We have been waging the war on drugs for over 40 years now, and despite its long enduring campaign, I see no evidence that it has contributed any measurable positive effect. Drug usage rates are higher now than they were at its start, despite record numbers of individuals being incarcerated for drug related crimes. If the goal is to decrease drug usage, then clearly our policy has failed. If we can't keep drugs out of a super max prison, then even if America became one huge prison, there would still be drugs.
There has always been the temptation among men to create law as a reflection of our moral compass in society, but if morality was so easily controlled, we would long have since created a perfect society. The purpose of law should be to ensure that our lives and property are protected from the harm of another individual and nothing further. Many who support the war on drugs take anything short of prohibition as an endorsement of such behaviour, but if we truly believe in the idea of a free society, issues purely of morality should be enforced only by society and not government. I have never done any form of illegal drugs in my life, nor do I ever have any intention of doing them or condoning their usage. Yet I cannot support the war on drugs.
All research and successful drug policy shows that treatment should be increased and law enforcement decreased while abolishing mandatory minimum sentences. The nation of Portugal has taken significant steps in this direction and instead of sending people to jail for drug usage, they send them to rehab. It is a method that is far cheaper than incarceration and produces significantly better results. Instead of jailing non-violent offenders with hardened criminals and destroying their chances at gainful employment, they focus on helping them kick their habits and it's having tremendous effects. Drug usage rates are down across the board, most significantly among teenagers. When you stop forcing adicts underground due to fear of incarceration, you are able to much more easily recognize the ones that need and want help and you make it much easier to ask for it. In the 10 years since decriminalizing all drugs, Portugal has seen drug abuse rates cut in half. Something the US wishes it could reproduce.
The war on drugs has cost us greatly, yet drugs are more available then ever, even to children. I graduated high school in 2003, and despite attending a reputable school, drug usage was frequent amongst students and drugs were easily accessible to anyone who looked. A drug dealer does not care if he sells drugs to a 14 year old, nor is he accountable for any of his actions as long as he remains out of the sight of the law. Drugs were easy to get, but alcohol was more difficult, yet alcohol was a legal substance.
Money for drugs is frequently tied to funding violent criminal activities and organizations like the Mexican drug cartels. This is a problem that was created by our war on drugs, and which none of our efforts will be able to end until we cease prohibition. What if instead of devoting all of these resources into the drug war, we allowed our police forces to focus on capturing murders, rapists, and thieves? What if instead of allowing this money to be funneled into the hands of drug dealers and dangerous criminals, we allowed it to be kept in our economy? What if instead of arresting those who simply have an addiction, we helped them become effective members of society? It is time we re-assess our priorities and look at the true cost of this war.