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Unnecessary Consequence: How the War on Drugs Affects Us All

Elizabeth Renter
December 10th, 2012
Updated 12/10/2012 at 2:55 am
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arrested 260x162 Unnecessary Consequence: How the War on Drugs Affects Us AllYou don’t have to sell or use drugs to be affected by the futile and expensive war our government has waged on them. Even if you do consider marijuana to be a drug, you have to recognize the giant waste of time and resources that the War on Drugs truly is. With half of Americans favoring cannabis legalization, and many recognizing the war for what it truly is, one has to wonder how long it will take the government to recognize its loss and move on to more pressing matters.

Part of the reason that some Americans stay steadfast in their support of the Drug War is that they don’t fully understand how it is really affecting us all. They see it as a simple “bad guys commit crimes so bad guys get arrested” formula, when it goes much, much deeper. It’s not just “bad guys” who are victims of this domestic war—it’s all of us.

By criminalizing all drug activity and then clamping down hard on it, we actually increase the volatile nature of the illegal drug trade. When we make it more difficult to get drugs, users will try harder. When we make it more difficult for illegal drugs to get into our country, those drug lords will resort to more extreme measures.

The basic laws of supply and demand apply here. The demand for drugs is present and it’s not going anywhere (particularly using the Drug War as the sole means of demand-suppression). Because there is a demand, suppliers have money to be made and they will do what’s necessary to make that money—breaking laws and resorting to (often violent) crime.

Another error of the drug war is in treating drugs as a solely-criminal matter rather than a health matter. If you send a drug user to prison, they will likely come out a drug user. If you send a drug user to treatment, they will usually come out as someone struggling to combat addiction. The difference is that when addiction is treated as a health matter, there is help to be found. When it’s treated as a crime, the root of the problem is never addressed.

The vast majority of Americans that would fall under the federal government’s definition of “drug user” are users of marijuana. So, we are spending billions of dollars (at a rate of about $500 per second) on fighting pot smokers—because marijuana users make such formidable and dangerous opponents.

When someone is sent to prison on drug charges, they suffer, and so does their family and their community. When multiple people of the same town are sent away, even more people suffer. But when a country locks up millions of people each year on drug charges, we all suffer.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the solution for all issues regarding the war on drugs, but what we’re doing now isn’t the answer.

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