Decriminalizing drugs is not the solution

Different strategy needed to fight opioid epidemic

Tenzin Gyaldatsang

Amongst the recent decision made by Oregon to decriminalize hard drugs, although there are many benefits, the idea of decriminalizing drugs isn’t the solution.

In the midst of a pandemic, an increase in opioid use has occurred during the months of lockdown. Even though COVID-19 is the number one concern at the moment, the increase in opioid use during the pandemic is still a serious issue that should be addressed.

Decriminalizing hard drugs would likely increase drug abuse and encourage individuals to start using drugs at earlier ages. During an e-cigarette epidemic that has plagued the U.S., giving access to these drugs proves to be a gateway to substance abuse.

In places like Portugal where hard drugs have been decriminalized, crime rates increased. During the first five years of implementing the new drug policy, homicide rates increased by 41%, according to a study by Cato Institute. The rise in homicide rates shouldn’t be taken lightly, as there is a clear correlation between homicide rates and the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal.

Although the amount of drug-related deaths have been going down, the policy shouldn’t be fully credited for this statistic, as drug-related deaths were already on a decline in Portugal prior to the policy.

The influx of recreational users would increase the prices and deplete the supply for those who need medical cannabis or drugs for medicinal use.

The idea of decriminalizing hard drugs doesn’t exactly state that they are fully legal. In Portugal, if the amount of drugs in possession is over the threshold, repercussions still apply based on the amount in possession.

Even though the decline and low amount of drug-related deaths in Portugal is commendable, understanding that it is a small sample size is key. Portugal has a population of just over 10 million, which is roughly the same size as Michigan.

Implementing this policy in Minnesota might not be beneficial, as there is a large number of people who are using medical cannabis to combat illnesses. Shortages might occur due to the general public using it for recreational purposes.

The effort to decriminalize all drugs in the U.S. won’t fix the problem that is ravaging our country. If America wants to fight the opioid epidemic, it needs a different solution. Making sure Minnesotans get their medical needs should be our number one priority.