An acquaintance of mine buried his son today. No official cause of death has been released to verified media, but if social media is accurate, then this young man died because he took oxycontin that had been laced with fentanyl. He was 21 years old. My heart breaks for his family. If you’re a student of mine, I beg you: don’t use illegal drugs.
My acquaintance’s son should not have taken an illegal drug. One could argue that the young man was the criminal as well as the victim. However, if you count him as a criminal, then he should not be the only one who pays for his crime. Each person who played a role in this tragedy, from the people who manufactured the drug to the network of people who worked together to deliver it to him, has his blood on their hands.
Cases like this justify the hesitance of cultural conservatives to treat drug crimes as victimless crimes or as worthy of lower levels of prosecution because they are “nonviolent.” Nobody wants addicts to rot in jail for decades for misdemeanor possession charges, or to be denied adequate treatment while incarcerated. Whether you’re talking about a drug lord who cuts fentanyl into cocaine to maximize profit, or a junkie who shoplifts to offset the cost of his habit, you’re talking about people who make life more dangerous and expensive for the rest of us.
Of course, lots of uncaught “criminals” make life expensive for the rest of us: people who don’t pay their taxes, or purchase automobile insurance, or make sure that their children are properly vaccinated before sending them to school, offer case studies in selfishness.
But drug crimes, because their tentacles reach so far into so many facets of so many lives, seem particularly sensitive. What policies should the state adopt that would address these problems in a just and compassionate manner? How should the state balance treatment and punishment?
What must we do to prevent more graveside services like the one today?