Outside of the U.S., the War on Drug policies also create abhorrent impacts. For example, in a 4 year span 22,743 people died in Mexico due to the government’s crackdown on drug cartels (Mexico drug violence ‘claims 22,743, 2012). Other countries such as Colombia and Afghanistan, are also rampant with drug associated violence, crime, and corruption and seem to increase with stricter drug enforcement (The Vienna declaration fact sheet, 2011). CONTINUE TO PAGE 4
Drug Policy Assessment
As shown, the War on Drugs policy (although changing with current administration) does not meet its goals and in many cases actually adds fuel to the fire. In order to be successful, a drastic change needs to occur. The U.S. drug policy needs to begin on a platform of decriminalizing drugs. Along with decriminalization of all drugs, U.S. drug policy should also create needle exchange programs in order to prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases. Using Portugal as an example of more productive approach to the drug problem, the U.S. should follow suit.
In 2001 Portugal decriminalized heroin, cocaine, and all other drugs (Baron, 2010). They define drug use as a health and social problem not as a crime (Baron, 2010). It is illegal to own or use illegal drugs, and drug trafficking is still against the law, but there are no criminal charges in Portugal (Baron, 2010). Instead, those who are caught are cited and brought to a three member “discouragement commission” comprised of officials in the law, health, and social services agencies (Baron, 2010). In this hearing, the offender explains his story to the members of the commission and they decide is the offender is an addict or not (Baron, 2010). A fine may or may not be assigned which the offender won’t have to pay if he/she decides to enter a treatment program (Baron, 2010). According to the Cato report, decriminalizing drugs saves public money by redirecting funds into drug treatment (As cited in Baron, 2010). It is costlier to lock up drug abusers as opposed to treating them. Since the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal: the number of people in treatment has doubled, teenage drug use is down, marijuana use rates are among the lowest in the European Union, HIV rates among users are down, and drug use overall is down (Greenwald, 2009). CONTINUE TO PAGE 5