Prosecutors in Seattle are taking a bold new approach to drugs in which drug use is viewed as a public health crisis rather than a crime.
Under the “peace on drugs” policy introduced last September by Dan Satterberg, prosecuting attorney of King County, Washington, individuals caught with less than one gram of any drug are not prosecuted.
Instead of arrest, police confiscate the drugs and present addicts with offers for counseling, rehab, and housing.
“If you believe it’s a disease, you should treat it like it’s diabetes or cancer,” says Satterberg, whose views on addiction changed after watching his younger sister overcome a heroin addiction. “We shouldn’t arrest people and put them in jail because they are sick.”
Satterberg hopes the policy will stop the “revolving door” effect for addicts: drug users who are arrested and prosecuted only to end up back on the street when they are released.
Supporters view the approach as a humane alternative to former policies that expanded prison populations, wasted taxpayer dollars, and devastated minority communities.
“I want to continue this experiment,” says Satterberg. “We want to create an apparatus of help and support for people instead of just punishing, punishing, punishing.”
Opponents worry the program will make Seattle’s challenges with drug use, crime, and homelessness even worse, disincentivize addicts to get help on their own, and lead to an increase in overall drug use.
As it stands, Seattle’s homeless population is second only to New York and LA. Property crime is common and drug overdoses are increasing every year.
“I think that they should go ahead and prosecute people who have broken the law,” says Jodi Wilkie, a registered nurse and former GOP candidate for the Washington State Legislature who struggled with drug addiction before she had children.
“I realize how hard it is. It sometimes takes a few tries for people to get off whatever substance it is that they’re on, but I just don’t think that leniency is helpful.”
When asked if a peaceful approach would have helped her get sober, Wilkie explained that treatment only works when a person takes it seriously. “I think if you want to get sober you have to put your heart and soul into it and really embrace the sober lifestyle. You have to change all of your friends, your associates, everyone you know. It’s a lifestyle change. And if you’re not really all in, your chances of success are limited.”
Unfortunately Satterberg’s “peace on drugs” policy is not limited to Seattle. Attorneys in Boston and Philadelphia are considering a similar approach, five states have reclassified drug possession to a misdemeanor, and eleven states have legalized recreational marijuana.
In an era of unprecedented drug abuse, is a peaceful approach really the best answer?
Editor’s note: This is the remedy that liberals have been preaching for quite a while. The problem is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that the more drugs flow through society, the greater the rate of addiction. Even a tiny amount of drugs, given to someone who has never had it, can lead to addiction.