The recent dust-up over comments by MK Sheli Yahimovich on past personal drug use is a perfect opportunity to re-examine one of the most controversial world-wide government policies: the War on Drugs.
The War on Drugs is the clearest case of a proposed “cure” being far worse than the disease. Tens of thousands have died in its wake. It has destabilized whole countries, both politically and militarily. The War’s ban on legal production of drugs has enriched the most violent and ruthless elements of human society such as criminal cartels and terrorists, with predictable results. Yet paradoxically the overwhelming majority of people who are punished by drug laws are not the criminal suppliers but the consumers.
Israel is no different: according to Knesset data, the overwhelming majority of drug-related criminal cases, arrests and convictions were for either personal use or simple possession. In the event these cases come to court, the most common punishment is a suspended prison sentence, followed by an actual prison sentence of up to a year.
Drugs are bad enough as it is. I fail to see how leaving personal users with either a permanent criminal record or putting them in prison does anything other than make smug, self-righteous people feel “good about themselves” for doing “something” about the problem of drug addiction. It is high time that we ended this farce and decriminalized drug production and use.
There are no easy solutions to the problem of drug abuse, but surely forty years of experience has taught us that arrests and prisons are not the answer.