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Decriminalization vs Legalization of Drugs: What It Means for Brits



As of November 2018, the United Kingdom is facing a drug problem that no one seems to be able to solve. 

Drug addiction and overdose deaths are at an all-time high in the UK, but policymakers are split on whether to decriminalize or legalize drugs. 

This article will explore these options and explain their implications for Brits.


Table of Contents

Portugal, decriminalization, and legalization of drugs

Portugal has had a history of drug decriminalization since 2001. To understand what this means and how it affects the country, we need to look at Portugal’s drug problem before then.

In 1999, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that Portugal had one of the highest rates of drug use in Europe (10 percent). 

The country also had an extremely high rate of HIV/AIDS among intravenous drug users—approximately 30 percent by 1999—and an increasing number of drug-related deaths (41 per million people).

In response to these alarming statistics, Portugal implemented a “three strikes” system under which users were given warnings before being arrested or fined if caught using drugs three times within two years. 

After two strikes, offenders would be referred to treatment programs instead of being sent through court systems that often punished first-time offenders with months or years behind bars without any evidence-based rehabilitation program. 

Finally, after three strikes, offenders faced criminal charges. This strategy was intended more as a harm reduction approach than anything else: by reducing punishment for repeat offenders while offering them access to both medical treatment and counseling services when needed most

—during periods when they may not have been able to afford private care otherwise

—the goal was less about preventing future crime altogether than reducing collateral damage caused by current ones.”


Why Cannabis Decriminalization Matters

Cannabis isn’t harmless, but it is less harmful than other drugs like alcohol or tobacco

—and much safer than opioids such as heroin. 

Legalizing it makes it easier for people who want to use cannabis responsibly to access it safely without having to turn to illicit dealers who may sell them other substances at inflated prices or even laced with dangerous additives like fentanyl (a synthetic opioid linked with overdose deaths).


Drug legalization as a response to the opioid epidemic

When it comes to the opioid crisis, there are two main arguments in favor of drug legalization.

  • Drug legalization would reduce the cost of healthcare and law enforcement.
  • The illegal status of drugs keeps people from seeking medical assistance when they need it, which leads to increased costs for emergency care or even death. Legalizing drugs would make it easier for people who abuse opioids to get help before things get worse. It could also improve workplace safety by encouraging employers to provide free or subsidized drug testing since workers would be less likely to come back from vacation with an addiction problem (and more likely to seek treatment). It may also lower workplace accidents caused by people operating machinery under the influence.
  • Legalization could reduce incarceration rates among non-violent offenders guilty only of possession charges—which is especially important because most prisons spend far less time on rehabilitation programs than they do keeping inmates locked up behind bars at extremely high costs per inmate each year (around $60K per person). People convicted on possession charges often have little chance at finding jobs after serving their sentences because their criminal records prevent them from doing so; this particularly affects minorities who tend not only to be arrested but also prosecuted more frequently than white people despite being no more likely than whites.


The War on Drugs in the US

The War on Drugs has been waged for over fifty years, and it has failed. The United States spent over $1 trillion fighting the war between 1971 and 2012 alone. 

Despite this massive investment, drug use rates have remained relatively unchanged since the 1970s.

The cost of enforcing drug laws is also exorbitant: in 2014, there were over 1 million arrests for marijuana possession—the majority of which were handed out to blacks and Latinos. 

A black person is 3-7 times more likely than a white person to be arrested for marijuana possession; a Latino American will get busted at twice the rate of whites; and Native Americans are 8 times more likely than others to be arrested for simple possession of cannabis.


Legalization and healthcare costs

Decriminalization is a step toward legalization, and legalization is the best way to reduce health care costs.

Legalizing drugs will also help the economy because it will take away drug profits from gangs and cartels, who use them to fund their operations. 

Drug dealers and gang members are dangerous people with violent tendencies; we need to regulate them in order for society and the economy to function properly.


The United Kingdom is going to be forced to deal with its drug problem

The country’s been dealing with an opioid crisis that has killed tens of thousands, and now the government is faced with what seems like an impossible choice: whether or not to legalize or decriminalize drugs.

Decriminalization would be a good first step for Britain because it wouldn’t only provide legal protection for consumers

—it would also allow people to get help for their addictions.

It can either continue to ignore the issue (and watch more people die), or it can find a way to legalize and regulate drugs. 

There are many options on the table, but we believe that decriminalization is the best solution for now because it allows us time to figure out how we want our society to handle legalization. 

This approach also allows us freedom from punishment if we choose not to take part in any kind of drug use or abuse at all times. 

The government could save billions annually by implementing such policies instead of spending money on enforcing laws against non-violent crimes which have been proven ineffective in reducing addiction rates while still causing harm through incarceration costs.


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