Accordingto a recently issued review of decades of archaeological research, humanshave used mind altering substances such as psilocybin mushrooms, opium, alcohol, etc. sinceprehistoric times for both medical and spiritual purposes. However, due to thestigma associated with drugs and the unfair associations of certaindemographics with these drugs they have remained illegal. Most drugs whenconsumed safely and responsibly are of little consequence to the user and posesno serious danger to their wellbeing.What isa drug?A drugis a substance that has an effect on the body or mind when consumed, differentdrugs have different effects due to their chemical structures.

For example,psilocybin mushrooms produce euphoric feeling and audio-visual hallucinationsin its users. Illegalisationof drugsThe initial anti-opium laws inthe 1870s were targeted at Chinese migrants. The initial laws against cocaineuse in the 1900s were targeted at black males in the American South. Theinitial laws against marijuana use, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the1910s and 1920s, were targeted at South American migrants and MexicanAmericans. Today, black and Latino populations especially, are still subject towildly disproportionate drug prosecution and sentencing practices.Failureof the drug warIn thelate 1960s and early 1970s, American president Richard Nixon declared the “waron drugs”. As a result, the authorities, the government, and even the U.S.

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military expanded their efforts to fight illicit drugs. John Ehrlichman, a top Nixon advisor later admitted,”Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” Blacks andHispanics and the “anti-war” left were the main targets of Nixons radical drug reform. In 2013 a study published in the British Medical Journal, foundthat in the United Kingdom, spite of efforts to limit the supply of drugs,since 1990 prices have fallen while the purity of drugs have increased. Thesetrends were comparable in the United States and in Europe.

The authorsconcluded: “These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling theglobal illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.” Theresearchers found that the prices (adjusted for inflation) of cocaine, cannabisand heroin fell by 80%, 86% and 81%, between 1990 and 2007 while average purityincreased by 11%, 161% and 60%, respectively.Portugal’s successIn2001, Portugal decriminalised the use of all drugs, they decided to treat the useand possession of these drugs in small quantities as a public health issueinstead of a criminal one.

The drugs however, remained illegal, but gettingcaught with small quantities meant only a small fine and perhaps a referral toa treatment program, you would not receive any jail time nor a criminal record.Recent statistics show that among Portuguese adults, there are a mere 3 drugoverdose deaths for every million citizens, this is compared to 10.2 permillion in Holland, 44.6 per million in the United Kingdom and 126.

8 permillion in Estonia, the average in the European Union is 17.3 per million. Itis clear from the statistics that decriminalisation has had a positive effectin Portugal, at least when compared to its neighbours in the EU.The success of theDutchThe OpenSociety Global Drug Policy Program published a report showinghow Holland has maintained low rates of HIV among people who use drugs andcomparatively low cannabis use among youth, while avoiding enforcement-heavy actionsof its neighbouring countries. Their report finds:Fewerarrests for minor drug offenses. In the United States, someone is arrested fordrug possession every 42 seconds. Citizens in Holland, much like Portugal, donot generally receive jail time or a criminal record for minor, nonviolentoffenses.

 According to report from 2005 there were 269 marijuanapossession arrests for every 100,000 citizens in the United States, 206 in theUnited Kingdom, 225 in France, and just 19 in the Netherlands.Drug use does not increase due to lighter enforcement.25.7% of Dutch citizens claimed to have used marijuana at least once, which is muchless when compared to the much stricter United Kingdom, in which the rate is30.2%. The United States is 41.%.

Dutch coffee shops generate roughly €400 million inannually in revenue, however, their main purpose are for social inclusion andpublic health. The Netherlands therefore invested heavily into prevention, treatmentand harm reduction.  ConclusionI believe that due to the evidence I have produced itis obvious that harsh punishments for minor drug crimes do not reduce the rateof drug consumption nor discourage drug dealers. Instead we should look intodrug treatment, harm reduction and educating the populous about safe drug use.Countries such as Portugal and Holland have proved this, I can only hope thatthe United Kingdom will be the next.