Many people in Bergen County see drugs in two very different lights. On one side are the poor, innocent individuals who became hooked on drugs. On the other are the horrible people responsible for getting people hooked on drugs and who are picked up by police on drug charges. Of course, these are simplifications and rarely do individuals actually fall in one camp or the other, but the message is clear: those who are charged with drug crimes are to be punished and those who are addicted to drugs are to be pitied.
The problem is, however, that many of those people who are charged with drug crimes are also addicted to drugs. Many of them are caught with the drugs they need to feed an addiction they cannot break. And, unfortunately, the criminal justice system will not always provide them with the help they need to kick their addiction.
With this in mind, the news that heroin addiction is on the rise in New Jersey may also mean a rise in drug possession charges. What is worse is that it is very easy to move from drug possession charges to drug possession with the intent to sell. Maybe it is a bit too much heroin, maybe it is a scale, maybe it is just baggies, but the jump between charges means a significant increase in severity of punishment.
Are drugs a problem in New Jersey? Yes, but that doesn't mean they are a criminal problem. Rather, helping people fight the addictions they would rather not have could go a lot further to ending drug use than prison time.
Source: Cincinnati Enquirer, "Across the US, an explosion of addiction," James Pilcher and Lisa Bernard-Kuhn, June 15, 2014