Earlier this week, the Drug Policy Alliance issued a ground-breaking report that called for the legalization of all drugs. The report titled, “It’s Time for the U.S. to Decriminalize Drug Use and Possession,” sounds like something that might be a good idea. Indeed, we want a public health model for people with substance use disorders that focuses on prevention, treatment and recovery, however, we must look a bit further to really understand the purpose of this report.
First, we must understand that the group that produced this report is one of the prominent groups that have been behind marijuana legalization. This group has spent tens of millions of dollars to push legalization through the ballot initiative process and has completely denied and/or hidden the dangers of marijuana use. This action has not only created a mindset that marijuana use is benign but has also created an industry that brings stronger marijuana and markets to those who have a substance use disorder and children.
Second, this is the same playbook that the Drug Policy Alliance used to pass marijuana legalization over the past few decades. Initially, the group talks about decriminalization, perhaps even pushing drugs from a “medical” standpoint and then full legalization, setting up a market whose targets are the most vulnerable.
Finally, the idea of prevention is lost on those who have written this report. The impetus is to promote safe use and harm reduction. Although there are some facets of harm reduction that are important, such as needle exchange to curb the spread of AIDS and other blood borne diseases, we need to make sure that prevention is also part of the model to keep young people from starting these self-destructive behaviors.
The idea of prevention is under attack by a well-funded organization whose sole intention is to legalize all drugs – cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and synthetics. Our advocacy efforts need to include how important prevention is and how these ideas based on “decriminalization” are really efforts to create a market and industry for each of these drugs. We have to make sure that evidence-based prevention strategies and the public health model are the means of dealing with drugs and alcohol so that our next generations are not lost.
July 14, 2017