In the 80’s and 90’s. there was the “War on Drugs” in major U.S. cities, and millions of people, mainly young African-American men, went to jail, and were processed in the U.S. Justice system for taking, selling, and possessing illegal drugs. Even a high profile politician, like D.C. Mayor, Marion Barry, was caught and indicted for taking crack cocaine. The scandal of “Project Fast and Furious” linking the government and the justice system with supplying drug lords and Mexican cartels with automatic weapons raged on under Attorney General Eric Holder. We read about cartels homesteading in America’s wilderness lands with marijuana growing endeavors in the last decade. Even on the Central Coast of California, drug cartels from Mexico dock their illegal contraband onto the Big Sur coastline.
Several states in the U.S. like Colorado and Washington proclaim recreational marijuana as legal in their jurisdictions. California passed medical marijuana over a decade ago and experts say that the passage of recreational marijuana is just around the corner.
The recent television documentary on Frontline, shows how Seattle and surrounding Washington Counties are dealing with an “out of control” heroin epidemic, particularly among young people. Their justice system is making an about face and treating illegal drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue. Drug courts, in California known as DUI courts, have followed suit at least in Monterey County to some extent, and have become the rule and not the exception.
In Canada, the controversy turns to a more liberal leaning. One of the main reasons for the liberalization of marijuana, as in handling drug use and possession, can be seen in Proposition 47, which passed in California because it was just too expensive to house the large number of inmates. Proposition 47 passed to make certain legal infractions, such as drug possession, theft and forgery, as misdemeanors instead of felonies.
As shown on the Frontline documentary, the heroin problem was so severe, they headed up a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), which does things like promoting drug courts, housing, methodone clinics, and other services for drug addicts. The drug use arm of the National Institute of Health (NIH) continue to research the effects of heroin and other drugs on the brain. It’s clear that heroin is the most highly addictive drug, and addicts reversing their addiction is rare.
The controversy about compassionate public health vs. drugs that serve as gateways to harder drugs and criminality continues to make strides to a daunting public health crisis a slow process. Experts say that it took 15 years to get where we are now and proclaim that we can get to a statistical decrease in a disturbing rise in drug related deaths, especially among youth by making the necessary social changes, and not by continuing to prosecute drug addicts.
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