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Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes

The war on drugs is a massive failure

Someone PLEASE wave the white flag.

I’m not sure exactly when we lost the “War On Drugs”, but I feel confident that after 40 years and nearly $1 Trillion spent on it, the results do not justify the cost. At all. And President Obama just asked for another $25.6 billion to continue this “War” in his 2013 budget proposal. At this point, we might have a greater impact if we piled the money up on the White House lawn and set it ablaze.

I mean seriously, spending that much time and money on a problem should have led to some measurable victories, some changes in society that we can all point to as justification for this war and the toll it’s taken on our Country. Instead, the numbers show the exact opposite of what sane people would call “winning”.

Take drug addiction rates. Common sense would say that after 40 years of constant “War” that fewer people would be addicted to drugs today than say… 1973. Except they aren’t. In fact, over the entire span of the “War On Drugs” drug addiction rates have remained fairly consistent with all the different programs, plans and methods having no measureable effect.

Ok, but the price of drugs must have skyrocketed, right? From our battles to eradicate coca leaves in Columbia to the stop and frisk tactics of the NYPD, these surely must have made it harder to manufacture, import or sell drugs, leading to a sharp increase in price, correct? Wrong. Basic supply and demand and its impact on price blows a hole in that theory as almost every category of drug is cheaper today than it was in the 70’s, even adjusted for inflation! (I want to point out this is NOT from first-hand knowledge. )

So much for that. Hey, I’m trying here…

About the only area you can say the “War On Drugs” has had a measurable impact is on the nation’s prison population, and I’d argue that’s nothing to be proud of. Our prison population has grown by 700% during the last 40 years, to 2.2 million people. And most analyst agree that roughly 50% of Federal and State prisons are filled with people incarcerated for drug crimes, many of them non-violent or usage crimes. Add to that, the disproportionate amount of minorities jailed (even when drug usage is higher amongst the white population) and you can see that unless you are in the prison business, or connected to a line of work that helps fill them, the “War On Drugs” is a failure.

I dare you to name another initiative that has cost us so much, over so long that has yielded so few results. Good luck.

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