I read an interesting editorial in today’s Indianapolis Star that criticized the War on Drugs. The author observed that many politicians and Presidential candidates have admitted to using drugs when they were younger. The list covers the political spectrum, as it ranges from Barack Obama to Newt Gingrich. Although society tends to see their past drug use as youthful indiscretions, the author argues, it is perfectly willing to let people rot in jail for non-violent drug offenses. Because the war on drugs makes jails overcrowded, many violent criminals have been released.
Part of me sympathizes with what the author is saying. Politicians got a second chance at life, so why shouldn’t everyone else? What purpose does letting people rot in jail actually serve?
I can understand the view that there should be a deterrent to drug use, since it hurts the user and people around him. But if our concern is for the user, then why lock him up? Wouldn’t it serve him better to get him the help that he needs? But what if the user doesn’t want help? On some level, I think that many users recognize that they are doing the wrong thing and that drugs are an inadequate “solution” to their problem. Unfortunately, they are hooked. They need to learn how to overcome their habit and cope with life. But for those who don’t want to quit, maybe there should be such options as jail or a fine. And perhaps the court should be harder on repeat offenders than it is on people who are arrested for the first time.
I’m not sure if I’d say “legalize drugs,” since drugs are harmful, and society should send that message unequivocally. But the way that society currently deals with drugs is not making things better.