The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs, was started by Nixon and given its teeth by Reagan.  I have questions as to whether the intentions behind this policy were noble and good.  Unfortunately the (un)intended consequences have left us with Trillions of Dollars wasted, a militarization of our police force, the trampling of our Bill of Rights and the highest incarceration rates by percentage and population in the world is disproportionately made up of minorities.

Since the beginning of the War on Drugs the age of experimentation has gone from 17 to 12 and the use of all drugs have increased.  Throughout the world there are examples of success for countries that transitioned to from a criminal model to a medical model.  Addiction whether it be alcohol, nicotine, or heroin is addiction and should be treated as such.  Putting people in cages for poor personal decisions is not what this country is about.

The cost of that incarceration is staggering.  In Florida alone, its over a half a billion dollars per year for non-violent drug criminals.  The least expensive cost per inmate per year is $19,000.  We are practicing the revolving door policy with real criminals that rape, molest, steal, and sometimes kill so we can satisfy arbitrary mandatory minimums for people that had a pocket full of weed.  We are creating criminals and a perpetual criminal cycle and culture.

The really disturbing reality is bore by the statistics.  The federal numbers are 2.1 million total incarcerated and when combined with state and local facilities, the United States locks up over 3.5 million of its citizens.  Of that, most estimates claim that over 50% are there because of the War on Drugs.  As you calculate the yearly costs of incarcerating over 1.75 million people, (enforcement is a different number all together), consider what that population looks like.   Depending on the study, most estimates put prison population at 20% white and 80% all minorities.  This is already disturbing considering that we know that most drug use and abuse will naturally occur by the majority of the population.  When you look a little closer it is discovered that of the roughly 1.4 million minorities in jail because of the War on Drugs over 90% or 1.26 million are black.  This means that 36% of the people we remove from society we do so because of the Drug War and most happen to be black males ages 18-34.  To put it another way, 1 and 3 black males in the State of Florida are likely to go to jail in connection with the War on Drugs.

Aside from the imbalanced enforcement, the War on Drugs has had monumental consequences to everyone’s freedoms and liberties.  The 4th amendment has been all but eliminated with the exclusions provided to drug enforcement.  The 5th and 6th amendments are violated regularly and to listen to our lawmakers in Tallahassee the 9th and 10th no longer exist at all.  And we have police departments competing for how much they can look like the military.

From any ideological or political perspective the costs of the War on Drugs to society and its finances far outweigh any benefits (if any can be found).  Every other country that has moved to a medical model has seen a decrease in abuse and addiction of all substances across the board.  Creating criminal markets and targeting specific people has done nothing but exasperate the original identified problem and create several more issues to deal with.  Financially, Socially, and Morally the responsible and proper thing to do would be to end the failed War on Drugs.


Some of my thoughts I presented about the War on Drugs, Industrial Hemp and Florida Water.

Steve Edmonds from Florida Cannabis Coaltion on Vimeo.

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