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40 Years of Drug War Hasn't Worked; "Time for a Change," Says 9-Year Veteran

The public understands how disastrous it's been -- now it's time for the politicians and law enforcement to change course.

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The FY 2011 formal anti-drug budget request is for $15.5 billion, excluding imprisonment and the many other costs which remain concealed in the budget submission.

The cost of imprisoning federal drug prisoners has been over $3 billion annually since FY 2008. On June 9, 2011 the total federal prison population exceeded 216,000. As of May 20, 2011, 50.8 percent of convicted federal prisoners were drug offenders.

Economic Impact

Nixon wanted research and “development of necessary reports, statistics, and social indicators for use by all public and private groups.”

Unfortunately, we do not have a clear idea of the cost to the economy from the unemployment and underemployment of tens of millions who have criminal records for drug use or distribution. With criminal records, many such men are unmarriageable and can’t obtain credit.

What has it meant to the shareholders and investment funds that own Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, and the union workers who build cars and components, that instead of the 200,000 prisoners in state and federal prisons in 1972, now there are about 1.6 million adults in prison (and another 600,000 in jails)? This is a population of about 1.4 million mostly young men (prime car owners) who can’t buy a car.

America’s economy is famously consumer driven and is terribly hurt when tens of millions of residents can’t work and can’t buy the goods manufactured and sold by American businesses. This constriction of our domestic market is not a problem our Japanese and German competitors face.

Veterans

Nixon asked for $14 million “to make the facilities of the Veterans Administration available to all former servicemen in need of drug rehabilitation.” SAMHSA, using data from National Surveys on Drug Use and Health from 2004-2006 indicate that out of a veteran population of 25.9 million persons, an annual average 7.1 percent of veterans met the criteria for a past year substance use disorder, and another 1.5 percent had co-occurring serious psychological distress and substance use disorder. We all know the population of veterans with physical and psychological injuries is rapidly growing and that substance abuse is growing in that population. The ONDCP focuses on the criminal cases, touting special criminal courts to treat veterans who commit crimes, while treatment in general languishes.

International initiatives

A major feature of Nixon’s message stressed the need for international cooperation. He had already stumbled badly when “Operation Intercept” in September 1969 created enormous traffic jams at the Mexico-U.S. border, and severely damaged trade and bilateral relations.

Opium grown in Turkey was the source of 80 percent of the heroin consumed in the U.S. in 1968. Nixon made an overture to Turkey and they cracked down on illegal opium growing and required cultivation licenses. Opium is now grown legally there to make morphine, and none is diverted to heroin. Instead of following this successful legalization strategy, Nixon’s successors tried to rely only on forceful crop eradication. But enforcement is like squeezing a balloon. The drug production shifts to new countries which render such successes meaningless. Sadly, expanding production of opium and heroin has become a disaster for other nations such as Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala and Afghanistan, fueling insurrection, wholesale corruption and widespread assassination.

Support for Prohibition Is Vanishing

In the face of threats of prosecution from the federal government, stuck in the ideology of the “war on drugs,” state legislatures and governors continue to pass medical marijuana laws. On May 10, 2011, Maryland’s governor signed a law creating a complete medical use defense to a marijuana prosecution and creating a state commission to write a model medical marijuana law. On May 13, 2011, Delaware’s governor signed a medical marijuana law, making it the sixteenth state with a comprehensive law to protect medical use of marijuana. On June 2, 2011, Vermont’s governor signed a law to add medical marijuana dispensaries to that state’s medical marijuana law.

 
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