It’s a bold move, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in recent United States history: The state of Hawaii is on the cusp of decriminalizing ALL recreational drugs. If the resolution passes, Hawaii would become the first state to investigate alternative solutions for treating drug addiction other than just locking people up.
Instead of imprisoning drug users, Hawaii would look at the situation from a different angle. Drug users caught in a vicious cycle will be able to get professional help instead of fearing long-term imprisonment. Families, friends and support groups will be more empowered and able to create an environment of accountability that breaks the addiction and resets the priorities of drug users.
Hawaii lawmakers admit that incarceration isn’t working: “Despite a longstanding policy that enforces illicit drug prohibition and imposes some of the world’s harshest penalties for drug possession and sales, illicit drug use in the United States has been increasing,” states the resolution.
With drug use rising in the U.S., and with incarceration rates continuing to climb, the root of the problem isn’t really being dealt with. Criminalizing drug use has perpetuated hard drug abuse while creating heightened fear and violence where it is unnecessary.
A shift in how we approach drug addiction
For so long, all drugs have been treated in the same way, as something for law enforcement to use as evidence against people to lock them up. This doesn’t solve addictions or help people strive to have better priorities. There’s now growing support for looking at each substance for what it is, and how best to approach the problem on an individual basis. Instead of locking people up for possessing the cannabis plant, for example, resources could be better used helping people who are dependent on methamphetamine. Distinctions have to be made, and better approaches have to be used, other than violence and control.
That’s why Hawaii is looking to set up a commission to study the benefits of drug decriminalization. If the measure passes both chambers of the legislature, the state’s Legislative Reference Bureau would be activated to, “conduct a study on the feasibility and advisability of decriminalizing the illegal possession of drugs for personal use in Hawaii,” so that such conduct, “would constitute an administrative or civil violation rather than a criminal