This post has been contributed.
I’m pretty sure that at in the future, our descendants will look back at how we deal with drugs these days with a tinge of sadness. America’s war on drugs has been responsible for hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of tragedies over the past 80 years or so. Things are changing now; albeit slowly. But there is still a lot to do to prevent more lives turning to ruin. It’s clear that drug policy reformers still have their work cut out, and the next decade or so might turn out to be a pivotal moment. Countless victims have been suffering for far too long - and I wanted to shine a light on those victims today.
Drug addiction is a disease, yet so many victims of this healthcare issue are treated as criminals. It means there are thousands of nonviolent offenders in jails all over the country. It means addicts will buy substances on the black market, which are often cut with all kinds of dangerous chemicals. And, it means that more people are prone to overdose because they are taking a drug in an unregulated environment.
Families of addicts are often the innocent victims of the war on drugs. When parents, children or spouses become addicts, many physical and psychological traumas go with it. Children of addicts are eight times more likely to become addicts - or marry an addict. And it’s unlikely the cycle will be broken until we come up with a better way to deal with the drug issue.
Drugs such as heroin and cocaine are often created in developing countries to meet the demand in developed countries. As you can imagine, the conditions that producers work under are nothing close to regulated. The cartels and warlords from everywhere from Colombia to Afghanistan control everything. Local farmers and producers often have no choice but to accept payments - either under duress or because it is their only source of income. When you get caught with a bag of cocaine, a good cocaine attorney might be able to get you off a charge. But the cycle for the cocaine producer may not ever end, and if it does, it is often in death.
The policy sets out the war on drugs, but it’s the police that has to enforce it. But those policies are a never ending problem, a drain on resources, and result in the deaths of good police officers. The last 50 years or so have seen an expensive all out war on drugs which just hasn’t worked. There have been no significant reductions in illicit drug use - or supply. And given that police officers are on the front line, it is putting them in a lot of unnecessary danger.
While your average taxpayer will have an adverse opinion on a change in drug policy, I often wonder if they realize the real social costs. In 2010, the US government spent $15 billion on the war on drugs, and state and local governments spent a further $25 billion. Just think of what we could do with that money if the policy underwent significant change.