Our drug policy is not working. We spend billions on a “drug war” that leads to children having easy access to drugs, to 90% of active drug addicts receiving no treatment, and to countries like Mexico being taken over by narcotics gangs. I propose a comprehensive overhaul of our drug laws.
Today, Americans are selling guns to Mexico that end up in the hands of drug gangs that use the guns to fight the Mexican government. Today, secondhand smoke kills over 50,000 people a year. Today, we are failing to prevent addiction in children. Today, over half of all prisoners in jails and prisons are there because of crimes involving drugs. Today, millions of untreated addicts rob and kill to get drug money — they kill and molest our kids when they’re high. Today, right now, someone is trying to figure out a way to offer your child addictive drugs.
I am a Professional Interventionist. This is my field. The insanity of drug availability makes me crazy. Every day I look at children who have been damaged by the drugs that we allow them access to. They are our children! It is the job of adults to protect children! We are failing. We need to grow up, get our act together and protect all children from drug use.
A kilogram of heroin costs $1,000 in Bangkok and $250,000 in New York City. The organized drug dealers have the profit motive and far, far more resources than the drug police. When I worked in San Quentin, it was well known that drugs were readily available there. If we can’t keep drugs out of prison, how can we keep them away from those who will sell them to our children?
Law enforcement officials are on the front lines of this “Drug War” every day. They see the insanity of our current approach to drug management and they favor sane reform on this issue. The organization, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, believes that legalizing drugs is the solution. You can find their statement at their website [link] (http://www.leap.cc)
I propose a two-pronged approach to our drug problem. First, we need to come up with a comprehensive approach that will protect all children from drug use. Nearly every adult addict began his or her addiction as a teenager. And second, we need to legalize drugs. We need to legalize drugs in combination with creating a comprehensive, integrated, national plan that protects every child from any substance use, educates the public, and provides treatment for addiction.
What I propose is a radical change in our social norms that would lead to a much saner and more compassionate world as well as to a much lower incidence of addiction. (And much lower taxes.) This change will require a society with a broader vision than we currently have, but I believe it is possible to quickly achieve this goal if we put our minds to it.
Let’s imagine a world where drugs are legal and taxed. And let’s imagine a world where anyone who is affected by addiction receives treatment, because it is approximately 10 times cheaper to provide treatment than to pay for the legal, social, and medical consequences of addiction. Nearly all organized crime would cease, 75% of our prisons could be closed, and we could retire the drug police. This would save billions of dollars and reduce the social upheaval that’s resulted from making substance use illegal. And let’s imagine a world where every child grows up with their brains and bodies free of addictive substances. The number of adult addicts would diminish drastically, because teens who have not used drugs by age 18 become addicted, if at all, at a much, much lower rate than those who use drugs before their brains have matured.
Some people think that legalization of drugs would lead to more drug use. To these uninformed, let me say the following:
“Right now, every drug you could ever want is already readily available! You must be smoking some weird stuff to think that the legalization of drugs would make them more available! Listen carefully: capitalism works. Drug dealers sell drugs to make money. Any drug-seeking person can land on any part of the Earth and, within hours, if not minutes, find and acquire all the drugs they want. Only those who have never visited ‘the street’ could possibly believe that the legalization of drugs would make drugs more available.”
The problem is that currently, drug dealers sell, and give, drugs to children. Which, from a marketing standpoint, makes a lot of sense. They are creating more customers. Perhaps drug dealers learned this tragic scam from our elected officials and Big Nicotine, when both were actively peddling deadly tobacco to children. (Or, today, doing very little to prevent marketing tobacco to kids.)
Research has shown the tragic cost — to children and society — of minors’ exposure to drugs.
At what age should young adults be allowed to have access to drugs?
Perhaps the question we need to ask is, “when does the brain actually mature, and when have we grown up enough to make good decisions?” Neurological research has shown that the brain continues to grow and develop until around age 25. Would 25 be the best age at which to make drug use legal? To keep it simple, perhaps we start out by stipulating 18 as the age at which to allow legal access to drugs, and every two years, we move up the legal age for drug use by one year, until age 21 becomes established as the age for legal drug use. In the United States, teens at age 16 are allowed to drive; at 18, they can vote and own rifles. By age 18, teens have developed some level of maturity, although their brains, and capacity for judgment, are still growing. And the following two drug laws would be interlinked. The first law would mandate that absolutely no child under age 18 would be permitted use of any recreational drug. The second law would state that there would no longer be any laws restricting the right of adults to ingest any substance.
These two laws must go together.
The only way we can have the freedom of legalized drugs for adults is to effectively protect children from drugs and the harm they cause. Children have not yet developed the judgment necessary to make adult decisions, like those involved in driving a car or handling firearms. Children who use drugs are at a disadvantage. The younger a child is when introduced to drugs, the higher the probability they will become addicted, and even if they don’t become addicted, the higher the chance they will not “make it.” These drug-using teens often become the dysfunctional adults who can’t take care of themselves and who burden our social, law enforcement, legal, and healthcare systems.
We also need to take another look at adult drug use and how we, as a nation, codependently enable addiction.
We allow the psychiatric mental disorder called addiction to exist, then give impaired addicts money (welfare, food stamps, workers compensation, medical care) to support their addiction, and then we get mad at them for not being able to support themselves!
Should anyone be able to take drugs when they are not yet capable of taking care of themselves? One of the quickest ways to get an adult to enter treatment is to say, “either you go into treatment or I will withdraw all your financial support — no food, no housing, no car, no money, no cell phone, no nothing.” We taxpayers are giving billions of dollars to addicts, and to others who are impaired because of drugs. We dole out money through myriad “safety net” programs. I propose that, in order for an individual to receive government money from these programs, they need to be completely drug-free. And if they are addicts, we need to offer them free and comprehensive addiction treatment. We want these people to get off the dole and contribute their fair share. They can’t do that if their addiction has made them insane.
As a nation, we need to take on the challenge of drug addiction in our country. We need leaders who will lead, we need a president who will use his bully pulpit to educate, to lecture, and if necessary, to yell, at lazy, incompetent, or addicted parents who fail to protect our nation’s future citizens.
There will be a lot of resistance from the 1%, who will lose a lot of money. Some adults will resist keeping drugs from children because they will lose their “using buddies.” Seriously! Many addicted parents “turn their children on” to drugs (including alcohol) so they have a companion with whom to get high. There will be resistance from the lawyers, because they make money by resisting things. And, there will be a lot of parents who will need to go to parent education classes and visit family therapists, because they don’t yet know how to set boundaries and say “No” to their children.
I believe that a sane population will recognize that parents who allow their children to use drugs are in the same league as parents who abuse or neglect their children.
Some citizens feel that children need the freedom to experiment with drugs. Children have many rights, but the right to harm themselves is not one of them.
Could we create a society that treats addiction and mental illness humanely and responsibly? We have come a long way as a species, and we can take this next step. It will require leaders with vision. And the impact will be profound. We could eliminate most prisons, reduce taxes, better educate our population, and create healthier families. We could eliminate the specter of untreated addicts and the mentally ill lurking near our children and dying in on our streets.
Right now, we are at war with ourselves. Someone said that Osama bin Laden could not have come up with a better plan to disrupt America than our current War on Drugs. It is really a “War on Ourselves.” One part of us wants to eat candy, and another part wants a paternalistic government to protect us from ourselves. I believe that we just need to grow up. We can build a society that is honest about drugs. Addiction will come to be seen for what it actually is, a bio-psycho-social-spiritual disease that can easily respond to effective treatment.
Lastly, our drug war exposes our nation’s racism. The drug war is much more of a war on blacks than on whites. Blacks are seven times more likely to be arrested and imprisoned for drug crimes than whites. I do not want to be the citizen of a racist country. I want our nation to help develop racial equality by offering drug treatment to anyone who needs it and handling drug crimes with fairness.
My policy would include the following principles:
We protect children’s birthright to healthy brain development, by prohibiting drug use until age 18.
- We utilize all resources to see that children are drug-free. We expand the Child-Abuse Laws to protect children from drug use. We educate the public and encourage all parents, doctors, and law enforcement officials to assess all children for drug use.
- All drugs become legal for adults, aged 18 and over, and are taxed like we currently tax alcohol and tobacco.
- 100% of the money collected from taxing drugs would be used only for education, prevention, and research about addiction and for treatment of substance use.
- We would disseminate the message that allowing any child access to drugs is illegal.
- Substance Dependence would be recognized as a medical disease, and all individuals suffering from this disease would be treated, for free, using funds from the taxes on these substances.
- We would inform the public that successful addiction treatment, to be effective, must include the addict’s enablers. The enablers are those who fail to confront (and therefore passively support) substance use.
- We would provide treatment for all inmates who suffer from substance-related disorders. We would free any inmates whose only offense was related to substance use, substance possession, or sale of substances.
- I would propose the following Constitutional Amendment: “All laws prohibiting the sale and use of any and all substances are hereby repealed. Further, the taxes on the sale of these substances shall be used only to protect children from substance use, to educate the public about substance use and treatment, and to treat addiction and codependency.”
The drug policy we have now is insane! Seriously nuts.
How did Amsterdam’s legalization of heroin use result in almost zero use among the young? Perhaps observing the ragged, woebegone, and elderly heroin addicts lining up each morning for their daily dose was enough to disgust young people and repel them from adopting the habit. It’s not “cool” to be like them! As we emerge from our collective denial, we will see the absurdity of our current prohibition laws.
It is not the government’s job to parent us!