Think by Numbers describes the so-called “war on drugs” with statistics. I think this government program is better described as a welfare program for those who want to believe that they are making communities safer when they are actually cranking up the price of substances that are, for the most part, comparable to substances already offered legally by Big Pharma, thereby injecting violence into communities–especially in the case of marijuana. This article is written in the form a letter to President Obama:
Every minute someone is arrested for simple drug possession in the United States. In 2011, marijuana possession arrests totaled 663,032. Despite your claims that going after recreational pot users in states where it is legal is not “a top priority”, your administration has continued to aggressively target dispensaries that are in compliance with state law. I and others have shouldered the $10 billion annual cost of arresting and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of people for the possession of marijuana. These arrests are often for small quantities for personal use. . . . What’s worse, the money you are stealing from me isn’t even having any impact on the level of illicit drug use. You are just tearing apart thousands of families for no reason. Addiction rates are at exactly the same level that they were before we spent $1.5 trillion dollars on “drug control measures”.
Do check out the graphs in the article. If you want the same conclusions from the perspective of career law enforcement officers, check out the website of “Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
As of 2011, American law enforcement arrested significantly more people for possession of marijuana than for violent crime. Actions speak louder than words. Our priority is to shove hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding people into the “criminal justice” meat-grinder than to spend that money hunting down violent people (or for that matter, white collar criminals).
According to an article in Forbes:
Ten years ago, Portugal decriminalized all drugs. One decade after this unprecedented experiment, drug abuse is down by half. . . Currently 40,000 people in Portugal are being treated for drug abuse. This is a far cheaper, far more humane way to tackle the problem. Rather than locking up 100,000 criminals, the Portuguese are working to cure 40,000 patients and fine-tuning a whole new canon of drug treatment knowledge at the same time.
According to Think Progress: “New polling released by Gallup today finds that 50 percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization, while 46 percent of Americans oppose it.”
And at LEAP, “Pro-Legalization Cops Cheer Marijuana Reform Election Results.”
Norm Stamper, former Seattle police chief, had this to say: “I cannot tell you how happy I am that after forty years of the racist, destructive exercise in futility that is the war on drugs, my home state of Washington has now put us on a different path. There are people who have lost today: drug cartels, street gangs, those who profit from keeping American incarceration rates the highest in the world. For the rest of us, however, this is a win. It’s a win for taxpayers. It’s a win for police. It’s a win for all those who care about social justice. This is indeed a wonderful day.”
I just saw these stats in a new post by LEAP:
Just over one week before voters in three states will decide on ballot measures to legalize and regulate marijuana, the FBI has released a new report today showing that police in the U.S. arrest someone for marijuana every 42 seconds and that 87% of those arrests are for possession alone. A group of police, judges and other law enforcement officials advocating for the legalization and regulation of marijuana and other drugs pointed to the figures showing more than 750,000 marijuana arrests in 2011 — more than 40 years after the start of the “war on drugs” — as evidence that this is a war that can never be won.
To be clear, I’m not advocating the use of drugs. I’m criticizing the criminalization of the use of drugs. Characterizing the use of drugs to be a law enforcement issue has been a massive failure.
At Huffpo, Richard Branson has recently spoken out on the inanity of the war on drugs:
With states as our innovators we know what we need to do on drug reform. Which is good, because the cost of the alternatives has gotten completely out of hand. The U.S. currently spends no less than $51 billion — per year — on the war on drugs. . . . It’s a horribly depressing number when you think how far even a fraction of that money would have gone if invested in prevention and rehabilitation efforts. With so much rhetoric on the economy in this election year, it is startling that no one has looked to drug reform to unlock resources.
A large portion of the money spent on the war on drugs goes toward criminalization. I recently had the privilege of spending time with Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative. I was shocked when he pointed out that back in the 1970s there were only 300,000 people in prison in the U.S.! Forty years later, the number of people incarcerated — 2.3 million — is greater than the population of Houston, Texas. He attributes much of the increase to American drug policy, with minorities taking the hardest hit.
Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark is the latest public figure to slam the “war on drugs.” As reported by Huffington Post, Booker described the war on drugs as ineffective it
“represents big overgrown government at its worst.”
“The so called War on Drugs has not succeeded in making significant reductions in drug use, drug arrests or violence,” the Democrat wrote during the Reddit “ask me anything” chat. “We are pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that are bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential.”
Booker then called drug arrests a “game.”
I found this infographic full of useful data, all pointing in one direction: We should legalize use of marijuana by taxing and regulating it. The current approach of subjecting users to the criminal justice system is destructive and immoral.