I was a teenager when the “War on Drugs” first began with President Richard Nixon. I knew then, just as I know now, that it would be a failed war. The number of people who are currently in the nation’s prisons should jolt the public to do something. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and much of that population are folks who were arrested due to drug possession.

If the “War on Drugs” had been successful, the rates of incarceration would have decreased. But, prohibition and punishment have not been successful. Billions of dollars have been spent on that failed “war.”

There is an opportunity to change, and it must happen.

This is a public health issue. It is time for some sensible drug policies that focus on putting people first. Instead of having mandatory minimums for drug possession, this nation should move toward decriminalization. Instead of shaming people who use drugs, move toward more compassionate forms of lawmaking, such as overdose prevention sites that save lives, save money and reduce stigma.

This nation is at a crossroads, and it is time to move forward — to do something to save lives.

Maine can do something in the next legislative session. Lawmakers can pass compassionate policies that address the issues by using science, health and human rights to support people, rather than declare war on fellow citizens.

It is time.

Sidney Pew, East Andover

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