INTRO for YSO! "Drugs- Education and Legalization" March 4, 2012
We have grown up in an area strongly influenced by psychoactive substances, commonly called “drugs.” Mendocino County has been a leading producer of marijuana for more than 30 years. It is also an epicenter for America’s “war on drugs.” Recently it has been in the forefront of attempts to legalize the production of medical marijuana, which is legal through dispensaries in California.
Nearly everyone agrees that youth should not consume marijuana or other psychoactive substances, since they may have a detrimental effect on intellectual and personality development. Since youth have a natural tendency to want to emulate adults, inhibiting youth from using drugs is more of a problem in an area where drug use and marijuana cultivation is common among the adults. Educating youth about the potential consequences of substance use and abuse is something that hopefully begins at home and is supplemented at school. One of our topics today is how effective this education is in our local communities.
One way to protect people from the possible consequences of drugs is to make their use, sale, and manufacturing illegal. Alcohol was made illegal in the United States for over 10 years. During that period alcohol consumption declined but there was a dramatic rise in organized crime in cities where the cash crop was in huge demand. The repeal of Prohibition eventually ended the violence and untaxed profits that it had created.
The most common drugs sold illegally in America are marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, oxycodine, and ecstasy. They are all frequently available around Mendocino county. Police attempt to control the use of these drugs by arresting and incarcerating people found to be possessing, selling, or manufacturing them. Over 100,000 people are in federal prisons for drug related crimes, which is 50% of the entire federal prison population. Over 30,000 people are in California state prisons for drugs, nearly 20% of their population.
Some people have proposed the legalization of all drugs. They may believe that an approach to drugs based on prohibition and criminalization does not work, produces excessive rates of incarceration, and costs a lot of money that could be more productively spent on treatment and prevention. They may believe that that the government has no business telling people what they may and may not ingest- and point to the harm caused by legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol. Many believe that legalization would result in decreased crime from trafficking, gang wars, and crimes committed to obtain drugs.
For these reasons, Portugal shocked many by decriminalizing all drugs including, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Critics said that decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to "drug tourists" and exacerbate Portugal's drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. Under Portugal's new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail. After 7 years the results show that illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled. Also the number of street drug overdoses dropped by a third.
In the past few years the violence over drugs has skyrocketed in Mexico and throughout Central America. This is primarily due to the value of cocaine and marijuana being transported through their countries to be consumed in the United States. Their governments have called for a serious debate on the legalization of drugs to end the deadly reign of terror from the drug cartels. The President of Guatemala is going to propose decriminalizing drugs during next month’s Summit of the Americas in Colombia. In 2009 Mexico and Argentina decriminalized possession of small amounts of heroin, marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.
We think that the question of legalization would be a worthy topic to discuss today, alongside the question of drug education. Is there enough in the schools? Do people who get caught possessing drugs get useful information and guidance to prevent catastrophic substance abuse?
We will discuss these topics for around 30 minutes, then we will open the phone lines for your insights and questions. We are in the Willits studio and the phone number will be 707 456-9991. We will open those phones in about 30 minutes. Aaron, have you had much drug education at school?
We’re going to open the phone lines now. The phone number is 707 456-9991. Everyone is welcome to call, and we’d especially like to encourage the youth in the listening audience. Please call in if you have questions or insights about the drug education and the possibility of drug legalization.
How did you learn about drugs? Were your parents open to discussing drugs with you when you were in school? What kind of drug education did you receive in school? Was it helpful? Was it honest? If you were going to design a drug education program for the schools, what would it consist of? Do you believe that discussing drugs with young people might encourage them to experiment with them?
What should happen to teenagers caught in possession of illegal substances? Do you consider alcohol a drug threat to the youth in our community? Do you think that if young people learn to use alcohol in a responsible manner that they will avoid other drugs? Would alcohol prohibition reduce crime in our community?
Do you know what services are available to help people with substance problems in our community? Do you know anyone that they have helped?
What would happen if all drugs were legalized? Do you think that any drugs should be decriminalized? Which ones? Do you believe that the “war on drugs” is working?