COLUMN: Michigan should decriminalize all drugs


Michigan has a drug overdose problem, but there is a solution: decriminalize all drugs.

This may sound like a radical idea that will create more havoc than help. How could anyone suggest that people should be able to possess whatever substance they choose? Wouldn’t that only cause more drug overdoses? These are understandable concerns that can be easily answered.

Before any of those concerns can be answered, it’s important to explain the difference between decriminalizing drugs and legalizing them. Decriminalizing drugs means that people caught with small amounts of drugs would not face jail time or get it put on their criminal record, according to It means law enforcement would look the other way with small possessions.

That does not mean drugs are legal under this system. If law enforcement catches someone using substances, they will be given a fine instead of jail time, according to Drugs would not be legal to sell under this system. The ability to tax, regulate and sell them would come under full legalization. It’s not a radical concept when you dig into it.

Another question might be: why would this be beneficial to Michigan? 

The state has been dealing with record-high overdoses, specifically related to opioids. According to an article from the Detroit News, 1,941 of the 2,729 overdose deaths in 2017 were opioid-related, a record high for the state. This was an 8.7 percent increase in opioid related deaths from 2016.

But whether it’s opioid related or not, decriminalization can help lower the number of drug overdoses and the proof can be found in the country that successfully implemented it: Portugal. In 2001, Portugal became the first country ever to fully decriminalize all drugs in response to the country’s heroin addiction crisis, according to a Time article.

Since then, the drug-induced death rate has fallen five times lower than the E.U. average and HIV infection rates have plummeted, according to Time. The article also said that the number of people in jail related to drug crimes fell from 44 percent in 1999, to 24 percent in 2013.

If these results could be reached in Michigan, there is a large potential to save money by reducing the number of prisoners to care for and the police resources that would have been used to chase drug users.

But how come this system worked so well? When you have a system built on punishing people who suffer from drug addiction, they don’t tend to get what they really need: treatment. People who suffer from addiction need to be treated as patients so they can treat their addictions. Throwing them in prison will not get rid of their addictions, making them most likely to return to old habits when they leave.

Besides, the War on Drugs has no impact on drug use in the United States. According to an article from NBC News, researchers from Pew Charitable Trusts concluded that imprisoning drug offenders has no effect on drug use and drug-related deaths.

It should be clear by now that the War on Drugs has failed completely. Perhaps my solution is radical. But maybe at this point, we need a radical change to our state’s drug problem.