You cannot discount the news. New Hampshire is faced with a growing problem of opiate addiction. Of course, this has long been a problem in our country but N.H. residents are now worried because it is now "hitting home." We have had many tragedies in this state due to this problem and now everyone is wondering how to resolve it.
Perhaps there needs to be more of a balancing of priorities. It is not only a law enforcement problem but also a human, public health issue.
After all, the illicit drug industry, like any economy, has a "supply" side and a demand side. History shows that you can hire all the police you want, make the laws as strict as possible to but as long as there are people that want to use drugs, there will always be those who will take the risk to sell them.
Even in countries where the death penalty is prescribed for drug trafficking, drugs are used and sold. In Malaysia and Singapore, for instance, "trafficking" is the only charge for possession of over certain amounts of drugs and there is only one penalty-a rope around the neck. But, even this does not stop it as long as there are people who want to use drugs. Furthermore, many people are in jail for non-violent drug offenses, often dealing to support their own habits when it is much harder to catch the "big guys."
Perhaps one step we could take is to legalize or decriminalize the use of cannabis. This writer is not in favor of legalizing all recreational drugs. While a person might be a "social" drinker or pot smoker, it is hard to imagine a "social" heroin addict or crack smoker. But, there are different types of drugs that have different effects.
Perhaps marijuana should be legalized and regulated (and taxed). This writer knows a lot of people who died, directly or indirectly due to alcohol but cannot name anyone he knew who died from smoking marijuana. If we did legalize and tax it, it would give the state more revenue and at the same time give law enforcement more time and resources to concentrate on interdicting "hard" drugs and solving more serious crimes. It might also take the "thrill" of doing something naughty and illegal out of cannabis use.
And, it is important to always remember that our deadliest drug, alcohol, is completely legal and highly celebrated in our popular culture. Perhaps parents, too, play a role as far as modeling appropriate behavior when it comes to drug and alcohol use.
The first step in addressing the demand side of the drug problem is education. Kids need accurate and honest information about substance abuse just as they need the same about sex. Effective drug education is not a school cop telling kids to turn in their parents or that if they smoke a joint, they will be on crack the next day. They are engaging in disinformation. Of course, it is highly likely that most heroin, meth, and crack addicts did smoke pot at some point. But, it does not follow that all pot smokers go on to use more dangerous drugs.
There also needs to be investment in treatment programs of all kinds. Methadone and other replacement therapies have their place temporarily but treatment should have a goal of weaning addicts from the drug. Another good idea would be the expansion of drug courts where those with drug and alcohol related offenses are given a second chance if they seek treatment. Law enforcement should encourage, not discourage prosecution-proof "amnesty boxes" as well as clean needle programs which would help with the other problems such as diseases spread by dirty needles.
Finally, there needs to be a change in attitude by our politicians and by the public. Addiction is a disease, a medical problem and needs to be addressed as such.
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, taxpayer, veteran, and resident of Gilford.)
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