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Thursday, February 16, 2012

America Lost the War on Drugs Years ago- It's time to focus on Rehabilitation instead of Incarceration.

Forty years.

Six trillion dollars.

1.5 million arrests a year.

Over Two million people in prison.

And despite a concentrated effort to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States we now have more drug abusers in America today than when the “war on drugs” started back in 1971.

Now I’ve never touched a drug in my life. Nor do I condone or support illegal drug abuse or prescription drug abuse. But looking at those statistics I’m wondering if America’s efforts to curb drug abuse over the past four decades by criminalizing it are really effective.

Ninety percent of the criminal court cases these days being prosecuted are for drug abuse and drug possession. And today a majority of those cases are for small personal amounts of marijuana, not hard drugs like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. It actually costs states more to prosecute an individual than the street value of the drugs purchased in most cases.

And a majority of the inmates in federal and state prisons these days are non-violent drug offenders. In fact, there are so many non-violent drug offenders incarcerated that there’s practically no room for violent criminals like rapists, murderers and pedophiles.

And for all these efforts by law enforcement, to deter drug abuse by punishment and imprisonment over 
the past forty years, the cultural perception of drug use has actually become more glamorized and normalized by the media.

Athletes like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Pro Wrestlers openly abuse drugs like steroids.

Celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan openly abuse drugs regularly.

Politicians openly abuse drugs.

And oftentimes none of these prominent people are punished or ostracized by the public for their abuse of illegal drugs or prescription drugs.

Currently, Television and Movies openly promote drug abuse. Films like Pinapple Express, and TV shows like That 70’s Show often depict drug abuse as something humorous or harmless.

Over the past 25 years the United States of America has become #1 consumer of illegal narcotics in the world. Americans currently smoke more marijuana than European countries like The Netherlands and Canada where it’s legal and regulated.

So why are drugs still illegal in America?

I don’ think it’s to protect people. Laws would actually keep narcotics out of the hands of minors. Laws would maintain some type of safety standards and force manufacturers to reveal what’s in their product.

And I don’t think it has to do with keeping a moral and just society. So many of those who preached vehemently against illegal drug use like Rush Limbaugh were caught abusing drugs themselves.

Personally, I think it’s because of plain old American pride.

Americans hate to admit when they’re wrong.

We’d rather throw billions of dollars away and waste millions of lives than admit we made a mistake about a law or a policy we put on the books. That’s always been the American way.

An American would rather die than admit they made a mistake. Which is why America currently continues to fight a war against drugs that we’ve clearly lost.

I’ve known since I was 15 that a war on drugs is silly. You can’t fight a drug. It’s an inanimate object. It’s like declaring war against shoelaces.

There’s no way to stop the supply of illegal narcotics as long as there’s a demand for it. There’s no way to stop the abuse of prescription medication as long as there’s a demand for the product. It just runs counter to the free enterprise economic system.

The United States is the number one consumer of illegal narcotics and abusers of prescription medication in the world because we have the most drug users in the world.

It’s a painful fact that Most Americans don’t want to admit.

Moreover, The United States of America is the country that promotes the idea of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” People are free to choose their own path here in these fifty states, and the hard lesson no one today learned from prohibition back in the 1920’s was that the law can’t stop them from getting drunk if that’s their happiness they wish to pursue.

Unfortunately, to the chagrin of some Americans a majority of us are happy to be high. Others find peace in being strung out.

And you can’t legislate against the will of the American people.

Trying to focus on the supply side of the problem for the past forty years has only allowed for the further proliferation of narcotics on the black market. And this black market proliferation is what’s driving up the price of drugs overall. Moreover, it’s these high black market profits that are enriching gangs like the Crips and Bloods who terrorize inner-city neighborhoods. And it’s what’s making so much wealth in Mexico that drug cartels are killing and terrorizing Mexican citizens so one group can control the trade routes into the United States. If there wasn’t a huge U.S. demand for drugs, criminals here and in Mexico wouldn’t be going out of their way to risk their lives to supply it.

On the surface it looks great in pictures to show ICE agents in bulletproof vests with machine guns breaking down doors, and Federal Judges throwing the book at dealers in a courthouse, but the overall impact on drug use in America is negligible overall.

If all these efforts to stop the supply were curbing demand, why do we have more addicts now than in 1971?

In a free-market economy locking up one supplier is ineffective way of combating drug abuse because like a hydra another capitalist will just rise to take their place in a quest to make those profits. It does nothing to deter demand for the narcotics from the user, the primary reason why the suppliers are going into business.

I feel it’s time for a change in American drug policy. I feel the only way to deter the demand for drug use in society is to create a drug policy that focuses resources on the supporting the user, not combating the suppliers. What’s really needed for the country is a plan that focuses on hospitalization, not criminalization. There needs to be more government money spent on healthcare programs focusing on prevention, mental health counseling, and rehabilitation and less spent on law enforcement and prosecution. 

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