Just two of the latest developments in the ever-waging War on Drugs prove that the United States simply doesn't get it: first, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into a law a bill banning medical marijuana from being used on college campuses; second, the raid of the Oaksterdam medical marijuana dispensary.
After 40 years, over $1 trillion spent, and tens of thousands of lives lost, it is time to end the drug war by legalizing all drugs, not just marijuana.
Contrary to the belief that tough enforcement laws discourage drug use and distribution, U.S. drug consumption of opiates, cocaine and cannabis increased by 34.5 %, 27 % and 8.5 % respectively in between 1998-2008, according to a June 2011 report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Clearly this policy is not working.
We need only look at the example set by Portugal, who in 2001, became the first European country to abolish all criminalization for personal possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. In addition to the decriminalization of these drugs, jail time for drug possession was replaced with the offer of treatment and other health services.
This policy certainly had its share of critics. Many said that decriminalization would lead to more drug use among young people, fuel more addiction, and exacerbate the drug problem facing Portugal.
However, according to a 2009 report from the CATO Institute, these feared scenarios have not come to pass in Portugal. The reports state that illegal drug use among teenagers in Portugal as well as new cases of HIV from sharing needles have both declined, and the number of people seeking treatment for addiction has more than doubled.
This data shows that decriminalization does not lead to more drug use and completely debunks the main rebuttal used by opponents of decriminalization.
Drug legalization in the United States would save the government $41.3 billion annually, while also generating $46.7 billion in annual tax revenue, assuming the legalized drugs were taxed at the same rate as alcohol and tobacco. State and Federal governments could use that money to invest in drug treatment programs, education, infrastructure, or even to pay their budget deficits.
Legalization would also go a long way in reducing drug-related violence and crime, which would cut down on prison population. There would not be an illegal black market for drugs if they were available to people who wish to use them.
The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. When it comes to the War on Drugs, the United States has been dealing with a 40-year case of insanity. The feared situation of increased drug use and drug-related violence has already come to fruition, under the guise of the War on Drugs. It is time to bring our troops home from this battlefield, as well.