Andrew Yang Pushes For Decriminalization Of Opiates And Marijuana, Points To Portugal’s Drug Policy

Democratic presidential candidate, entrepreneur Andrew Yang speaks during the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention at the SNHU Arena on September 7, 2019 in Manchester, New Hampshire.
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During an interview with Krystal Ball on Hill.TV, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang pushed for decriminalizing opiates for personal use as well as marijuana. He pointed to Portugal’s approach to addiction — they have decriminalized possession of drugs for personal use and placed a focus on treatment — and suggested that the United States adopt a similar approach to combat the current crisis of addiction that is gripping America.

Per The Hill, Yang noted that many people prescribed the opioid Oxycontin often fall into more serious substance abuse problems when they can’t afford to purchase their prescription medications and turn to cheaper alternatives from the black market.

“At this point, you’ve had this Oxycontin addiction that has morphed into fentanyl and heroin, which are frankly more accessible and sometimes less expensive than the Oxycontin that started the addiction chain,” he told Hill.TV.

Yang has previously pushed for decriminalization of opiates as part of his campaign and highlighted the success of Portugal’s approach — there has been a decrease in drug deaths and increases in treatment. He has been clear in his belief that the War on Drugs has not worked and has multiple drug policy proposals.

As Ball wrote in an op-ed for The Hill, the War on Drugs has led to over 800,000 deaths in the past thirty years and costs more per year than providing free childcare to every American family. It’s also intertwined with criminal enterprises around the world, including drug gangs in Honduras and the Taliban.

“We have been attempting to end drug use through prohibition for more than 100 years, and yet here we are, with the worst addiction crisis in our nation’s history. It is time to admit this policy has failed. And while full decriminalization may seem radical, what’s truly insane is staying the course.”

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Back in April, Yang announced that he would pardon everyone who is jailed for a “low-level, non-violent marijuana offense” on April 20, 2021. He also said he would “high five” every pardoned American “on their way out of jail.”

Yang is currently tied in sixth place with Beto O’Rourke, both of whom have three percent support. He is set to appear in the October debate, although it’s unclear if he will qualify for the next round.

The 44-year old serial entrepreneur made headlines during the last debate when he announced he was giving 10 families $12,000 per year to mirror his campaign’s signature proposal — a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 per month for every American over the age of 18.