Drugs Won the War

By Rightnow289 · Jun 14, 2009 · ·
  1. Rightnow289
    This year marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s start of the war on drugs, and it now appears that drugs have won.

    “We’ve spent a trillion dollars prosecuting the war on drugs,” Norm Stamper, a former police chief of Seattle, told me. “What do we have to show for it? Drugs are more readily available, at lower prices and higher levels of potency. It’s a dismal failure.”

    For that reason, he favors legalization of drugs, perhaps by the equivalent of state liquor stores or registered pharmacists. Other experts favor keeping drug production and sales illegal but decriminalizing possession, as some foreign countries have done.

    Here in the United States, four decades of drug war have had three consequences:

    First, we have vastly increased the proportion of our population in prisons. The United States now incarcerates people at a rate nearly five times the world average. In part, that’s because the number of people in prison for drug offenses rose roughly from 41,000 in 1980 to 500,000 today. Until the war on drugs, our incarceration rate was roughly the same as that of other countries.

    Second, we have empowered criminals at home and terrorists abroad. One reason many prominent economists have favored easing drug laws is that interdiction raises prices, which increases profit margins for everyone, from the Latin drug cartels to the Taliban. Former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia this year jointly implored the United States to adopt a new approach to narcotics, based on the public health campaign against tobacco.

    Third, we have squandered resources. Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, found that federal, state and local governments spend $44.1 billion annually enforcing drug prohibitions. We spend seven times as much on drug interdiction, policing and imprisonment as on treatment. (Of people with drug problems in state prisons, only 14 percent get treatment.)

    I’ve seen lives destroyed by drugs, and many neighbors in my hometown of Yamhill, Oregon, have had their lives ripped apart by crystal meth. Yet I find people like Mr. Stamper persuasive when they argue that if our aim is to reduce the influence of harmful drugs, we can do better.

    Mr. Stamper is active in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP, an organization of police officers, prosecutors, judges and citizens who favor a dramatic liberalization of American drug laws. He said he gradually became disillusioned with the drug war, beginning in 1967 when he was a young beat officer in San Diego.

    “I had arrested a 19-year-old, in his own home, for possession of marijuana,” he recalled. “I literally broke down the door, on the basis of probable cause. I took him to jail on a felony charge.” The arrest and related paperwork took several hours, and Mr. Stamper suddenly had an “aha!” moment: “I could be doing real police work.”

    It’s now broadly acknowledged that the drug war approach has failed. President Obama’s new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, told the Wall Street Journal that he wants to banish the war on drugs phraseology, while shifting more toward treatment over imprisonment.

    The stakes are huge, the uncertainties great, and there’s a genuine risk that liberalizing drug laws might lead to an increase in use and in addiction. But the evidence suggests that such a risk is small. After all, cocaine was used at only one-fifth of current levels when it was legal in the United States before 1914. And those states that have decriminalized marijuana possession have not seen surging consumption.

    “I don’t see any big downside to marijuana decriminalization,” said Peter Reuter, a professor of criminology at the University of Maryland who has been skeptical of some of the arguments of the legalization camp. At most, he said, there would be only a modest increase in usage.

    Moving forward, we need to be less ideological and more empirical in figuring out what works in combating America’s drug problem. One approach would be for a state or two to experiment with legalization of marijuana, allowing it to be sold by licensed pharmacists, while measuring the impact on usage and crime.

    I’m not the only one who is rethinking these issues. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has sponsored legislation to create a presidential commission to examine various elements of the criminal justice system, including drug policy. So far 28 senators have co-sponsored the legislation, and Mr. Webb says that Mr. Obama has been supportive of the idea as well.

    “Our nation’s broken drug policies are just one reason why we must re-examine the entire criminal justice system,” Mr. Webb says. That’s a brave position for a politician, and it’s the kind of leadership that we need as we grope toward a more effective strategy against narcotics in America.

    By Nicholas D. Kristof
    Source - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/opinion/14kristof.html?ref=opinion

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  1. Waffa
    it's not like they really wanted to wipe out (All) the drugs... most they are afraid of psychedelic drugs.. they are the ones that put people think to much :)
  2. Venusia
    Thank god law enforcement, politicians and the like are taking notice and speaking out. Drugs have been made illegal through misinformation, racist propaganda and general ignorance. Due to prohibition, drugs often end up in the hands of dishonest and criminal people who sell their impure and adulterated product to innocent people who are just doing what people have done since the first "magic plant" was discovered--altering their consciousness for a plethora of reasons. Making it illegal didn't really accomplish anything positive. It laid a path for drug dealers, gangsters and general riff-raff to make easy money off of otherwise innocent people who are going to get high no matter the laws. It made people seek out legal, but sometimes more dangerous, substances in order to stay above the board and still have their drugs. It's raped our country of money that could be used for actual problems, and sent people to jail for collective lifetimes of incarceration with people more dangerous and more ruthless than they. And worst of all, it has shamed us and left us stripped of our own right to ingest whatever we see fit as conscentual adults who are able to make informed decisions without the great nanny to smack our hands and tell us "no no!" for using whatever chemicals or plants we see fit. We have been infantalized in the name of keeping our own "best interests" in mind, just as a parent is to do for their little children. This is insulting, presumptuous and downright evil. It would be nice to see an end to it before I die someday.

    ok...end angry rant. *blush*
  3. sirmoonie
    Drugs won the war?!?! SWIM for one suggests we all bow down and hail our conquerors, and do whatever they hell they say. Resistance is futile!
  4. pwfb28
    It took them fourty years to figure that all out? Damn, I thought prohibition would've done that...or COMMON SENSE....

    Oh well atleast they figured it out. :shakesheadandreconsiderslife:
  5. thepieman1
    I, for one, welcome our new cokehead overlords!

    Seriously though I'm certain this whole war on drugs thing will have to end someday, it's just so unsustainable and causes so much more harm than good.

    Honest advice and information coupled with help for those who need it - and of course unadulterated supplies of substances, at realistic prices - are the best way to combat any problems caused by the use of drugs.
  6. Greenport
    Drugs haven't won the war yet, cause as far as swiM knows pot is still illegal as are all the other drugs...although slowly it's being accepted for medicinal use and people are getting used to the idea of it being decriminalized.

    One day perhaps it will be, but generally swiM finds that things move very slowly in government.
  7. Waffa
    yeah, if someone says "drugs won the war" it sounds (someway) actually as wrong like G.W.B "Mission Completed!".

    As long religious fanatics rule the gov, people do not get proper education about drugs and people are send to prison for pot we haven't win anything yet...
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