On December 5, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which effectively repealed the prohibition of alcohol. For 13 years, the U.S. government had prevented the citizenry from drinking their adult beverages of choice while listening to the latest updates of the Lindbergh kidnapping or laughing at “The Jack Benny Program.”
Despite its intended objectives – reducing drunkenness, mental illness, poverty, and crime – alcohol prohibition was a failure. Crime skyrocketed, police officers were in constant danger, criminals brewed their own concoctions in their unsanitary bathtubs, and the public’s health was impacted by the questionable gang-made alcohol. Many Americans now celebrate Repeal Day on December 5th, enjoying their freedom to consume alcohol legally.
Although there are fringe movements still trying to ban alcohol, the majority of Americans – reasonable and unreasonable alike – scoff at the very notion of reining in beer and bourbon. Why then are so many still in favor of outlawing marijuana, cocaine, and heroin?
Eighty-three years later, have we learned nothing? The prohibition of drugs has been as much a failure as the 1920s ban on booze. Why is the U.S. government still spending billions of dollars annually to protect Americans from themselves?
It is time to have Repeal Day 2.0: end the war on drugs now.
A Look at the Numbers
In 1971, President Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs. Like so many of his other endeavors, the drug war has been a disaster and has resulted in the ruination of the lives of millions of Americans.
Over the last 40-plus years, the U.S. government has spent $1 trillion, and Washington will continue to allocate more than $50 billion each year on arrests, enforcement, imprisonment, and court costs. But the drug war has morphed into a discussion of more than merely dollars and cents.
Let’s first examine the economic impact.
Over a 10-year period in the prohibition era, the number of U.S. breweries was zero. Since then, there are now roughly 5,300 coast to coast, producing some of the finest craft beer in the world today. This has added to tax coffers, created jobs, contributed to local economies, and improved the nation’s reputation in output of alcohol.
Over the last few years, in those states that legalized recreational marijuana, the number of weed-selling merchants has gone up, the cost of weed has come down, and local economies have experienced a modest bump.
Imagine if Attorney General Jeff Sessions left states alone to their own accord and enabled them to legalize whatever drug they wanted? Many of the budget gaps would be filled, which would help President Donald Trump Make America Great Again.
Law enforcement agents have been killed in the line of duty, trying to stop Americans from putting things into their own bodies. In the era of drug prohibition, 2,516 police officers have died – 1,685 troops have perished in the war in Afghanistan. Tragic.
Unfortunately, it isn’t only cops losing their lives in this needless drug war.
Annual body count estimates from U.S. domestic drug law enforcement operations show that 49 people died last year, 56 in 2015, and 39 in 2014. Between 2010 and 2016, there were close to 100 deaths from SWAT raids, including both civilians and officers.
Even pets aren’t safe from this failed campaign: 10,000 dogs are killed every year by police.
And these figures don’t include the Mexican drug cartel violence. If you factor in this data, the drug-related body count south of the border is at least 100,000 since 2006. It’s a real bloodbath out there.
With such stringent laws in place, people are still dying from drug use. In 2015, 52,404 people died from a drug overdose.
How many more cops, civilians, and critters need to die before Washington starts taking another look at its stance?
Social Consequences of Drug War
One drug arrest every 20 seconds in 2016? That’s life in the Land of the Free today.
There is a popular and funny drug war cartoon online. It shows a young man being arrested by a cop for smoking a joint. The officers tells him, “It will ruin your life.” The young man is then thrown into prison, serves a few years, can’t find a job when he is released, and is forced to live on the street. The same officer walks by and gloats, “I told you drugs will ruin your life.”
Today, the U.S. is the leader in imprisonment, maintaining an incarceration rate of 700 per 100,000. In 1980, nearly 581,000 people were arrested on drug-related charges. That number spiked to approximately 1.5 million just 24 years later – roughly half are based on marijuana sales or consumption!
Women, too, are victims of these bogus laws. It is reported that 85% of American women serving time in prison were jailed for non-violent crimes, including drug use.
It has been estimated that 200,000 students have lost federal financial aid eligibility because of drug convictions.
In some jurisdictions across the country, renting an apartment is nigh impossible with drug convictions. If you have a criminal record, a landlord or property owner is less likely to rent you a one-bedroom suite. What other options would there be? Shelters? The street? A motel room?
Will We See Another #RepealDay?
Common sense dictates that if something is illegal, then you should refrain from participating in the act. But the war on drugs has metastasized into a campaign against personal freedom that defies logic.
Despite efforts by a wide array of organizations, such as the International Red Cross, Organization of American States, and the World Health Organization (WHO), who are attempting to end the drug war, it seems unlikely that the U.S. will legalize all drugs.
It is true that there are many politicians on both sides who favor decriminalizing marijuana. However, they often crack under the pressure when they are asked about legalizing crystal meth, cocaine, or heroin. Well, except for former Representative Ron Paul (R-TX).
Will we ever witness a Repeal Day in the 21st century, with millions of Americans singing “Happy Days Are Here Again?” President Trump has been doing a better-than-expected job when it comes to states’ rights. But with the anti-drugs Sessions still tapped as the nation’s top attorney, the odds of listening to the Jack Yellen tune are considerably low.
Drug consumption is a horrible habit to have. But that is your personal habit to enjoy, not the government’s. We don’t need laws to protect us from ourselves.
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