America’s Futile War on Drugs

For decades, the United States have been waging a war on drugs, both within its borders and throughout Central America. This struggle has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of law enforcements officers and civilians while drug use in America has not declined. So what’s the point?

On his Fox Business Network show last week, John Stossel asked precisely that question, noting that whenever the war appears to be successful, as it has been in Colombia, the problem simply moves elsewhere, to Bolivia and Mexico, where cartels up to this very day are engaged in fierce confrontations with police. Meanwhile, drugs are still readily available on America’s streets. In fact, the country is funding both sides of the war, with the government spending almost the exact amount on law enforcement and foreign aid as American citizens buy in drugs.

By any standard then, the war on drugs is a failure. What’s more though, it’s illegitimate.

A just government should not be allowed to decide what products its citizens can and cannot consume or enjoy. It is not the government’s responsibility to protect people against themselves. Proponents of strict drug laws may argue that drug use poses a threat to the community, because people on drugs, like people who are intoxicated with alcohol, have less control over their behavior and might indeed act erratically and aggressively. They further allege that drug use would undoubtedly rise when drug laws are loosened.

Both claims are demonstrably false. The most popular drugs, including marijuana and ecstasy, do not make people more aggressive. To the contrary. Drug addiction and abuse are serious problems but hardly more so than alcohol addiction and abuse. It makes no sense to criminalize the one and control the other with sensible laws, like not allowing drunk and disorderly conduct and not allowing drunks to drive.

As for the fear that drug use would increase if it were legalized; there is no evidence to support this claim. No matter the stereotypes, the one country that has practically legalized soft drugs, the Netherlands, has proven that the contrary is true. The number of teens and young adult who have experimented with drugs in the Netherlands pales in comparison with American statistics.

The Dutch drug policy has not been able to put a stop to related crime altogether but the legalization of certain kinds of drugs is not to blame here. Rather, the problem lies in the ambiguity of Dutch drug laws. While people are allowed to buy and use drugs in limited quantities, it remains illegal for sellers to purchase them — forcing them to resort to crime.

The Dutch tolerance of drug use was originally born out of the libertarian conviction that it is not the government’s place to try to condition its population. People should be allowed smoke, drink alcohol and use drugs, even if it’s bad for their health.

In the American approach, this notion is altogether lacking. Instead, unyielding drug laws, which include mandatory sentences for even the slightest of offenses, are driven by fear and ignorance and the ambitions of lawmakers who want to be considered tough on drugs.

The result is something of a police state as could be seen in John Stossel’s show last Thursday. Regularly, all across the country, SWAT teams barge into peoples’ houses on the suspicion of drug possession, arresting ordinary people, even parents, because they had the audacity to smoke pot in the privacy of their own homes. Teenagers who try marijuana once could be ruined for life. Every day, more people are arrested in the United States on drug charges than all other crimes combined. In 2008, 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug offenses. 500,000 were imprisoned. Marijuana constitutes almost half of all drug arrests. So naturally Stossel concludes that, “the drug laws do more damage than the drugs.”

No matter the futility of the war on drugs; no matter the thousands of deaths and lives ruined; no matter the fact that law enforcement is becoming evermore brutal in its pursuits and that America is slowly turning into a prison nation because of its prejudice, the question ultimately boils down to one of civil liberties. As Stossel put it, “Either we own our body or we don’t.” It is on this argument that the fight against those who favor government control in this regard should be waged and won.


  1. The problem is that the government is making too much money off of this; to them the war on drugs is another stick to beat the taxpayer piñata with. And added benefit is that it gives the government an excuse to tighten the leash and take away more civil liberties. A classic case where it did happen was in the case of the No knock warrant where the police can just simply kick down your door if they think you are housing more narcotics than you can use in one day; which is called Possession with intent to distribute.

    Another case that hasn’t happened yet but the cause they would use is, in some circles it’s called the Mexican Gun Canard. The claim is 80% or there about of the guns used by the Cartel come from the United States, this includes their rocket launchers, machine guns, and hand grenades. Roughly 80% of the guns /sent back/ to the United States for testing came from the United States and most of those were hand guns and a good deal of which were stolen. Seeing as how Rocket launchers and hand grenades are illegal to own in this country any way, and machine guns are way too expensive to own and require a fair bit of red tape to get in the first place to sell them south of the border the ones they get are made in Pakistan or China. But let’s not let the facts get in the way of tighter laws in the name of the war on drugs.

    There you have it, money and power. The two reasons the end to this Endless War on Drugs isn’t going away anytime soon.

  2. Prohibition is a sickening horror and the ocean of incompetence, corruption and human wreckage it has left in its wake is almost endless.

    Prohibition has decimated generations and criminalized millions for a behavior which is entwined in human existence, and for what other purpose than to uphold the defunct and corrupt thinking of a minority of misguided, self-righteous Neo-Puritans and degenerate demagogues who wish nothing but unadulterated destruction on the rest of us.

    Based on the unalterable proviso that drug use is essentially an unstoppable and ongoing human behavior which has been with us since the dawn of time, any serious reading on the subject of past attempts at any form of drug prohibition would point most normal thinking people in the direction of sensible regulation.

    By its very nature, prohibition cannot fail but create a vast increase in criminal activity, and rather than preventing society from descending into anarchy, it actually fosters an anarchic business model – the international Drug Trade. Any decisions concerning quality, quantity, distribution and availability are then left in the hands of unregulated, anonymous and ruthless drug dealers, who are interested only in the huge profits involved. Thus, the allure of this reliably and lucrative industry, with it’s enormous income potential that consistently outweighs the risks associated with the illegal operations that such a trade entails, will remain with us until we are collectively forced to admit the obvious.

    A great many of us are slowly but surely wising up to the fact that the best avenue towards realistically dealing with drug use and addiction is through proper regulation which is what we already do with alcohol & tobacco, clearly two of our most dangerous mood altering substances. But for those of you whose ignorant and irrational minds traverse a fantasy plane of existence, you will no doubt remain sorely upset with any type of solution that does not seem to lead to your absurd and unattainable utopia of a drug free society.

    There is therefore an irrefutable connection between drug prohibition and the crime, corruption, disease and death it causes. Anybody ‘halfway bright’, and who’s not psychologically challenged, should be capable of understanding that it is not simply the demand for drugs that creates the mayhem, it is our refusal to allow legal businesses to meet that demand. If you are not capable of understanding this connection then maybe you’re using something far stronger than the rest of us. So put away your pipe, lock yourself away in a small room with some tinned soup and water, and try to crawl back into reality A.S.A.P.

    No amount of money, police powers, weaponry, diminution of rights and liberties, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safer, only an end to prohibition can do that. How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

    If you support the Kool-Aid mass suicide cult of prohibition, and erroneously believe that you can win a war without logic and practical solutions, then prepare yourself for even more death, tortured corpses, corruption, terrorism, sickness, imprisonment, economic tribulation, unemployment and the complete loss of the rule of law.

    “A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”
    Abraham Lincoln

    The only thing prohibition successfully does is prohibit regulation & taxation while turning even our schools and prisons into black markets for drugs. Regulation would mean the opposite!

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