And yet, despite all the money spent, the current situation in the “war” is nothing short of dire. In 2011, illegal drug usage amongst Americans rose to 22 million, roughly 9% of the population. Just across the border to the south, Mexico stands at the brink of collapse as rival drug cartels, mini-nations in their own right, fight amongst each other and the increasingly ineffective government for territory and control. These cartels, funded by the increased sale of drugs, have started using more sophisticated techniques and weaponry.
And let's not forget all the other issues involved with this “war,” including prison overcrowding, the hesitation of users to come forward for help due to fear of jail time, the ignorance of the fact that addiction is a medical issue, etc.
So, what's the U.S. response? It's to increase it's military and police campaign against the dealers and cartels. Apparently, we haven't learned from the situation in Mexico. Much like a Chinese-finger-trap, the more we resist, the harder it is to break away.
That is why I propose doing something radical; instead of increasing the scale of the “war,” we instead legalize drugs. I know what you're probably thinking; “we'll have drug users all over the streets,” “what about the children,” etc. Well, if you haven't clicked off this article yet, let me explain.
As stated before, one big problem with this current “war” is the cost. In 2008, a Harvard economist, Jeffery A. Miron published a report stating that if the U.S. ended the “War on Drugs,” taxpayers would save around $77 billion dollars a year (click here for more information). Considering the current economic situation in the U.S., that's a nice savings.
But what could we do with some of that money? Taking even just a small portion of it, rehab centers could be opened up or improved, so that those who want to break their addictions can go and do so. And, not only could they have a place to go, they can go without the fear of being arrested (whether that fear is justified currently, I don't know for sure, but it can be eliminated altogether).
Prison overcrowding would also be less of an issue if drugs were legalized. No longer would people be thrown into prison for possessing a few ounces of pot or some small drug related offense. This is turn would not only further reduce costs to taxpayers, but it would make room for those who legitimately deserve to be in prison.
I know that there are those of you who still saying, “but what about my kids”. Here's the thing about that issue; one of the things that drives people to experiment with drugs, or alcohol, or smoking, etc. is constantly telling them, “no, no, no! You can't do that!” It's one of the reasons why Prohibition didn't work; the more you tell them they can't have something, the more curious they are as to why and the more they'll develop an attitude of, “you can't tell me what to do.”
Look at Europe as an example; Europe has very lax rules regarding alcohol use (and in some countries, drugs). And yet, the cases of alcohol and drug related crimes and issues, (DUI, addiction, etc.) is very low. Why? Because as a society, people in Europe learn from an early age how to use these substances responsibly.
Coming back here to the States, if we go ahead and adopt a more European attitude toward drugs, kids will learn from an early age what responsible use is and what irresponsible use is. No, I'm not saying give Little Johnny a joint to practice with, that would be stupid. But, if we as society had a more open attitude toward talking about drug use, instead of simply saying, “don't do it, they're bad,” then maybe our kids wouldn't want to experiment so much when they get older.
Lastly, legalization of drugs would drastically reduce the amount of money going to the cartels, making them easier to fight. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but hear me out. Currently, the reason drug prices are so high is not because of the cost of production, but the difficulty of getting them to the point of sale. It's a big risk producing and selling drugs and thus those responsible want a big payday. Thus, high costs combined with the previously mentioned increase in addicts has created a major cash flow into the cartels. This is what is allowing them to equip themselves with military grade weapons and personnel.
So, what if the risk factor was taken away? How would the cartels and the dealers justify selling say a gram of crack for $200, $300, $400? If they wanted to keep their...clients, the cartels would be forced to lower their prices. This, combined with more options for rehab and more open education about responsible use and the effects of irresponsible use, would economically cripple the cartels. The chain reaction would be obvious; less weapons purchased, less people hired, leading to a reduction in violence, etc.
Is it a perfect solution to the drug problem? No. Is it going to lead to a complete eradication of drug use? No. However, in theory what it will lead to is a much easier and safer way of dealing with the drug problem, in this country and around the world.
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