During Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, candidate Andrew Yang voiced his support for decriminalizing opioids and safe injection sites to combat the United States’ current drug crisis. In a post-debate interview with FOX News, Shannon Bream questioned Yang about whether his plan will be allowing addicts to continue down their self-destructive spiral “with no hope of recovery.”
“The reality is that our communities are struggling with this right now, and the criminal law as deterrent is not working,” he said.
“We have to face facts. Eight Americans are dying of drug overdoses every hour right now in this society, so whatever we’re doing right now is not working.”
The 44-year-old serial entrepreneur said that the government “had a hand in creating” the current opioid epidemic and suggested that addicts should not be suffering alone.
“And so saying it’s on the individual to recover from addiction when we know these addictions are life-destroying — it’s very, very hard to come back — we need to give people a fighting chance.”
Yang ended the conversation by highlighting the success that other countries have had with similar decriminalization policies in reducing both the use and abuse of drugs as well as overdoses.
Per NPR, Portugal’s decriminalization policy has been successful because it treats addiction as a medical issue instead of a crime. Under the 2001 decriminalization law, drug dealers are still sent to prison. However, addicts that are caught with small amounts for personal use, less than a 10-day supply of any drug, are sent to counseling with government sociologists who then determine if they need medical treatment at a drug treatment center.
"We need to decriminalize opiates for personal use, we have to let the country know this is not a personal failing, this was a systemic government failing." #DemDebate #YangGang #opioidcrisis pic.twitter.com/IFp7c36UVB— Andrew Yang???? (@AndrewYang) October 16, 2019
According to sociologist Nuno Capaz, treating addicts is cheaper than sending them to prison. Not only that, Portugal has seen an 85 percent drop in the overdose death rate since the decriminalization law. Portugal lost just 20 people to opioid overdoses last year — a number far less than the staggering 70,000 in the United States, The Hill reports.
In another post-debate interview, Yang was questioned about what voters are asking him about the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. Despite the issue taking up a reported 14 minutes of time during the debate, Yang suggests that he hasn’t received any questions about the process since it began. According to Yang, voters are more interested in how politicians are going to improve their lives than the drama in Washington.
Yang is currently 7th in the polls and has qualified for the November debate, which has yet to receive an air date.