“Legal street drugs”. To most people, this phrase may hit the ear wrong. We, as a society, are rarely ever exposed to the use of these three words together, simply because it has been drilled into our brains that the use and possession of drugs is wrong and a criminal offense. Of course, illegal street drugs, like heroin and cocaine, are dangerous and have ruined the lives of many individuals, but maybe that is because the control of these substances has always been dealt with in the wrong way.
The Canadian government should legalize the use and possession of street drugs, like heroin and cocaine. An individual who is arrested and criminalized for the possession of drugs is unlikely to receive the help that they need as sick human-beings, decriminalization and “public health campaigns” are needed to help those struggling with addiction. The safety of Canadian drug users will be increased if there is stronger regulation of street drugs through drug dispensaries by purity and price control. Finally, organized crime profits greatly through the retail of illegal street drugs and would be weakened if they were legalized.
Many convicted drug users are likely to enter a vicious and never-ending cycle of addiction and crime when facing up to a year in jail. This offense will continue to ruin the individual’s life as their criminal record will forever be tainted in a world where employers are unlikely to hire a person without a clean slate, even with a non-violent crime such as this one. Stuck in the cycle, the individual will continue to use drugs and, without a job, may commit even more crimes or put themselves in more danger through prostitution or any means necessary to make enough money to feed their addiction. This is the unfortunate result that our judicial system is partly to blame for, making it no surprise that several streets in British Columbia have a large population of homeless drug addicts. A prime example of the benefits of legalizing drugs is the experiment that Portugal began back in 2001. Portugal decriminalized drug use and began a “public health campaign” in order to reduce addiction by ceasing to view addicts as criminals. There are many benefits to this policy, starting with the decrease in fear that people may have over involving the authorities in emergencies. The B.C. Coroners Service stated that “in 2017, 59% of fatal overdoses occurred inside,” implying that individuals may fear calling the police and, subsequently, being charged with drug possession when someone is in need.
Since 2001, the number of people using heroin in Portugal decreased from 100,000 to 25,000, and the drug mortality rate is now the lowest in Western Europe. As a part of Portugal’s “public health campaign,” vehicles supply the streets of Portugal with free methadone. Methadone is an opioid and a crucial part of treating addiction as it greatly decreases the withdrawal symptoms that individuals may be feeling but does not impair them so that they can continue to live their lives normally and fight their addictions. Drug treatment programs can be expensive and may not be accessible to every person. Of course, Portugal does not have the perfect solution, but it is better, and it has improved the lives of many people and the country as a whole. The worst thing that one can do is to treat an addiction like it is a crime when it is a sickness, most drug addicts do not want to be in the positions that they are in, but it is a result of their environment.
Cocaine is one of the most expensive drugs on the market. Organized crime benefits immensely from its sales even though the production of this drug is not nearly as expensive as its street value. The price of cocaine is directly related to its demand, which is high. Since the drug is illegal, huge measures are taken and many people are involved in order for them to illegally import and traffic the drug into the country, making it much more expensive than it needs to be. One gram of cocaine can be retailed for $100, and even though the price is so high, people will continue to buy and put themselves in danger by doing anything they can to satisfy their addiction. Additionally, drug dealers will mix their drugs with dangerous and cheaper substances like fentanyl in order to make their supply last longer and to profit further.
“There were 1,436 fatal overdoses in 2017, 995 the year before that, 518 in 2015, and 368 in 2014,” every year the number of people dying is increasing and more than 80% of these deaths are due to fentanyl.
The Canadian government has the means to control the purity and the price of the drugs that it distributes by creating drug dispensaries. Further regulations can be put in place such as daily limits, age restrictions, and impaired driving rules in order to further ensure user safety. The money earned by the dispensaries could also be put into further funding for public health programs that battle addiction, which is the ultimate goal.
Put simply, organized crime is just the obtainment of profit in any way but most commonly by providing illegal products and services. This applies to the retail of illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin that is likely smuggled into the country illegally. The presence of organized crime in communities can be detrimental. Crime such as this, where products are moved through many countries and even continents, can lead to wars that may put law-abiding citizens in danger. It is hard to fight organized crime when it is constantly adapting, but if illegal street drugs are decriminalized, retailed at a cheaper price and from safe and regulated dispensaries, it will be hard for dealers to maintain a high clientele. Decreasing organized crime will make communities safer and will keep the money in the economy of the government where it can be used effectively rather than in the hands of criminals.
There isn’t a lot of data on the outcome of policies such as the ones explained in this essay, but Portugal has proved that the legalization of drugs and the increase in public health funding in regard to battling addiction have decreased the percentage of individuals using drugs by a large amount and have made the country a healthier and safer place.
Through the legalization of drugs and the enforcement of public health campaigns, drug addiction can be tackled at the right angle by treating these people as sick and not as criminals. Through the decriminalization, the government can benefit by creating safe and regulated drug dispensaries that produce pure substances in order to reduce fatal overdoses and at a cheaper price to drive organized crime down.
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