Each year, state governments spend a combined $25.7 billion on the enforcement of drug laws and the incarceration that can follow. The federal government spends an additional $15.6 billion. Of those arrested, 86% are for simple possession charges. Those with small amounts of drugs are often directed through the criminal justice system rather than a potential medical intervention. Addiction is an incredible demon to battle. We can do better for fellow Americans that are struggling.
Instead of spending so much on enforcement and incarceration related to drug use, we should refer potential addicts to medically focused intervention. We can create good paying jobs for those in their community passionate about helping addicts in their time of need. There would still need to be a process to ensure no one possesses a danger to their community, but action that puts the criminal justice system first is proving ineffective and costly.
It’s also time to recognize that certain substances are best left legalized and regulated. The federal prohibition of marijuana as a schedule one narcotic has been an abject failure. Rather than enable a black market to thrive, marijuana should be legalized and strongly regulated for adult use. Childproof, clearly labeled packaging should be required along with updated open container laws on the books for marijuana in a vehicle. With a legal and regulated marketplace, excise taxes would be collected to educate Americans on the risks associated with marijuana use.
Other drugs that the federal government has designated as schedule one are showing great promise as a medical device. MDMA is showing a path to helping people overcome severe battles with post-traumatic stress disorder. Psilocybin and LSD have been used to medicate patients with symptoms of severe depression and addiction. Such substances belong nowhere near the lock and key designation of a schedule one narcotic. Our medical professionals and research institutions should have the right to explore these substances as a potential tool to combating mental health woes.
Ban private prisons Nobody should be able to profit off the incarceration of Americans. The incentive structure of the private prison industry is fundamentally broken. A model of more inmates equals more money leaves a bedrock incentive to ensure Americans are continually arrested and incarcerated. There is no doubt in my mind that this has no place in our great nation. It is time to ban private prison facilities and instead ensure incarceration is used solely to protect our communities when needed.