Associated Press: After 40 Years, $1 Trillion, US Drug War “Has Failed to Meet Any of Its Goals”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 13, 2010

    Just days after the White House released their inherently flawed 2010 National Drug Control Strategy (Read NORML’s refutation of it on The Huffington Post here and here.), and mere hours after Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske told reporters at the National Press Club, “I have read thoroughly the ballot proposition in California; I think I once got an e-mail that told me I won the Irish sweepstakes and that actually had more truth in it than the ballot proposition,” the Associated Press takes the entire U.S. drug war strategy and rakes it over the coals.

    It’s about damn time!

    AP IMPACT: After 40 years, $1 trillion, US War on Drugs has failed to meet any of its goals
    via FoxNews.com

    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.”

    Seriously, if you care at all about drug policy and marijuana law reform, you really must read the entire AP analysis. It’s that good.

    In 1970, hippies were smoking pot and dropping acid. Soldiers were coming home from Vietnam hooked on heroin. Embattled President Richard M. Nixon seized on a new war he thought he could win.

    “This nation faces a major crisis in terms of the increasing use of drugs, particularly among our young people,” Nixon said as he signed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The following year, he said: “Public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.”

    His first drug-fighting budget was $100 million. Now it’s $15.1 billion, 31 times Nixon’s amount even when adjusted for inflation.

    Using Freedom of Information Act requests, archival records, federal budgets and dozens of interviews with leaders and analysts, the AP tracked where that money went, and found that the United States repeatedly increased budgets for programs that did little to stop the flow of drugs. In 40 years, taxpayers spent more than:

    — $20 billion to fight the drug gangs in their home countries. In Colombia, for example, the United States spent more than $6 billion, while coca cultivation increased and trafficking moved to Mexico — and the violence along with it.

    $33 billion in marketing “Just Say No”-style messages to America’s youth and other prevention programs. High school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have “risen steadily” since the early 1970s to more than 20,000 last year.

    — $49 billion for law enforcement along America’s borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs. This year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of those drugs imported from Mexico.

    $121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana. Studies show that jail time tends to increase drug abuse.

    $450 billion to lock those people up in federal prisons alone. Last year, half of all federal prisoners in the U.S. were serving sentences for drug offenses.

    At the same time, drug abuse is costing the nation in other ways. The Justice Department estimates the consequences of drug abuse — “an overburdened justice system, a strained health care system, lost productivity, and environmental destruction” — cost the United States $215 billion a year.

    Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron says the only sure thing taxpayers get for more spending on police and soldiers is more homicides.

    “Current policy is not having an effect of reducing drug use,” Miron said, “but it’s costing the public a fortune.”

    The so-called ‘war’ on some drugs — which is really a war on consumers of certain temporarily mood-altering substances, mainly marijuana, can not survive if continually faced with this kind of scrutiny. Even the Drug Czar — when faced with the actual evidence and data above — folds his cards immediately, acknowledging that U.S. criminal drug enforcement “has not been successful.” Yet apparently neither he, nor the majority of Congress, the President, the bulk of law enforcement officials, or any of the tens of thousands of bureaucrats in Washington, DC have the stones to stand up and put a stop to it.

    And that is — and always has been — the problem.

    And so the drums of war beat on, and the casualties mount.

    Isn’t it about time that we all said: “Enough is enough?

    92 responses to “Associated Press: After 40 Years, $1 Trillion, US Drug War “Has Failed to Meet Any of Its Goals””

    1. Don_M says:

      I really makes me happy to know that the AP has shown the guts to tell it like it is! The people responsible are heroes to me – and clearly a thorn in the side of those who would like to continue the oppression. I hope that other news agencies hop on this bandwagon and spread the truth our Government has been trying to hide for so many years.

      Now, what I think would also help tremendously is to have the nations television and movie studio executives start showing more marijuana smokers in their movies and shows – but showing them in a realistic way (i.e. don’t use typical stoner humor). I think the series “Weeds” did an excellent job of this but I don’t think it ever got a large percentage of the publics attention.

    2. rastimi says:

      Associated Press, not Associate Press, right?

    3. Kevin says:

      Finally, a piece of mainstream journalism that says exactly what needs to be said about the War on Drugs. It has been an abject failure from the beginning, harming many more lives than it can claim to save, not to mention the incredible monetary cost. I can only hope more people who are ignorant of the situation can read this article and have their eyes.

      First California, then America, then…THE WORLD! LEGALIZE IT!

    4. Brian says:

      Wow. I just read thru the first seven pages of this abortion of a new National Drug Control Strategy and all I read was that they want to create more taskforces, developing more initiatives, creating more organizations, groups, and policies that will no doubt come at the expense of the taxpayer. Oh and my personal favorite “Promoting and supporting alternatives to incarceration such as drug and problem solving courts” and “Mandating treatment and court monitoring for chronic drug-using offenders who disproportionately burden the healthcare and CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM”. So let me get this right….The government wants to make more courts for the drug offenders flooding the current courts. Sounds like more federal jobs.

    5. Dante says:

      Holy Crap.

      I just added up the billions and it came to $673.

      $673 Billion flushed down the black hole, not to mention all the human lives ruined or lost.

      And Janet N. wants more.

      Who are the terrorists, again?

    6. notabuzzkill says:

      Looks like FOX News took it off their main page… *sigh*

    7. Ziggy says:

      I saw this come by on the AP RSS feed and was astonished. Has common sense finaly started invading the MSM or are they just riding a public bandwagon? I guess we’ll have to see if anyone picks it up from the wire…

    8. cjd says:

      A Government of the people, by the people and for the people,my ASS!! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

    9. Bill Maher says:

      don’t forget to stumbleupon this article so we can get more traffic to it so more people can find out about it, so that hopefully it will reach the decision maker types.

    10. Tony says:

      The one thing that angers me the most is how Gil Kerlikowske claims that scientific findings are not the truth. Seriously how can he spout out lies and laugh and joke about it? I just don’t get it.