Sunday, June 19, 2011

Could the End of Our 40 Year Old Drug War finally be in Sight?

War on Drugs is a Total Failure

“The war on drugs is an utter failure,” Barack Obama said before he became president and dedicated $40,000,000,000 a year to the drug war.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy describes America’s “war on drugs,” a total failure as well.

In a new initiative, the GCDP has made some important new, game-changing recommendations in its Drug Policy Report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade.

The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.

More than 40 years after Nixon started the war on drugs, we have over one million non-violent drug offenders living behind bars.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy report describes the total failure of the present global anti-drug effort, and in particular America’s “war on drugs,” which was declared over 40 years ago. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.

Former President Nixon signing in the War on Drugs
These recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy are compatible with United States drug policy from three decades ago. In a message to Congress in 1977, President Carter said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts. The former President also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”

These ideas were widely accepted at the time. But in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan and Congress, under pressure from Big Alcohol, began to unbalance balanced drug policies, including prison sentences instead of treatment and rehabilitation of addicts and attempted efforts to control drug imports from foreign countries, leading to the rise of the powerful, violent Columbian and Mexican Cartels.

This approach entailed an enormous expenditure of resources and the dependence on police and military forces to reduce the foreign cultivation of marijuana, coca and opium poppy and the production of cocaine and heroin. One result has been a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin American countries.

We were told by our government that the "War on Drugs" is being waged on our behalf, to save us from ourselves.

We are told that the "war on drugs" is being waged, on our behalf, by our governments and their armed bureaucracies and police forces, to save us from ourselves. "Potential for abuse and harm" are supposed to be the criteria by which the use of drugs is suppressed - the greater a drug's potential for abuse and harm, the greater and more vigorous the degree of suppression, and the more draconian the penalties applied against its users.

When we look at the history of the "war on drugs" over approximately the last forty years it must be asked whether the criminalization of the use of any of the prohibited substances has in any way been effective in terms of the stated goals that this "war" was supposedly mounted to achieve? Specifically, has there been a marked reduction in the use of illegal drugs over the past forty years - as one would expect with billions of dollars of taxpayers' money having been spent over such a long period on their suppression - and has there been a reduction in the harms that these drugs supposedly cause to the individual and to society?

The two hour documentary above, American Drug War, shows how money, power and greed have corrupted not just drug pushers and dope fiends, but an entire government. It also shows what can be done about it. This is not some 'pro-drug' stoner film, but a collection of expert testimonials from the ground troops on the front lines of the drug war, the ones who are fighting it and the ones who are living it.

The War on Drugs has become the longest, most costly and controversial war in American history.  

The Global Commission on Drug Policy recommends that governments be encouraged to experiment “with models of legal regulation of drugs ... that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.” For effective examples, they can look to policies that have shown promising results in Europe, Australia and other places.

But they probably won’t turn to the United States for advice.  In America 7.2 million people are either in prison or on probation or parole!Drug policies in America are more punitive and counterproductive than in any other democracy, and have brought about an explosion in prison populations.

At the end of 1980, 500,000 people were incarcerated in America; at the end of 2009 the number was nearly 2.3 million. There are 743 people in prison for every 100,000 Americans, more than in any other country and 7 times as great as in Europe.  Some increase is due to mandatory minimum sentencing and “three strikes you’re out” laws, but the majority of new admissions is non-violent drug offenders.

Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families, but it is also a great burdon on state and local budgets. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed out that, in 1980, 10 percent of his state’s budget went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons; in 2010, almost 11 percent went to prisons and only 7.5 percent to higher education.

Maybe the increased tax burden on wealthy citizens necessary to pay for the war on drugs will help to bring about a reform of America’s drug policies. At least the recommendations of the Global Commission will give some cover to political leaders who wish to do what is right.

More that half of the men in United States prisons are incarcerated for non-violent, drug-related crimes. To help such men remain valuable members of society, and to make drug policies more humane and more effective, the American government should support and implement the reforms laid out by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Beginning on Friday, June 17, the 40th anniversary of the “war on drugs,” thousands of people will come together to hold “Communities Rising” actions and rallies in communities across America. Over 40 organizations in California alone will be calling for active steps to end the 40-year-old “war on drugs” and to prioritize vital social services over prison spending.

America is tired of the War on Drugs. The majority of Americans will welcome the end of this costly, destructive, failed war against its own people. In fact, according to a recent poll, 56% want marijuana legalized and regulated like alcohol. Even many law enforcement officers are now speaking out against the failed Drug War (see my article, Law Enforcement Against the Prohibition of Marijuana). Most Americans have a family member, friend or colleague who has spent time in jail because of the War on Drugs.

Nothing good can become of waging a war against your ow citizens! It is time the War on Drugs ends.

 Nearly forty years after President Nixon declared a "war on drugs," it is clear that the nation's approach to drug policy is counterproductive and inhumane. Shifting our priorities toward a more logical, productive approach which offers treatment rather than punishment for addicts and recognizes the injustice of mass incarceration seems like an impossible task. But we have all the answers and resources we need. If ever there was a time to say end the war on drugs, it's now.

If you believe that the drug war is a failure, and it's time to bring it to an end, Sign the petition and send a clear message: No More Drug War! Take action now, HERE. Also, urge your state Rep. to introduce legislation to regulate marijuana for adults over 21. Take action now, HERE.

How do you feel about the War on Drugs? Do you personally know someone who has been directly affected by it? Do you believe drugs should be decriminalized or legalized? Let Conspiracy Watch reader know what you believe by leaving a comment down bellow.

Written By: Tom Retterbush
Updated: 5-30-12

Busted!: Drug War Survival Skills
Busted! is a funny, smart, subversive worst-case scenario guide for casual drug users and their tolerant friends. It's the Bible on how not to get busted and what to do if you are. Using celebrity busts, outrageous everyman busts, and the author's professional experience, Busted! is everything you need to know about the criminal justice system, Drug War style, before it's too late. Like a Law & Order episode, the book takes the reader through a typical small-time drug possession case from committing the crime, to handling police encounters like a pro, to getting busted, to spending a night in jail, to fighting your drug bust, to pleading guilty, through trials and appeals, and, finally, punishment all the way to the end.  
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