There's a lot of gossip about drug decriminalization since Massachusetts lawmakers will be debating the advantages and disadvantages soon. So it's important for you to have the facts and it's essential you understand the difference between drug decriminalization and legalization.

The truth is the devil's in the details, but for the sake of this article, decriminalization is the lessening or termination of criminal penalties, meaning the legal system wouldn't prosecute a person for possession under a specified certain amount. Obviously, a large-scale drug bust isn't covered under a law like this.

So why even talk about any benefits of changing the law, if society says it's wrong to do drugs? I'll give you both sides of that argument, and you be the judge.

The residents of Oregon voted to decriminalize most everything from cannabis to heroin because they claim they were tired of decades of failed drug war policies and their costs; they were tired of putting addicts in jail instead of rehab hospitals and long term programs, and because they were sick and tired of the old way of thinking under a nanny state, and wanted to reflect a new shift in changing social and moral views, allowing adults to make their own decisions.

Oregonians said they'd rather take all the money used for prosecuting and incarcerating addicts, and use it instead to build much-needed rehab centers.

Contrarily, those who are against decriminalization believe it only makes the ongoing drug problem much worse, and that without harsh, iron-fisted penalties, more people will use drugs recreationally and eventually become full-blown addicts. They maintain it's the wrong message to send, especially to our youth.

In the weeks ahead, I'll keep you briefed as to where this legislation is going in Massachusetts, and I'll also continue to give you the pros and cons. Also, as a recovering alcoholic, I'll share with you a different perspective in the near future.

But in the meantime, my articles will be directed to educate you on the issues and to focus on getting legitimate information from both sides, so when the time comes for a vote on Beacon Hill, you'll be prepared to make a well-informed decision.

Let me just say, while our legislators debate this, the word from the White House is that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are looking to decriminalize marijuana nationwide.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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