Nobody missed when one of the most liberal states in the union, the State of California, legalized recreational marijuana. This move came after recreational marijuana was already legal in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. All over the state, and well outside of the state of California, cheers erupted: those in favor of the legalization were thrilled that they could enjoy marijuana without the worst legal repercussions.

Those against were understandably wary of what this might mean, and fearful of what they felt could lead to legislation that ultimately lend itself to the deterioration of their community. However someone or several someones may feel about investing government dollars into both rehab and other methods to control the drug epidemic, there is no disputing the facts that expanding drug treatment programs and choosing non-punishing methods plays a role in successfully suppressing new and increasingly virulent drug addiction.

Outside of the United States, other countries are changing their legislation to better address their issues with drug abuse and drug addiction. The wonderful part about a global effort to establish better policies and practices to assist people living with addiction is seeing the benefits of successful policy change after just a few short years. While a country as large as the United States will likely take longer to reflect change, it is absolutely pertinent to keep working toward a society where everyone is able to receive quality care when they’re experiencing health issues.

Some countries are moving forward with more liberal drug policies that place empathy over punishment, and the addicted persons living in those countries have shown steadier signs of improvement. In addition to improvements in the all-around reduction of drug abuse and addiction rates, treating addiction compassionately has always been shown to be more effective, and in the long run, much cheaper.

Drug Money

drug legalizationWhen recreational marijuana was legalized in Oregon, state officials anticipated that the state might see an extra two to three million in tax dollars – loose pocket change, if you know anything about economics, but still a good incentive. State officials were stunned to discover that the month of January in 2015, in the first year of legalization, took in over three million in tax dollars. By the end of the year, the State of Oregon had taken in around fourteen million dollars in tax dollars from the sale of legal marijuana, stunning the nation.

Colorado, too, refuses to be shy about the incredibly good progress made from tax dollars taken from legalized marijuana. During the 2017 – 2018 fiscal year, marijuana tax dollars brought an estimated 250 million dollars in state revenue. Roughly half of that money went to schools, a classic win for the state-wide education department.  What’s more, with legalized marijuana tax dollars repairing schools and their programs, as well as expanded access to birth control, teen girls and young women in Colorado have enjoyed a drastic reduction in the number of teen pregnancies – the rate of teen pregnancies in Colorado, across the board, dropped nearly 50% in less than ten years.

Successful stories of proper and thorough use of revenue garnered through the sale of legal recreational controlled substances gives some advocates hope for a more complete decriminalization of illicit drugs. While every illicit drug won’t be treated like marijuana, the tax dollars won’t necessarily remain within the state, either – Colorado has, on several occasions, donated to the rehabilitation of young offenders in other states.

Why Now?

Never before has there been a widespread understanding of addiction as a disease. Once widely regarded as a terrible choice by those with limited education on the topic, addiction is truly a disease that can require extensive, high-quality therapy. As Baby Boomers grow older, and Generation X ages, Millennials are able to meet Generation X when it comes to deeper knowledge of addiction as a disease. This means a whole new pool of voters, and a better-educated population that has a greater understanding than any generation before of the importance of treating addiction as the illness that it is.

This cultural shift, a direct result of better and more pervasive drug education, isn’t just limited to the United States – Mexico, for example, passed a federal law eliminating penalties for the possession of certain illicit drugs. Other countries have really jumped in, and taken big steps to assist their vulnerable population of addicted people.

Addiction Solution Leaders

One of the most interesting cases, actually, justifications, for more compassionate care as a means of suppressing the number of new cases of addiction is Portugal, the tiny country next door to Spain, and the main former colonial power of Brazil, a country also struggling with drugs, legalization, and allocation of tax dollars. In Portugal, the people lived under authoritarian rule through the 1970s. When the ruling government was ousted, and Portugal was struggling to catch up to the rest of the free world, heroin showed up to the party, and created a deep and immediate crisis of addiction that spread rapidly through the country. Overwhelmed by the high rate of use, and out of conventional options, the prime minister signed into the law the now-famous bill that decriminalized purchase, possession, and consumption of every drug. This automatically turned people who use drugs from felons to patients, and the priority with patients is always healing.

Never Underestimate the Power of Rehab

The tiny country of Uruguay is a surprise leader in the race against widespread addiction. In 1974, all drugs were decriminalised, and in 2013, cannabis was outright legalized for the entire country. The country took the extra step of keeping track of the rate of infection of diseases typically passed through intravenous needle sharing, noting that the number of new cases of HIV and Hepatitis dropped sharply after decriminalization. While those who love their cannabis rejoiced, there is a small problem in that Uruguay still has a little ways to go before they have a firmer grasp on what they need to protect their citizens from the effects of drug abuse.

Even with sufficient legalization and regulation, there are still some challenges to be won as the tiny country learns how to properly govern a people with these new freedoms. With the new freedom of being able to use drugs as you please without fear of legal retribution, people are less likely to engage in unnecessary risk.  Never forget that rehabilitation, while sometimes difficult, is a necessary step to free yourself from the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction.

Content for Scottsdale Recovery Center and Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best. www.cohn.media

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