The Trillion Dollar Fail: How the War on Drugs Was Lost

“If we cannot destroy the drug menace in America, then it will surely in time destroy us.” – Richard Nixon, 1971.

After an often-spiteful campaign season filled with hyperbole and defensive posturing, the 2012 election proved to be exceedingly successful for the Democratic Party. Amidst Barack Obama’s reelection and several key Senatorial wins, the Progressive Movement also celebrated other understated, albeit significant, ballot victories. For the first time in United States history, two states, Colorado and Washington, voted to legalize the personal use of recreational marijuana. These ballot triumphs represent an unprecedented step in the liberalization of America’s drug laws and the upward trend of Americans coming to favor the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana.

It has however been a long and arduous battle to realize such successes, necessitating not only political savvy, but also an existential shift in the sensibilities of the voting public and politicians on an issue that has been typically accepted at status quo. Until very recently, America’s drug policy has echoed the model of the “War on Drugs” Richard Nixon infamously declared in an address to Congress in 1971, precipitating a wholly austere, merit-based credo characterized by unrelenting prohibition and interdiction.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, The War on Drugs costs the federal government approximately $15-20 billion per year, and with negligible success in lowering the supply of drugs or drug abuse rates, politicians and experts on all points of the political spectrum have deemed the War on Drugs an objective failure. With particular emphasis on cutting off the supply of narcotics, the United States drug policy has been predicated on the theory that eradication of an unwanted external malefactor can only be achieved through persecution of the malefactor and its backers. As the War has escalated, funding for rehabilitation and prevention has diminished, and resources are instead carved out, many believe imprudently, for law enforcement, mass incarceration, SWAT style raids, and militarization of the US/Mexico border, the entry point through which most of America’s drugs are smuggled. According to the World Health Organization, the United States still has the highest rate of illegal drug use in the world.

– Read the entire article at Highbrow Magazine.