Friday, May 14, 2010

News Flash: Drug war a colossal failure. You're shocked, right?

In a surprisingly frank story, AP points out that the Drug War Emperor wears no clothes:
After 40 years, the United States' war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.

Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn't worked.

"In the grand scheme, it has not been successful," Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. "Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified."

This week President Obama promised to "reduce drug use and the great damage it causes" with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment.

Nevertheless, his administration has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels both in dollars and in percentage terms; this year, they account for $10 billion of his $15.5 billion drug-control budget.

Kerlikowske, who coordinates all federal anti-drug policies, says it will take time for the spending to match the rhetoric.

"Listen to what I say, pay no attention to what I do," is the message here. Concerning the macroeconomics of the drug trade, AP reports:

The $320 billion annual global drug industry now accounts for 1 percent of all commerce on the planet.

A full 10 percent of Mexico's economy is built on drug proceeds — $25 billion smuggled in from the United States every year, of which 25 cents of each $100 smuggled is seized at the border. Thus there's no incentive for the kind of financial reform that could tame the cartels.

"For every drug dealer you put in jail or kill, there's a line up to replace him because the money is just so good," says Walter McCay, who heads the nonprofit Center for Professional Police Certification in Mexico City.

Our old pal Bill Piper IMO nails the analysis:

"President Obama's newly released drug war budget is essentially the same as Bush's, with roughly twice as much money going to the criminal justice system as to treatment and prevention," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance. "This despite Obama's statements on the campaign trail that drug use should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue."

That's change you can believe in, baby. Drug policy arguably is the only issue in Washington on which there's a near-complete bipartisan consensus: Everybody agrees current tactics aren't working and also seems to agree to spend ever-more money on them. In my book, Dems in D.C. are worse than Republicans on that score.


Anonymous said...

I think most people would agree that the war on drugs has been an utter failure, but there is a growing cry to legalize some or all drugs which is definitely not the way to go. As with several of your other posts have noted, mandatory sentencing for minor drug offenders is definitely not the way to go, but neither is decriminilazing all drug use. Treatment has be used more and become just as common place in the modern psyche as incarceration for criminality has been since, well, the beginning of time. After reading the National Strategy to Reduce Drug Use and its Consequences released by the White House on Tuesday, I was greatly disheartened that it was more of the same.

machine said...

I recomend a book titled "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed" by Judge James P Gray. Yes some of the argument/information is redundent in the sense that many, most, the majority of Americans (and people around the world) agree that zero tollerance is a set up for failure,exploitation...Doing more damage than good and want to change our zero tollerance policy...This book gives many alternatives; some that have been used in many european countries; resulting in a lower street crime rate AND surprisingly enough no out of control drug epidemic...It's as if taking the lure of tabo out there is less appeal...Hmmm!

It seems that most people agree that the “War on Drugs” ( our zero tollerance approach) has not only failed but is unconstatutional. I myself agree. The few arguments I found by those who feel that drugs are “bad” find it neccesary that our government intervine. My question is: Isn’t that what the U.S. has been doing for the past 30 plus years? Mandating stricked laws and harsh punishments has done nothing to detur drug use. The only thing our drug policies have done is create a multi-billion dollar black market based on what is taught in economics 101…Supply and Demand. People want drugs!!! But also it has increased the violence usually associated within a black market, and more than tripple the national prison population; mainly with recreational drug users and nickle and dime dealers, not the big drug lords…Even if our government was able to get to those at the top – which it is my educated opinion that we are in bed with these ring leaders – it still would not stop the supply because there will always be a demand. And all of the governments actions are payed for by hard working Americans like you and me; who more than likely enjoy coming home and cracking open a cold beer or maybe twisting up a doobie… I don’t know what you all put in your bodies in the privacy of your own home and frankly I don’t care. Not to mention..It isn’t my buisness! Sure there are those certain individuals that act like idiots and go off and make poor decisions while intoxicated…Maybe they stumble down the street half naked, rob little old ladies, hold up liquer stores, or get behind the wheel and drive. But those are the crimes, not the act of getting high or drunk. If it’s legal to purchase alcohol, and consum it…just as long as you don’t go out and break the law, than why can’t it be just as acceptable to get high, just as long as you don’t go off and break the law. Beer commercials have a great ad slogan: “Drink Responsably.” Which sounds funny since consuming alcohol in large quantities greatly impairs ones ability to function and think straight. However drinking is a legal privilege and even though most drink to get a buzz,you can’t just go off and become reckless…There are consequences. But those consequences are based on irresponsable choices while intoxicated…not that you consumed alcohol. I think it is reasonable sound to say that it is time to re-evaluate our Zero tollerance drug policies… The up hill battle starts with moving past the century of mumbo-jumbo rehtoric,i.e. marijuana is the gateway drug…If you legalize drugs everyone will do it…Users become abusers…Drugs are evil and only evil people do drugs.
Honesty and education, not scare tactics, is our best tool for keeping our youth from becoming abusers. And yes there is a grave difference between a “user” and a “abuser”. And not all those who use become addicts. For those that do our government could help fund State provided rehab centers and clinics.
No there is no perfect solution… There are no guaruntees that other issuess, challenges and problems wouldn’t occure. But the idea is to get the Government out of our personal affairs, function like responsable choice making adults, and be accountable for our own actions.
Don’t Tread On Me.

R. Shackleford said...

Texas is gonna crap bricks if and when cannabis becomes legal/semi legal. I personally look forward to watching the sparks fly.

Hoof said...

If drugs were legalized now the tattered economy of Mexico would collapse in its entirety. That is the only major export left for that country and probably the only thing sustaining its meager existence. How does this factor into the global picture? Would US leaders want a civil war conflict occurring next door? The "undocumented aliens" would be legitimized refugees and there is no humanitarian justification for turning them away and denying their access to US social welfare programs that we can barely sustain now.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they could just forward the drug war budget to the Mexican Cartels in the hope that they would go on vacation instead of smuggling drugs. It would work as well as what we are doing now.

Anonymous said...

" but there is a growing cry to legalize some or all drugs which is definitely not the way to go. "

It is the way to go at least on marijuana; people are just basing their judgment on fear.

Starting with marijuana, any objective look at the scientific medical literature shows that it is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco by a large amount. The medical costs and public safety costs associated with cannabis use are several times less than tobacco (and would remain so if use increased), and much less than alcohol. Collecting taxes on the sales of cannabis will bring in vast sums of money and the costs to society will be relatively small.

Case and point: "The public health burden of cannabis use is probably
modest compared with that of alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs. A recent Australian study 96 estimated that cannabis use caused 0·2% of total disease burden in Australia—a country with one of the highest reported rates of cannabis use. --Lancet 2009; 374: 1383–91

Also see the March 2007 Lancet " Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse"

Look at the chart EV 115:

In terms of physical harm, cannabis is the 4th lowest on the list out of 20 drugs.

If you examine the medical literature on cannabis, it has harms, but they are relatively mild compared to other illicit/legal substances.

Legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and up is the way to go. Mexico and other Latin American leaders want us to legalize cannabis because our demand is what creates the corruption and supply in their countries.


Other drugs should be treated as a health problem, not a criminal one. Stop the life long drug criminal records. Stop making arrests and just fine people and take their drugs away and link them up with treatment. Look at Portugal's decriminalization experiment for reference. The sky doesn't fall doing these things. Texas needs to look towards heroin clinics that give out heroin to a certain class of addicts to mitigate demand for it in the black market while giving controlled dosages and lowering disease through clean needle exchanges. Other drugs regulation programs need to be looked at with cocaine that are ultra strict while dumping $ into treatment. We need to do what makes sense. Our children should be kept away from dangerous substances and educated about them, but let's look at alternatives to prohibition right now.

Anonymous said...

11:08, what makes you think Mexico would stop distributing drugs if made legal?

RAS said...

How will legalizing pot affect traffic fatalities, drop out rates, truancy, calling in sick, being worthless when they do show up? Are we going to legalize all drugs or leave some taboo, attracting the closet anarchists? Machine, drugs were made illegal in the 20's or 30's but didn't become an epidemic until the 60's and 70's. What happened in between?

Anonymous said...

"11:08, what makes you think Mexico would stop distributing drugs if made legal?"

It's the same reason why bootleggers were put out of business when America legalized alcohol (without the risk priced in, legitimate business can undercut them). They were priced out by legitimate business which created a cheaper, better product. It's why people go to the liquor store rather than the alley to purchase such things.

RAS said: "How will legalizing pot affect traffic fatalities, drop out rates, truancy, calling in sick, being worthless when they do show up?"

Why don't you read some of the literature on these subjects?

machine said...

RAS asks:
Machine, drugs were made illegal in the 20's or 30's but didn't become an epidemic until the 60's and 70's. What happened in between?

My answer is...Not much...people did drugs,as they always have and always will. We just didn't throw them into prison for drugs like we do today. Its by our own ignorant anti-drug rhetoric - "drugs are evil, therefore people who do drugs are evil", our increased laws , and zero tollerance that has created this "so called" epidemic.
The tragedy is this, that after 30+ years of spending billions of dollars on a "WAR ON DRUgs" and sending hundreds of thousands of men and women to prison (moms, dads, teachers, the pizza guy) - most of which are petty users and nickle and dime dealers -we haven't come close to deturing drug use, nor has the war on drugs decreased the demand for drugs...and it never will.
What is sad about this is that you and I know it to be true regardless of where we stand on the topic of "illicit drugs" and so do our legislatures and those who have headed the "Anti Drug" campaine. Any one with half a brain can look at the record and see that all our zero tollerance policy has done is driven the black market by increasing it's profit, which in turn has created an even more costly "epidemic".

It seems that our real problem is by what I think has become an American ideology...",never admit you are wrong, deny everything, avoid accountability, and blame someone else". Americans all to offten rest on the laures of when they have been right, and ignore the challenge of when they are wrong.

The "War On Drugs" and zero tollerance has long proven itself a failure.