Critical look at Wisconsin’s Opioid Epidemic


The opioid epidemic is crippling our country… in this case our counties. A solution to this couldn’t be more necessary. The time is now to move on this issue, and while Governor Walker wants to keep creating arbitrary and meaningless positions wasting tax payer money studying this issue… The fact is, these studies have been done, and the impact of actually tackling this problem has nearly 2 decades worth of results. The Portuguese model has proven time and again to be the most effective way of addressing this.

While counter-intuitive as it may seem to some, the facts don’t lie. The fact is decriminalization of drugs and drug use is the most productive way to reduce every single category of issues associated with drug culture. It’s not a one solution approach though. In conjunction with decriminalization the perspective of our criminal justice system, the medical industry, and society as a whole needs to shift. One from incarceration to rehabilitation, a change from a criminal approach to a healthcare approach. “It is impossible to identify a casual link between decriminalization by itself and the positive tendencies we’ve seen… It’s a total package. The biggest effect has been to allow the stigma of drug addiction to fall, to let people to speak clearly and to pursue professional help without fear” Dr. João Goulão-architect of Portugal’s decriminalization policy.

Wisconsin is effected by this crisis all across the state, in my district, Winnebago county leads the Fox Valley in all heroin associated statistics. I call for the state to not legalize, but to decriminalize drug use across the board. The statistics are there. We can continue to bury our heads in the sand or we can take a stand. We can set an example for the rest of the country. We can be a leader again. Nearly 50% of inmates are in for drug offences. Our police resources are being consumed by something that by all rights, is not a crime. While actual criminals are still ravaging our streets. Children are still missing. Murders are going unsolved. No victim=no crime. The cost of housing these non violent “criminals” is draining our state budget (1.5 billion or about 7% of our total budget) more than all of our neighboring states. Why? Are there more criminals here? I highly doubt it. Half that expenditure could be eliminated by not incarcerating drug offenders and instead encouraging them to seek rehabilitation. Instead of locking them up they could be doing community service as part of their therapy, in turn helping their community. The individual would be far better served in a rehab program working to develop into a productive member of society rather than incarcerated where Wisconsin’s 3 year recidivism rate is 31%. Our tax dollars would be far better invested in a healthcare approach than wasted on locking up non violent offenders.

Ending the war on drugs is the solution to helping the user. Major criminal justice reform is needed to address this issue. Major healthcare reform is needed to address this issue as well. We can not arrest our way out of this problem. Arrest one dealer, 4 more take his place now competing for that market. This has a two sided effect, one it drives down costs which makes it accessible to more people, and it spreads the market out further. Second, the war on drugs has forced this underground and onto the black market where violence is an easy option to secure your market. Gang violence is a direct result of the war on drugs.

How to help a user deserves a real conversation and as a state, that’s all we can focus on but that doesn’t solve the problem. As a country we need to address this at the source. The source isn’t the guy on the corner either. The source isn’t his supplier and it isn’t Mexico. Afghanistan supplies 90% of the entire world’s opiates. Our war in Afghanistan has gone on for the better part of 2 decades seeing a 33 fold increase in opiate production since our invasion. It created an environment that, in many facets, forced the farmers of Afghanistan to grow Poppies. It also created a direct pipeline back to America and now to each and every one of our neighborhoods. Until that pipeline is closed and American interests withdrawn from Afghan poppy fields this crisis can not be solved. The correlation between our invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of opiate usage in America is quite clear.

None of this is working for us. Let’s try something different. Let’s bring a libertarian perspective to our state capitol to keep this insanity in check.