Drug Policy.org – 2011-04-10 00:07:37
What’s Wrong With the Drug War?
(April 8, 2011) — Everyone has a stake in ending the war on drugs. Whether you’re a parent concerned about protecting children from drug-related harm, a social justice advocate worried about racially disproportionate incarceration rates, an environmentalist seeking to protect the Amazon rainforest or a fiscally conservative taxpayer you have a stake in ending the drug war.
US federal, state and local governments have spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to make America “drug-free.” Yet heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs are cheaper, purer and easier to get than ever before. Nearly half a million people are behind bars on drug charges — more than all of western Europe (with a bigger population) incarcerates for all offenses. The war on drugs has become a war on families, a war on public health and a war on our constitutional rights.
Many of the problems the drug war purports to resolve are in fact caused by the drug war itself. So-called “drug-related” crime is a direct result of drug prohibition’s distortion of immutable laws of supply and demand. Public health problems like HIV and Hepatitis C are all exacerbated by zero tolerance laws that restrict access to clean needles.
The drug war is not the promoter of family values that some would have us believe. Children of inmates are at risk of educational failure, joblessness, addiction and delinquency. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.
Few public policies have compromised public health and undermined our fundamental civil liberties for so long and to such a degree as the war on drugs. The United States is now the world’s largest jailer, imprisoning nearly half a million people for drug offenses alone. That’s more people than Western Europe, with a bigger population, incarcerates for all offenses.
Roughly 1.5 million people are arrested each year for drug law violations — 40% of them just for marijuana possession. People suffering from cancer, AIDS and other debilitating illnesses are regularly denied access to their medicine or even arrested and prosecuted for using medical marijuana. We can do better. Join us.
Visit these pages to see how the drug war affects all aspects of our lives:
* Drug War Funding
* Pain Underprescribing
* Environmental Consequences
* Mandatory Minimum Sentences
* Voter Disenfranchisement
* Public Health Crisis
* Access to Treatment
* Higher Education Act
* Public Benefits
* Forced Evictions
* Alternatives to Prohibition
Drug War Facts
The War on Drugs Is a Failure
Today, the US accounts for 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. We owe that distinction to the War on Drugs, which puts more people behind bars each year.
It’s time to fact the facts
about our nation’s War on Drugs.
Approximate amount spent annually in the US on the War on Drugs:
Number of people arrested in 2009 in the US on nonviolent drug charges:
Number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2009:
Number of Americans behind bars in 2-009 in federal, state and local prisons and jails:
(This is 1 in every 99.1 adults — the highest incarceration rate in the world.)
Fraction of people incarcerated for a drug offense in state prison that are black or Hispanic, although these groups use and sell drugs at a similar rate as whites:
Number of states that allow the medical use of marijuana:
Estimated annual revenue that California would raise if it taxed and regulated the sale of marijuana:
Number of murders in 2010 in Juarez, Mexico the epicenter of that country’s drug war:
(This is the highest murder rate of any city in the world.)
Number of students who have lost federal financial aid eligibility because of a drug conviction:
Number of people in the US that died from a drug overdose in 2006:
Number of people annually infected with HIC-AIDS and Hepatitis C by sharing contaminated syringes:
Prominent Americans Speak Out of the War of Drugs
“Penalties for the possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”
-â€“ Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States
“I’m always for an open debateâ€¦ We ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana.”
— Arnold Schwarzenegger, Former Republican Governor of California
“Drug offenders, most of them passive users or minor dealers, are swamping our prisonsâ€¦. Yet locking up more of these offenders has done nothing to break up the power of the multibillion-dollar drug trade.”
— Jim Webb, Democratic Senator from Virginia
“Can any policy, however high-minded, be moral if it leads to widespread corruption, imprisons so many, has so racist an effect, destroys our inner cities, wreaks havoc on misguided and vulnerable individuals and brings death and destruction to foreign countries?”
— Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize Winner, Economics
“We’ve got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes. I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t get me wrong. But I just think criminalizing marijuanaâ€¦ criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of potâ€¦ is costing us a fortune and ruing young people who go into prison as youths and come out hardened criminals.”
— Pat Robertson, Founder, Christian Broadcasting Network
“Never has it been more important to hace a national drug control strategy guided by sound principles of public safety and public health.”
— Barack Obama, President of the United States