Breaking!! Drug War not Working
Via the AP: AP IMPACT: US drug war has met none of its goals.
The entire piece is worth reading, but the intro paragraph sums up the situation:
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.
Judged on the basic criteria that the policy itself sets out, such as curtailing the amount of drugs available, as well as driving street price up to a point that users will abandon the products in question, the drug war has utterly failed. I say this as someone who once thought the war on drugs was, at a minimum, a reasonable idea and also as one who, after studying it for some years now, can’t help but say that as a policy it is an utter and total failure that does nothing more than drain limited resources and cause havoc in its wake. Fundamentally, Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron is quite correct when he notes: "Current policy is not having an effect of reducing drug use, but it’s costing the public a fortune."
There are two fairly typical responses to pronouncements that the drug war has been a waste of money.
1) We haven’t spent enough! It is not unusual for Drug Warriors to claim that the main reason that we have not yet seen success in the Drug War is because we simply haven’t spent sufficient amounts of cash as yet.
And yet, the numbers aren’t too convincing. Here are a few:
• $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.
At the same time, drug abuse is costing the nation in other ways. The Justice Department estimates the consequences of drug abuse — "an overburdened justice system, a strained health care system, lost productivity, and environmental destruction" — cost the United States $215 billion a year.
It is difficult to accept the argument that a little more cash would solve the problem. Indeed, one of the grand ironies of the entire process is that prohibition heavily incentivizes drug trafficking by increasing price, and thereby profits.
Indeed, the number that one really needs to understand to figure out why the drug war is unwinnable is as follows:
The $320 billion annual global drug industry now accounts for 1 percent of all commerce on the planet.
The drug war isn’t a war on addicts and traffickers, it is a war on supply and demand and the basic forces of the marketplace. And if the US’s drug fighting budgets is somewhere in the $15 billion, what chance does the policy have against a $320 billion business that can, for example, afford to lose huge amounts of product as part of the cost of doing business?
2) Things would have been worse! After all, if we had avoid this multi-decade policy, image what would have happened! Indeed, the piece paraphrases former drug czar, John P. Walters of the Bush administration making that case. Of course, a major problem with that position is that it is utterly hypothetical. But really, what else can one say if one is a Drug Warrior? It would negate one’s work to assert that it is a failure. Indeed, Walters is quoted saying as much in the piece:
"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 enforcment, treatment and prevention have been wasting their time. It’s saying all these people’s work is misguided."
The interesting thing about that quote is that it really isn’t a defense based on substance. Rather, it is a defense based on the fact the intentions of the drug war are good ones and, darnit, people have worked really, really hard!
A lot more could (and no doubt, will) be said, but I will leave it at that for the moment and recommend the piece in its entirety.