December 24, 2017

What Calfornia learned abut the drug war

Yes Magazine - The U.S. rate of deadly drug abuse is 7.5 times higher than that of the 24 other wealthiest countries in the world, accounting for four-fifths of all drug deaths among developed nations.

... The U.S. ranks worst by far among all 88 nations for which the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime produces reliable drug death figures. We represent only 14 percent of all 88 nations’ populations ages 15-64 but account for 59 percent of all drug deaths, a level nearly nine times higher than in other countries.

...  This grim “American exceptionalism” is getting worse. Provisional 2016 figures from the Centers for Disease Control show a record 21 percent leap in drug deaths to over 65,000 in the latest 12 months.But there have been some hopeful developments in California, a state that has occupied both extremes of the drug crisis.

In the 1960s and ’70s, California’s rates of drug arrests and deaths from illicit drugs were staggering, double to triple the national average. By 2016, the state’s rate of drug arrests had fallen to only slightly above the national average and its rate of drug deaths had fallen to 40 percent below that level.
... In 1999, California shifted away from arrest and incarceration and toward decriminalization and community-based treatment. Imprisonments for drug offenses plunged 90 percent through 2015.
While California displays the best trends of any state in deaths from illicit drugs, there’s a big generational catch: Californians ages 45 and older die from and get arrested for illicit drugs at much higher rates, and younger Californians at much lower rates, than their respective counterparts elsewhere, according to FBI and CDC data.

Younger Californians are composed of higher Latino and Asian populations with high proportions of recent immigrants. California teenagers in particular—now allowed decriminalized access to marijuana the same as adults—show sharply lower crime, drug offenses, violence, shootings, suicides, school dropout, and unwanted pregnancy rates than before drug policy reforms.

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