The current drug laws in the United States have created a system that imprisons individuals who should be receiving medical treatment. The laws have, essentially, turned an illness into a crime. Unfortunately for the addict and the rest of society, these laws do not provide the level of protection that prevents drug abusers from committing actual crimes such as breaking and entering, theft, and robbery. Somewhat ironically, decriminalizing drug use could reduce the amount of crime that takes place in conjunction with addiction.
How is this possible? When an addict is arrested for drug possession, he or she is sent to jail with individuals who have committed much more heinous crimes. This creates a community for the addict that consists of thieves, rapists, and murderers. By defining drug use and possession as an illegal activity akin to crimes that affect other people, our legal system creates a criminal identity for addicts who might not otherwise participate in these activities.
Once released from jail, though, the addicts have acquired new insights into how they can scour through people’s homes and businesses in search of money to pay for drugs. They, therefore, begin breaking into buildings, where they will search in your closet, through your cabinets, and under your double bed for money that they can use to fuel their habits.
If the legal system consistently gave addicts the opportunity to enroll in treatment programs, this criminal reality could change dramatically. Addicts who are given treatment are less likely to return to drug use upon release. They are, therefore, less likely to commit crimes to pay for drugs.
This is not to say that drug-related crime would disappear completely. Differentiating between drug possession and other crimes, however, would have a real impact on the amount of crimes that affect the lives of average people who are often targeted by criminals.