Drugs Won the War

By | June 25, 2009

US, allies seen as losing drug war(Duh)This year marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s start of the war on drugs, and it now appears that drugs have won.

“We’ve spent a trillion dollars prosecuting the war on drugs,” Norm Stamper, a former police chief of Seattle, told me. “What do we have to show for it? Drugs are more readily available, at lower prices and higher levels of potency. It’s a dismal failure.”

For that reason, he favors legalization of drugs, perhaps by the equivalent of state liquor stores or registered pharmacists. Other experts favor keeping drug production and sales illegal but decriminalizing possession, as some foreign countries have done.

Here in the United States, four decades of drug war have had three consequences:

First, we have vastly increased the proportion of our population in prisons. The United States now incarcerates people at a rate nearly five times the world average. In part, that’s because the number of people in prison for drug offenses rose roughly from 41,000 in 1980 to 500,000 today. Until the war on drugs, our incarceration rate was roughly the same as that of other countries.

Second, we have empowered criminals at home and terrorists abroad. One reason many prominent economists have favored easing drug laws is that interdiction raises prices, which increases profit margins for everyone, from the Latin drug cartels to the Taliban. Former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia this year jointly implored the United States to adopt a new approach to narcotics, based on the public health campaign against tobacco.

Third, we have squandered resources. Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, found that federal, state and local governments spend $44.1 billion annually enforcing drug prohibitions. We spend seven times as much on drug interdiction, policing and imprisonment as on treatment. (Of people with drug problems in state prisons, only 14 percent get treatment.)

I’ve seen lives destroyed by drugs, and many neighbors in my hometown of Yamhill, Oregon, have had their lives ripped apart by crystal meth. Yet I find people like Mr. Stamper persuasive when they argue that if our aim is to reduce the influence of harmful drugs, we can do better.

via Op-Ed Columnist – Drugs Won the War – NYTimes.com.

Seems we’d do better to strike at the root of the problem: people turning to addictions to cope with stress, depression, disconnection, etc.

5 thoughts on “Drugs Won the War

  1. Pingback: Drugs Won the War « Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff) | Medic Blog

  2. John

    Very good article.It should have been clear 20 or 30 years ago that the war on drugs are much more harmful than the drugs themselves.We need to take these drugs out of the criminals hands and put them into responsible hands that then can in turn help the addicts out with recovery.Take the violence,greed,rape,and diseases out of the equation and imply TRUE information ads really letting people know about the risk.Doing this will save thousands of lives and allow for a new direction in drug prevention.Also making a huge impact on terrorist and cartels.Not to mention open the research fields for testing these drugs for useful medicines.We

  3. Ann

    John, you write as if you advocate a continued “war on drugs.” What you wrote has been what people who wanted and want to continue the lengthy and costly “war on drugs.”

    But, the article is about the “legalization of drugs” that means putting in the hands of business people.

    I don’t think that’s very smart solution either. If the business world gets hold of drugs, then we’re talking profits. And if it’s anything like the other toxins controlled by the world capitalists, like tobacco and alcohol … Do you know how much the rates of alcoholic liver cirrhosis and alcoholic pancreatitis, for example, have increased in the United States in the last 10 – 20 years? It’s not a pretty picture.

    I think the best solution is as Xeno suggests … What we should be asking is why isn’t our society “people friendly”? Why are there so many people in our country, supposedly richest country on earth, hurting and seek drugs as a solution for their problems, or an escape from them?

  4. John

    Using drugs is just part of human nature.People have been using so called “Drugs” since the beginning of humanity.It’s our arrogant and mislead society that blames the substances them selves.Your right we do need to start focusing on the mentality that leads to these addictions but also end the lies.Misinformation has played a huge role in this and that is the way it was meant.This is big money for the corrupt and the dealers.While the rich get richer millions of peoples lifes are destroyed because of a law itself.The number of deaths associated with the criminal aspect of it is far greater than deaths attributed to drug use.Then on top of that you have the people being enslaved in prison for being non violent drug abusers.America has only 5% of the worlds population but 25% of the worlds prison population.Now if there’s nothing wrong with that figure to you than somethings wrong.So yeah if they industrialize the drug market like everything else it will be for the better in my opinion.There will still be dope addicts,ODs,and families destroyed but the numbers will be far lower.

    Look at alcohol prohibition cause it’s identical to the prohibition that is going on now.You don’t see many people die from methanol poisoning or gangs fighting over bootleg liquor.Sure there are illegal distillers but far and few.That’s the reason why it’s easier for kids to get a bag of heroine than it is to buy a beer.

  5. Ann

    Yeap, your’re right about drugs … since the dawn of humanity, at least (chimps in the wild … according to some sources) Once, there were specialists, shamans, who showed their apprentices how to use “drugs” and at the same time gain knowledge from their use. And, alcohol wasn’t something consumed in a nearly everyday manner as we consume it today, much as tobacco wasn’t used on an hourly basis as the pack-a-day smokers today. But, the people who sell alcohol and tobacco products today sure like it.

    And, you’re right about the rich getting richer, especially after the early 1980s. But, it really started before then.

    And, yes, we imprison more people than any other country in the world. The US has held this record for a couple of decades. People complain, but who’s listening?

    And, there was a great deal of illicit alcohol consumption during Prohibition with all the harmful consequences.

    But, some “dealers” and “gangs” are in business to make money selling drugs and some of these are doing quite well. In Chicago, for example, they’ve entered, or tried to, the legitimate political arena. Others, like the former Italian Mafia, have invested in legitimate enterprises with money earned from selling drugs among other illegal activities. In so doing, they look good on the outside, if you don’t look at their history.

    But, why is it so important in our society to get rich? Why is it so important for individuals, companies and corporations to keep growing? It’s true, you know. Stockholders, and that includes a lot of Americans, want their investments to grow and grow. That’s how money is made on money – by investing.

    At the same time, if you know only a little history, the beautiful places of our country have been run over by money, literally destroyed. Year after year, more and more land swallowed … while at the same time more and more pollution is belched and vomited from their investments.

    As a few people get wealthier and wealthier, … well, who among them really, I mean really, cares for the poor? Token charitable donations just doesn’t cut it. What we really need is truly a revolution ..perhaps not in the bloody sense .. but a complete shift to make our country a democracy again. … a “people friendly” country, we can actually be proud of.

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