Funding the War on Drugs has cost billions of dollars as it has attempted to raise drug prices, which supposedly discourages users from feeding their expensive habits. However, economic theory doesn’t always play out in reality as nicely as the theory does in the books. Not only do higher prices probably encourage more criminal activity, especially since there is little focus on treatment for addictions, law enforcement is largely failing to do what it claims the money is for, which is to control the drug market. Still, the number of jailed and imprisoned people rises at an unprecedented rate. That’s why The Washington Post calls the graph below, “The most embarrassing graph in American drug policy.”
The economic theory of the War on Drugs is more complex than previously mentioned. Here’s why. Federal, state and local governments have also been trying to control the demand and supply of drugs by trumping up criminal charges for drug possession and distribution. Incarceration is essentially used as a proxy as an attempt to control the market. If the risk for producing or using drugs is greater, the hope is that fewer people will get involved in the drug market. The result of the high risk will raise prices because drug users and producers wouldn’t want to risk their freedom for small-time cash.
Again, however, things are playing out differently according to the graph above. There are more people trying to get into this lucrative business than there are people trying to get out. The high risk levels as people are incarcerated for possessing small amounts of drugs, aren’t discouraging people.
Taxpayers should be furious about the fact that there is no transparency in what this billion-dollar war has accomplished aside from “being tough on crime” by incarcerating the masses. It’s time for a serious vote on the War on Drugs. Ending the War on Drugs would end the nonsensical approach to punishing consumers and producers in a dangerous, illegal drug market.
Legalizing drugs will not only put an end to a failed approach according to an International Business Times article. Drugs, if regulated and taxed, would be more profitable for all levels of government. Decriminalization of drugs means that billions of dollars in expenditures will be saved and economies will benefit. Decriminalization could also lead to a victory over social inequality as young black and Latino men tend be the groups mostly associated with drugs and incarceration. Ultimately, the ruthless killings because of the dangerous drug market will be reduced. As of 2010, 30,000 people have been killed due to the interference of the Mexican drug cartels. The author of the IB Times article cites Mike Meno, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project: “Mexican drug cartels, which are gaining power, currently generate about 60% of their revenue by selling marijuana in the U.S, giving them a virtual monopoly on this very lucrative trade ... Our group advocates the regulation and taxation of marijuana, the same way we do with alcohol.”
According to a recent article about the increasing problem of the Mexican drug cartels in The Atlantic, “New efforts to reform [Mexico’s] police and overhaul the nation's security apparatus are underway,” but according to former federal prosecutor Samuel Gonzalez Ruiz, "It's not a matter of making up rules, it's that [the policemen] don't follow them." The article concludes with a call to end the Mexican drug war. If a law allowing legalization, regulation, and taxation were to happen, the power of the Mexican drug cartels and the countless, senseless murders will decrease.
It’s time that something is done. Putting more people into jail isn’t fixing anything. Raising drug prices isn’t working. Nothing about the War on Drugs makes sense anymore. So, what’s holding us back from ending it? Of course, we can’t forget the profitable prison industry, which has a hold on this War on Drugs. The only hope is that someday, the majority of the public and politicians will see the monetary and humanitarian benefits to ending this war. Until then, people unnecessarily continue to lose freedom and their lives.