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  • Marcus L. Schantz

The War on Drugs: Failure or Success?

Let me begin with a question. Did anyone in the government at any time believe that law enforcement would reduce drug availability and drug use? Was it believed that more arrests and more convictions would make a real difference? I say no. And if anyone did believe as such, they were either ignorant or exceptionally naive.


The fact is this: directed law enforcement operations (and related necessities) since 1971 have cost US taxpayers over $1Trillion. And guess what? There has never been a reduction in drug use or availability; the numbers have been only going up. In this respect the war on drugs as been a colossal failure.


But what if the War on Drugs was just a sham from the beginning? What if the American citizenry could be made to believe that arrests and convictions were actually reducing drugs on the streets? I don't know what most people believe, but take it from me this couldn't be more incorrect.


The War on Drugs is and always has been imminently fundable, and it's not even a political issue; everyone goes along with it because no one wants to be labeled as soft on crime.


So, all that money has, in my opinion, been spent just so our leaders can say they are doing something when they are doing nothing at all to reduce drug use. Let me restate that arresting drug dealers, smugglers, manufacturers, cartel leaders and so forth does not in any way reduce drug use and availability. The truth is that almost no one cares about the drug users. Addiction isn't treated seriously. There isn't enough funding. Treatment centers are too few in number and not easy to get in to.


No one ever wakes up one day and thinks, "I think I'll become a heroin addict today." Addictions aren't planned. Addictions happen. They are, of course, associated with really bad decisions, but no one wants to become an addict.


And our criminal justice system has very little sympathy for them. In my experiences prosecutors never see the defendant; they only see the crime and they all have the mindset that the crime must be punished.


The driving force in my practice is to get the best possible outcome for every client. But when I have clients whose addictions led them to crimes to fund the addictions, getting them treatment or into a special drug court is a strenuous uphill fight. Admittedly, I am highly cynical but that's because of my job. I deal with this every day. Clients call from the jail begging me to get them into treatment or drug court; and the rub is that I haven't the power to do so.


Prosecutors would rather send them to the penitentiary. There they will receive no drug counseling where they could begin to understand their addictions; no, they come home on parole right back into the same world they left, and soon they are using again. And the cycle repeats.


Another uncomfortable fact is that the United States is the world's largest drug market. Because of all of our money we have the highest demand. Americans spend over $100 Billion a year on illicit drugs. With that amount of cash ready to spend there will never be a shortage of product and sellers.


So, either the War on Drugs has been an expensive failure or it's always been a sham, worked as planned and is thus successful.

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