Drug war proponents often justify stricter policies by citing rates of drug use, but this strategy paints a very limited picture, particularly when no distinction is made between problematic and non-problematic drug use. Some people who use drugs face serious physical and social problems, but many more experiment with or use drugs recreationally without experiencing serious health consequences. The hypocrisy of the drug war is also evident in policies that arbitrarily ban some drugs but allow others, like caffeine and alcohol. We believe strongly that an individual’s decision to use or not use drugs is a matter of personal choice and does not determine whether he or she is strong or weak, responsible or irresponsible, moral or immoral. No one should be punished for what they put in their bodies, absent harm to others, and all are entitled to their individual privacy.
Drug war advocates evaluate policy success almost solely according to slight fluctuations in reported drug use. Because this standard does not distinguish problematic from non-problematic drug use, it gauges very little about actual changes in harmful behavior or social wellbeing. It also fails to account for the social costs of drug war policies, including high incarceration rates, violence generated by the criminal market, the preventable spread of HIV and other infectious disease, and the loss of individual privacy and freedom.
While DPA does not encourage or advocate drug use, we are guided by the strong conviction that the decision to use drugs is a personal choice, not the business of the government or criminal justice system. DPA advocates for a compassionate, judgment-free approach to drug use that respects individual privacy and allows people who do want help for problematic drug use to access treatment without being stigmatized or enmeshed in the criminal justice system.