9 Ways The War on Drugs Has Failed: The Reality

By August 6, 2014 Food for thought No Comments

As you can see from above photo–the war on drugs is kind of a mistake. Why? Because you can’t win-the Onion’s satirical news headline points that out because drugs aren’t people–drugs win war on drugs?? I mean that really puts it in perspective.

In all reality this isn’t a war on drugs it’s a war on people.

The term “War on Drugs,” was first used by President Richard Nixon in 1971 has been a campaign of prohibition and foreign military aid and military intervention, with the assistance of participating countries, intended to define and reduce the illegal drug trade. It’s interesting to note that the term War on Drugs has been carried over to “The War on Terror,” neither of which can actually be successfully achieved.

1. It’s a money pit

Amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs: More than $51,000,000,000

That’s 51 billion dollars a year people.

If the global drug trade were a country, it would have one of the top 20 economies in the world. In 2005the United Nations estimated the global illegal drug trade is worth more than $320 billion. It also estimates there are 230 million illegal drug users in the world, yet 90% of them are not classified as problematic.

In the United States, if illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco, they would yield $46.7 billion in tax revenue. A Cato study says legalizing drugs would save the U.S. about $41 billion a year in enforcing the drug laws. Now we aren’t saying go legalize everything but this should really be looked at because we are dumping half a trillion a year into incarcerating drug users–basically, right?

2. The incarceration rates

Number of people arrested in 2012 in the U.S. on nonviolent drug charges: 1.55 million
Number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2012: 749,825
  • Number of those charged with marijuana law violations who were arrested for possession only: 658,231 (88 percent)
Number of Americans incarcerated in 2012 in federal, state and local prisons and jails: 2,228,400 or 1 in every 108 adults, the highest incarceration rate in the world
3. Racial disparities
The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites. Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system.
4. Bad cops
Arresting people for assaults, beatings and robberies doesn’t bring money back to police departments, but drug cases do in a couple of ways. First, police departments across the country compete for a pool of federal anti-drug grants. The more arrests and drug seizures a department can claim, the stronger its application for those grants.

“The availability of huge federal anti-drug grants incentivizes departments to pay for SWAT team armor and weapons, and leads our police officers to abandon real crime victims in our communities in favor of ratcheting up their drug arrest stats,” said former Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Stephen Downing. Downing is now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an advocacy group of cops and prosecutors who are calling for an end to the drug war.

5. It is a human rights issue

Consider these numbers: Hundreds of thousands of people locked in detention centers and subject to violent punishments. Millions imprisoned. Hundreds hanged, shot or beheaded across the world. Tens of thousands killed by government forces and non-state actors. Thousands beaten and abused to extract information, and abused in government or private “treatment” centers. Millions denied life-saving medicines. These are alarming figures, but campaigns to address them have been slow and drug control has received little attention from the mainstream human rights movement.

This is a perfect storm for people who use drugs, especially those experiencing dependency, and those involved in the drug trade, whether growers, couriers or sellers. When people are dehumanized we know from experience that abuses against them are more likely. We know also that those abuses are less likely to be addressed because fewer people care.

6. We can’t win it

Our government can’t win this war and their attempts to hold the line are not only expensive and destructive, they aren’t having any real appreciable impact on drug use. As with Prohibition, the War on Drugs has only added to the problems that it was supposed to alleviate. Some drug use may have declined as a result of the government’s efforts, but the cost of that decline has been a huge expansion in government, law enforcement and the prison system and a dramatic reduction in personal freedom and privacy rights.

In the drug war, the pattern has been one step forward, one step back – one trafficking organization smashed, another one formed; one hectare of coca or opium poppy destroyed, another one planted; one dealer imprisoned, another taking his place.

The drug war reflects a political arrogance that the government can solve bad habits by passing laws and sending police out on the streets to arrest the way to an improved society. The collateral damage of this arrogance is clear. It is time to end the drug war, to seek education, treatment, product labeling and testing, and a more orderly yet much less profitable market for the measure of drug usage, which society cannot stem or prevent, with or without force.

7. It’s based on a misunderstanding or just ignoring the truth about addiction

In June 1971, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. Nixon launched a drug war that framed drug users not as alienated youths whose addiction was caused by inhabiting a fundamentally inequitable society, but as criminals attacking the moral fiber of the nation, people who deserved only incarceration and punishment, EVEN THOUGH he was getting advice and knowledge about how treatment needed to be a necessity not incarceration. He basically ignored all the facts about addiction.

8. For profit prisons and mandatory minimums

For profit prisons are basically businesses that make money off of incarcerating people. They love the drug war and mandatory minimums because those people fill up their prisons and have to stay for a long time due to the sentencing laws.

Nowhere is the private prison industry’s reliance on the drug war more apparent than in CCA’s 2010 report to shareholders. “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws,” reads the report CCA filed with the Securities Exchange Commission.

“For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Legislation has been proposed in numerous jurisdictions that could lower minimum sentences for some non-violent crimes and make more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior. Also, sentencing alternatives under consideration could put some offenders on probation with electronic monitoring who would otherwise be incarcerated. Similarly, reductions in crime rates or resources dedicated to prevent and enforce crime could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.”

According to a report from the Justice Policy Institute, lobbyists for the private prison industry have pushed “three strikes” and “truth-in-sentencing” laws across the country. Both types of laws adversely affect drug users.

9. People die

No one has really thought about all the officers, addicts, and people who have died because we are fighting a war on drugs. It was hard to find any numbers. Just like in any war there are casualties. Not only on the drug user or dealers end but also on the law enforcement end. And it is basically people dying for no reason. Especially those who are supposedly fighting the war on drugs. Here is what we do know:

The number of people murdered in the drug war inside the United States between 2006 and 2010 exceeds the US-troop death toll in the Iraq War since it was launched in 2003, according to a Narco News analysis of FBI crime statistics.

The US drug-war homicide tally also is nearly three times greater than the number of US soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the first shots were fired in that war in 2001, the Narco News analysis shows.