Drug Policy Reform

Drugs are a complex and controversial issue, but over the past several years there has been a growing recognition that the War on Drugs approach has failed to achieve any of its stated goals.

Recognizing the failure of America’s 20th century drug policies, American Millennials is calling for the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, as well as comprehensive drug reform on the state, national, and international levels, based largely on the policy recommendations being made by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. These new policies must bring an end to the ineffective and expensive War on Drugs, and minimize the impact of drug abuse and addiction on our society by treating drug addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal matter.

While politicians in Washington, DC have shown an unwillingness to take the need for drug reform seriously, the Global Commission on Drug Policy recently released a report calling for an end to the criminalization of drug use and possession, as well as the responsible legal regulation of psychoactive substances.

For a better understanding of why a new approach to drugs is not only necessary but makes sense, watch the following explanation provided by the Global Commission on Drug Policy:

Legalizing Marijuana

The first step Congress can take towards passing meaningful drug reform is ending the miscategorization of Marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.  This reform is both necessary and appropriate, given that marijuana does not meet any of the criteria required of a Schedule I drug, which are as follows:

(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Marijuana clearly doesn’t meet the first requirement, as numerous studies have shown that marijuana poses a lower potential for abuse than most of the socially accepted drugs, such as tobacco, alcohol and even caffeine. Furthermore, the passage of medical marijuana laws in 23 states clearly demonstrates that marijuana doesn’t meet the second or third criteria of a Schedule I drug.

In light of these facts, Congress needs to remove marijuana from the CSA, and endow state legislatures with the ability to regulate the sale and use of marijuana on the state level.  Until they do, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges will continue to be required to subject otherwise law-abiding citizens to incarceration and other criminal penalties for the possession or use of a substance that’s been scientifically and medically proven as relatively harmless relative compared to other drugs used for recreational and/or medical purposes.

Ending the War on Drugs

While ending the federal prohibition of marijuana will be a big step forward, it will only be the first step in fixing our nation’s drug laws.  The fact remains that recreational drugs exist, as do the markets for their trade, despite any legislation to the contrary. In light of the fundamental reality of this fact, we stand with the Global Commission on Drug Policy in the belief that the time has come to end the ineffective drug policies of the 20th century, and establish new policies to humanely and effectively reduce the social harms associated with drug abuse.

The principle reason that the possession of drugs should be decriminalized is that more often than not, those individuals caught with possession of drugs suffer from the disease of addiction.  Unfortunately, the disease of addiction can befall anyone, regardless of whether a person is a good person, or a bad person.  And just as importantly, people can become addicts through no fault of their own, and without ever willfully breaking the law.

To understand this important concept, one need look no further than the heroin epidemic which is taking place in Baltimore, Maryland.  In a significant number of cases, heroin addicts became addicted to opiates or other pain pills legally prescribed by medical doctors.  However, by the time their prescriptions have run out, the patients have already become hooked, and turn to heroin as a cheaper and more easily available way to fulfill the cravings caused by their addiction.

Unfortunately, once the disease of addiction has manifest in one form or another, the user oftentimes finds themselves powerless to say no. The reason for this, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is that “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”

Despite the federal government’s own recognition of addiction as a disease that interferes with the human brain’s ability to resist seeking drugs, the federal and state governments have continued to impose criminal penalties on drug addicts found in possession of the drugs their addictions drive them to use. This is especially unfortunate given that due to the nature of the disease, the decision to use is oftentimes driven by the disease itself, rather than conscious choice on the part of the user.

This malfunction in the part of the brain responsible for making decisions is the reason why sending drug addicts into mental health rehabilitation and treatment programs make sense, and why criminal penalties imposed on persons found in possession of drugs neither works as a deterrent, or as a cure.

To better understand the nature of addiction as a disease, we recommend watching the film “Pleasure Unwoven,” which breaks down the latest scientific and medical understanding of what addiction is, and how it manifests. This movie can be viewed, in full, on YouTube.