The thought isn't original but it bears repeating: In a New York Times op-ed today
, former Secretary of State George Shulz
and Pedro Aspe write of the failed war on drugs.
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.
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.
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. 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.
It makes perfect sense. And still
it's resisted. The economics of the war also fuel huge investments in manpower, machines, prisons and court systems that many are loathe to give up. Think only of the corruption that frequently surfaces in operation of drug task forces in Arkansas and, even where legal, the benefit of seizures in those operations that flow to certain law agencies.