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The ‘Decriminalizing’ Conversation

As more candidates take center stage for the 2020 presidential election, addiction continues to be a hot topic. And rightly so, as America’s opioid epidemic is claiming tens of thousands of lives each year. Democratic hopeful Andrew Yang made headlines this week, in fact, by offering a “decriminalization” approach to heroin and fentanyl.

At a CNN Town Hall, Yang spoke boldly about removing jail sentences from those who are found with small amounts of opioid-related substances. Though he actually has little political experience, the startup vet and entrepreneur has picked up a lot of attention for his aggressive stance on addiction.

In Yang’s opinion; treatment is the answer to curbing this crisis, not incarcerations.

“We need to decriminalize opiates for personal use,” Yang explained from the CNN stage. “This crisis is a plague that has reduced Americans’ life expectancy and surpassed deaths from car crashes as a leading cause of death. Worst of all, the federal government was complicit in enabling this opioid epidemic, standing by while pharmaceutical companies dispensed drugs like Oxycontin as a non-addictive wonder drug and leaving Americans to deal with the aftermath.”

Yang then went on to reference countries like Portugal, which have decriminalized opioids for personal use. In these instances, the criminal elements have also been removed; reducing the risk for tainted or laced substances.

He then touched on his longtime support for the decriminalization of marijuana and how that movement has now gained mainstream attention. Referencing states like Colorado and our own California, he showed examples of growing economies and the removal of “criminal elements.” Also, in his opinion, the aftermath has not led to the disastrous consequences that skeptics predicted.

But above all, health and longevity were the key points emphasized most in his decriminalization speech. Yes, not sending people to jail can save taxpayer dollars and avoid overcrowding. More importantly though, getting these people into treatment will ultimately save more lives.

For the record, Yang still has a way to go to be on same presidential playing field as veterans like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, but he is gathering a loyal base of tried and true followers (many from the recovery community).

We are certainly curious to see this epidemic take center stage as the debates and primaries draw closer. Hopefully, candidates like Yang will, at the very least, keep open minded recovery approaches at the forefront of this conversation.

To see more of Andrew’s speech, watch the live Tweet below…