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Editorial: Allow drug-use

Many Florida officials are planning to combat a proposed amendment to Florida’s Constitution that would allow first- and second-time drug offenders the right to treatment instead of jail time. However, this amendment is one that could greatly help Florida’s justice system and free jail space, as well as save taxpayers money. It is the lawmakers’ duty to give their constituents an opportunity to vote on the amendment.

The proposed amendment would not pertain to people arrested for dealing drugs or committing violent crimes. The law is meant to alleviate the court system and jails of first-time offenders who would instead receive a mandatory drug treatment sentence. Similar laws have already been implemented in California and Arizona.

Opponents of the bill, such as Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Tim Moore, worry that the amendment is “yet another attempt to legalize drug abuse in Florida.” However, the bill would not legalize drug use, nor would it downplay its abuse. Instead, this law would acknowledge that drug offenders are different kinds of criminals who would not benefit from jail time, but treatment could end their drug abuse, thus keeping them out of jail on a long-term basis.

Other opponents are worried that drug offenders will get away with repercussions for their actions. But if the offender did not attend the treatment, then jail time should be given. Surely, after being arrested, if one is guilty, he or she should not be able to walk away without any punishment or treatment.

The bottom line is that many Floridians may want to give drug offenders the option of treatment, especially if it could save them money by keeping them out of jail. Arizona is a prime example, as a study released in 1999 by the state Supreme Court revealed more than $6 million in prison costs was saved by sending drug offenders to treatment.