State should consider drug crime reform

Published 4:41 am Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Facing another limited state budget for 2017, our lawmakers will have to again look at what services and programs could be trimmed.

This will not be an enviable task because our state also faces a growing drug abuse crises. It is obvious this is not a criminal justice matter but a matter of healthcare.

So, we hope our representatives will do the smart thing and not just the easy thing. In this case, the easy thing would be to continue to fund jails, prisons and law enforcement efforts to penalize drug addictions and drug use.

The nonprofit and nonpartisan National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse studies state drug policies. They report that 17.6 percent of our state budget is spent on drug treatment and on the consequences of drug use. That’s a lot of money.

But it’s not an even split. It’s not even close. The center reports that of that money, about 3 cents of every dollar goes to drug prevention while 97 cents of every dollar goes to pay for the “consequences of our failure to prevent and treat” drug addition. It is clear there is no comparison: We spend much, much more to lock up addicts than we do to try and get them clean.

Locking up addicts would make sense if it helped the community or if it helped treat the disease, but, as the problem has only gotten worse, it is clear that locking up addicts does neither of these things. When it comes to fighting drug abuse, we’re not getting value for our money.

Considering our budget woes and considering our drug problem, this needs to end.