What we know is that the War on Drugs has been a catastrophic social and financial failure. If something like LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) can work in Seattle, there should be no reason it canâ€™t work throughout most of America. From the New York Times:
A 2017 peer-reviewed study found that drug users assigned to LEAD were 58 percent less likely to be rearrested, compared with a control group. Participants were also almost twice as likely to have housing and 46 percent more likely to be employed or getting job training than they had been before entering LEAD.
LEAD isnâ€™t cheap â€” it costs about $350 per month per participant to provide case managers. But it is cheaper than jail, courts and costs associated with homelessness. As a result, this approach has spread rapidly around the country, with 59 localities now offering LEAD initiatives or rolling them out.
Iâ€™ve long been in favor of decriminalization of lesser drugs like marijuana. Iâ€™m a lot more ambivalent about harder drugs, both because of the moral implications of a society saying, â€œDestroying yourself with drugs is okay by us!â€ and the need to hold accountable those people who manufacture and distribute these life-destroying substances.
But LEAD is the right path. Addiction is a hell of thing. Iâ€™ve never heard of a hard drug user who didnâ€™t regret their decision. It seems obvious that treatment not incarceration is the solution, particularly from the vantage point of decades of law enforcement failure. Surely we have nothing more to lose in trying.