the U.S. is the world’s largest consumer.
Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 to help reduce the rising HIV rate, and it’s worked. Socialist president Jorge Sampaio took a pragmatic approach and decided to help addicts get sober instead of locking them in cages. Why should it be a crime to do what you want with your body as long as you aren’t hurting anybody else?
This argument is no different than Roe v. Wade, which was supported by the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. To put it tersely, the Ninth Amendment gives one the right to do things that aren’t specifically mentioned in the written laws. For instance, I have a right to eat chicken because nowhere does it say that I can’t eat chicken. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, after defining citizenship, says:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
This country was founded on the repudiation of government interference in personal affairs. Not only is it a human right for one to do what they want to their bodies, decriminalizing all drugs — and completely legalizing others — would unclog our overcrowded prison population and eradicate the ruthless Mexican drug cartels.
The U.S. only makes up 5% of the world’s population, yet it incarcerates almost a quarter of the world’s prison population, with most of the inmates being nonviolent drug offenders. The government annually spends millions of taxpayer dollars to enforce prohibition on this failed war on drugs and propping up private prisons, a morally repugnant and racist business model in which funding is contingent on the number of people that remain incarcerated. If drugs such as marijuana and cocaine were legally regulated businesses, there would be significant tax revenue coming in instead of spending it on violating human rights.
The drug cartels would also suffer immensely from this. Any time something is made illegal that people want, an invariable black market is created in order to supply the demand. The Mexican government estimates that each month the Sinaloa cartel alone pushes 10,000 tons of marijuana and two tons of cocaine across the U.S. border.
Federally legalizing marijuana and, at the very least, decriminalizing cocaine would be enough to kneecap the cartels. A complete decriminalization would eradicate them almost completely. Domestic disputes involving drug deals would also more likely be settled in a courtroom instead of on the streets.
Decriminalization would also facilitate research regarding psilocybin mushrooms, which has shown immensely positive results in combating depression and PTSD. Psilocybin has also been shown to galvanize creativity and heighten one’s senses to the point where microdosing has become an open secret in Silicon Valley.
There has been a proliferation of drug usage over the past five decades despite an ongoing war. The U.S. has been down this road before with the prohibition of alcohol, yet we can’t seem to accept the same failed results this time around. Not only would decriminalizing all drugs free up courtrooms and jail cells, it would expand people’s right to autonomy. It’s time to end the drug war.