Four decades after Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs in 1971 and $1 trillion spent since then. What do we have to show for it? Nothing but an abysmal failure: Thousands of young lives destroyed and a few billionaires benefiting from it.
About 40,000 people were in U.S. jails and prisons for drug crimes in 1980, compared with more than 500,000 today. Excessively long prison sentences and locking up people for small drug offenses contribute greatly to this ballooning of the prison population.
It also represents racial discrimination and targeting disguised as drug policy. People of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than white people — yet from 1980 to 2007, blacks were arrested for drug law violations at rates 2.8 to 5.5 times higher than white arrest rates.
But the forces of reasoning are gaining momentum. The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group made up of former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, and Business visionaries like Sir Richard Branson, have come the the conclusion that the current “war on drugs” needs to end, and a more humane approach to this dilemma is needed. It’s time to “Break the Taboo.”
Today, the American people are showing their dissatisfaction with the war on drugs by voting for change, often in the face of federal law.
Colorado and Washington recently became the first U.S. states to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana, and 74% of Americans support alternatives to locking people up for marijuana possession.
How would our society, our communities and daily lives improve if we took the money we use running a police and prison state and put it into education and health?
Treating drugs as a health issue could save billions, improve public health and help us better control violence and crime in our communities.
The war on drugs has failed. It’s time to break the taboo.