I applaud all efforts to decriminalize drugs at the state level and nationally because I see the ways that criminalization and demonization of drugs can affect the treatment of addiction diseases in this country. Today I will discuss a number of states that have now legalized marijuana. The vast majority of people who work at the best drug rehabs around the country, including Florida, understand that the criminalization of drugs has had devastating effects on the lives of people with substance use disorder and the lives of people with family or friends with addiction problems. That is a huge web of affected people. Often times, I speak about the devastating effects that drug criminalization has had on urban and rural populations, but with millions of Americans suffering from substance use disorder, the ill effects cross all demographic lines. Many times people who are educated on the disease of addiction and gain a full view of the issues surrounding addiction, regardless of political affiliation, are able to see the issue more similarly to the way that the medical and recovery establishments see the issue.
As I explained yesterday when discussing the benefits of the Oregon ballot measures, starting several decades ago, and ramping up in the mid-1990s, doctors around the country began to prescribe opiate pain killers at unprecedented rates, and we already had huge alcohol and cocaine addiction epidemics ongoing. We know from many research studies that many people who are prescribed opiates by a doctor even one time will develop a substance use disorder. The people mainly at risk of becoming addicted are people with a family history of a substance use disorder, such as an alcoholic parent or grandparent, and people who experience some form of psychological trauma during childhood or adulthood. Both of those groups are very large and include millions of Americans. When a doctor prescribes someone a powerful pain killer like Oxycontin, which happened millions of times over since the 1990s, many people will develop Opioid Use Disorder or Substance Use Disorders in general, and many of those doctors, starting roughly 15 years ago, started to be pressured to end the practice of prescribing large amounts of opioids for acute and chronic pain. Five states legalized marijuana in this 2020 election cycle. They are Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, South Dakota, and Mississippi. Mississippi only legalized medical cannabis in a very limited way, and access to be very narrow in that state, but the others did sweeping legalization that includes recreational marijuana, with every state doing things a bit differently when it comes to the details. As I have said before, most people who seek treatment for substance use disorder do not consider marijuana their drug of choice, but many people with addiction diseases have been prosecuted for marijuana-related offenses, and getting rid of that possibility is a large step in the right direction. That is to say nothing of the fact that legalizing marijuana is a huge step in criminal justice law reform.
As I said, many people who become more educated on this topic are able to support ballot measures like the ones that passed in these five states. That is true across party lines, so my hope is that regardless of who is in power we keep seeing meaningful steps towards full decriminalization of non-violent victimless drug offenses. Democrats have been more open to this way of thinking historically, with Republicans being considered by some the party of law and order and the anti-marijuana party. However, if that was ever true, it seems to be changing as none of these five states are particularly strong liberal states, and Montana, South Dakota, and Mississippi are three of the most Republican-leaning states in the country. I cannot speak for all of my colleagues at the best drug rehabs in Florida and Alabama, but I can say that these ballot measures have continued to receive strong support from major mainstream medical professional organizations.
By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at TACannonWriting@gmail.com)