Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Did You Know? The War on Drugs Edition

Check out this great video from the International Centre for Science and Drug Policy. It serves as a quick yet thorough introduction to the War on Drugs. For new SSDP members, watching the video will make them aware of drug war facts. And this new awareness could spark a desire to make a difference, a sentiment common among drug policy reformers.

The video shows that our current drug policies are harmful, ineffective, and counterproductive. The War on Drugs--which set out to reduce drugs' supply and use--has done little to accomplish these goals. After forty years of prohibiting illicit drugs and incarcerating their users, these drugs are readily accessible to youth, more so than legally regulated drugs like alcohol and cigarettes. In a damning indictment of prohibition, rates of drug use have remained mostly constant over the same four decade trajectory.

Such failures evince an ineffective strategy: by creating a profitable black market for drugs, prohibition has increased drug-related violence. Americans have seen this scenario of illegal market formation and escalating violence before, with alcohol's prohibition in the 1920s. Indeed, echoing seventeenth-century Enlightenment penal reformer Cesare Beccaria, Albert Einstein made the following observation during Prohibition:
"Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this."
Einstein couldn't foresee the astronomically high rates of incarceration which have followed from prohibition in the war on drugs. Nor could anyone predict the costs upon our education and health care systems, heavy burdens for society that have fallen on drug users and non-users alike. That's why the International Centre for Science and Durg Policy's work helps us understand the unintended, devastating consequences of the War on Drugs.

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