All drugs for Personal use should be decriminalized
The war on drugs has been one of the most useless financial and moral decisions of our time. Instituted in 1971 by then President Nixon, all it has done is create a huge black market for gangsters and thieves, cost our government hundreds of billions of dollars, filled up our jails, made policing a growth industry and especially in Canada has been a huge burden on our health care system treating HIV, AIDS and all the overdose victims.
Now that we have finally come to our senses and allowed the legalization of marijuana it is time to take a step forward and start to treat drug addicts rather than incarcerate them.
Administration costs for the war on drugs
The latest statistics indicate that 47 per cent of all inmates in our jails are there for drug related offences. Depending on the province, our cost for each inmate is between $118,000 and up to $236,000 per year to keep them in jail. Looking at crime statistics 53 per cent of all crimes are for property theft and 15 per cent are for drug offences. However, most of the property theft occurs in order to get money for drugs. Because of all the drug related crime, we have had to increase our police forces from between 41 and 62 per cent depending on which province you live in. The average cost per crime is about $10,000 and that does not include the costs to arrest a person, bring them through the court system and provide them with a court-appointed lawyer. Between our jails, police and courts, we are spending almost 6 billion dollars annually in our country to fight this stupid war on drugs.
Drug Quality and Quality of Life
As I write this article there have been two news stories, one in Canada, and one in the US about people dying in the street from overdoses of a drug called fentanyl. The criminals in the drug trade very often dilute their product with dangerous materials in order to get more money. Very often this results in illness and or death; a great burden on our hospital system. Opioid related deaths from overdose are up 63 per cent from 2017. This year alone it has accounted so far for 330 deaths in Ontario. If our government allowed every drug addict to have the right to go into their pharmacy every day and get a daily supply of properly manufactured drugs from our finest pharmaceutical companies not only would we save lives but we would put the drug cartels out of business. Every addict would get enough drugs free of charge for that day and then be able to go about their lives, work, have a family and basically live their life in peace. The majority of these costs would be paid by our provincial governments with the money they saved on incarceration, policing and courts.
Once drugs are decriminalized, we would empty out more than half of our jail population. Statistics have shown that we could actually reduce our police force by 75 per cent. Our courts would not be jammed with lawyers, clerks and judges dealing with thousands of drug cases each day. With all the money saved, at least 6 billion dollars, that would easily pay not only for the drugs but for a multitude of drug treatment centres all across the country to help people lose their addictive habits.
For those of you who have never been or had to live with a drug addict or alcoholic, let me share with you a personal story. A very close relative was and still is an addict so I speak from very close personal experience. Most addicts do not get high. They develop a tolerance very quickly. Once they are addicted to narcotics or alcohol, they need a certain amount to just achieve a level of normality. First thing in the morning, they usually have the shakes and are very edgy and nervous. Once they have had their fix of hydrocodone and later just alcohol they would be able to reach a level that would be the same as you and me after we have had our morning cup of coffee. Of course it is true that many addicts overdo it as the day goes on, depending on their supply. But what I am really trying to say is that you should not be fearful of giving an addict their daily dose because once they receive whatever they need, they will be indistinguishable from the rest of us.
In the year 2001, Portugal was the very first country to decriminalize all drugs for personal use and it has been a great success. New cases of HIV and AIDS are down by almost 40 per cent. The crime rate is down by 67 per cent and they have had to close down most of their jails. Drug use has decreased and injection use is down by over 50 per cent. It has been a huge success but as a moralistic society that believes strongly in punishment, the rest of the countries in the world are not very keen to follow Portugal’s lead. On the other hand, cannabis has been decriminalized so far in 26 countries including England, Australia, Spain, many states in the United Sates. Maybe soon they will take Portugal’s lead in drugs.
I am from Toronto and this has been the worst year for gun related deaths. It is no coincidence that most of these shootings take place in the North West part of the city that houses most of the gangs that distribute drugs. These gunfights are primitive ways of drug dealers fighting over distribution and territory and sometimes innocent people get caught in the crossfire. You may not like pharmaceuticals companies but if I was an addict I would rather walk into a clean respectable pharmacy and get my standardized dose of heroin or cocaine than go to the street corner and have to risk my life for a drug they may be so impure it could kill me.
When you read about police raids on drugs you hear about the millions of dollars. As a former pharmacist I can tell you that narcotics are the least expensive of all drugs and in great supply at very low prices. The cost to supply every drug addict in Canada every day is less than 1 per cent of what they would pay for these drugs in the street.
Most addicts do not want to stay that way. If we take the wasted money we spend on arresting them and putting them in jail and spent it on treatment centers, we would create a better society for all of us.