Drugs a health, not criminal, issue

Our war on drugs subsidizes violence, corruption and the black market.

Zachary Tauer

To seek out and arrest drug traders in both the United States and in Mexico will not decrease violence or drug use by Americans. When a gang or cartel is broken up due to arrests, it opens up a new territory for other gangs and cartels to attempt to control. There will be more violence when cartels fight for the new money-making territory. In a 24-hour period on May 2, 24 public murders occurred, directly related to the drug trade, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Current U.S. methods of dealing with drugs have not worked for decades. Thousands of law enforcement, judges and other government officials are paid off by drug cartels, which receive all of their money from the illegal drug trade. The conviction rate in murder and kidnapping cases in Mexico is 5 percent. Drug cartels receive 70 percent of their revenue from cannabis. If cannabis were legalized, the drug cartels would suffer a dent in their revenue and wouldnâÄôt be able to operate with as much power as they currently do. Not only will legalizing and regulating drugs (or just cannabis) greatly decrease violence, it will have positive effects on societal use of drugs. When Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, illegal drug use by teens decreased, HIV rates from shared needles decreased, and the number of people seeking drug treatment doubled. Americans will continue to consume drugs whether or not they are illegal or legal. Why not spend the billions in futile drug war dollars for jails, law enforcement and the legal system on harm reduction approaches instead? Rather than treat drugs as a criminal issue, a program that treats drug use as a health issue will focus on prevention, rehabilitation and harm reduction âÄî not on crime, greed and law enforcement. Violence will decrease if drugs are regulated by the government because there wonâÄôt be a lucrative black market that attracts normal citizens and turns them into âÄúviolent, murderous, psychopathsâÄù that Todd Meitzel explains in his May 4 letter to the editor. Zachary Tauer, University undergraduate student, Students for Sensible Drug Policy