Third Party & Independents Archives

January 2007: Drug War Costs

This month alone the War on Drugs has cost our nation over $4.4 billion dollars at a rate of approximately $150 million dollars a day (1). We have seen over 137,000 Americans arrested on drug offenses with nearly half 68,517 arrested on cannabis offenses this month alone (1). That is approximately 4438 people a day, 184 an hour, or 3 a minute on drug offenses, and 2210 a day, 92 an hour, or over one a minute on cannabis offenses alone.

These are not even the complete cost. It cost approximately 65 million a month in prison costs related to those incarcarated for drug offenses (2).

The War on Drugs has failed, and the two major parties have failed. Silence on the issue by both major parties has continued this terrible War on Drugs without any real public discussion on its cost or effectiveness. Rates of arrest have not gone down over time, as would be likely expected if the War on Drugs was effective. Drug War profits have continued to escalate, another sign that the War on Drugs is failing, and the UN estimated "that three-quarters of all drug shipments would have to be intercepted to seriously reduce the profitability of the business" (3).

Under the War on Drugs people are getting more potent drugs over time at a lower cost, an obvious sign that the War on Drugs is failing. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) the cost of heroin per gram went down over $1600 from 1981 to 2003 while in the same period heroin purity rose from 11 percent in 1981 to 32 percent in 2003 (4). ONDCP figures show that over that same period cocaine prices dropped over $400 per gram while the purity of cocaine rose from 40 percent in 1981 to 70 percent in 2003 (5).


The War on Drugs has failed. We are spending more and more on it each year, and this spending comes with no national debate on the cost or effectiveness. We are arresting more and more people each year, and putting more and more people in prisons for drug offenses every year. Users are getting better drugs for less money while dealers continue to rake in increased profits. All signs point to complete failure.

1. http://www.drugsense.org/wodclock.htm

2. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v99/n667/a01.html

3. United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Global Illicit Drug Trends 1999 (New York, NY: UNODCCP, 1999), p. 51.

4.Office of National Drug Control Policy, "The Price and Purity of Illicit Drugs: 1981 Through the Second Quarter of 2003" (Washington DC: Executive Office of the President, November 2004), Publication Number NCJ 207768, p. 62, Table 5 & p. 63, Table 6.

5. Office of National Drug Control Policy, "The Price and Purity of Illicit Drugs: 1981 Through the Second Quarter of 2003" (Washington DC: Executive Office of the President, November 2004), Publication Number NCJ 207768, p. 58, Table 1 & p. 59, Table 2.

Posted by Richard Rhodes at January 31, 2007 6:55 PM
Comments
Comment #206040

Word.

It never fails to amaze me how this country just won’t learn from it’s own history, which isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things.

Didn’t we learn the last time that Prohibition was tried that it was an abysmal failure. And didn’t we need a Constitutional amendment for that to take place, how do we get away with not needing one now?

How is it that the federal government has any say in what I might grow in my back yard and smoke in my living room, it’s not crossing state lines, I’m not selling it, yet for some reason they can tell me it’s illegal? And less than 100 years ago we needed an Amendment to tell us the same thing…

And how much is the cost per day of the war in Iraq? How much are the democrats hypocrites by wanting one war to end and this one to continue? I thought war was never the answer….

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 31, 2007 8:07 PM
Comment #206045

Richard,

Illicit drug use is a problem! How we’ve dealt with the problem is another problem in itself. I was working in the Mental Health/Addiction/Alcoholism feild before the almighty Ronald Reagan took office.

The shift from rehab to criminalization was drastic. People begging for rehab were ignored because no resources were available. I found myself counseling “kids” and young men that had been sexually abused in prison by violent offenders. Hmmm, go figure, they couldn’t get past the experience without drugs. And, of course, there was still no actual in-patient rehab available to them.

Then there were the mentally ill that were DUMPED on the street when Reagan cut back on funding for in-patient services. We’re still trying to deal with that population as “Dual Diagnosis” outpatients. The “dual” being that they’re mentally ill and they resort to illicit drug use to eleviate the pain.

It seems that America loves building prisons but is not so hot on caring for the mentally ill. Addiction is an illness. Our focus on punishing addictive behavior needs to be never re-electing someone that votes for bills that criminalize non-violent drug use. Prison does not cure addiction, it only serves to create a repeat offender and, quite often, the “repeat” offense will be violent.

OTOH, we’ve elected a President that smoked but never inhaled and another who’s fairly well admitted alcohol abuse and possibly even a little cocaine usage. Great message! If you get caught you’re f####d, if not you can be President!

Damn disgraceful!

Posted by: KansasDem at January 31, 2007 8:50 PM
Comment #206051

“How is it that the federal government has any say in what I might grow in my back yard and smoke in my living room,”

Rhinehold,

Beyond the typical “gateway” BS you might hear about pot I’ll assure you that it’s a mood altering drug. I believe it should be decriminalized and regulated either like precription drugs or like alcohol. I’m flexible on how it’s done but we need to move away from pot being illegal. Moving pot or any other drug across the border is another story.

Cocaine, Meth, Heroine, etc. present different problems. Everyone of those problems have two things in common:

#1: The need to escape “something”.
#2: Addiction!

The fact is that addicts seldom have resources to afford intensive in-patient care. That leaves two options for treatment costs:

#1: Charity.
#2: A government program that requires YOUR money to create an effective safety net.

I know we disagree as to which alternative is better than the other.

Posted by: KansasDem at January 31, 2007 9:43 PM
Comment #206055

KansasDem- If cannabis is only decriminalized it would still be on the black market. Because decriminilization still means it is not legal but that it is just a ticket and not jail time. Thus decrim is not the answer, decrim still allows dealers to reap in massive profits. Where as legalization would allow the government to massively tax the industry and bring in tax dollars while at the same time regulating the quality and who it is sold too.

One thing most people forget is that it is harder for a teen to get alcohol than it is pot, because they can buy pot at school but alcohol they gotta steal from their parents or have an older sibling or friend buy for them. Thus decriminalization would make it where kids would still have easy access, in legalization much like alcohol it would be harder to get than when it is on the black market.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at January 31, 2007 10:10 PM
Comment #206062

Richard,

You may well be right. I simply want to see the system work. The system now is beyond broken.

I simply lack the knowledge to know how to fix the system, but I’ve been a witness to the failings of the current system.

To some degree this began with Nixon’s Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 and it’s continued to harm individuals and communities ever since then. You’d think we’d stop pouring money into something that just doesn’t work.

Posted by: KansasDem at January 31, 2007 10:40 PM
Comment #206090

I agree. Decriminalize it.

Here in Holland, where drugs are (mostly) legal, there is no drug problem. I would gander that the (per capita) percentage of drug use is less than in the US.

Think about it this way: mom says to keep your hands out of the cookie jar. What is the first thing you do when she isn’t looking… grab a cookie.

Same goes for drugs. They tell you not to, and thus give you incentive to do it, simply to be a rebel.

Also, drinking is allowed at 16. What this effectively does is allows kids to “get it outta their system” and teach them the respondsibilities and results of drinking at an early age. Also, making it less of a “big deal”. In the US, you can’t drink until you’re 21. I know I personally looked forward to the time that I was allowed to do it legally, and I certainly drank more after I was allowed to do it legally. It’s much easier to recover from falling down and breaking your nose at the age of 16 than it is at the age of 21.

Getting back to drugs. They are taxed here. What a concept; take the control away from the dealers, and place it in the hands of the “man”. Now, the “man” can then, suddenly, use the tax dollars to fund programs to EDUCATE people about the cause and effects of doing such things. Also, the “man” will have more money as a result of not having to keep these “criminals” in jail for years at a time.

Education is the key. As I said with drinking. The people of Holland are educated early about the causes and effects of such things, thus getting it all behind them, and allowing them to focus on an education that will allow them to prosper in the world. Anyone realize how much of the world is affected by the things the Dutch have done (an there are only about 19 million of them!)?????

Dutch_expat

Posted by: Dutch_expat at February 1, 2007 3:26 AM
Comment #206104

The war on drugs has now cost more than is needed to save both Social Security and Medicare for the next 50 years.

What an appalling waste of American lives behind bars, our policing efficiencies, our enormous tax dollars now likely way above a trillion dollars spent since the 1930’s and of our judicial systems resources, not to mention space behind bars for rapists and murderers everyday getting early releast to make room for drug offenses, only the cast of characters affected by them.

It is just appalling, because it has not altered human behavior at all regarding drug behavior, at all over those decades.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 1, 2007 10:48 AM
Comment #249439

“One thing most people forget is that it is harder for a teen to get alcohol than it is pot, because they can buy pot at school but alcohol they gotta steal from their parents or have an older sibling or friend buy for them. Thus decriminalization would make it where kids would still have easy access, in legalization much like alcohol it would be harder to get than when it is on the black market.”

Completely true, that alone is reason enough to legalize and regulate marijuana. The same obviously can’t be said for other drugs, but its a start. As a teenager, I can make a phone call or two and be rolling a joint in 20 minutes, but getting alcohol (without stealing it) is much more difficult.
I’d say the solution is obvious.

Posted by: moosecalledjim at March 28, 2008 6:12 PM
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