Tuesday, September 10, 2013

War On Drugs Is Far Too Costly

Building More Prisons Has Not Worked!
Public views and attitudes continue to shift concerning the cost of the "war on drugs" in America. A while back the Huffington Post carried a story about how even Sen. John McCain indicated he may be changing his stance on marijuana legalization. During a town hall meeting in Phoenix, Arizona McCain is reported to have said  "Maybe we should legalize. We're certainly moving that way as far as marijuana is concerned. I respect the will of the people". If McCain had taken a softer stance on marijuana as a Presidential candidate back in 2008 he would have drawn more of the youth vote and might well be President today.

We can only hope that John McCain’s words on marijuana legalization will encourage more Republicans to be more open-minded on social issues and follow suit. There are numerous reasons that Republicans should support marijuana reform. Republicans support state’s rights, smaller government, and want to stop wasteful spending. The war on drugs has been far too costly. We can surrender, redefine the enemy, or change our tactics, but it is clear that victory is not in sight. After the U.S. government spent over $15 billion dollars in 2010 on the War on Drugs at a rate of $500 per second victory remains elusive. To that figure, we can add at least another 25 billion dollars of spending by state and local governments. 

Rehabilitation In Prison Is Largely A Myth
In the last decade, due almost solely to the surge in drug-related arrests, U.S. prisons are massively overcrowded and underfunded.  The rehabilitation aspect of incarceration is slim to nil.  Marijuana constitutes almost half of all drug arrests, and between 1990–2002, marijuana accounted for 82% of the increase in the number of drug arrests. In 2004, approximately 12.7% of state prisoners and 12.4% of Federal prisoners were serving time for a marijuana-related offense. The fear that President Carter voiced in 1977 that penalties for drugs are doing more damage than drugs themselves rings true.

At the time Carter put forth the following recommendations to address the abysmal failure of the War on Drugs policies:
  1. Decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and add a full program to treat addicts.
  2. Remove mandatory minimum sentencing and “three strikes you’re out” laws.
  3. Don’t rely on controlling drug imports from foreign countries. It doesn’t work and is responsible for a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin American countries.        
  4.  Experiment with legal regulation of drugs and thus take away the power of organized crime.

America Puts Way Too Many People In Prison
A 2008 study by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron has estimated that legalizing drugs would benefit  taxpayers $76.8 billion a year in the United States — $44.1 billion from law enforcement savings, and at least $32.7 billion in tax revenue ($6.7 billion from marijuana, $22.5 billion from cocaine and heroin, remainder from other drugs). It is true that many law enforcement lobby groups don’t want to end America’s war against drugs which has cost $1 trillion and counting, but that’s because they’re the reason it’s so expensive. In 2010, a full two-thirds of federal spending on the drug war, $10 billion, went toward law enforcement and interdiction.

Law enforcement rank and file know the truth about the drug war’s profligate and ineffective spending, since marijuana prohibition drives the drug war, these huge costs would end when federal cannabis law changes. Currently, the lawyers, law enforcement officers, and prison systems are the biggest beneficiaries of these laws. Sheriff Tom Allman in Mendocino County, Calif., helped permit, inspect, and protect local cannabis farmers in 2010 and 2011. When asked why, he said: “This county has problems: domestic violence, meth, poverty. Marijuana isn’t even in the top ten. I want it off the front pages so I can deal with the real issues.” Laws that are considered unfair and unevenly enforced weaken trust and faith in our legal system.

As for adult use and how it might change if marijuana laws are relaxed, the numbers are mixed. A 2011 University of California at Berkeley study, for example, showed a slight increase in adult use with legalization in the Netherlands, though the rate was still lower than in the United States. When the United States’ 40-year-long war on marijuana ends, the country and society are not expected to radically change, but we will see a great deal of drug cartel profits move from the criminal economy to the taxable economy. I'm not advocating marijuana and other drugs become totally unregulated only that a more realistic mature attitude towards them be adopted. Some of the taxes from their use should be used to educate people on how not to abuse drugs and use them in a responsible way. It is time we grow up and end this costly war that damages so many young lives.

Footnote;  Below is a post that delves into how the 1930s propaganda film "Reefer Madness" greatly influenced a whole generation and the laws towards marijuana.

1 comment:

  1. The "War on Drugs" is no more than a political posturing exercise to garner votes. The drug culture is an escape from the hypocrisy of parents, teachers and government, and has become a source of employment and enterprise for millions of people who are willing to risk their freedom the same way military recruits are willing to risk their very lives. Trying to blame any particular drug, or any particular addiction for the misery and futility of modern society is a little like trying to quarantine all the 'stupid' people to protect the rest.

    If we want to improve our communities, we need a long list of all the activities and products that should not be bought or sold, and take away the bank accounts of anyone who buys or sells these activities and products. We need to be serious about the concept that "crime doesn't pay", and it should include everything from the human slave trade to fraudulent investment banks to betrayal of the public trust.

    If we have the right to require drivers to earn a license, and can suspend their privileges for the safety of other motorists and pedestrians, surely we can demand that anyone using the common currency can follow the same rules as everyone else.