Human beings matter more than drugs

Transferring illegal drugs wrongly bears stricter punishments than transferring humans.

Samantha Gassaway

According to federal law, the purchase, selling or transferring of drugs off the legal market results in two to five years in prison at the minimum. Some convicts face 35-to-life depending on the severity of crime, length of time dealing, amount of substance and type of substance carried.


Compare this with the average punishment for trafficking humans—the forced transfer of a person or persons for commercial profit based on the product of their behavior. Again, depending on the severity, age of victims and number of victims trafficked, convicted felons face anywhere from a fine to a maximum sentence of 20 years.

If those punishments seem backwards to you, I urge you to call your congressional representative and demand this to change. While non-violent marijuana dealers from New Orleans sit in prison over a half-ounce found in their car, child rapists and those who traffick minors are regularly released with nothing more than a fine.

This unequal punishment sheds light on the ugly reality of how our society places the value of human life below that of America’s racist, outdated picture of a scapegoat criminal: the young black male wearing a hoodie and carrying—God-forbid—an ounce of weed.

It is idealistic and naive to assume this corruption is exclusive to America. Rather, it is a worldwide issue. The United States needs to do better, and it is possible—in Ireland, human trafficking can be punished with a life sentence. However, in Poland, it is only up to 15 years. In Nicaragua: 14 years maximum. In Columbia, it ranges up to 23. These are countries the world considers top achievers in legal punishments of human traffickers.

Human trafficking became criminalized in the U.S. for the first time in 2003 by the state of Washington. Fifteen years later, the rest of the country—as well as the world—began legally pursuing punishments for human trafficking in earnest. The drug market became criminalized and legally bound with the Controlled Substances Act and the War on Drugs of the 1970s.


Senior music major Alyssa Miller is president of Biola’s Breaking Chains, an on-campus initiative to combat human trafficking through awareness and advocacy.

“By the time that these perpetrators are released, survivors of their injustice are likely still alive and in the area… this is immensely dangerous for survivors were supposedly safe,” Miller said in an email statement. “Anyone can be a trafficking victim. Anyone. There is no segment part of the population that is immune.”

Many specific people groups in the U.S. fall prey to the ploy of traffickers, however. Signs on how to spot the trafficking of people have become widespread, and efforts continue to protect and defend underprivileged people who may feel they have no other option. For instance, airports and bus stations have begun abiding by a federal campaign to rescue trafficked persons during transport: advertisements in airport bathroom stalls and behind bus seats for victims to reach out when they have a moment of opportunity.

“Vulnerable populations are much more likely to be approached by a trafficker. For example, foster children are a particularly vulnerable population that are approached very often by traffickers. This already vulnerable group of people are further taken advantage of by perpetrators who care more about the money they can make off of them,” Miller said in an email statement.

We, as humanity in general, have historically cared more about substances people choose to put into their bodies than the health and livelihood of trafficked and targeted minorities and youth. Now that we recognize this as an egregious oversight in our legal system, it has to change.

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