Moffat ’13: All drugs should be decriminalized

Opinions Columnist
Friday, November 2, 2012

Our drug policies should be aimed at reducing drug misuse, preventing exposure to children and making communities safer. Advocates of drug prohibition typically cite these goals when defending “tough on crime” drug laws, but the empirical data simply doesn’t support their argument.

The most massive attempt in history to eradicate drugs with military and police forces – the global “war on drugs” – has indisputably failed to decrease drug use and addiction rates, despite 50 million arrests for drug charges in America and $1 trillion added to the national deficit. Today, the United States incarcerates more human beings than any other country, and yet we are the world’s number one consumer of illegal drugs.

Opponents of decriminalization insist that drug use would skyrocket if we took a different approach. Again, the facts simply don’t support their claim: Multiple longitudinal studies have debunked this myth, finding that criminalization has no deterrent effect on drug use among adults or young people. Portugal decriminalized possession of all drugs more than a decade ago, and every indicator confirms that the policy has been an enormous success.

Under the current prohibition regime, availability and drug use in middle schools and high schools has only gone up in the United States. Students across the country consistently report that they can easily find drugs on the black market. The doomsday scenarios that drug warriors prophesy are nothing but fear-mongering distractions from the reality of a massively unjust, failed policy.

Prohibitionists often assert that decriminalization would “send the wrong message.” In fact, however, decriminalization sends the message that we care about our communities and public safety and that we need a more health-based approach to drugs.

On the other hand, continuing to incarcerate millions of American citizens, stripping them of their dignity and respect, denying them proper treatment and branding them with a scarlet letter that makes them unemployable sends the message that we’re not the beacon of democracy we’d like to be. It sends the message that institutionalized prejudice and hatred is alive and well in the United States.

Drug misuse and addiction is a serious problem, but we should resist the knee-jerk impulse to demonize drug users, lock them away and throw away the key. Regulation, treatment, prevention and education are much more humane and effective strategies for solving this problem.



Jared Moffat ’13 is president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. He can be reached at

  • Anonymous

    You don’t seem to understand the idea of drug laws. They provide tremendous employment for law enforcement and related industries — prisons, say, are growth niches on Wall Street and why would a private for profit prison ever want to release an inmate? so there is a need to place more clients in prison. But think about it, do you really think all the criminals will stop being criminals without drugs? Rather, won’t they be better criminals and harder to catch as they broke into upper-middle-class housing and robbed and killed people? Drugs keeps these people on their own streets killing one another in gangs where police can easily arrest them given all the colors, so they can go to jail and help grow the criminal system. I mean, seriously, do you really want to jeopardize Brown student’s work psych degrees and work on brain alterations? not to mention all the doctors treating shooting victims and such or Brown politicians now running and lying for political office?

  • malcolm kyle

    Just as it was impossible to prevent alcohol from being produced and used in the U.S. in the 1920s, so too, it is equally impossible to prevent any other drug from being produced, distributed and widely used by those who so desire.

    * Prohibition kills more people and ruins more lives than the drugs it attempts to prohibit.

    * Due to Prohibition (historically proven to be an utter failure at every level), the availability of most of these mood-altering drugs has become so universal and unfettered that in any city of the civilized world, any one of us would be able to procure practically any drug we wish within an hour.

    * Throughout history, the prohibition of any mind-altering substance has always exploded usage rates, overcrowded jails, fueled organized crime, created rampant corruption of law-enforcement, even whole governments while inducing an incalculable amount of suffering and death.

    * The CIA was/is running Heroin from Vietnam, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, and moving Cocaine from Central America. This has been well documented by the 1989 Kerry Committee, as well as academic researchers such as Alfred McCoy, Peter Dale Scott, and the late Gary Webb.

    * It’s not even possible to keep drugs out of prisons, but prohibitionists wish to waste trillions of dollars in an utterly futile attempt to keep them off our streets.

    * The United States jails a larger percentage of it’s own citizens than any other country in the world, including those run by the worst totalitarian regimes, yet it has far higher use/addiction rates than most other countries.

    * Prohibition is the “Goose that laid the golden egg” and the lifeblood of terrorists as well as drug cartels. Both the Taliban and the terrorists of al Qaeda derive their main income from the prohibition-inflated value of the opium poppy. An estimated 44 % of the heroin produced in Afghanistan, with an estimated annual destination value of US $ 27 Billion, transits through Pakistan. Prohibition has essentially destroyed Pakistan’s legal economy and social fabric. We may be about to witness the planet’s first civil war in a nation with nuclear capabilities. – Kindly Google ‘A GLOBAL OVERVIEW OF NARCOTICS-FUNDED TERRORIST GROUPS’ Only those opposed or willing to ignore these facts want things the way they are.