Time to Call a Cease Fire in the Drug War

Our country has made zero progress since President Nixon coined the term “war on drugs” in 1971. Yet, somehow, we have spent more than $1 trillion total.

We are losing the war on drugs.

Our country has made zero progress since President Nixon coined the term “war on drugs” in 1971. Yet, somehow, we have spent more than $1 trillion total.

President Obama’s administration has stopped using the term “war on drugs,” but, obviously,  it is still going on. And, said war is still happily bleeding our federal budget.

Clearly, throwing money at the problem isn’t helping.

It is time to figure out how to effectively legalize, tax, and regulate some of the illicit drugs, namely marijuana, just like we do with alcohol and tobacco.  

Almost without exception, the drugs that are illegal are unhealthy and highly addictive. So why would I advocate ending the war?

Look at the huge, international criminal cartels the so-called “war on drugs” has created. Tens of thousands of people each year are dying brutal, horrible, violent deaths just across the border in Mexico and down into Central and South America. 

Just this week, 49 mutilated bodies were found by the side of a highway near Monterrey, Mexico.  The killings are thought to be drug-related.

And, they aren’t just killing rival cartel members. Innocent people are getting caught in the crossfire.

Do you think that might contribute to a surge in illegal immigration? People crossing our borders, desperate to get away from the atrocities happening in their homeland?

Our government also sends Drug Enforcement Agency agents to fight these cartels in foreign countries. As you may recall, a drug cartel member killed one of our immigration and customs-enforcement agents in Mexico last year.

The New York Times has an exposé that uncovers the fact that we are sending DEA commandos into Honduras where they are engaging in firefights with smugglers. Let’s not lose more American lives while killing locals in foreign countries.

Here in California, drug and arms cartels are destroying huge sections of state and national forests to cultivate the marijuana crop domestically instead of smuggling it across border. Oh yes, and if you happen to be hiking and you stumble across one of the fields, you are likely to be shot and killed by an armed guard.

And it isn’t just foreign criminals.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In 2009 alone, of the 1.6 million criminal arrests, around one-sixth was for drug violations.  Half of those arrests were marijuana-related – a drug many argue is far less harmful than alcohol.

What about drug use-rates in the past 20 years? Has the war made a difference?

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, eighth-graders and high school sophomores and seniors in the United States are using as much marijuana today as in the early 1980s.  

The National Criminal Justice Reference Service claims an estimated 12.8 million Americans, about six percent of the household population aged 12 and older, use illegal drugs on a current basis (within the past 30 days).

As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Why are we acting insane and expecting different results after spending over $1 trillion?

Didn’t we learn anything from prohibition? Why do we continue to make the same mistakes?  

As with alcohol, legalizing some drugs is the only thing that makes sense. Let’s start with marijuana and study the consequences. Then, we can decide a rational course of action and take it from there.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Zerogal May 22, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Clear headed and straight to the point. It amazes me that we tolerate this complete erosion of civil liberties under the aegis of a War on Drugs. It has nothing to do with protecting the American public, else cigarettes (which kill 500,000 citizens a year) would be prohibited. It is all about the militarization of the police; keeping our prisons-for-profit, profitable; corporate control over culture and the personal lives of employees; sale of SWAT and infrared imaging equipment; funding of police departments through seizure and forfeiture of personal property without oversight; the unholy alliance between Big Pharma and the FDA and DEA... must I go on? The War on Drugs is a cancer eating away at our society.
Robert Norse July 25, 2013 at 07:03 AM
Just common sense. So then you'd support medicalization generally and inhalation and injection centers like those in Vancouver and Europe for "hard" drugs like cocaine, meth, and heroin? If you'd favor a "cease-fire" there, I'd be glad but surprised to hear it, in light of your earlier attacks on Needle Exchange in Santa Cruz.
Ethan Bearman July 25, 2013 at 01:26 PM
Robert, I also emailed you the link, but have you taken the soon-to-close, unofficial, public opinion, Santa Cruz Needle Exchange Survey? http://santacruz.patch.com/groups/ethan-bearmans-blog/p/santa-cruz-county-needle-exchange-survey
Robert Norse July 25, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Thanks for the invite, Ethan. In return, you're invited (as I think I suggested when we met at the Take Back Santa Cruz/City Council lovefest in the City Hall courtyard some months back) to come on Free Radio for a discussion of Needle Exchange and other issues. Admittedly we're small potatoes compared to KSCO, but it would still be interesting....and challenging.


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