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

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

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 thoughts

  1. #33 Tom Beebe: “Drugs, even as widely used and accepted as pot, are bad news, and every effort should be made to end their recreational use.” O RLY? That is enough to make us NOT vote for your party. Nice work.

  2. re: comment 28

    “So we arrest them,give them a criminal record and make sure if the drugs don’t hurt their chances in life, we will!”

    Another definition of “Insanity”.

    When ALL the drug addicts fill the most complete earthly prisons, then what?

    Will your sack clothes and ashes comply with the Law?

  3. The Obama administration has shown itself with this drug control strategy and with the nomination of Michelle Leonhart to head the DEA. I’ve had it, myself. I’m changing my voter registration to Independent after being a registered Democrat for 45 years. I gave money to the Obama campaign because I actually believed that he was going to use science when setting social policy. No more. From now on, all my political donations go to NORML and other organizations working to end this crazy war on marijuana smokers (of course, it’s a war on people, NOT drugs). And I will vote only for candidates who truly support human dignity and freedom, regardless of their party affiliation. Don’t think for a minute that Democrats aren’t at least as bad as Republicans when it comes to being drug warriors. There are a few good people in each party. We need to make the effort to find them instead of just blindly voting with one party or the other.

  4. Well,they’ve met one goal…convincing NORML to go along with letting the govt tax the hell out of it as a different form of punishment.

  5. Just imagine where we would be if the war on drugs money had been put into health care

  6. Everybody seems to forget Gil Kerlikowske’s roots. He is a graduate of the University of South Florida. This should give you a clue. His time in Seattle was very short. There he was doing what he was told. I am sure if he had had his way things would be a lot different in Seattle.

  7. If we (the people) were actually in control, then yes, enough would be enough. Sadly you have all been misled. The war on drugs is actually a cover for a larger war that has been going on for over 2,500 years. All these public figures we are supposed to trust are pawns of the “real players” and they are very old, very rich, and very powerful. Im sorry America, but we are fucked. It’s only a matter of time. Marijuana will NEVER be legal here in the U.S. Never. You have no idea who we are up against.

  8. I wouldn’t hold my breath on California winning. It is starting to sound like George Bush all over again with drug policy. I suspect that the votes will be cheated on by your lovable government just like old George Did when a few places had it on the ballot during his terms.

  9. A million seconds is 12 days.
    A billion seconds is 31 years.
    A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.

  10. back in the 60’s the flower children were right about the way to live. passing a Hoint was as much social bonding as an amazing new experience.

    we said and practiced – heh heh – make love not war and so forth.

    those who NEED/DEMAND war continue to NEED/DEMAND war. dey gotz a war fer u dey gotz a war 4 me. spearhead paraphrase

    the govt, military and gangstas are in control. these fascists are vampires like in the bad movie called reality in the u.s. of friggin a.

    there is no substantive correlation between our drug laws and reality. the situation is deliberately and maliciously out of control.

    “i hear a very gentle sound with my ear down to the ground. very near yet very far, come today ….” doors

    keep the faith anyway. yowzah


  11. Well Donker, I agree in part with what you said, especially the “real players”. But let’s not get to sucked into the conspiracy side so far that we don’t look at this movement in the 360 degree view point.

    Americans have wised up incredibly fast to the farce of g’ment and there really are more people who are willing to spread the truth and dispel the same old lies. We’re a tough bunch so to speak, without that sounding negative. We are to the point where they. the prohibitionists and “real players”, are fighting for their lives because all the hideous lies and manipulation are being effectively exposed at all levels.

    I may get discouraged but I’m not giving up.

  12. I just don’t understand why the people “in-control”/the government just say “I’m sorry”, drop all laws, GIVE us/everyone the proper education about our wonderful plants around us, and let the individuals base their choices on their knowledge. Noone should be punished for wanting to learn and grow.

  13. We have all said again and again enough is enough! We all know that our State & Fed Gov. lack a moral compass of any kind. Corp. Lobbiest have purchased this country out from under US. Corp America has now destoried the Gulf of Mexico for their profit not ours. How long will we debate with global criminals before we get our rightful change. Lets debate this in the open, but lets not ignor history and how this Constructive Fraud came into being. Lets have some transparency here. Lets not forget all that has been erased from history to support these lies our government has forced upon us violating the foundation of the Constitution.
    Can we call in? How about a nation-wide townhall meeting to debate this issue, you kow , out in the open.


    To incompetant servants in our house [the peoples house].

    Turn your back on “We the People” – and – “We the People” [will] turm our backs on you. Turn – you – only to be the recipiant of a blow of protection required by the Constitution [ass kickin’].

    You were [elected] to represent “We the People” in places where we need to be represented. You were [elected] to be out voice where our voice need be heard. You have failed – miserably I might add. Instead of representing “We the People” you have chosen to represent “You the People.” Hang your head in shame, for you have forsaken us.

    To represent “We the People” you [must] pledge your allegiance to “We the People”, our freedom, and majority rule – or – leave in disgrace, with no honor,{faceless] to those who had faith in you, who are now [faithless]. You have failed to accomplish what you were sent by “We the People” to do.

    See you in November – or – not – and – we will show you what our failed allegiance is like. Further; if you make any attempt to repeal the American Policy, you might as well go fishin’. Right! Go fish! How’s that for a cup of tea, without sugar and cream.

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