A quick look at the standard list of illegal drugs (like those outlined on the Horst Law website) shows that there are serious problems with how we classify and prosecute drugs and drug crimes:
- MDMA & Ecstasy
- Prescription Drugs
Are all of those the same? Is marijuana as bad as heroin? Is ecstasy is invasive a drug problem as prescription drugs or methamphetamine?
Simply looking at the list makes it clear that these substances shouldn’t be on the same list together. Some of them are extremely dangerous and addictive, while others are far less so, if at all.
There’s a question whether the use of any of these should be a crime punishable by time in prison. Since addiction can make it difficult to almost impossible to stop using a substance, it’s hard to know how much choice some individuals had in using (at least after that first time). A far more ethical punishment, in my mind, would be required counseling and rehabilitation programs. Only if people didn’t comply with those would prison be threatened.
However, that is not the rule of the land, nor is it likely to be anytime soon. But, even if we are all agreed that the use of drugs deserves a prison sentence, there needs to be far more thoughtful laws put in place to allow for the severity of the drug in question. And yet, most of the above are all considered Class 1 drugs and come with mandatory minimum sentences that can destroy lives that simply don’t deserve it.
The problem, as many are coming to find, is that mandatory minimums make it impossible for the justice system to be measured in its punishment. While there are different sentences for different types of drug crime (for instance, the manufacturing of drugs, the sale of drugs, or the use of drugs), all of them come with tough sentences that have done little or nothing to limit the spreading of the use of drugs in the first place.
This last point deserves to be highlighted. Tough sentences were put in place in an effort to limit use by the threat of severe punishment. This effort has failed. As the prescription drug crisis is proving, all communities are at risk of drug abuse issues, and those risks are not negated by the potential for serious jail time.
If severe sentences don’t keep drugs off the street, then the country ought to resort to another strategy by removing mandatory minimums and reclassifying drugs. Again, more treatment options would be an excellent addition to these changes, but at very least, recognition should be made that these drugs are not all the same, and they do not pose the same risks to individuals and communities.
Should the laws be more proportional to the crime, there might be more room for people to come forward for treatment with less risk of jail time. Since getting people off drugs and getting drugs off the street is the ultimate goal, this seems like a far better outcome than the status quo.Read More