End The Drug War
Across the globe, governments have been pouring a vast amount of resources into restricting what substances people are allowed to consume. The criminalization and persecution of those who make a personal choice to consume controlled substances has heaped misery on so many individuals, as well as on their families and communities.
In the United States, policies introduced since Richard Nixon launched the War on Drugs in 1971, have resulted in overcrowded prisons while at the same time having no effect on the rates of drug consumption or addiction. This is evident by the fact that, according to an article by the Future of Freedom Foundation, the number of inmates incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses in the U.S. rose from 41,000 in 1973 to 500,000 in 2013.
Arrests for nonviolent drug offenses in the U.S. have increased fivefold since the early days of the War on Drugs, from 300,000 in 1973, to a staggering 1.5 million in 2015. Despite the threat of imprisonment for drug possession and its enforcement through the DEA, with its annual budget of $3 billion, rates of drug addiction have failed to decrease over the course of close to half a century. Similar patterns can be seen worldwide in any country where governments adopt authoritarian drug policies, focused on prohibition and criminalization, whereas those countries which choose to relax their drug policies enable a significantly safer environment for consumers, without any overall increase in drug use.
The failings of the Drug War
The outcome of these policies is not to reduce rates of drug addiction, but instead only serve to present far greater risks to consumers, as they resort to purchasing potentially hazardous, inferior products from typically unaccountable underground sources.
This can be seen in the recent fentanyl epidemic, where substances, which would not usually carry a high fatality risk, have led to many deaths due to them being laced with a fatal drug.
Another effect of this persecution is that instead of tolerating what is, in most cases, a peaceful activity affecting only the individual involved, the need for a black market inadvertently results in increased violence through various gangs and cartels competing for control over lucrative clandestine trade.
This can be seen as reminiscent of the prevalence of organized crime during the Prohibition Era in the U.S., when gangsters fought to control the sale of alcohol.
Similarly to those of the Prohibition Era, the present day gangsters would be in the position of having the most to lose, should the Drug War come to an end. Another loser, if the U.S. were to pursue a less authoritarian drug policy, would be the prison industrial complex, which thrives off the persecution of those arrested for nonviolent drug offenses, particularly possession.
The case for reform based on the track record of drug liberalization
Many government fears surrounding the decriminalization and legalization of drugs can be alleviated by looking at the examples of countries which have already liberalized their legislation.
For instance, in the years since Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, the country has seen a remarkable decrease in deaths by overdose, drug-related crime, as well as HIV and hepatitis infection rates.
Other cases include Uruguay, which was named country of the year by The Economist in 2013 for legalizing the production, sale and consumption of cannabis, even though many regulations remain in place.
More recently, Luxembourg serves as an excellent example of a government facing the fact that urgent drug policy reform is long overdue. In August 2019, the country’s health minister stated, “This drug policy we had over the last 50 years did not work,” calling on others to “get a more open-minded attitude towards drugs.”
The global tide is turning in favor of increasing decriminalization, particularly for personal consumption. In recent years, Canada, along with several U.S. states have decriminalized marijuana, and Mexico is currently working on plans to decriminalize all drugs.
A cultural shift is occurring, whereby an ever-increasing amount of people oppose the draconian measures which were applied to regulate individuals’ choices to consume drugs, especially those without any potentially fatal consequences.
Why ending the Drug War is important to SFL
At Students For Liberty, we believe in individual liberty, consumer choice and personal responsibility.
Persecution of individuals, who have committed no crime other than choosing to consume a product deemed wrong by legislators, must be stopped. The reckless prohibitionist policies of the past 50 years, in particular, have caused so much hardship to millions around the world, all the while offering no solutions, exacerbating the problems surrounding drug addiction and abuse, presenting opportunities to violent gangs, and driving consumers towards greater risk.
Billions of taxpayers’ dollars have been squandered in the name of a war which cannot be won while infringing on the rights of individuals to be masters of their own bodies. For the reasons above, our leaders are committed to doing everything in their power to End the Drug War.