War on drugs costly to society, government
Common knowledge says drugs are generally bad: they’ll ruin your life, damage the community and contribute to crime.
But what if common knowledge is wrong? What if the most damaging aspect of drugs is the war against them?
A quick look at headlines from across the nation over the last few years shows a significant number of articles that detail botched drug raids, raids on legitimate businesses in states with medicinal marijuana laws, rising prison populations and criminal violence to protect drug revenues.
A majority of Americans agree that the drug war is a failure and something new needs to be done according to almost every poll on the subject.
Our prison population has boomed over the last 40 years, rising from 300,000 in 1972 to 2.3 million in the beginning of 2011, according to a Global Commission on Drug Policies paper. This makes America the No. 1 nation in the world for incarcerating citizens, topping even China and Russia.
The same paper identifies that we spend around $68 billion annually on incarcerations.
That doesn’t include the cost of increased police forces and more operations and equipment. Yet, even with an increase in enforcement, the percentage of our population that uses drugs has increased, and the drugs have gotten more dangerous.
When the drug war first began in the 1970s, the hardest drugs commonly available were heroin and LSD.
And then crack came into existence in the mid-80s. The mid-90s saw a surge in meth production and use, and the 2000s saw a wave of prescription drug abuse.
The most recent evolution of dangerous drugs in society came in the last couple of years with synthetic marijuana and bath-salts: two drugs that are clearly guilty of causing freak-outs, hospitalizations, murders and suicides. These two drugs were created as a way around drug prohibition.
Additionally, it can be argued that we could avoid a lot of the violence that results from the drug trade if it weren’t illegal.
Much of what we consider “drug-dealing” is done by organized crime, such as the mafia, cartels and gangs. Much of the violence results in fights over turf in order to gain more revenue for their organization and themselves, fighting the law for attempting to disrupt their trade, and protecting their business from other criminals.
If the drug trade were legal and regulated, then the dealers wouldn’t be using violence to fight the law or each other. They would also be able to call the police in cases of theft, rather than having to take retribution into their own hands.
Prohibition of alcohol – the socially-acceptable drug of choice for America – in the 1920s offers a prime example of the ineffectiveness of a drug prohibition policy.
During the almost 14 years of prohibition, crime and violence related to booze increased dramatically. Eventually, it was agreed that the cost to society was much worse with prohibition than it was with alcohol as a legal, regulated business, and prohibition was repealed in 1933.
The Mexican Cartels, which have caused so much violence and terror that entire police forces in Mexico have resigned, are a byproduct of the 40-year-long drug war.
Through its actions, our government has ensured them a healthy revenue flow, actually sold them weapons (Google Fast & Furious Scandal), and by waging war on them, encouraged the creation of military wings for the Cartels.
We can’t forget the violence and disorder that can be attributed to the police.
Police departments across the country are guilty of conducting wrong-door drug raids, which result in the abuse and deaths of innocent people and an occasional dog-shooting. If police raid your home for drugs, whether they’re in the right residence or not, it seems to be standard operating procedure to shoot household dogs, considering how often it occurs.
Additionally, if you’re an innocent person who is raided by the police, and, as a law-abiding citizen, you attempt to challenge the perceived intruder with a firearm, you’ll most likely wind up a casualty on an incident report.
A 61-year-old man from Lebanon, Tenn., found this out the hard way a month ago (as did his 70-year-old wife who was handcuffed in a separate room by the officers), when police raided his home on faulty information and gunned him down.
And if they aren’t violating the sanctity of your home, they’re committing highway robbery, also known as “asset forfeiture.”
Phil Williams of News Channel 5 in Nashville has reported on a number of incidents around the state involving police departments confiscating large amounts of money from travelers with no evidence of a drug connection, as well as other policing for profit incidents.
With this sort of damage to communities carried out in the name of law enforcement, it should be beyond obvious that we need a change in our national drug policy.
“But aren’t drugs damaging to the community? Won’t legalization or decriminalization mean our kids will become drug fiends and that junkies will be shooting up in the streets?”
This argument is irrational fear-mongering. It prevents us from having a real discussion on the merits and consequences of our drug policy. It prevents us from making any positive changes to how we can deal with this societal problem.
Portugal decriminalized drugs across the board in 2000, around the time that 1 percent of their population was addicted to drugs. Decriminalization means that drugs are still illegal, but instead of jail time, offenders get counseling and treatment.
As a result of this policy, the number of people who tried drugs did rise, but the number of those addicted to drugs fell, lowering the societal costs of drug use. Additionally, the street value for many drugs also fell, making them less profitable for dealers.
What it took our country 14 years to learn with alcohol, it has taken 40 years to still not learn this lesson with the other drugs. Prohibition of a vice leads to more crime and continuous government spending in a vain attempt to stop people from enjoying themselves in a fashion some see as immoral.
Whether you think drugs are the scourge of society or just a byproduct of it, it should be acknowledged that fresh ideas and open debate are necessary steps to a better solution.