The war on drugs has waged for decades now taking thousands of casualties and costing millions of tax payer dollars. After all the damage is done, reports show that it has turned out to be a complete failure. Drug use and addiction has not even mildly decreased; in fact the problem is worse and drug possession arrests have almost tripled since the war on drugs began. Every 25 seconds someone is arrested for drug possession and, the majority of the time, the arrest is for a tiny amount. In Texas 78 percent of drug arrests are for under a gram, quantities smaller than a sugar packet. The report says that this kind of quantity for personal use is more of a health issue than a criminal offence. The cost for it being dealt with on a criminal level is absolutely crippling to families, communities and the tax payer.
More People Arrested for Marijuana Than Violent Crime
Despite the country’s changing opinion about marijuana and the fact that it is legalized for its many medicinal purposes in 25 states, more people are arrested for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape and burglary.
Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union released a report that explores the result of making drug possession and personal use a criminal offense in the U.S. Tess Borden, the author of the report revealed, “Each day, tens of thousands more are convicted, cycle through jails and prisons, and spend extended periods on probation and parole, often burdened with crippling debt from court-imposed fines and fees. Their criminal records lock them out of jobs, housing, education, welfare assistance, voting, and much more, and subject them to discrimination and stigma.”
Racist Leanings of the War on Drugs
Unfortunately, according to Borden, those affected are “communities of color and the poor.” The report shows that while white people are more likely to use illicit drugs, black people are more than 2 and half times likely to be arrested. In Iowa, Montana and Vermont, where there are statistically less African Americans, they are still over 6 times more likely to be arrested. In Manhattan where 15 percent of the population are African American, they are 11 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession. This disproportionate execution of drug laws has supported a devastating cycle of struggle that ultimately impacts everybody.
The Use of “Selective Enforcement”
Part of the issue is that police departments often send more officers to high crime areas. The police arrive and arrest residents for even the smallest crimes, such as loitering, jaywalking or possessing marijuana. This then drives up the crime rate in the area, leading to more arrests in the future. Inimai M. Chettiar, director of the Justice Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice explains, “It is selective enforcement, and the example I like to use is that you have all sorts of drug use inside elite college dorms, but you don’t see the police busting through doors.”
According to the report, the war on drugs has not only failed to lower drug use in the country, it has had a devastating impact on people, communities and the economy. The cost alone for law enforcement as well as court and jail time has placed an immense burden on tax payers. The Human Rights Watch and American Civil Liberties Union report recommends that drug possession be decriminalized for personal use and treated as a public health issue instead of a criminal offence.