The Failure of the War on Drugs

This was originally published on in June 2008.

This is an expanded version of the Sounding Off segment I did on the War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs is a complete and utter failure.

Personally, I think everyone should be allowed to use drugs, either for medical or recreational purposes as long as they are held responsible for the consequences of their actions. That is, they should be held accountable for any actions done while under the influence just as if that person were held accountable for anything done while not under the influence. What a person does in the privacy of their own home should not be imposed with any government regulations. The only time the government, the police actually in this case, should be involved is when they are arresting and convicting people that do harm to other people while under the influence (or not under the influence as the case might be).

The government should not be involved in an individual using a drug for whatever purposes they are using it for anymore than they should be regulating the right of someone to eat trans-fat. If someone wants to ruin their body, that is their decision. We don’t need the government telling us that we have to be healthy. This is the same as cigarette smoking. People know that it is bad for them. They know that in the end it is very likely that it will kill them. Yet they choose to smoke anyway. But that is their decision, they choose to smoke. The government has not instituted any bans on people smoking, except in the cases where they are regulating where a person can smoke. So if the government does not ban cigarette smoking, or ban alcohol, knowing full well that they are both bad for people’s health, why would they even bother banning drug use?

I’m not saying that drug use is a good thing by any stretch of the imagination. Drugs are certainly not okay. I know what they can lead to. However, I do not think that the effects of narcotics are any worse than alcohol for instance. In some ways even, alcohol, which is still legal, is more a danger to society than drugs are. But if I am sitting at home, minding my own business, smoking a joint, eating some Twinkies and watching television, how is that hurting anyone? I did not rob anyone to get the money to purchase the weed. The fact is that it is not hurting anyone else. The government has no right to tell me that I can’t smoke crack in my own home. The government has no right to get involved in it unless I were to smoke crack and than go rob a liquor store, which I could have done anyway if I had not smoked crack in the first place.

Solving the drug problem in our country should never begin with government prohibition. We have seen the effects of prohibition in the early 20th century. It didn’t stop people from drinking. The crime raise more than tripled. The amount of violent crime doubled. It gave rise to gang warfare and more police corruption. It didn’t work, pure and simple. It just seems natural that by keeping drugs illegal, drug users are more likely to commit crimes in order to get money to finance their habit, hence more crime. The way to solve the drug abuse problem today is not by prohibition it, but by education and assistance groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous of Narcotics Anonymous.

On top of that, we certainly cannot trust the government to reduce the flow of drugs into our country. How could they possibly think they could do this when they can’t even keep people from getting drugs while they are in prison! And keep in mind that this is the same government that can’t keep immigrants from entering the country illegally.

Personally, I think we would all be better of if the government were to de-criminalize narcotics across the board and stop the prosecution of non-violent drug offenders. In addition to that there should be an automatic pardoning of all prisoners currently serving prison time for non-violent drug crimes. These cases are a burden on our court and prison systems. As of 1996, 60% of prisoners were drug-related criminals. We could free up much needed time and space in both by stopping the criminalization of drugs and devoting that time toward putting violent criminals away for good. In fact, there is a good chance that violent crime would decrease anyway given that a lot of the violent crime today is drug-related anyway. So with that in mind, there would be no need to build more prisons to house these criminals, just keep the prisons we have to house the real criminals.

The funding used toward the War on Drugs is absolutely ridiculous. Not only is has the war on drugs failed by loading up legal and prison systems, but it is a complete waste of taxpayer money. As of a report of federal expenditures in 2005, the government spends approximately $55 billion a year on the war on drugs. Let us break some of these costs down a bit. It costs the taxpayers approximately $450,000 to put one drug dealer in jail. $150,000 of that goes toward the arrest and conviction. The cost for providing a bed for that person is anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000, depending on jurisdiction. It costs roughly $30,000 a year to house that offender. Now keep those numbers in mind and think about this. In 2006, there were close to 100,000 people arrested just for cannabis law offenders. That’s a pretty large bill just for providing the funds to arrest these people. Consider that this $55 billion spent per year is expected to increase by a billion dollars every year. Imagine the amount of good that could be done with that money if not spent on drug control.

So in conclusion, I call for an immediate de-criminalization of all drugs across the board. I call for the automatic pardoning of all prisons serving time for non-violent drug offenses. I call for the immediate dismantling of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (whose salary budget alone by the way is $11.5 million). I call for the government to cut all drug control efforts out of the annual national budget and either re-direct those funds to a more noble, more worthy cause or put that money back into the deficit. I call ultimately for the end of government regulation in all areas of drug control policy.

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