5 Things That Will Change Your Mind About the War on Drugs


A New York Times writer effortlessly describes the War on Drugs in a few sentences:

“In 2010, 1.64 million people were arrested for drug violations. Four out of five arrests were for possession. Nearly half were for possession of often-tiny amounts of marijuana.”

According to the award-winning website, Drug Sense, the statistics for funding the War on Drugs in 2010 are shocking. The federal government spent $30,000 per minute, which totaled to $15 million. Then, $25 million was spent separately at state and local levels.

Now, this year’s White House budgeters for drug control are demanding $25.6 billion, (excluding the state and local governments). One has to beg why this can even be justified while the inequalities caused by the criminal justice system rise and the underlying problems mature uncorrected. Fortunately, the truth lies within the statistics, scholarship, and stories of the people.

1. Orleans Parish Prison located in the prison capital of the world, Louisiana 

How did inmates get drugs, let alone a video-recording device? The recent, viral footage of inmates from the Orleans Parish Prison shocked the world. A few inmates filmed themselves abusing cocaine and heroine by snorting and shooting up, in addition to drinking beer, gambling, watching pornography and bragging about how they’re “living” in jail. But interestingly, they claim that they’re recording to reveal to the world that their living conditions are atrocious.

Throughout the video they share that Louisiana didn’t care about what has happened to the facility since Hurricane Katrina. They mention, “They want us to live like animals, [so we’ll live like animals].” A statement like this might be considered relative to the “culture of poverty” by a sociologist.

Clearly, these young men are psychological and psychiatrically influenced by the structure of their imprisonment. And the fact that they brag about their activities in jail as, “that’s how we [are] rocking in here,” shows how pre-incarceration norms and influences are perhaps, considerably or even equally perilous. It’s horrible that the idea of goodness or success has been twisted. This is not only happening in the inner city as some people may believe, but in the minds of many different people. It’s safe to say that these inmates want “goodness” and success, but the terms have become more relative in the sense that these men are getting high to make the best of their situation.

2. The New Jim Crow by Dr. Michelle Alexander

3. Debtors’ prison

In recent news, the high volume of immigration detainees is forcing the already overcrowded Tulsa County Jail to go into crisis mode. Nicole Flatow, a ThinkProgress contributor, wrote, “Nationally, overcrowding is facilitated by harsh sentencing laws and the over-criminalization of nonviolent drug and other offenses.”

The national crisis has caused prisons to let some convicted people go. For example, during the week of April 16, an Oregon sheriff had no choice, but to discharge thieves due to overcrowding. Around the country, facilities and local legislators are weakening laws to inhibit the growth of the prison population for some offenses. However, the pressure still hasn’t reduced the sentencing for nonviolent drug violations. The most important thing to remember is that many people are being re-jailed for their incapacity to pay fines from the heavy punishment on nonviolent drug crimes. This policy becomes a catalyst for a vicious cycle.

4. Stop-and-frisk laws

5. Dr. Ron Paul’s War on Drugs platform

For several years, libertarian Representative Ron Paul has been labeled as controversial by the media on a number of issues. Although his claims are often extreme and to some, civically irresponsible as they focus on individual liberty, many believe that Paul makes a few good points when it comes to drugs.

On June 17, 1988, Paul gave a campaign speech in which he called America’s drug policy a “fallacy.” This assertion goes hand-in-hand with Paul’s rather unpopular claims under his 2012 presidential campaign, “Plan to Restore America.” Since the twentieth century, he accuses America of legalizing the infringement of civil liberties on various levels. His thoughts on the War on Drugs are even more profound. In a CNN interview, Paul exclaimed:

"This war on drugs has been a detriment to personal liberty and it's been a real abuse of liberty. Our prisons are full with people who have used drugs who should be treated as patients — and they're non-violent. Someday we're gonna awake and find out that the prohibition we are following right now with drugs is no more successful, maybe a lot less successful, than the prohibition of alcohol was in the '20s."

Paul’s solution has been focused on legalizing drugs for health purposes, rather than leisure, as some might suspect. In 1988, Paul cites the problems of drug abuse as health problems, not legal problems, which make up his rationale for keeping the government out of drugs. His argument is that when someone buys legal alcohol, the facts of the alcohol levels are made known to consumers by the labels. In the illegal market for drugs, diseases like AIDS, overdoses and infections spread like wildfire because it’s unregulated, the drugs are impure, people are uninformed and many abusers are too poor to get cleaner products, such as syringes.

Paul believes that money should be used for allowing people to make their own, informed decisions about drugs. But in a 2011 debate, he said that billions of dollars have been funding the War on Drugs, "kill[ing] thousands and thousands of people,” specifically immigrants and inner city blacks, Latinos, and Hispanics. Paul always tries to appeal to the public by claiming there’s an alternative to the racist, intrusive status quo, which in his eyes, involves trusting and allowing liberty, the antithesis of today’s America.