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We Lost the Drug War

W. Scott Cole

Posted on February 28, 2019 00:31

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“America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.” – President Richard Nixon

With those words, the United States launched it’s war on drugs in 1971. In the following 50 years, this nation spent $1.5 trillion on the struggle (Time magazine in 2009 put the figure at $2.5 trillion). It was money that could have been better spent, given the return.

In the 50 years between 1971 and 2010, the kinds of drugs have expanded, as chemists and wannabe chemists explored ways to create new drugs. Some were created for medical use and later found to have “recreational” uses, while some were created by the criminal element in the hopes of exploiting the short space of time between the creation of the drug and when it would be made illegal. The potency of drugs has increased, as well as the addictiveness of old and new drugs.

Meanwhile, going with the lower figure, what we got for that $1.5 trillion in those 50 years turns out to be very little. The war on drugs fueled our mass incarceration problem, with the prison population of those with drug convictions growing from 40,000 in 1980 to 500,000 today. The government spends $12.6 billion every year to keep those Americans incarcerated, at an average of $25,251 per inmate. Compare that to the $10,591 average per student spent each year on education. Yes, we spend that much less on the future of our children than we do on a failed war.

But there are not as many addicts as there was back then, you say. Sadly, no, that is not the case. The percentage of drug addicts in our country is almost unchanged, as shown by this chart, which compares the amount of money spent to the percentage of people addicted. The chart was created by documentary filmmaker Matt Groff.

What can we do about the problem with drugs? Believe it or not, decriminalizing all drugs is a viable option. Portugal is the only country in the world that has done that (at least with most drugs). Their rate of addiction chugs along at a steady eight percent of their population.

If we take tobacco use as an example, redirecting the money we have wasted on the drug war to education and treatment would do wonders. In 1965, when the public started learning the dangers of tobacco, 42% of adults smoked. Tobacco has never been made illegal, but through education and programs to help smokers quit, that number had dropped to 18% in 2014. A far better return for the money.

It seems to me that the best route to reducing drug addiction is to admit we lost the war on drugs and legalize them. They can then be regulated to give the government more control over quality and purity. The taxes collected by their legal sales can be funneled directly into education and treatment, thus making addicts pay for the programs to reduce addiction.

It could be a win all the way around if we have the courage to do it.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on February 28, 2019 00:31

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Source: HuffPost

Over the last few years there has been undeniable momentum to end our country's disastrous war on drugs. Both voters and...

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