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Edinboro University & Northwestern Pennsylvania High School Journalism Competition: Third Place (Website)

The decriminalization of drugs in our world


The following op-ed piece was written by Cathedral Prep senior Russell Babarsky. All opinions expressed are his own personal opinions.
Throughout the past half century drugs have been a constant problem in many countries across the world. They have been the source of many deaths and many ruined lives. While governments have tried to put a stop to drugs, almost all efforts have failed. This has led to a loss of money and man power for many governments. A successful alternative to completely banning drugs that many countries have tried is the decriminalization of personal drug use.
To understand why drugs are illegal across many countries in the world, we must go back to the beginning of drug prohibition. Drugs were first banned in 1915. In many countries, hysteria was everywhere and people were more scarred of drugs than ever. From this year on, drugs were illegal in almost every country. It was not until the 1960s where we would see drugs play a huge role in society. It was at this time when the hippie movement began to arise and drugs fueled this movement. From then onward drug use and drug trade became a huge part of society.
The act of decriminalization should not be confused with legalization. Decriminalization is simply making that act of using drugs legal, but if one were found with drugs they can be fined. Specifically, people would be able to use drugs freely.  It is important to note that this does not allow trafficking or selling drugs. These would still be illegal actions that could allow someone to be sent to jail. It is also important to note that governments could save billions of dollars by ending the war on drugs.
Not only has the war on drugs been costly, but it has also been dangerous. Nations across the world have seen many killing because of the war on drugs. In Mexico, 43 high school students were captured and murdered by a drug cartel back in October. Decriminalization of drugs would allow for this war and cruel acts by these cartels to end. An end to this war would also save billions of dollars for many countries and would allow many precious lives to be saved on both sides.
A prime example of a government that successfully integrated decriminalization of personal use of drugs into their country is Portugal. Before 1991, the nation had seen an epidemic of heroin users, an increase in HIV/AIDs cases, increase in general drug usage, and an increased number of drug users admitted to rehab. In 1991, Portugal decided that instead of fighting drugs, they would allow it. They made it legal to use drugs, carry a small amount of drugs, and to seek help for drug addictions. This means that your average user could not be arrested for using drugs but could be arrested for selling to other people. This also prohibits the distribution or trafficking of drugs as well.
Ten years after they introduced this new policy, they saw surprising results. There had been a drop in teenage drug usage, along with a lower number of HIV/AIDs patients, and a decrease in crime. This new policy not only helped Portugal’s drug problem, it also allowed their government to save an enormous amount of money and manpower. These saving were used by the government to better the country as a whole and increase the well beings of its people. On top of that, it allowed the government to focus of larger trafficking that was originally hurting the country. Pourtugal is good example of how this policy can help a country that is battling a drug problem. It promoted healthy and smart choices by allowing people to seek help and not having to worry about possible legal issues or embarrassment. It also saved them billions which some of that money went back into the battle to fighting addictions.
A fair criticism to the decimalization of drugs is the health issues and the safety issues that would come along with such law. Drugs, especially heroin and methamphetamines, can be very fatal and can destroy people’s lives. Drugs are such a economic hindrance to families so that when an addiction starts, most families cannot support it. The family then starts to fall apart. While these detrimental effects on society and people are known, it is also well known that heroin and meth are both on the rise even with strict government policies. With that said, decriminalization of drugs does not promote drug usage, instead, it promotes a safe and healthy society by targeting the problem at it source and allowing addicts to be more open about their illness.
Whether you view drugs as a blessing or plague on society, it is certain that drug use has had an outstanding impact on our world. While it may not be for better, it is certain that drugs can have a profoundly negative impact on people’s lives. This is why it is vital to remember that decriminalization of drugs is not to promote drug use, but instead, promote safe and healthy societies. This new policy would save governments billions of dollars, help many people who are scared of law enforcement, and promote smart choices in general.

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