DRUG WAR DAMAGE
"Drug prohibition has clearly eclipsed alcohol prohibition as the nation's costliest, most catastrophic social program."
- Yale Law Professor Steven Duke and Albert Gross in America's Longest War.
"What is the result ? U.N. agencies estimate the annual revenue generated by the illegal drug industry at $400 billion, or the equivalent of roughly eight per cent of total international trade. This industry has empowered organized criminals, corrupted governments at all levels, eroded internal security, stimulated violence, and distorted both economic markets and moral values. These are the consequences not of drug use per se, but of decades of failed and futile drug war policies."
- George Shultz, Paul Volcker et.al.
See: Public Letter
(The U.N. estimates are now almost ten years old. No one seems to be making an effort to publicize more recent figures.)
"Three decades of this grotesque, state-sponsored racketeering have led to unbelievable levels of official corruption and to an unheard-of assault on civil and political liberties. Colombia doesn't look any more like the U.S. as a result, but the U.S. does look a lot more like Colombia.
The actual resources expended would have more than paid for national health care: the potential revenue from legal, and therefore clean, narcotics would rebuild the cities from the ground up."
- Christopher Hitchens in The Guardian, (UK)10 Jul 2001
"Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favor are a major source of the evils you deplore."
- Milton Friedman to Bill Bennett, 1989
I have thought about [prohibition] for a long time. I have observed behavior in this country and in other countries for a long time. And I find it almost incredible how people can support the present system of drug prohibition. It does so much more harm than good."
- Milton Friedman, 1991 interview on "America's Drug Forum," a national public affairs talk show
Drug War Damage Analyzed
Drug war damage is vital to creating a balance sheet, a cost benefit analysis of the drug war. See Drug War Failure and Science for a look at the other side of the ledger.
Our children are particular victims of the drug war. To understand their plight, see Children.
The damage caused is so pervasive, so massive, that we can only present the bare outlines.
Drug war damage has four roots, each of which contributes to huge, mostly wasted, financial costs:
* The creation of the illegal drug trade [IDT].
Alcohol Prohibition gave us Al Capone and we have inflicted a thousand more like him on the world. Their actions produce a cascade of damage:
- Corruption 
- Violence 
- Crime 
- Undermined democracy in foreign countries 
- Ecological damage 
- Economic disruption large enough to pervert legitimate business 
- Profit incentives for the IDT to make our drug problem worse and the wealth that makes it possible 
- Already dangerous drugs become much more dangerous 
* The massive expansion of the police power of the state.
Having created a monster, it was necessary to expand law enforcement to attempt to cope with it. It also defined tens of millions of people as criminals though they had harmed no one, adding hugely to the expansion and the inequities. As frustration with failure built, traditional freedoms were discarded and law enforcement focused on the weakest and least consequential offenders; unable to show any progress, enforcers opted for visibility and trivial measures [See: Science] as distractions.
Another Senseless Drug War Death
Police shoot Georgia pastor Jonathan Ayers
"If there is a key to understanding America's criminal justice problem, it lies in recognizing that the war on drugs has been lost and never was winnable. In order to feed the war machine, we have sacrificed our courts, prisons and law enforcement."
- Federal Judge, John J. Kane, Jr.
A law enforcement system designed to focus on perhaps a half million criminals who most threaten us was asked to cope with 100 million minor offenders and another 100 million innocent suspects. The result was another cascade of chaos :
- Swamped courts and prisons 
- A noble profession, law enforcement, undermined 
- Public safety sacrificed through overload and misallocated resources 
- Constitution eroded 
- Fundamental values ignored 
- Respect for the law weakened 
- Corruption of public officials
- Produced viciously racist outcomes 
Also see: RACE
- Innocent people made the victims of reckless measures against their neighbors 
* The irrational extension of police power into inappropriate areas.
These actions have a common theme:
- they do little or no good for the very few they are targeted to help
- they cause great harm to the general welfare of all of us
- they violate even elementary common sense
They're a bit like a flood control project that uses its money to have police storm into random homes to look for leaky faucets.
- Health Care 
[a] Poor treatment of chronic pain. This is a major scandal within the field of medicine but little known to the general public. If you suffer from exceptional pain, there is a very good chance that you will be allowed to suffer because doctors are afraid that police will harass them - causing great damage to their medical practice - if the proper high level of medication that is required is given to you.
More details are at www.managingpain.org.
[b] Marijuana is a valid medicine. That is clear from present evidence. The federal government has continually erected barriers to further research, including research into the use of alternative methods of use, particularly vaporizers, that can deliver the medicine with little or no smoke. Tens of thousands certainly suffer needlessly and the number may be in the millions. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor properly observed that the amount of marijuana involved is so small in relation to personal recreational use that it is insignificant.
More details are at Booklet.
[c] Syringe or needle exchange programs help protect the general public from infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. They do not increase drug use.
More details are at Local Control.
- Agriculture 
The ban on the growth of hemp is like trying to fight alcohol addiction by enacting a ban on grapes. No valid purpose is served and the public is denied the benefits of one of the most valued agricultural and industrial products in our nation's history. There are also significant potential ecological benefits involved.
- Drug Education 
This applies especially to our young but also to the general public. So much misinformation, exaggeration and distortion have been part and parcel of the drug war that adults have little credibility among the young and adults evaluate policy based on false assumptions.
- Zero Tolerance 
- Indiscriminate drug tests 
* The effect of prohibition on the drug user and on the drug abuser
- Turned millions of ordinary law abiding people into criminals 
- Dramatically increased the risks to drug users and abusers, even killing them unnecessarily 
- Turned many addicts from people with a personal problem into people who are a menace to society