For the past 40 years (or so), the United States has been leading the international drug war. What have we accomplished in those 40 years? Well, drug trafficking is now a booming industry, generating around $320 billion annually in revenue for criminals.
Why did we start the drug war? A few years ago, a Nixon aide said the war on drugs was designed to target hippies and black people because those were Nixon’s top enemies. He could disrupt those communities by making marijuana and heroin illegal.
What has it cost us? Since it’s started, the U.S. has wasted over $1 trillion of taxpayers' money on the drug war. More than 1 million people are arrested for drug possession every year in the U.S. It’s also been reported that we spend over $3 billion every year to imprison people for drug-related crimes.
The drug war is a huge financial burden and is ruining peoples lives. But it must have helped in some way? Right? Or else why would we continue with it?
Sure, we’ve put some bad guys away and we’ve confiscated a large amount of drugs. But that hasn’t really stopped people. The drug war hasn’t had a significant impact on illegal drug consumption. Drug consumption has been steady the last 40 years. It's gone up and down slightly over the time, but we're pretty much where we were before it started.
The prohibition has driven up the cost of illegal drugs, which results in violence from the drug cartels. This is similar as to how alcohol prohibition caused violence. If we ended the prohibition on drugs, instead of buying drugs from violent drug dealers, people could safely purchase drugs from a pharmacy.
Some drugs are bad and drug addiction is ugly, but making these drugs illegal isn’t helping. The tax revenue from making all drugs legal could fund detox centers and make rehab facilities more affordable. It would be easier for people struggling with drug addiction to get help.
President Trump has stated that people entering the country illegally are drug dealers and rapists. If we stop the war on drugs, drug dealers would stop bringing drugs across the border.
If other countries were to do the same, they could decrease their crime and improve the lives of their citizens. Then there wouldn’t be asylum seekers at our border, or at least there would be a lot less.
So, how do we stop the war on drugs? The first step is to decriminalize the use of all drugs. The next step is to legalize and regulate it. If we are producing and regulating the drugs ourselves, no one has a reason to purchase from the drug dealers and the drug cartels will go out of business eventually.
I hope to see the drug war end within the next decade. The sooner, the better. Hopefully, it’s not wishful thinking.
This column was submitted for consideration in The Forum's search for "the next great columnist."