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AP Reports What We Already Know — War on Drugs Has Failed


It’s a pretty rare thing when I read an AP article and totally agree with it. Usually, it seems like those articles provide little details, and especially in the area of marijuana, the authors seem almost clueless. But I just read an article that was very well written and was stuffed full of great facts and stats. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the ‘War on Drugs’ in America, and by all measurements, it is a failure. Even the AP recognizes this now, as it stated in the article, “After 40 years, the United States’ war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.”

“In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” said Gil Kerlikowske, the U.S. drug czar. “Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.” One would think that if the nation’s drug czar is willing to concede that the previous strategies have failed, then the current administration would try some bold new moves. However, the current administration is not only taking the same failed route, it is planning on proceeding with higher narcotics law enforcement funding than ever before. Almost 2/3 of the over $15 billion drug-control budget will be for enforcement rather than treatment and prevention.

When the ‘war on drugs’ started, President Nixon budgeted $100 million dollars for drug enforcement. As I stated previously, that number has ballooned to over $15 billion a year and over a trillion dollars total. The AP investigated where that money went, and this is what they found:

– $20 billion to fight the drug gangs in their home countries. In Colombia, for example, the United States spent more than $6 billion, while coca cultivation increased and trafficking moved to Mexico – and the violence along with it.

– $33 billion in marketing “Just Say No”-style messages to America’s youth and other prevention programs. High school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have “risen steadily” since the early 1970s to more than 20,000 last year.

– $49 billion for law enforcement along America’s borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs. This year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of those drugs imported from Mexico.

– $121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana. Studies show that jail time tends to increase drug abuse.

– $450 billion to lock those people up in federal prisons alone. Last year, half of all federal prisoners in the U.S. were serving sentences for drug offenses.

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence that the ‘war on drugs’ is a failure, former drug czar John P. Walters is still clinging to the propaganda that he helped spread. “To say that all the things that have been done in the war on drugs haven’t made any difference is ridiculous,” Walters said. “It destroys everything we’ve done. It’s saying all the people involved in law enforcement, treatment and prevention have been wasting their time. It’s saying all these people’s work is misguided.” Actually, what it says Mr. Walters, is that law enforcement is not working, and that allocating more funds toward treatment and prevention would probably be a better strategy…But then again, that would require you admitting that you were wrong, and that your career as a anti-drug crusader was fruitless. I won’t hold my breath for such a confession!

I am all about smashing out meth dealers, coke dealers, heroin dealers, etc. But I think that prevention and treatment is the way to go, not simply spending more on cops that aren’t doing a good job. And I’m not alone, “Current policy is not having an effect of reducing drug use,” said Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, “but it’s costing the public a fortune.” Imagine if the 10 million marijuana prosecutions in the last 40 years had never happened. How many BILLIONS of dollars would have been better spent toward prevention and treatment of REAL drugs?

What would the situation look like if Nixon had used logical reasoning when crafting his anti-drug propaganda machine? No one knows for sure, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that there would be less people in jail, the justice system would have more money to go after REAL drug dealers, and there would be less people addicted on the streets due to marijuana prevention funds going where they really need to go; treating addicts and preventing people from using REAL drugs. 100 years from now, future societies will look at the American ‘war on drugs’ as one of the worst (and most ineffective) public policies in ever. Too bad our politicians can’t realize that right now!

I will end this post with a quote from the AP article, “President Obama’s newly released drug war budget is essentially the same as Bush’s, with roughly twice as much money going to the criminal justice system as to treatment and prevention,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance. “This despite Obama’s statements on the campaign trail that drug use should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue.”


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Johnny Green


  1. malcolm kyle on

    Prohibition is a sickening horror and the ocean of incompetence, corruption and human wreckage it has left in its wake is almost endless.

    Prohibition has decimated generations and criminalized millions for a behavior which is entwined in human existence, and for what other purpose than to uphold the defunct and corrupt thinking of a minority of misguided, self-righteous Neo-Puritans and degenerate demagogues who wish nothing but unadulterated destruction on the rest of us.

    Based on the unalterable proviso that drug use is essentially an unstoppable and ongoing human behavior which has been with us since the dawn of time, any serious reading on the subject of past attempts at any form of drug prohibition would point most normal thinking people in the direction of sensible regulation.

    By its very nature, prohibition cannot fail but create a vast increase in criminal activity, and rather than preventing society from descending into anarchy, it actually fosters an anarchic business model – the international Drug Trade. Any decisions concerning quality, quantity, distribution and availability are then left in the hands of unregulated, anonymous, ruthless drug dealers, who are interested only in the huge profits involved.

    Many of us have now, finally, wised up to the fact that the best avenue towards realistically dealing with drug use and addiction is through proper regulation which is what we already do with alcohol & tobacco, clearly two of our most dangerous mood altering substances. But for those of you whose ignorant and irrational minds traverse a fantasy plane of existence, you will no doubt remain sorely upset with any type of solution that does not seem to lead to the absurd and unattainable utopia of a drug free society.

    There is an irrefutable connection between drug prohibition and the crime, corruption, disease and death it causes. If you are not capable of understanding this connection then maybe you’re using something far stronger than the rest of us. Anybody ‘halfway bright’, and who’s not psychologically challenged, should be capable of understanding that it is not simply the demand for drugs that creates the mayhem, it is our refusal to allow legal businesses to meet that demand.

    No amount of money, police powers, weaponry, diminution of rights and liberties, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safer, only an end to prohibition can do that. How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

    If you still support the kool aid mass suicide cult of prohibition, and erroneously believe that you can win a war without logic and practical solutions, then prepare yourself for even more death, corruption, terrorism, sickness, imprisonment, unemployment, foreclosed homes, and the complete loss of the rule of law and the Bill of Rights.

    “A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”
    Abraham Lincoln

    The only thing prohibition successfully does is prohibit regulation & taxation while turning even our schools and prisons into black markets for drugs. Regulation would mean the opposite!

  2. melvin polatnick on

    Making it difficult to arrest petty drug offenders will curtail the senseless war on drugs. Dealers should be arrested only in their homes. Public streets and parks must be declared no stop and frisk zones. Good detective work will still apprehend major violators in their hideouts, but never in the fresh air. A bunch of druggies on the streets and in the parks is preferred over the morbidity of a police state.

  3. Prisoners being held for the peaceful, non-violent possession, sale, transport or cultivation of cannabis hemp must be released immediately. Money and property seized must be returned. Criminal records must be wiped clean, amnesty granted and some sort of reparations paid for time served. These cannabis prisoners are the real victims of this monstrous crime against humanity called the “War on Drugs.”
    The United States is supposed to be a free country, yet those who choose to smoke or eat this mostly harmless drug are penalized. An American can go out and drink themself to death, but they cannot freely use a drug which is less toxic and less prone to making one out of control than alcohol. I say this is not only unfair, but also un-American!
    The police, prosecutors and prison guards should not be in charge of which herbal therapies people may use to treat their personal health problems.
    Federal Judge Francis Young in 1988 called “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”

  4. Jane Quatam on

    Sell a pound of cannabis and go to prison for a decade or more, but sell a fraudulent billion dollar security on Wall Street and you actually get a several million dollar bonus. Something is very wrong with this nation.

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