With all the fiscal and labor investments the United States has made in the “war on drugs,” first initiated while President Richard Nixon held office, some citizens find it difficult to stand up for change in the country’s drug policy. However, this “war” has done very little in terms of curving drug use and instead has created a massive overpopulation problem in prisons, as more and more nonviolent users are locked up.
Not without some hesitation, an examination of the Libertarian Party’s platform in regards to drug decriminalization shows that this policy has numerous advantages. One of the best examples used by Libertarians to convey the logic behind their drug platform is the success of Portugal’s drug decriminalization program, which has led to a massive drop in overall drug use.
Public misconceptions would have everyone believe that the Netherlands has the most liberal drug laws in the European Union. Yet, it is actually Portugal that first implemented a drug policy which decriminalized the personal use of all drugs in 2001, from marijuana to heroin. In practice this aligns with libertarian ideals, as the government has removed itself from the daily routines of citizens and allows them to self-determine the consequences of drug use.
The result of research done by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, shows that in the decade following the policy change, illegal drug use among Portuguese teens dropped along with the number of HIV infections. This is the same country that once had the highest rate of HIV infection per injection in the EU, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Portuguese citizens also had some of the lowest rates of lifetime marijuana use among those age fifteen or older, with the number sitting at 10 percent in 2010. The nearest comparable rate to Americans was a study done on persons over age twelve in the United States, which determined roughly 39.8 percent had at some point used marijuana.
The U.S. drug policy has done little more than serve to increase the already bad overpopulation of prisons in the country. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of persons in the United States incarcerated in 2010 in state and federal prisons was 1,524,513, with over 95,000 of them being arrested for non-violent drug related changes like marijuana use. These numbers showcase why America needs a new approach to drug laws.
By: Gregory Allen Turner II, Staff Writer