The Failed War on Drugs

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The Failed War on Drugs

leChef
By GEORGE P. SHULTZ and PEDRO ASPE

The war on drugs in the United States has been a failure that has ruined lives, filled prisons and cost a fortune. It started during the Nixon administration with the idea that, because drugs are bad for people, they should be difficult to obtain. As a result, it became a war on supply.

As first lady during the crack epidemic, Nancy Reagan tried to change this approach in the 1980s. But her “Just Say No” campaign to reduce demand received limited support.

Over the objections of the supply-focused bureaucracy, she told a United Nations audience on Oct. 25, 1988: “If we cannot stem the American demand for drugs, then there will be little hope of preventing foreign drug producers from fulfilling that demand. We will not get anywhere if we place a heavier burden of action on foreign governments than on America’s own mayors, judges and legislators. You see, the cocaine cartel does not begin in Medellín, Colombia. It begins in the streets of New York, Miami, Los Angeles and every American city where crack is bought and sold.”

Her warning was prescient, but not heeded. Studies show that the United States has among the highest rates of drug use in the world. But even as restricting supply has failed to curb abuse, aggressive policing has led to thousands of young drug users filling American prisons, where they learn how to become real criminals.

The prohibitions on drugs have also created perverse economic incentives that make combating drug producers and distributors extremely difficult. The high black-market price for illegal drugs has generated huge profits for the groups that produce and sell them, income that is invested in buying state-of-the-art weapons, hiring gangs to defend their trade, paying off public officials and making drugs easily available to children, to get them addicted.

Drug gangs, armed with money and guns from the United States, are causing bloody mayhem in Mexico, El Salvador and other Central American countries. In Mexico alone, drug-related violence has resulted in over 100,000 deaths since 2006. This violence is one of the reasons people leave these countries to come to the United States.

Add it all up and one can see that focusing on supply has done little to curtail drug abuse while causing a host of terrible side effects. What, then, can we do?

First the United States and Mexican governments must acknowledge the failure of this strategy. Only then can we engage in rigorous and countrywide education campaigns to persuade people not to use drugs.

The current opioid crisis underlines the importance of curbing demand. This approach, with sufficient resources and the right message, could have a major impact similar to the campaign to reduce tobacco use.

We should also decriminalize the small-scale possession of drugs for personal use, to end the flow of nonviolent drug addicts into the criminal justice system. Several states have taken a step in this direction by decriminalizing possession of certain amounts of marijuana. Mexico’s Supreme Court has also declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. At the same time, we should continue to make it illegal to possess large quantities of drugs so that pushers can be prosecuted and some control over supply maintained.

Finally, we must create well-staffed and first-class treatment centers where people are willing to go without fear of being prosecuted and with the confidence that they will receive effective care. The experience of Portugal suggests that younger people who use drugs but are not yet addicted can very often be turned around. Even though it is difficult to get older addicted people off drugs, treatment programs can still offer them helpful services.

With such a complicated problem, we should be willing to experiment with solutions. Which advertising messages are most effective? How can treatment be made effective for different kinds of drugs and different degrees of addiction? We should have the patience to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. But we must get started now.

As these efforts progress, profits from the drug trade will diminish greatly even as the dangers of engaging in it will remain high. The result will be a gradual lessening of violence in Mexico and Central American countries.

We have a crisis on our hands — and for the past half-century, we have been failing to solve it. But there are alternatives. Both the United States and Mexico need to look beyond the idea that drug abuse is simply a law-enforcement problem, solvable through arrests, prosecution and restrictions on supply. We must together attack it with public health policies and education.

We still have time to persuade our young people not to ruin their lives.

George P. Shultz, a former secretary of the Treasury and secretary of state, is a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. Pedro Aspe is a former secretary of finance in Mexico.

Source:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/31/opinion/failed-war-on-drugs.html
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

pablo2017
one or two good ideas, and loads of wishful thinking

good luck
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

huero minuto
In reply to this post by leChef
Whats sad to me is while nancy was telling us to say no, someone was allowing alot of coke into the usa to help fund the contras and who knows what else.  As long as it was central and south america and involved fighting the commies and propping up right wing dictatorships, the usa turned a blind eye.   Mexico is a buffer no more.   Just my opinion.
Jstanothercoyo
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Mica
In reply to this post by leChef
The "War on Drugs" is a failure.  This is such an overused saying, that always makes me scratch my head.  Where is the example of a first world country where drug use is successful? Cancer still exists, so would the "War on Cancer" be a failure too?  
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Siskiyou_Kid
This post was updated on .
The War on Drugs IS a failure, and here's why: The primary harm caused by illegal narcotics is the criminal violence and corruption associated with their sales and distribution. These problems are driven by the immense profit margin, which in turn is caused by the War on Drugs.

Every time a large shipment of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine is seized their seizure contributes to the astronomical amounts of money flowing to organized criminal groups. Without the threat of arrest and seizure, these illegal substances would be worth pennies on the dollar. This money is then used to fight rival gangs over territory, and to corrupt government agencies, include judiciaries and law enforcement, as well as public officials.

The secondary harm associated with illegal narcotics is the manner in which these substances cause an early death, other health problems, and the disruption of families and friends of those who abuse them. The fear of arrest and incarceration of users severely limits harm reduction efforts by people who surround and interact with them.

In short, a serious public health issue has been criminalized, causing new problems of a severe nature, while compounding existing problems. These are simple lessons learned during alcohol prohibition in the United States. I'm not suggesting that narcotics shouldn't be vigorously regulated, but to leave their sales and distribution in the hands of criminal groups has led to severe societal problems around the world, and these problems are particularly acute in Mexico.
 
Those that say, don't know. Those that know, don't say.
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Mica
@Kid
What would make the war on drugs a success?  I don't think anyone believed that declaring war on illegal drugs would eliminate corruption or related deaths.  Is the suggestion that legalizing all drugs would resolve everything?  
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Siskiyou_Kid
Mica, many of the ills associated with illegal narcotics were caused by prohibition. Legalizing drugs would not immediately solve endemic corruption and health problems associated with their use, but it would remove much of the cash flowing to organized criminal groups, and this would be a huge first start. It would also free up billions of dollars a year, currently spent on arrests and incarceration, which could be used for serious drug rehab centers.

The end of alcohol prohibition did not end the reign of mafia groups in the US, but it did remove one of their biggest methods of earning, while they eventually took another big hit on another profitable vice enterprise, when state lotteries and indian casinos ended most of their ability to earn through illegal gambling.
Those that say, don't know. Those that know, don't say.
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Chivis
Administrator
In reply to this post by Siskiyou_Kid
Hear! Hear! and the memory of my dead brother says "Amen"

May I add even a marijuana arrest can and does ruin lives.  what are the choices then?  a life of min wage jobs at places who don't ask questions, or living on the kindness of taxpayers?

Prohibition does not work. period.

as for legalization, ask your physician for his opinion, you will be surprised.  the majority are in favor of legalization, and regulation.

study the dutch plan, see what happened there.

 
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Mica
In reply to this post by Siskiyou_Kid
@Kid
With all due respect, suggesting a solution from the 1920's is like suggesting war tactics from WW2 would be as effective today against terrorism.
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Siskiyou_Kid
In reply to this post by Chivis
I had a feeling we're on the same page on this issue.

As far as my personal physician, he is in a partnership with two of our county commissioners in a company that grows and produces cannabis products on a number of small farms. For several years now we've had to ask him to direct his attention towards our health because all he wants to talk about is cannabis.
Those that say, don't know. Those that know, don't say.
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Chivis
Administrator
Although I was more speaking to others who may not know what physicians think and why, your response made me smile.
 
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Mica
In reply to this post by Chivis
To clarify my opinion, technically "The War on Drugs" is a phrase, so my interpretation is based on the highly addictive ones like cocaine, meth, heroin, etc... I am neutral on marijuana and don't have an opinion either way.  But I still don't believe that legalizing marijuana would make the War a success.  Post-prohibition, alcohol-related deaths have only increased with time, but this does not mean eliminating it was not a success.  

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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Chimera
In reply to this post by huero minuto
You are correct. Look up Iran-Contra Affair. Crooked people in Ronald Reagan's administration.
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Chimera
In reply to this post by Mica
Regarding the alcohol-related deaths, is the the absolute number of deaths that has increased or the per capita number of deaths that has increased, if you know?

In other words, are there more alcohol-related deaths because the population is larger? Or because, as the statistics are usually looked at, more people per 100,000 are dying?

I'm not quite sure where to look for the numbers and don't have time now, but I'll try to see if I can find something. Because now I'm wondering! Since I'm in the US, and that's where I'm used to researching, those are the numbers I'll be looking for.
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

deelucky1
In reply to this post by Mica





obesity also kills!!!
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

canadiana
Administrator
In reply to this post by Chimera
Chimera I googled this but is 2 years old-9.6 deaths from alcohol per 100,000 in US.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/22/americans
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Chivis
Administrator
lets go to the stats...  88k alcohol deaths in the U.S.

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
 
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Chivis
Administrator
In reply to this post by Chimera
go to NIH for stats like those
 
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please
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Re: The Failed War on Drugs

Mica
It would be beyond difficult to factor in the following.
1.How many lifes have been sparred in alcohol related auto deaths with seatbelts.
2.Advancement of medicine and medical awareness.

Found this today http://mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKBN1ES1N2
Not a single doctor can correctly predict the future.  

Again I am neutral on legalizing marijuana, but nobody has yet to answer my questions.  Would legalizing marijuana make the war on drugs a success and if so how?  Everyone can say it’s a failure, but nobody can say the parameters that would make it a success.