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67% Favor Treatment over Prosecution for Heroine, Cocaine Use

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

Much of the discussion pertaining to drug policy in America focuses on Cannabis and the various uses of marijuana and hemp. A growing majority of Americans now support the legalization of hemp for industrial purposes and marijuana for medical and recreational use. However, people seldom talk about the harder drugs, the drugs that will likely never be legalized (at least not in the foreseeable future), but can lead to users serving serious time behind bars -- like cocaine and heroine.



According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of Americans -- an overwhelming two-thirds of the population -- believe the government should devote more resources to providing treatment for people who use illegal drugs (including heroine and cocaine) as opposed to prosecuting and incarcerating these people. Only 26 percent -- less than a third -- said the government should make prosecuting users the priority, while 7 percent of respondents said they were not sure.

The move away from mandatory sentences by some states is also looked on favorably by the public, and by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. Sixty-three percent say it is a good thing that some states are eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, while 32 percent disagree.

While the survey did not focus specifically on harder drugs only, it is an aspect of U.S. drug policy we never talk about because a majority of Americans are likely to agree that these drugs should remain illegal. Many of these same people, on the other hand, argue that marijuana is less harmful to a person than alcohol. Even the president said this, but the White House quickly backtracked on those comments.

According to Pew, 69 percent of Americans believe alcohol is more harmful to a person's health than marijuana, and 63 percent believe alcohol is more harmful to society as a whole. Society has gotten to a point where jail time for small possession charges is far from being a partisan issue. Sixty-nine percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats agree that people convicted of minor possession should not have to serve jail time.

Many states are gradually reforming their own laws on possession and use. In fact, what many people may not know is that 40 states took some action to ease their drug laws between 2009 and 2013. An increasing number of states are considering legalizing marijuana not only for medical purposes, but recreational use as well. It is likely only a matter of time before the federal government revisits its classification of illegal substances.

Read the full report from Pew here.

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