Is the War on Drugs a failure and with what should we replace it with, if it is?
by Shane Goodrich
The drug war is a fantastic failure, a complete disaster on all fronts. The costs to fight this “War” have been great. Billions of dollars, millions incarcerated over the past 30 plus years and thousands of lives lost from the side effects of the black markets such as overdoes due to lack of knowledge of what person is actually taking, spread of infectious diseases due to sharing of dirty needles, and criminal gangs fighting for drug territory. Let me quickly touch on 3 main reasons I think the drug war is a failure that should be stopped as soon as possible.
The first reason is from a policy outcome perspective. Which Richard Nixon started the war on drugs and when it got ramped up in the 80’s under the Reagan administration the stated purpose of the drug war was to get drugs off the street. To cut off access. I live in Willimantic, CT which has been given the dubious title The Heroin Capital of CT. On the very street that I live there have been multiple major drug raids in the past few years. Only a few blocks away, this year has been another major drug raid on Pearl St. The drugs are still here. They are not going away.
The 2nd reason the drug war is a failure is from a moral perspective. What right does anyone have to say what I or anyone elses puts in their own body? We live in a country founded on concepts of freedom. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If someone is smoking a joint in their own home and bothering no one else why are we wasting time and money to go after them? The idea of getting involved in peaceful activities is absurd.
Lastly I will speak from a harm reduction standpoint. You may not like drugs, you may think drug use in itself is immoral. But the outlawing of drugs just causes more harm, both to those that use drugs and to those that don’t.
During prohibition armed gangs vied for territory and the right to sell black market alcohol. People would get sick on “bathtub gin” and other poorly made alcohol products. The same applies to drug use now. We have gangs fighting over drug territory where innocent people get hurt in the crossfire. People using drugs die of overdoes because of unknown contaminants in what they are taking.
Just say no does not work. It’s akin to abstinence only education. In the real world people have sex and sometimes people want to alter their brain state. Ending the drug war would make drug use safer for users, reduce crime in many neighborhoods and save the country a lot of money. A regulated legal market like in Colorado for Cannabis would be much preferable to what we have now.
-Shane Goodrich, Video Editor and Cohost of Local Liberty
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