The U.S. drug war is a huge failure

Guest Column by James Hultunen

The current U.S. drug policy has failed miserably. It was a modest experiment to better society, but human nature could not be changed by government coercion.

Instead of a drug-free society, we have extremely violent cartels, increasing gang activity, a Soviet Union-sized black market and overflowing prison systems.

Unfortunately, the unseen negative consequences of drug prohibition are not felt by politicians. They are felt by the taxpayers, the innocent and the poor.

Certain drugs were illegal in particular counties as far back as the mid-1800s and the laws were left to the local government’s discretion. In 1914, the Harrison Tax Act restricted the sale of heroin.

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively taxed cannabis out of the market. This is when drug trafficking went underground.

The next large piece of legislation was the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. This law combined all previous drug laws into one and expanded the enforcement power of the federal government.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was created in 1973 to combat illegal drug trafficking and sales nationally.

As a country, we cannot deny reality any longer. Drug prohibition has multiple negative effects and negligible improvements on society. Americans continue to consume large quantities of illegal drugs.

For example, the DEA’s budget in 2010 was $2.2 billion. The DEA’s goal was to seize $3 billion worth of illegal products or assets.

That same year, Americans purchased around $60 billion worth of illegal drugs. Easy math tells us that we spend $2.2 billion for the DEA to reduce the illegal drug market by five percent.

By any standard, this is failing. Basic economic theory of supply and demand (along with ever increasing profits) doesn’t give the DEA or local law enforcement a fair chance. The total cost of drug prohibition is roughly $48.7 billion per year (local law enforcement, court fees, prison funding, etc.).

Drug legalization would create around $34.3 billion in new taxes with tax rates around 50 percent of the drugs’ retail value. Economically, the War on Drugs does not make sense.

Although the War on Drugs is economically irrational, one’s moral beliefs on drugs must be considered. It has been proven that drug abuse has various negative consequences on individuals and communities as a whole.

Drug abuse and addiction can be considered one of mankind’s greatest tragedies. But drugs are inanimate objects. They are not good or bad. To fear drugs is illogical.

It is the individual human that chooses to use a substance for whatever reason. The individual that becomes addicted must identify their own root cause and decide if they are ready to start recovery.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau once wrote long ago, “A fool, if he be obeyed, may punish crimes as well as another: but the true statesman is he who knows how to prevent them.” We currently sentence users and drug-related criminals to prison.

The conversation ends. The fool prevails.

We need a true statesman who is willing to adopt a constitutional amendment to legalize drugs.

This amendment will enforce current law when it comes to personal responsibility (i.e. driving under the influence) and set reasonable tax rates based off the drugs’ retail values to prevent black markets in the future.

All the tax revenue would go to support new government sponsored substance recovery and prevention programs.

One is a prevention program that teaches American youth about drugs, what they are used for and the side effects of usage. Unfortunately, knowledge will not prevent all addictions.

The second program would create and fund substance abuse centers for addicts to voluntarily check-in when they choose to. The centers would be staffed with professionals trained in substance abuse and act as safe havens to foster recovery and help patients find a new lease on life.

The American people must not fear drugs. Man has had the propensity to use and abuse drugs for thousands of years. We must accept drug use as a part of the human experience.
Cigarettes and alcohol are legal drugs and societal movements to limit their use have proven to be effective.
We can take back the responsibility of our actions. How many more mass grave stories in Mexico will it take?