Senator Leahy: After Spending Billions on the War on Drugs…Well, We’ve Lost

The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the most senior member of the Senate, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) again spoke out against the War on Drugs today during a briefing on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s upcoming agenda.

“The fact that so many people, especially young people, go to prison for a relatively minor thing, a drug offense. And then you ask, why can’t they get jobs afterward? Why do they have problems from then on?

I think we have spent tens of billions, hundreds of billions of dollars on the so-called War on Drugs. Well, we’ve lost.” – Sen. Leahy

Senator Leahy also addressed the disproportionate toll marijuana prohibition takes on people of color:

“There are too many people, too many young people, too many minorities, too many from the inner city who are serving time in jail for people who might have done the same thing but have the money to stay out and are not there.” – Sen. Leahy

It seems time does bring wisdom and other members of Congress should take notice and follow the lead of one of their most experience legislators. The time for sensible marijuana policy has come and this reaffirmation of support from an elected official, in such a position of influence as Senator Leahy, is clear proof the winds of reform are blowing strongly in our favor.

The full remarks are available from C-SPAN here. You can also read further media coverage here.

59 thoughts

  1. It’s about time Congress understands that if you want employment to go up they need to change drug laws…big companies can cash in on it too…most people like to drink and smoke…Tobacco companies should sell both,along with tobacco farmers…not to mention clothes textile’s,and alternative fuel’s.

  2. It’s about time that a Senator has spoken in this manner against eben minor drug offenses. Pot should be taken off the lists of any criminal offense list. Amen to Senator Leahy

  3. A costly lesson for the country – prohibition doesn’t work. Any real drug war would have targeted nicotine, by far the greatest killer. Medically beneficial marijuana is illegal; physically addicting carcinogen tobacco is legal. Public policies that defy the results of reproducible scientific studies mean exorbitant costs in health care.

    You could not consciously design a more counterproductive outright perverse policy. I, for one, am tired of paying for it.

  4. Well said Senator Leahy, now all the other senators need to sign HR 2306 and remove Cannabis from scheduling all together, put it in the same schedule that grapes are in.

  5. I’d like to go directly to that time in the video without having to watch the whole thing. I don’t have that much time. Some of us work really long hours at thankless, sucky jobs. Nope, couldn’t find the transcripts to do a word search for a search term from your quote. Toil doing the shitwork and then prohibitionists want to throw people in jail for cannabis.

    Anyway, thanks to Leahy.

  6. Thank you Sen. Leahy. It’s another voice, kind of wishy-washy as it sounds because I didn’t hear anything about changing the federal laws prohibiting cannabis. It’d be nice if he branched out to there from what he said in the excerpt. If you don’t change federal law you’re still arresting cannabis folks. That just ain’t right.

  7. There is another petition for marijuana on we the people that needs support. Norml please help promote it!!! If anybody wants to see the voice of the people look at the number of signatures for January 17 alone!

  8. we should all send a thank you to the senator and encourage him to continue in his efforts for reforming marijuana laws. I vote for complete legalization of all cannabis, and senator leahy needs to know every one else does.

  9. Let’s get senator Leahy to be at a norml meeting , with barney frank and president Clinton and get a bill sponsored to legalize. Mine eyes can see the glory

  10. Getting congress to admit the war on drugs is a failure is an important step but now comes the hard part,dismantling the drug war machine and all the policies enacted such as drug screening and bounty money to police for marijuana arrests,,until they remove that particular money maker for police organizations the war is still on.

  11. It’s been said many times that the War On Drugs was lost or a complete failure, but the war goes on as if it was never meant to stop.

  12. the new petition for federal legalization…just signed it. tell a friend. get this going, we need to make a statement. it takes 88,ooo signatures to get the issue back in the spotlight.

  13. I personally believe that the prohibition is on its way to a screeching halt. We have 2 states which have completely legalized cannabis (1 ounce or less unless grown), 2-3 states who, as of this month, have proposed bills for legalization, and many polls for multiple states which have unveiled the rapid turn of public opinion regarding cannabis and its current illicit status. And all of this has happened within the course of 2 1/2 months! To see that high-ranking government officials such as Leahy are finally realizing that cannabis being a schedule-1 substance causes way more harm than good (or just want to join the winning side of the fight, whichever it is) brings a tear to my eye and gives me hope that this insanity will end in a time not so far from now. There is a “We The People” petition that was released on 1-15-13 with over 10,000 signatures as of 1-17-13 that wants cannabis to be legalized on a federal level. I’ve done my part by signing it so i want all of you who read this to do your part and sign it as well. Lets get our opinions straight to Obama A.S.A.P and let him know that, whether he likes it or not, the end of this prohibition is extremely nigh.

  14. The people who profit from the drug war know it’s wrong but they don’t care because they are selfish and inconsiderate. The drug war may be almost over but those people will still exist. The real question is who are they planning to take advantage of next?

  15. He is right. but they also need to look at the harm prescription pills are doing to the youth of america i was in a car vs train accident at 18 and started gettin prescription for pain pills and muscle relaxers and nerve pills they got addictive and turned into a huge problem that i still have trouble with and they dont even help with the pain anymore i hate pills so much im from grundy co. tn and pills have ruined the whole community it is devastating to see every time i go back how bad off everyone is percacets cost twelve dollars a piece there because ppl will pay it i self medicate now its wat helped me get threw the withdrawls and treats my symptoms better than any medication Why cant they see wats happening

  16. It’s just a statement that they’ve lost, nothing like what Paul Whitesell had stated out to the public and mean’t it.
    Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell said he would legalize and Tax, now Leahy is stating they’ve lost, so, the next step is to get more heads to come forward and legalize marijuana on the mass of ALL states.

    We have two good heads and who ever else that is smart are finally coming to reasoning. I just hope for the end of marijuana prohibition, that it comes sooner than later.

  17. Who lost? Not you puppet politicians that have turned a blind eye to the perscutions and prosecutions brought on by the violations of the fourth amendment.So many careers ruined,fired for not job performance, but fired for having some chemical in your system that you enjoy.Lets take all the politician’s bank accounts and seize all of their assets so we can start paying for the damages they perpetuated against the real losers of the drug war. Mr.President and congress it’s time for you to sign the declaration of surrender and then let the court hearings begin.Wages lost,freedom lost, that would be great place to start.

  18. Perhaps because it was never meant to stop? Or won or lost. Simply to gobble up lives at atrocious rates and at the expense of the taxpayers for the profits and inflated budgets of the drug war industrial complex.


  20. Finally, finally a few of our leaders are beginning to understand what so many of us have known for years!!! I hope his words do not fall on ears that have been paid for by greedy lobbyists who would like for prohibition to continue.

  21. First, I want to personally thank Senator Leahy for doing the right thing as an elected official. This took courage: my dad always said you usually can tell the right thing to do from the wrong, simply because the right thing to do is ALWAYS harder. I would definitely vote for you for President in 2016 if you run.

    I say it’s about flippin’ time someone in Congress spoke out about this issue with fervor (he’s one of the old, white guys to boot).

    I have said it since the day I first felt that magical, beautiful head-change: it’s only a matter of time.

    -When I told people it would be legal someday for medical use, they said, “That’ll never happen.” It did.
    -When I said some states would vote for regulation and pass it, they said, “Pfft. Yeah, sure.” It happened.
    -Now when I tell people someday it will be traded world-wide like coffee and beer, they say, “You’re crazy – they’ll never allow that.” I hope they like the taste of foot, because it will happen. I still stand by this. You just have to follow the issue and think about how world trends work.

    You can only cover up the same truth with the same lie for so long. At first they said it would make you violent. When that truth was uncovered, they said it turns you into a communist. Well that one failed too, so it turned to it making you lazy and unproductive. Now with people like several Presidents and gold-medal athletes coming out as being tokers, they feel the need to replace that lie with another.

    But they can’t: they’re now out of lies, and trying to convince a public who knows better is becoming more and more futile. Too many people know the truth nowadays, and these lies are just…weak and sad.

    Such good times are ahead as far as this is concerned. I can see it so clearly I can taste the smoke.

  22. What a great name to throw into any discussion about the validity of the drugs war. Who is going to say Sen Leahy is wrong or mistaken. Also when you lobby for legislation having the head of the Judiciary Committee means you are probably leaning on an open door. I really don’t think the prohibitionists are going to be able to clamp down this time.

    Wonderful News yet again !

  23. Wanna cut wasteful government spending? Reduce or eliminate the DEA, legalize marijuana and grant amnesty to ne1 in jail/prison for nonviolent drug offenses. Regulate and create barrier for minors; disconnect from the Mexican drug cartels, raise money to maintain infrastructure and education, enhance safety and quality of cannabis.

    Those who think Sen. Leahy is being “cowardly” by not taking this in a more head-on fashion; recognize that if he were to Monday morning quarterback this he’d probably produce a backlash, but by introducing one reasoning point at a time, he is able to help keep the momentum going, give ppl time to get used to the idea.

    Someday all this will be viewed as laughable that we treated a harmless and therapeutic plant as if it were radioactive.

  24. Thank you Senator Leahy, The young people know what’s going on. I don’t want any more kids growing up like I did. Getting the living shit kicked out of me by my foster dad in the basement when I was only 10 years old, and growing up angry. No more war and hurt please.

  25. @claygooding

    “Getting congress to admit the war on drugs is a failure is an important step but now comes the hard part, dismantling the drug war machine and all the policies enacted such as drug screening and bounty money to police for marijuana arrests,,until they remove that particular money maker for police organizations the war is still on.”

    I wonder if this bounty money can explain the NY cop practice of having someone empty their pockets, then citing them for having marijuana in view. Obviously, this behavior is not driven by any desire to protect and to serve.

  26. My hat’s off to you Senator. Refreshing, an elected official who is actually willing to lead. You have my vote sir.

  27. And lets not forget ..”and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” .. if we the people want marijuana laws reformed they should be reformed..”any more it’s a government for the government dictating the people

  28. any savvy lawyers want to sue the government in a civil suit? It would be great. Just get in court and talk about the pain and suffering caused by these laws.

  29. “Billions” my arse! We’ve wasted Trillions of Dollars on the war on drugs.

    These people should know how much they’ve wasted.

  30. When the government annouced we were having a war on drugs, We lost. Has anyone else ever smoked a joint with a Police Officer, Lawyer/Judge or Politician. The hypocracy of this war is beyond anything I can discribe. Reform now, Vote the bastards out!

  31. The War on Drugs was never meant to be won it was designed to be a perpetual forever.
    The Federal goverment will use whatever means to continue this concubine to obilivion.

    The measures that you favor are the major source of the evils you deplore.
    Milton Freidman

  32. Kudos to Senator Leahy… but they lost in 1937! Anytime special interest politics trumps rationality, people lose. Whole generations have lost their life, their dreams, their future because a plant like cannabis was moralistically slaughtered for the special thrills of a few. And the madness continues… don’t think for a moment it doesn’t! Smoke and mirrors – that’s what our government is good at legislating. Very sad. The most civilized society the world has ever experienced, brought down by the insane fantasies of a few exponentially magnified to create the War on Drugs, an insidious cancer spewed upon it’s citizens. Stop the Hurt. Now!

  33. !!! I’ve created a petition on WE THE PEOPLE to petition the Obama Administration for legalizing the farming of Industrial Hemp.
    But I need 150 signatures in order for it to be viewed public on the sight and 25,000 signatures by February 10, 2013. Please sign it. Thanks

  34. OMG!!! Folks, we are winning the War on Drugs! It was scam, and still is a scam. That faster it dies, the better off we’ll all be!

    We are winning the War on Drugs, not loosing. Nail this bitch in its coffin so it can’t return!!!

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