Written by Ted Jackson
June 2008
The War on Drugs has its roots in a U.S. lead prohibition effort that began over one hundred years ago, an initiative that has ultimately resulted in the criminalization of non-prescription drug use in practically every nation on earth. In the wake of the explosion of drug use following the Vietnam War, the War on Drugs in its current aggressive and malignant form began with the creation of the DEA, along with other programs and legislation, during the Nixon administration. And, now, the newest numbers from the Justice Department are just the latest in a long line of events and data that prove the abject failure of one of the most misguided policies in the history of this nation.

Year after year, the Justice Department announces record numbers of prisoners, and the latest figures are no exception, with 7.2 million people reported as incarcerated in 2007, by far the largest per capita imprisonment rate in the world. DOJ estimates that 21 percent of all state inmates, and 55 percent of federal inmates, are sentenced for drug crimes. But other estimates of drugrelated imprisonment put the figure at closer to 75 percent of the prisoner population. And it now costs $60 billion a year to fund this vast new prison industrial complex, an eightfold increase since the War on Drugs, in its current incarnation, began 35 years ago. When governments seeks to criminalise a common behavior – 40 million Amercans have used cocaine – it sets itself up in a war against the people, a war that we have seen has had huge costs on society. If the War on Drugs were effective, it might be worth the cost. But the War in Drugs has not been in any way effective, and it’s time now for a new policy.

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