Decriminalizing Drugs

By Kristen Johnson

California’s Proposition 64 seeks to legalize marijuana and hemp use for people over the age 21, and to establish some sales and cultivation taxes. Currently, only medical marijuana is legal in the state. (Marijuana use is still illegal under federal law in all 50 states, though the Obama Administration does not prosecute those following state laws.) Businesses wishing to sell marijuana would need to apply for a state license, and the industry would be regulated by the Bureau of Marijuana Control. Revenue from taxes would be spent on administrating and enforcing the measure, as well as drug research, treatment, and enforcement. (BallotPedia).

As one who has long advocated for decriminalizing all drugs, I believe passing this California law would be a small step in the right direction. However, decriminalizing drugs really needs to be a federal issue. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, there are currently 83,982 people in prison for drug offenses, which is 46.4% of all prisoners. These people belong in drug rehabilitation – not prison. Prisons are big business and big money-makers for private contractors, so it’s likely they don’t want to lose 46.4% of their business. I’d rather see my taxpayer dollars going into drug research and treatment than in locking people up.

The truth is that I’m a total vegan-hippie – I don’t smoke, drink alcohol, eat or use animal products, or use drugs (other than an occasional ibuprofen or aspirin). But, I don’t see any reason to punish anyone for doing any of the above things, because what someone else chooses to do to their own bodies is their own choice.

Christian Conservatives often use the argument that drug use will skyrocket if we change drug laws. (Or, more than likely, they just want to legislate morality like they do when they restrict reproductive rights, protest against marriage equality, try to ban birth control, etc.)

Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2000. Drug use among 15-24 year olds has decreased, drug-induced deaths have decreased, and HIV rates have decreased. (Policy.mic). Drug policy in the country is as follows:

If someone is found in the possession of less than a 10-day supply of anything from marijuana to heroin, he or she is sent to a three-person Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, typically made up of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. The commission recommends treatment or a minor fine; otherwise, the person is sent off without any penalty. A vast majority of the time, there is no penalty. (Policy.mic)

This process certainly seems reasonable, especially compared to the system in the U.S. of courts, lawyers, and prisons.

Portugal is but one example of what may or may not occur in the United States if drugs are legalized. We simply don’t know. Perhaps legalizing marijuana in California (the most populous state) is a good test to see what will happen to drug rates if drugs are legalized in every state. The only thing we really know is that the current system is broken.

I am voting “yes” on California’s Proposition 64 because I don’t feel it is appropriate to imprison people for addiction. It goes back to loving our neighbors and caring for others. Showing love means showing love, no matter what.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NRSV):  Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thing. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.

Serve all with love.

Photo courtesy of: stocksnap.io

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2 thoughts on “Decriminalizing Drugs

  1. Want to see some of the vast number of uses for the hemp plant explored and implemented. I think this is impossible until marijuana is legalized. If for no other reason than that, I will vote yes on Prop 64. Also, it appears to have been overall beneficial to Colorado; revenue for educations dyne homeless.

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    1. I totally agree. And, I use hemp products all the time (mostly in the food I eat) – but I have to get everything from Canada! I’ve also used hemp clothing, soap, cleaning products, etc. All wonderful stuff – I’d love to be able to use American made hemp products.

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