Moving on from the Failed War on Drugs

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

Nixon’s brainchild, the War on Drugs, is a failed program that has resulted in thousands of nonviolent users being incarcerated with violent criminals. The results of this War?  Here’s the plain facts based on 2016 data:

  • 2,157,000 people imprisoned – the highest incarceration rate in the world.
  • 52.8% of drug offenders faced a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years or longer.
  • Drug law violation arrests: 1,572,579 of which 84% were only for possession and 653,249 (41.5%) were for possession of marijuana.
  • 57% of those in prison for a drug offense are Black or Latino
  • Over 200,000 students lost federal financial aid eligibility because of a drug conviction
  • Annual cost of the war on drugs: Over $50 billion
  • Annual Tax revenue currently-illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco: $46.7 billion – a total difference of 96.7 billion dollars which could be used for drug treatment.

What works for drug addiction is not humiliation, stigmatization and punishment, but  treatment programs that help reconnect people to other people and restoration to the life of the community.

Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it — treating drug use as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs are still illegal, but getting caught means a small fine and a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record. Rates of drug use haven’t skyrocketed like some predicted. Drug use has declined overall among the 15 to 24 year-old population, and adult drug use is now lower than it was in 2001. There has been a huge reduction in the number of drug users diagnosed with HIV and AIDS Drug-induced deaths have decreased steeply.