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FBI Numbers Prove Failed Drug War

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, one of my favorite organizations, writes about a new FBI report that shows just how badly the war on justice drugs has failed.

A new FBI report released today shows that there is a drug arrest every 19 seconds in the U.S. A group of police and judges who have been campaigning to legalize and regulate drugs pointed to the figures showing more than 1.6 million drug arrests in 2010 as evidence that the “war on drugs” is a failure that can never be won.


And this has done pretty much nothing to make drugs less available to those who want them. It’s enriched a lot of drug dealers, though, and forced them to be violent in order to protect their turf. You don’t see Seagrams and Budweiser having gang wars over their territory because it isn’t necessary. You did see it when we tried to ban alcohol though and that should be a lesson to us. It’s also led to massive corruption in our law enforcement agencies and more violations of the 4th amendment than we could possibly count.

“Since the declaration of the ‘war on drugs’ 40 years ago we’ve arrested tens of millions of people in an effort to reduce drug use. The fact that cops had to spend time arresting another 1.6 million of our fellow citizens last year shows that it simply hasn’t worked. In the current economy we simply cannot afford to keep arresting three people every minute in the failed ‘war on drugs,’” said Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “If we legalized and taxed drugs, we could not only create new revenue in addition to the money we’d save from ending the cruel policy of arresting users, but we’d make society safer by bankrupting the cartels and gangs who control the currently illegal marketplace.”

LEAP is a group of former police officers, judges and prosecutors who know better than anyone that the war on drugs is an abject failure.

Comments

  1. Aquaria says

    I think the war on justice has been a smashing success.

    It doesn’t hurt to point out that there’s a reason some drugs are legal while others are not. Maybe if marijuana had been the recreational drug of choice of the British or French aristocracy instead of peasant Mexicans, it wouldn’t be illegal now. We certainly would have had a lot fewer traffic deaths, although progress might have been a bit slower on the uptake.

  2. helenaconstantine says

    “You don’t see Seagrams and Budweiser having gang wars over their territory because it isn’t necessary.”

    Wait until Ron Paul is President. Then we’ll have a real free market.

  3. ManOutOfTime says

    Sam Harris made the eye-opening comment that basically everything we do is for the sake of altering consciousness. From Maslow to Leary, it’s all attitude adjustment under different names. My high school self would have put very good money on pot being legal well before now – but then I had all kinds of illusions then, like assuming evolution, assisted suicide, and atheism would have been non-controversial by now. Of course they’re not, in the transatlantic Aquarian society you and I live it – somehow the blood of Cotton Mather still courses through the veins of the American body politic.

  4. MikeMa says

    The war on drugs has played well as a slogan if not a policy. We need better sanity slogans.

    Legalize Drugs, Create Jobs
    Lower Taxes, Legalize Drugs
    Reduce Police Corruption, Legalize Drugs
    Legal Drugs will Slim Down Government

    That last is probably not true but this is a political process. While the numbers of DEA agents, border patrols and inner city police might be reduced (or reassigned), the new Drug Legalization Administration for the Extraction of Taxes & Profits would increase.

  5. Doug Little says

    “If we legalized and taxed drugs, we could not only create new revenue in addition to the money we’d save from ending the cruel policy of arresting users, but we’d make society safer by bankrupting the cartels and gangs who control the currently illegal marketplace.”

    Well that’s the most sensible suggestion I heard for balancing the budget in a long time. Good luck getting it passed into law though, sensible is not in the vocabulary of an overwhelming majority of our representatives.

  6. slc1 says

    I would have to partially disagree with Mr. Brayton here. I would be amenable legalizing pot but would be opposed to legalizing heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. I would, however, be in favor of replacing jail time with rehabilitation. One need only look at deaths from heroin overdoses (e.g. actors Brad Renfro and River Phoenix, the former dead at 25, the latter at 24) to conclude that legalization of that drug is a bad idea.

  7. MikeMa says

    @SLC,
    The point is that keeping drugs illegal has done nothing to end that kind of tragedy. Legalizing it will impose purity standards and dosing accuracy as well as reduce the risks in acquiring the drugs. Overall effect might be far fewer deaths especially if you add cartel killing numbers into the current totals. Those dead may not be famous but they were people.

  8. says

    I don’t think it would balance the budget, but I agree with the sentiment that if you legalize it, you can regulate it and you can tax it.

    And for the hard core addicts trying to quit, admitting they have a problem would no longer carry a prison sentence. Legalizing some of these drugs (or at least greatly reducing the criminal penalties) would probably help more people come clean.

  9. Artor says

    @SLC1
    Take a look at some of the statistics from Portugal, where they decriminalized all drugs, including heroin, meth, coke, etc. Dealing is still illegal, but using is not, and people with drug-related problems get rehab, therapy, or whatever they need to keep their lives together. After 10 yrs, the overall usage has gone down significantly, and drug-related crimes have fallen sharply.

    Out her in the NW, medical marijuana has become pretty common. There are so many people growing their own, commercial dealers have been going out of business. Prices have fallen drastically, and it’s less & less worth the trouble for anyone to make a living off of it.

  10. slc1 says

    Re MikeMa @ #7

    Rubbish. People die today from drinking illegal moonshine, even though booze is perfectly legal. If the government can’t stamp out moonshine, what makes Mr. MikeMa think that it could stamp out illegally produced heroin under a legalized heroin regime.

  11. slc1 says

    Re Artor @ #9 and Bronze Dog @ #8

    I already stated that pot should be legalized and that addiction to harder drugs should be handled by rehabilitation, rather then jail time. Thus, our disagreement is rather narrow.

  12. MikeMa says

    @SLC,
    The object of legalization would not be the 100% reduction of all illegal or dangerous varieties. Moonshine represents a vanishingly small percentage of alcohol manufacture and use. Stamping out moonshine would be a … wait for it … war on drugs. Another, as you point out, failed war on drugs.

    Right now, illegal enterprises represent nearly 100% of all drug production. It funds disastrous cartel activity in Mexico and South America. It funds the Taliban and other ‘unpleasant’ activities in Asia. Legalizing this would convert the nearly 100% illegal activity to mostly legal. Would there still be illegal, dangerous imports? Sure but it would be the exception, not the rule.

  13. lynxreign says

    SLC1

    One need only look at deaths from heroin overdoses (e.g. actors Brad Renfro and River Phoenix, the former dead at 25, the latter at 24) to conclude that legalization of that drug is a bad idea.

    Followed by

    People die today from drinking illegal moonshine, even though booze is perfectly legal.

    So are you suggesting alcohol should be made illegal again? After all, both are drugs and people die from the use of each. Heck, people die of alcohol poisioning even when it isn’t “moonshine”. Or should it only be illegal when there are famous people involved?

  14. slc1 says

    Re lynsreigh @ #14

    No, moonshine should be, and is, illegal. By the way, do the drug legalizers here think that LSD should also be legalized?

  15. Mal Adapted says

    slc1, please read up on the harm reduction argument for legalization.

    I doubt anyone commenting here thinks all drugs are completely harmless. The argument is that prohibition demonstrably causes more harm, in the aggregate, than decriminalization or even legalization would.

  16. anandine says

    I’d like to see all recreational drugs legalized, but I’d draw the line at prescription antibiotics. There is a good public health reason for not letting people dose themselves with extra antibiotics.

  17. MikeMa says

    @SLC,
    Legalization of drugs does not magically make them harmless. There will still be overdoses and other harmful effects just like with alcohol.

    Why is LSD special? You shouldn’t do it alone. You shouldn’t operate a car or machinery while under the influence. You need to allow time for recovery. Just like alcohol and most drugs.

    What legalization should do is reduce the uncertainty wrt quality and dosage thereby sparing quite a number of deaths and injuries. It will also shift the incredible profits associated with the illegal activity and risk to a more modest level and allow the government (and us) a share. It will even reduce or eliminate the stigma of ‘drug abuser’ eventually and provide for a greater availability of rehabilitation.

  18. slc1 says

    Re Dingojack @ #18

    A perfect example of a misleading statistic. The number of alcohol users is far greater then 10 times the number of heroin users.

    Re MikeMa @ #18

    LSD is different then the other drugs mentioned here because the hallucinations it produces have lead to a number of suicides, in addition to accidental deaths because a bad trip made some think he could fly.

  19. dingojack says

    Firstly: what part of ‘deaths’ are you having difficulties with?
    secondly: LSD deaths due to ‘thinking they could fly’. Citation please.
    Dingo

  20. says

    “And this has done pretty much nothing to make drugs less available to those who want them.”

    I don’t think this is really true. If a person could go into a corner grocery and buy a baggie of heroin, which would be the case with full-on legalization, then the drug war has definitely made drugs less available, even if it hasn’t reduced usage rates that much. If we assume that people respond rationally to economic incentives (not a safe assumption, I know), then legalization should lead to a marginal increase in usage, since the costs of using (both in terms of price and convenience) would go down significantly.

    There’s no reason to think that the entire country would become raging drug addicts of course, but increased usage is a reasonable expectation upon legalization (though by no means guaranteed), so this concern can’t be so easily dismissed. The real issue is whether the harm inflicted by increased usage would be greater or less than the harm currently inflicted by the drug war, and there’s an overwhelming case that it would be far less.

  21. says

    The real issue is whether the harm inflicted by increased usage would be greater or less than the harm currently inflicted by the drug war, and there’s an overwhelming case that it would be far less.

    This summarizes my attitude quite well. The drug war costs us far more than we gain from slightly repressed usage.

  22. lynxreign says

    SLC1

    No, moonshine should be, and is, illegal. By the way, do the drug legalizers here think that LSD should also be legalized?

    What about all the deaths from legal alcohol that I mentioned? I personally think all drugs should be legalized and regulated.

  23. MikeMa says

    @Bronze Dog,
    I second that.

    We’ve lost the war at a cost of billions and countless lives. Legalization cannot do worse.

  24. lynxreign says

    dingojack

    Firstly: what part of ‘deaths’ are you having difficulties with?
    secondly: LSD deaths due to ‘thinking they could fly’. Citation please.

    Well, there was that After School Special back in the 80s with Helen Hunt. Or was that PCP? I can never keep inane propaganda straight.

  25. jufulu says

    dingo @ 19, No clicky on alcohol deaths. When I tried to find the specific cite I found a lot of other alcohol related info from the CDC (assuming it was from the CDC). Could you put up the link again?

  26. says

    SLC1:

    DingoJacks numbers do not, as you say, show equivalency because of the vastly larger numbers of people who drink alcohol v use heroin. However, those deaths he speaks of are, I AM ASSUMING, “proximate cause of death” numbers. Millions (as many as 10% of the population, depending on whose stats you use) are addicted to alcohol. The effects of alcohol are not limited to outright death by alcohol poisoning.

    These two links:

    http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/implementation/topics/substance-abuse.html

    http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Poisoning/brief_full_page.htm

    may be compared and contrasted for dollar figures.

    As for LSD and other psychotropic drugs, two factors, dosing and purity are very much related to adverse experiences.

    I’m not qualified to make policy on the legalization/criminalization of drugs (including alcohol and nicotine) but neither is the vast majority of public officials.

  27. D. C. Sessions says

    If we legalized and taxed drugs, we could not only create new revenue in addition to the money we’d save from ending the cruel policy of arresting users, but we’d make society safer by bankrupting the cartels and gangs who control the currently illegal marketplace.

    All of which is why it’s not going to happen.

  28. D. C. Sessions says

    How many disastrous prohibitions will it take for the USA to finally catch on?

    That depends on how long the USA can last.

  29. Pseudonym says

    Unfortunately, the only solution to the problem is a heresy: Drug abuse is not a law enforcement problem, it’s a public health problem.

    It won’t happen any time soon because most of the United States doesn’t believe in an actual public health system, and hence doesn’t understand public health issues.

    Until that’s sorted out, there will be the same stalemate over the issue of abortion, which is seen as a rights vs rights issue instead of the public health issue which it should be.

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