Many Minnesota residents, particularly young people, struggle with substance abuse issues. Currently, our country is facing an opiate epidemic. Synthetic drugs are also often easily obtainable for drug users. And the use of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana continues.

But while such disturbing trends continue, the criminal justice system generally treats drug users as criminals rather than individuals in need of help. There are officials in Minnesota who feel there is a need for a new approach. Many of them feel that the costly war on drugs has been unsuccessful.

The threat of imprisonment is not a deterrent

There is a need to reevaluate the way the justice system prosecutes drug users. The best strategy is not to simply throw drug offenders in jail. A better approach may be to get them the help they need.

Besides enforcement, such an approach would involve treatment and education. This approach would include finding those struggling with drug use the resources to help to overcome their addiction issues.

In a recent posting in The Crime Report, a northern Minnesota judge discussed the drug issues she sees in court. She spoke of the awareness of users concerning the risks associated with opiates. “They are willing to risk death. Why do we think risking prison is going to be some kind of motivating deterrent?”

Please note that the right answer is not always enrolling individuals into drug treatment programs. Every circumstance is different. As one police officer stated, sometimes it is as simple as locating stable housing for potential drug users.

Attorneys of alleged drug offenders need to explore all legal options suitable for those they represent.