In a recent article published on our website, we explain the key reasons for ending our failed prohibition on cannabis. Doing so would bring untold benefits, and deal a huge blow to our failed war on drugs. However, even if cannabis were legalized, our nation would still be waging the widespread and devastating humans rights violation that our drug war has become.
Even if you don’t condone the use of any drugs, it is difficult to argue that throwing someone into prison alongside murderers and other violent criminals — for simple drug possession, spending taxpayer money along the way — is anything other than bad policy.
The global conversation has opened up immensely over the past several years. United Nations reports have declared the war on drugs a failure (and multiple national leaders have called for an end), and more than 80 percent of Americans have the same opinion. Times are changing.
As the conversation heightens, and with the need for reform ever-growing, here are a few of the primary reasons we believe that we should quickly and effectively end our war on drugs:
• Our war on drugs is not economically feasible, and cannot be maintained. More than a trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money has gone into fighting a massive war that the government can never win. A hardline approach to drug use has not diminished their presence in our society. Instead, it has enriched the criminals who choose to sell them, done nothing to decrease usage rates, and taken a mass population of nonviolent citizens and labeled them as lifelong criminals. In a faultering economy, with many shortfalls to account for, the money spent on this ridiculous war cannot be justified.
• Our war on drugs, and the black market it creates, has led to a pandemic of violence. Drug cartels, and the tens of thousands of deaths that come with their existence, are due directly to our war on drugs. Without the illegal drug market, these cartels would not be rich and powerful enough to, in many instances, overpower their own governments. Continual threats to and murders of journalists has stopped the people of these countries from fully understanding the issue and who is to blame. With an end to our war on drugs comes an end to much organized violence, and thousands of unneccessary deaths.
• Our war on drugs creates an entire class of nonviolent criminals. When someone is labeled a drug felon–which simple possession can do–it permanently alters their life. Student loans and grants become hard or impossible to get, as do jobs and many housing opportunities. Many times individuals who are hit with these charges have to later resort to a life of crime simply to get by. Roughly 50 percent of all current inmates in federal prison were sentenced for nonviolent drug-related offenses. Putting these people behind bars, alongside violent criminals, is inhumane, and often leads to offenders becoming hardened and de-socialized.
• Our war on drugs has led to instutional racism, and disproportionately effects minorities. For example, reports show that African-Americans are 2.5 times likely to be arrested for cannabis, and 8 times more likely to be jailed for a drug offense, compared to someone who’s white. This is despite the fact that statistically, minorities don’t use drugs at a higher rate. This doesn’t come as a surprise when federal DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) agents are being told not to enforce drug laws in “white areas”.
• The war on drugs develops mistrust in our government and our legal system. Rather than properly educating people on the dangers of drug use, and helping rehabilitate those who may be addicted, we throw them in prison and label them criminals. Not only does this build mistrust in our legal system, it also breeds fear and hatred.
In addition to mistreating our citizens, our war on drugs leads to largely skewed priorities. Since Nixon declared this war in 1971, substances like cannabis have been treated the same as fatal substances such as meth and PCP. In our education system (yes, we’re looking at you, DARE), kids are taught that cannabis is equal in danger to substances like heroin. When kids find out this isn’t true about cannabis, likely through personal use, what’s to stop them from thinking they’ve also been lied to about other drugs? Education is key, and propaganda is dangerous.
We need to continue our work toward a fair and equal justice system. In such a system, there would be no room for failures like the war on drugs.
• Looking at an example, Portugal has had success not arresting people for drug possesion. Over a decade ago, Portugal decriminalized the possession of all drugs; the results were a resounding success.
Under this model (which we’re not saying is perfect, but better than what we currently have), usage rates among minors decreased, as did the overall number of people consuming drugs. In addition, there was a large decrease in addiction rates, as well as in the rates of overdoses and STDs, likely due to the government offering treatment without threat of legal ramifications.
• We are, after all, living in “the land of the free.” Jailing people for simple drug possession, often for years or decades, flies contrary to this statement. We are fully aware that hard drugs can have a devastating effect on the lives of many, and we would never condone their usage.