For decades, the United States have waged a War on Drugs, both within its borders and in Central America. The struggle has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Drug use in America has not declined. So what’s the point?
On his Fox Business Network show, John Stossel asked precisely that question, arguing that whenever the war appears to be successful — for example, in Colombia — the problem moves elsewhere — to Bolivia and Mexico.
Drugs remain easy to get in America. The country is funding both sides of the war, with the government spending almost the exact same amount on law enforcement and foreign aid to drug-producing countries as American citizens buy in drugs.
By any standard, the War on Drugs has been a failure.
It’s also wrong.
It’s not the government’s job to protect people against making bad decisions.
Prohibitionists argue that drug use poses a threat to the community, because people who are high on drugs, like people who are drunk on alcohol, have less control over their behavior and can act erratically or aggressively.
They also allege that drug use would rise if drug laws are loosened.
Both claims are false. Popular drugs, like cannabis and MDMA, do not make users aggressive; they make users more relaxed.
Drug addiction and abuse are serious problems, but hardly more so than alcohol and tobacco addiction and abuse. It makes no sense to criminalize the one and regulate the other.
There is no evidence that legalization would lead to higher drug use. If anything, there is evidence to the contrary: the Netherlands decriminalized cannabis in the 1970s and has lower cannabis use than the United States.
Strict laws do more damage
Strict drug laws, including mandatory prison sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, are informed not by evidence, but by fear. The result is something of a police state, as Stossel pointed out.
SWAT teams barge into American homes when police suspect drugs may be present. Parents are arrested in front of their children for smoking weed in the privacy of their own house. Teenagers who try marijuana can be ruined for life.
More Americans are arrested every day on drug offenses than all other crimes combined. In 2008, 1.5 million Americans were arrested on suspicion of a drug crime. 500,000 were imprisoned. Weed constitute almost half of all drug arrests.
Stossel’s conclusion: “the drug laws do more damage than the drugs.”