White paper- Sam Sarlo

Topic background: The current “Drug Czar”, the head of the war on drugs, made a public statement in 2009 that the war on drugs should be ended. Just like 99% of the people in this country, he realizes that the last 40 years of anti-drug efforts have been wasteful and sometimes counterproductive and have showed very little benefit. Even after this statement, the government has continued to spend tens of billions of dollars on ineffective law enforcement and supply-oriented action.

Counterintuitivity Note: http://www.esquire.com/the-side/richardson-report/drug-war-facts-090109

The purpose of the war on drugs is supposed to be public health and safety. The author of this article calculated a rough death toll of the war on drugs in the US for 2007: 6,487 from drug related violence alone, 15,223 if you add in overdoses. Many of these deaths are police officers who are sent to fight an uphill battle. If drugs were legal and regulated, most of the 6,487 drug-related deaths would never have happened. The war on drugs is killing thousands of Americans, yet the government perpetuates it.

Cops and Drugs: Why we Never Hear what they Really Think-  Niel Franklin, a former high-ranking narcotics officer, said “I find that 95 percent of my law-enforcement friends agree” that the war on drugs is not working, “and probably 60 percent to 65 percent agree that we should legalize.” Franklin states that police departments keep these sentiments quiet for “selfish reasons.” If drugs were legalized, we could cut one third of law enforcement in the country. “And give back all the federal funds too. That’s why very seldom will you see a police chief step forward and say, ‘Yeah, we need to do this.,'” says Franklin.

Packed Prisons: In 2007, 55% of federal prison inmates were incarcerated for drug offenses, with an even higher average state prisoner percentage. When calculated out of the prison budgets, that’s an astonishing $30.4 billion spent just on imprisoning drug offenders in one year. Also, at least 44 states reportedly overspent their prison budgets, so these cost estimates are actually quite low. The combined cost of law enforcement and imprisonment for drug offenses is about $52.3 billion for 2007, which is close to the expected yearly expense of universal health care. So, instead of spending money to protect citizens’ health, our government is spending it on enforcing laws that kill and wrongfully imprison us.

State of the Paper:  I have found many unlikely opponents of the war on drugs in its current form, and despite sensible counterarguments that:1. more people would use drugs and 2. more people would overdose, I am convinced that legalization and regulation of drugs is the best and only solution to the economic and social issues of the drug problem.

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