April 12, 2012 by David K. Sutton
Are We Winning The War On Drugs? Can Americans Accept Legalization Of Hard Drugs?
Based on anecdotal evidence I think its safe to conclude that after three decades – although drugs have been illegal for longer – we have not and will not win the “War on Drugs,” a term coined by President Richard Nixon in 1971. Later, the Reagan administration would adopt the slogan of “Just Say No” in its efforts to combat illegal drugs.
But if alcohol prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s, why do we think drug prohibition will work now?
George F. Will asks in a Washington Post opinion column: Should the U.S. legalize hard drugs? In his column Will says, “Dealers, a.k.a. ‘pushers,’ have almost nothing to do with initiating drug use by future addicts; almost every user starts when given drugs by a friend, sibling or acquaintance.” Because of this fact, it makes little sense to lock up drug dealers because they are not responsible for drug use. If you lock up one dealer, another one will take his place. Meanwhile, tax dollars are used to lock up each drug dealer, costing six figures (or more) over the span of incarceration.
In “Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know,” policy analysts Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken argue that imprisoning low-ranking street-corner dealers is pointless: A $200 transaction can cost society $100,000 for a three-year sentence. And imprisoning large numbers of dealers produces an army of people who, emerging from prison with blighted employment prospects, can only deal drugs.
Today over 50 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized. While marijuana is not a hard drug, it’s legalization can serve as the test bed of drug policy change in the United States. Will writes, “Marijuana probably provides less than 25 percent of the cartels’ revenue. Legalizing it would take perhaps $10 billion from some bad and violent people, but the cartels would still make much more money from cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines than they would lose from marijuana legalization.” Are Americans willing to accept legalization of hard drugs to end violence and illegal trade? I’ll admit I’m apprehensive at this point to the idea of legalizing hard drugs, but I wonder: is the cost of legalization higher or lower than the cost – in monetary and social terms – of current drug policy?
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