Of all the nations in the world, the United States is home to the largest population of prison inmates. This is a population of people whose care gets put into the hands of the government. Ultimately, however, their care is paid for by taxpayers’ dollars to the tune of nearly 80 million dollars a year.
The increasing prison population is due, in part, to the increase in incarceration and sentence length of nonviolent drug offenders. As the overpopulation and recidivism rates continue to look bleak, officials are looking for answers. Recently, President Obama proposed a solution that would reduce or remove punishment for minor drug offenses, thus, less people would be send to prison.
The Dangers of Ignoring Minor Offenses
While many find logic in this solution, it presents some major flaws that could lead our country down a dangerous path. Some of these concerns include:
1. It teaches citizens that Marijuana use isn’t harmful, when in fact, ingesting the drug can lead to dangerous long term effects such as cancer, bronchitis, lung damage, and brain abnormalities.
2. It may increase the number of Marijuana users. If citizens believe that the drug is harmless and will not lead to legal consequences, then more people are likely to try the drug. Decriminalizing minor drug offenses only puts more emphasis on use of the drug. Already, about 4 in 10 Americans admit to trying Marijuana, if drug offenses are ignored, the majority of Americans could be legally using the drug.
3. Increased use of Marijuana may lead to increased use of other drugs such as Cocaine or Heroin. If the American youth believes that Marijuana is acceptable to use, they may falsely believe that there is less harm in other drugs.
4. The decrease in crime rates after decriminalization of nonviolent drug offenses will be a misleading statistic. The crime rate will have reduced, on paper, but people will still be using and abusing Marijuana, whether legal or illegal.
With these dangers at hand, there is an alternative solution to ignoring minor drug offenses. Funding programs that focus on substance abuse prevention would effectively cut the number of drug users, which, in turn, would decrease the number of non-violent drug offenders that pass through the criminal justice system. The best solution is to educate children and families about the danger of illicit substances before the problem escalates into abuse and addiction.