The Failed War On Drugs
It’s hard some times for policy makers to admit when a program has failed, but now is that time. Reading Derek’s post on legalizing marijuana as a way to solve the budget crisis convinced me to look up the ‘War on Drugs’. One look at the statistics for drug use in America and this failure should become immediately obvious. The War On Drugs has been a failure because it has failed to reduce drug use in America, has created a large vibrant criminal industry, costs the tax payers far more than ever imagined, and most of the ‘criminals’ we’ve caught are guilty of nothing more than Marijuana use.
The incidence of illicit drug use has stagnated or increased for nearly all population groups over the last few decades. You would assume then that we would see the results of this increased drug use in some measurable way. However, research shows that more people will die from adverse reactions to prescription medication than will die from illicit drug use. OK, perhaps these drug users aren’t dieing but they aren’t successful are they? Well yes, drug users can be successfull. However, much like alcohol users, the effect these drugs have can vary wildly person to person. We let alcohol users, who are responsible for more deaths per year than illicit drug users, decide if and how much they should drink. Why not apply the same rules to drugs as are applied to alcohol?
What about drug culture?
Some people may want to point out the cultures that have grow up around the use, manufacture, and distribution of illicit drugs as being a public nuisance and something worth getting rid of. We need only look to the Prohibition Movement in the U.S. as an example of how to solve these culture problems. During prohibition the U.S. saw a marked rise in racketeering, a vibrant black market for alcohol, and the rise of a number of violent criminal organizations. When prohibition was repealed the black market for these good’s dried up almost immediately because criminals could not make alcohol cheap enough, high quality enough, or in large enough quantities to compete with legitimate businesses. Not to mention the value of the increased tax revenue the repeal of prohibition generated.
It costs how much?
Take a look at the Drug War Clock … 6 Billion Dollars PLUS has already been spent on the war on drugs this year. The question is, “Is there something else tax payers would be better off spending nearly 40 Billion dollars a year on?”.
The possibilities are endless…
The short answer is OF COURSE! We’ve talked before about Barak Obama’s New Deal style Stimulus Package and we’ve pointed out that while we may support some of these projects he has proposed, as a country we simply don’t have the funds for these projects. Wouldn’t it be great to see some of this money taken from this “War on Drugs” and instead directed into these proposed public works projects that will actually have sustained lasting value.
Perhaps we could spend more money on stopping real crimes that hurt other citizens? For instance, more than half of all violent crimes go unsolved and past drug arrest statistics show that our law enforcement agencies will imprison approx. 2 million people for drug related crimes this year, nearly a million of which will be for marijuana related crimes. If I were allowed to choose between 5 violent criminals on the street or 100 pot heads in my neighborhood I’d take the potheads every time.
Lets not forget, that no matter what we do with the money we will be saving far more than just the amount of money spent directly on the “War On Drugs” every year. We also get to reclaim most of the 6 billion dollars spent to imprison drug related criminals.
Why aren’t lawmakers changing these laws?
According to a survey in 2008 75% of citizens believe the war on drugs is failing. Unfortunately, 75% of those believe the way to begin ‘winning’ the war on drugs is to treat users, educate youth, stop illegal importation of drugs, etc. It’s clear, voters know the war on drugs is failing but they are still disillusioned enough to believe this is a war that we can, and need to, win. As long as the voters are of blind to the failure and allow their own distaste for drug use to get in the way of rational thinking our lawmakers have no reason to stop dumping money into this black hole.