The war on drugs has unequivocally failed to meet a single one of its stated goals. We have bravely fought the war on drugs for more than 40 years – arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning at ever-increasing levels. We have spent well over a trillion dollars and made more than 39 million arrests of nonviolent drug users.
Ask yourself this simple question: Has it worked? As most of us can answer from experience: No. The war on drugs has never worked. Today, drugs are cheaper, more potent, and easier to get than they were in 1970 when the war on drugs began. On federal surveys, teenagers consistently report that it’s easier to buy marijuana than alcohol, which is legal and age-regulated. And beyond its failure, the war on drugs has had unintended but devastatingly violent consequences. As with alcohol prohibition, drugs are under the control of bloodthirsty cartels fighting over untaxed profits and killing police and innocent civilians in their crossfire.
As those responsible for applying and interpreting the law, we observe on a daily basis how overly punitive drug policies have led to clogged courts and disrespect for the criminal justice system. Despite massive spending and positive intentions, we witness in our courtrooms the toll that even one drug charge can take on a person’s life. Losing a driver’s license, the ability to get a job, or the ability to get financial aid can seriously affect a person’s ability to reach their full potential, as well as undermining their family’s wellbeing. Mandatory minimums lead to unfair sentences that, as we know all too well, often do not fit the crime. We are forced to break up families and send children to foster care even in cases involving non-violent activity. Though it is not our job to create or change the law, it is our moral duty to speak out about a broken system and the need for a public debate to re-examine our failed drug policies.