The United States has been waging a “war on drugs” since the 1970’s. Millions of people’s lives have been devastated by the enactment of draconian drug sentencing laws. Legislation which does little, if anything, to address the problem of addiction. It would be nice to think that people who serve time for drug related offenses, will come through on the other side reformed and dead set on not repeating the same mistakes. Unfortunately, that is far from the case. The vast majority of people who go to prison or jail for drug use related offenses, end up being incarcerated in the future for a similar offense.
It is little secret that the U.S. has been in the grips of an opioid use epidemic. Between prescription opioids and heroin, there are over 2 million Americans who meet the criteria for an opioid use disorder. Naturally, our prisons and jails are already overpopulated with nonviolent drug offenders. There simply is not room, nor would it do any good to try to imprison the millions of opioid addicts. That does not mean that law enforcement agencies will not try, despite the call from many lawmakers to offer treatment over jail.
The President, politicians on both sides of the aisle and addiction experts all agree that we can no longer delude ourselves into thinking that the war on drugs is a fight that can be won. They understand that treatment is the best weapon against addiction. You might think that the more enlightened stance on addiction would result in fewer arrests for nonviolent drug offenses, yet that is far from the case. In fact, many states still lock up people every day for drug crimes.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently released a report that showed there were nearly 1.5 million arrests for drug abuse in 2015, Newsweek reports. The majority of the arrests were for simple possession of drugs, primarily marijuana. Below is a breakdown of the arrests:
- Marijuana (38.6 percent or 574,641 people)
- Heroin / Cocaine (19.9 percent or 296,252 people).
- Possession of Other Dangerous Non-Narcotics (20.2 percent)
- Synthetic Drugs (5.1 percent)