Monday, February 3, 2014

After 40+ years of WAR ON DRUGS heroin cheaper and more accessible

Don't take my word for it; that's a headline ripped from Bloomberg.

Unfortunately, the story that follows doesn't make the logical conclusion; that the war on drugs has been, at best, a forty year boondoggle, and at worst, the most dysfunctional and counterproductive program of social engineering in history. Instead, it hints that just a little more fine-tuning of police efforts will stem the tide...

The spark for the story was provided by the tragic death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman on the weekend, and the story does indeed spell out that heroin has new popularity among the white classes, ie the middle and upper-middle. It's not just the world of glassy-eyed brown-skinned criminals getting high, it's your banker, your broker, and your favorite actor.

The difference of course is that these white junkies aren't looking to steal your purse or jack your car. Another difference is when they get busted, white folks go to rehab while brown folks go to jail. And boy do they ever!

File:US incarceration timeline-clean-fixed-timescale.svg

You'll notice that graph starts to trend inexorably upwards right around the time President Nixon declared the war on drugs in the early '70's and it's been up, up, and away ever since!

It's not cheap keeping millions of folks in jail, and the cost of incarceration is just the tip of the iceberg. What happens to those people when they get out? They've been stigmatized out of many legitimate employment opportunities and are therefore far more likely to turn to crime. The war on drugs perpetuates a criminalized underclass.

Which is not to say that the war on drugs has not been very good to a few segments of society. Prison guard unions and the for-profit prison industry spring to mind; two groups who will be happy to inform you that all society needs to do to turn the corner in the war on drugs is spend more money and build more prisons.

I think society has given that strategy more than enough time. It's not working and there's no reason to think it ever will. After forty years of fighting drugs, they are cheaper and more accessible.

It's time to try something different.

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