When society views drug addiction as a disease and disorder rather than a crime, people struggling with addiction are more likely to seek the help they need. Unfortunately, most states have laws on the books that make drug use and possession a crime, and people fear stepping forward for help because they may face criminal penalties.
A movement has begun to encourage states to decriminalize drugs in order to make treatment more accessible. In November 2020, Oregon became the first state to sign a bill for drug decriminalization, making a historic move toward ending the stigma and making addiction rehab more accessible. In twenty-six states and the District of Columbia, smaller measures to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana are now law. Others are pushing for the decriminalization of all drugs, so people will be more comfortable getting help when they struggle with addiction.
What Is Drug Decriminalization?
Drug decriminalization removes all criminal penalties for drug crimes. These include:
- Drug sales on a low level
- Drug use and possession
- The possession of equipment used to take drugs, like syringes for injection
Under decriminalization legislation, these actions are no longer crimes. Large-scale drug sales would remain criminal. Lawmakers could prosecute these to the full extent of the law.
Why Decriminalizing Drugs Could Be Beneficial
Many people are unwilling to come forward when they struggle with addiction. They fear not only the stigma of addiction but also the criminal repercussions. If the criminal charges are not an issue, more people may find themselves willing to sign up for a treatment program.
Drug decriminalization also frees law enforcement resources. Rather than spending time and money on people that need the help of an addiction rehab center, law enforcement professionals can focus on more serious crimes and more deadly criminals. This also reduces the population size in jails and prisons.
Also, taking away the criminal penalties of drugs helps prioritize health and safety for those who struggle. Instead of simply putting them on probation or sending them to jail, the community could send them to a treatment program where they can make lasting changes in their lives.
Finally, decriminalization removes the barriers to get people checked for drug abuse. People are more willing to submit to drug tests when they do not fear getting arrested. It also makes evidence-based practices, such as medication-assisted treatment and medical marijuana use less stigmatized and more accessible to those who can benefit from these.
How Defelonization and Decriminalization Differ
In some areas, the focus is on defelonization rather than decriminalization. Defelonization removes the felony charges from drug cases. However, people can still receive misdemeanors for drug crimes. These still have far-reaching consequences and can prevent people from seeking drug rehab when they need it. Decriminalization is more effective at making positive changes for people fighting addiction.
Does Drug Decriminalization Increase Drug Dependency Rates?
This is a common argument against drug decriminalization. However, research shows that treating drug use as a health problem and not a crime is more successful at creating healthy changes. When people don’t fear checking in to a drug treatment program, they are able to make the right decision to seek treatment.
Consider the statistics in Portugal, which decriminalized drug possession in 2001. Nearly two decades later, the number of people using drugs is below the European and US averages. The number of people seeking drug rehab increased by over sixty percent in the first ten years of this change. Drug fatalities dropped significantly in the first decade.
Discover More About Drug Treatment Programs at Blueprint Recovery Center
At Blueprint Recovery Center, we want people to feel safe checking in to a drug treatment program. We believe that decriminalization could help to remove the stigma of seeking help for drug addiction.
For more information about getting help for drug addiction without shame, reach out to the compassionate Blueprint Recovery Center team today at 833.654.1004.