Drug education, not incarceration
The drug problem in New Zealand is a tough one to deal to, with addictive substances such as methamphetamine, alcohol and tobacco creating havoc with lives throughout the country.
The way we currently deal with this is by imprisoning those who choose to use illegal substances, while effectively doing nothing about those who choose to abuse legal ones.
But let us take a closer look.
Has anything changed? Methamphetamine abuse is still astoundingly prevalent; cannabis, LSD, MDMA and more show no sign of going away any time soon.
But should they? Police and politicians would have us believe this is the best option. Get rid of illegal substances and continue sending users to prison, while letting the legal abusers and dealers run amuck.
If this approach were to work, surely it would have by now? We have been arresting dealers and users for decades yet the problem still continues.
We need to face the fact that drug use will always be around. People will always seek to explore other states of consciousness, and while it is illegal, people will always be chasing the vast amount of profits available in the underground industry.
The best way to deal with this problem is through education, not incarceration.
We attempt to educate our children on such matters at school with programs such as D.A.R.E. For those of you who went through such a program, what do you remember of it? "Drugs are bad, don't do them" is what it amounts to after the years pass.
If we were truly interested in minimising the harm to our children and the people of New Zealand from substance use, we would take the ridiculous amount of money we are currently spending on prohibition and use it for proper education.
Most of us grow up not truly knowing the detrimental effects of alcohol, while still knowing effectively nothing about illegal drugs.
This needs to end. We need to put our opinions and taboos aside and educate based on scientific fact.
There needs to be a place where people can go to learn the facts about the substances they are choosing to take. Promote safe use to minimise harm.
We need to take a serious look in to our drug culture - alcohol included.
Changing a consumption age here, banning advertising there, is not solving the problem.
Let us be leaders in the field of drug harm reduction.
The statistics will prove it to the rest of the world.
Let us not live under fear of incarceration for the substances we choose to ingest.
Let us have a place our people can go to if they are addicted or in trouble without fear of imprisonment.
Let us have an educated society.
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