Ending the drug war, diverting funds from drug busts to prevention and treatment, taxing (and rigorously controlling) a regulated market for marijuana and other drugs would help pull the U.S. and the global economy away from the precipice of depression.
Retired Seattle police chief, member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
If it accomplished nothing else, the recent rumpus over a gold-plated athlete's bong hit brings into sharp relief the need for a national, rational gut-check about America's drug policy.
We are, after all, a little busy at the moment. Struggling to hold onto our jobs, our homes, our automobiles. Our 401ks. Our children's lunch and college money. At the moment, forty-six million Americans without health insurance pray to make it through another day without stepping in front of a bus or being laid low by catastrophic illness. Energy needs and the environment vie unendingly for our attention. Terrorism, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have been reduced, temporarily, to background noise, the result of primal economic fears, but national security concerns still loom large.
So, what's so urgent about drug policy reform?
Dot-connecting time. Since 1971, when Richard Nixon pronounced drugs "public enemy number one" and declared all-out war them (or, more accurately, on the people who took them), we have spent $1 trillion prosecuting that war. Eight Nixon successors and 38 years later what do we have to show for our investment?
We've arrested tens of millions of Americans for nonviolent drug offenses, most for simple possession of marijuana. We've damaged or ruined the lives of countless citizens who've lost school loans, publicly subsidized housing, and jobs. And yet, drugs are more readily available--especially to our kids--at lower prices and higher levels of potency than in the history of the drug war. (If you hear some "expert" claim the war is being "won" because cocaine prices are spiking, consider this: prices, like use levels, fluctuate. By way of analogy, think of the economic pain and suffering of those impoverished oil cartels when the cost of a barrel goes up. What never fluctuates, by the way, is the immutable law of supply and demand.) Even the staunchest drug warriors are in agreement: This is one war whose mission remains unaccomplished, a costly battle with no victory in sight.
The nation's longest running armed conflict, the drug war, financed to the tune of about $70 billion a year, is an unmitigated economic disaster. Think of the money that could be invested, right now, in "shovel-ready" infrastructure improvements, or in the credit crisis, the home mortgage crisis, the energy crisis, the automobile industry crisis, the banking crisis, the education crisis, the deficit crisis...
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