The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

The Verdict on the War on Drugs: It’s Useless

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 22, 2010

I don’t usually post on purely political topics, but some recent news is making me get out of my usual rut.  I want to talk in this post about the U.S. drug problem… specifically, about how the “War on Drugs”, a.k.a. Drug Prohibition, is beyond useless – it has actually done far more harm than good.

Take a look at this recent news article showing how Drug Prohibition is a complete waste of time, money, resources, and essentially a civil war against our own citizens…

U.S. drug war has met none of its goals

After 40 years, the United States’ war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.

Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn’t worked.

“In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. “Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.”

This week President Obama promised to “reduce drug use and the great damage it causes” with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment.

Nevertheless, his administration has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels both in dollars and in percentage terms; this year, they account for $10 billion of his $15.5 billion drug-control budget.

Kerlikowske, who coordinates all federal anti-drug policies, says it will take time for the spending to match the rhetoric. …

Not only that, but at the high school where I teach there used to be a student supervisor who was a retired cop.  Over the years of his time on the force, he spent considerable time working the drug beat.  Just before he left the school, he confided in me a revelation he’d had: that all the work he and his colleagues had done in enforcing drug laws, fighting the dealers, and so on had done absolutely nothing to stop (or even limit) the drug problem.  Nothing.

That’s a startling revelation from someone whose profession it was to enforce the very laws and carry out the very War on Drugs which are supposed to protect us from this supposed scourge upon humanity.

Let me be clear: the only drug I use is alcohol.  I have never smoked marijuana, nor have I ever used any other kind of non-prescription drug.  And I have no desire to use those kinds of drugs… booze is just fine by me.  But I don’t see how making it illegal for people to smoke a joint in the privacy of their own homes is supposed to protect… well, anyone.  And throwing these non-violent offenders into jail – due to the frakked up mandatory sentencing federal laws – does nothing but needlessly clog up & slow down our police, jails, and courts when they could be dealing with actual criminals.

The other colossally stupid aspect of the Drug Prohibition is that, just like the original Prohibition on alcohol in the early 20th century, by making these drugs illegal the U.S. has inadvertently created a massive black market run by organized crime.  This has led to untold misery among the U.S. population, not to mention the destabilization of Mexico and other Central & South American nations due to the massive amount of violence associated with the thugs who traffic in illegal drugs.

Sadly, I don’t think the moral crusaders in Washington, D.C. will actually have the political guts to look at the data and come to a reasonable conclusion.  Perhaps, if enough people start to clue in that Drug Prohibition isn’t working, then eventually our elected officials will get the message.

I will give the last word on this subject to skeptics Penn & Teller, who did an amazing episode of “Bullshit” on this topic.  This is, in my opinion, one of the best episodes that P&T have ever done, and I encourage you to watch it on Youtube…

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2 Responses to “The Verdict on the War on Drugs: It’s Useless”

  1. [...] post:  The Verdict on the War on Drugs: It's Useless « The Skeptical Teacher Post a [...]

  2. I agree with your analysis that Drug Prohibition causes more harm than good. The more people talk about the failure of the War on Drugs the more likely politicians will begin to listen and take action. It is a long road but each step takes us closer to a more effective drug policy. Keep spreading the word!

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