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Tough Legal Penalties Do Nothing For The Opiate Epidemic

Drug abuse and crime go hand and hand. As drugs infiltrate suburban communities, crime has followed and gone up significantly. In the state of Maine, harsh penalties for drug possession offenses have failed to curb the opiate epidemic. Currently in the state of Maine, drug possession charges are felonies. The states tough laws against drugs has created over crowded jails and has branded those drug offenders for life with a criminal record.

The effectiveness of harsh penalties on drug possession has shown to be completely ineffective. In fact, all it has done is create deeper issues. Someone who is addicted to a drug will do whatever it takes to feed their addiction. If they become a convicted felon for a small amount of a controlled substance, they may not be able to get a job. This weighs heavy on the addict who wants to get clean but is fighting a treacherous battle to save their life with the reality that their future is tarnished. It is hard enough to get clean, but if you know that you will not be able to find work to support yourself, that is another hurdle that will need to be climbed in order to survive.

Most jails and prisons do nothing for personal growth or recovery. Many abusers will get out of jail and go directly back to using again. The reality is that harsh penalties create harder grounds for people to get clean and may even make addiction worse.

In Maine, a bill sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, would push for reducing the first offense for simple possession of the most addictive drugs from either a Class B or C felony, (where it is grouped with other, more destructive acts), to a Class D misdemeanor. This will allow abusers a future when they become clean. The overall goal for all those involved is to have people turn their lives around and move forward. They should not have to live with the burden of a felony because they were addicted to a drug.

Living with a felony record is tough. The job market has been atrocious since the economy crashed in the late 2000's and those who are unable to find work will turn to the state for help. This in turn costs the state more money for welfare and food stamps. Dropping charges to a misdemeanor should have a direct effect on these programs and will allow people a second chance at a sober life.


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