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Roadmap for America

Should We Decriminalize Marijuana?

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David P. Price, PhD is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

December 7, 2009 | 1,448 views | 6 comments

Before we can discuss this subject we must admit the reality; the War on Drugs has failed. Actually “failed” is a gross understatement which we will elaborate on in a later column. But for the moment we must accept the legacy of the Drug War . . . the largest prison population in the world; and the highest rate of drug use. The Drug War has been fought for almost 40 yrs. and despite the enormous cost, we have had zero effect on drug use. And in addition to the financial cost, we must never forget the totally innocent victims who have been killed, wounded or humiliated by police officers raiding the wrong house. No small problem, an accounting can be viewed at

Why? Why has the Drug War failed? The most basic reason is we have attacked the symptom of the problem, rather than the problem itself. We have deemed drugs to be a criminal problem, when in fact, it is a social problem. In a future article we will explain why as we arrest one drug trafficker, he is quickly replaced (all we have done is create a need for more prisons). But for the moment, we must realize that is the reality. The reason our Drug War has failed is that it is demand (not supply) that drives the problem. We have done nothing to deal with the demand issue.

Those who subscribe to the Ignorance of Power concept would take issue with that statement, since we have made drug use a felony. But that is in a large part why our policies have made the situation worse.

It is important to realize drug use is self-destructive behavior and as such does not respond in a rational manner. Drugs are detrimental to the life, physiology and psychology of the user. Users care not what happens to their mind and body; they equally care not what the legal consequences are. But even with disregard for one’s self, ingrained in the human psyche is an innate belief that if you are not harming someone else, you are not doing anything “wrong”.

Take someone who has not harmed anyone else; who has only made an extremely poor personal choice . . . put them in prison and they feel victimized by society. Take someone who has not harmed anyone else, but force them to associate with thieves, thugs and murderers, and that atmosphere begins to rub off. Take someone who may not be violent, but put them in a caldron of violence where every fiber of the social hierarchy is built on violence and propensity to do violence, and what comes out is much more violent and anti-social than what went in. And that is part of the legacy of our drug policies . . . that we have not deterred drug use but have in fact created criminals and criminality separate and apart from drug use.

Portugal decriminalized drug use about 3 years ago, which brought howls of protest from the law enforcement community. The prediction was for a rampant increase in drug use along with “drug tourism”, as addicts from all over Europe would flock to Portugal. It didn’t happen. In fact, drug use declined by 10%.
Why? Because (once again) self-destructive behavior does not respond rationally. Drug addicts do not make rational decisions to move between jurisdictions. When they take drugs they are not thinking about anything but their addiction.
Why did drug use decline in Portugal? Because instead of sending users to prison, they were charged civil fines and mandated to treatment and rehabilitation. Instead of taxpayers paying $30,000 to $50,000/yr. to support them, through civil fines they in large part paid for their own treatment.

Portugal addressed the drug issue in an objective manner and it has worked. Success has been modest, but not contained in the success figure is the fact that they have not created criminals in the process. They have decreased drug use as well as criminal/anti-social behavior.

Next time we will discuss why our Drug War has not only failed but made the situation inexorably worse. But for now we must realize with respect to drug use we have two models. The first was Prohibition, which did nothing but provide an avenue for criminal enterprise. The second was (is) the campaign against smoking. After WWII nearly 60% of the population smoked. Today it is closer to 20%. We made this accomplishment through a sincere appeal to the sensibility of the public, along with prescription and non-prescription pharmaceuticals aids, a myriad of clinics, physicians, and self-help groups . . . not paramilitary police..
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Your Opinions and Comments

Rock'n chair Rambler  
Over Taxed, TX  
December 11, 2009 12:22pm
correction: "The decline in smokers has also been reduced..." Should read, "The decline in smokers has also been helped..."

Rock'n chair Rambler  
Over Taxed, TX  
December 11, 2009 12:16pm
“smoking has been reduced through appealing to the sensibility of the public“. I think it has been reduced through the highly publicized attack on the industry by greedy trial lawyers and their well paid for expert arguments ... More ›

Ken Semlinger  
Poth, TX  
December 11, 2009 11:16am
The fact of the matter is the war on drugs is not working. It is time we consider other actions to address this problem. This article is correct in that very many in our jails and prisons are not what we ordinarily consider real ... More ›

4th Generation Texan  
Sutherland Springs  
December 8, 2009 1:34pm
Not going to waste my time reading this article. David Price, PHD has written a number of articles that clearly are out of his expertise. Have never read one of his articles that was particularly factual or accurate, and I'm ... More ›

La Vernia  
December 8, 2009 7:38am
I agree with some points of this article. I lived in Holland for almost 5 years. At that time...(don't know the laws now)...using drugs was not a crime. Selling drugs was the crime. The majority of people considered drugs ... More ›

December 7, 2009 8:06pm
"It is important to realize drug use is self-destructive behavior and as such does not respond in a rational manner. Drugs are detrimental to the life, physiology and psychology of the user. Users care not what happens ... More ›

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