In June 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” This movement has been fundamentally flawed since the very inception of its name, and it has accumulated more human casualties than many wars against enemy nations. His actions were sparked by a steady increase in drug use and drug arrests through the 1960′s, and surely his purpose was to lessen the damage done to the people of our nation by drugs and drug-related violence, but unfortunately it has led to massive bloodshed and sustained international organized crime. Thus far, our government has spent trillions of dollars and the lives of tens of thousands of citizens on regulations and enforcement measures that have been at best ineffective and wasteful and at worst dangerous and counterproductive. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, the number of drug-related deaths has fairly steadily increased since the inception of the war on drugs.
There are several categories of drug-related deaths, but the two main categories are overdoses and drug-related violence. There are people killed by drug users, drug users killed by police, police killed by drug users/dealers, drug dealers killing each other in territorial disputes, drug-funded gangs killing each other, and that’s not even considering what’s happening outside U.S. borders. Counterintuitively, the war on drugs actually causes more drug-related deaths to occur. It seems that the harder our government tries and the more money they spend to enforce drug laws, the more people die. An extremely low estimate of drug related deaths in this country for 2007 is 15,223 (Richardson). As I said, this is an extremely low estimate, it even excludes the roughly 60% of overdose deaths caused by prescription drugs, even though most of them should qualify as illegal drug overdoses because the pills were almost certainly illegally obtained or taken other than as directed. About 6,487 (Richardson) of these deaths are caused by drug-related violence.
Most drug violence is rooted in and perpetuated by the war on drugs and the legislation on which it is based. Our government has regulated drugs through prohibition since the 1930’s, and it has not and will never work. Just as the failed experiment of alcohol prohibition created massive black-market enterprises and put money in the pockets of violent criminals, the war on drugs has only worsened and deepened the drug problem.
Another alarming aspect of the war on drugs is the billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on failing measures every year. Federal and state governments spend a combined $30.4 billion each year on incarcerating drug offenders, and that’s on top of the $21.9 billion spent on drug law enforcement. Even more tragic than these monetary figures is the tens of thousands of lives wasted in jail, and misguided law enforcement attempts that victimize innocent people. For example, Jose Guerena Ortiz, a US marine combat veteran, was fired upon 71 times in front of his wife and daughter by a SWAT team who broke down his door because he was “suspected of involvement in drug trafficking. Nothing illegal was found in his home, and to this day authorities have no evidence that Ortiz had ever been involved in the drug trade, yet none of the officers involved in his massacre have been charged or even disciplined. The war on drugs is successfully used as an excuse for such injustice by law enforcement every day.
“A Radical Solution to End the Drug War: Legalize everything” by John H. Richardson