The unintended consequences of the War on Drugs

Esquite has a blog post attacking the drug war which is aptly named "The Drug war eats itself". The article suggests the war on drugs has created a culture which encouraged the misdeeds of Annie Dookhan and Jonathan Salvatore. They have a point.

The war on drugs was a war created by the government. The result has been millions of dollars spent on drug enforcement - which a signficant amount going to local law enforcement. In other words, it's a cash cow. Police agencies have to justify their existence with results - which means convictions. It's not a stretch to conclude that the inevitable pressure put on law enforcement agencies can result in corners being cut.

Like most people, I'm sure both Annie Dookhan and Jonathan Salvatore were able to justify their behaviors. It's not hard to do. If you believe that everyone is guilty - and we need to get them off the streets - then going through with time consuming testing is a waste of time. After all, you know what the results are going to be - right? They probably are right most of the time - but not always. That means innocent people get caught up with the guilty - and end up in the same place.

According to the article:

We are now into the fourth decade of the spectacular failure that is our war on drugs and, as a country, we cannot even have a serious discussion of reforming the idiotic laws banning marijuana, let alone discuss the more serious issues of this epic national fk-up. One of these is how the war on drugs has warped the criminal justice system in so many profound ways that Annie Dookhans and Jonathan Salvadors became inevitable. From confiscation laws to no-knock warrants to the general militarization of local police departments, the lust for convictions in the war on drugs has resulted in all manner of corruption, from the purely monetary to a contempt for civil liberties that bled easily into the war on terror and, I would argue, has a lot to do with the developing surveillance state that the war on terror threw into hyperdrive.

There's a lot of truth to that statement. This so called war has been a spectacular failure. Drug use has not declined, and prisons are filled with drug addicts. It's time we recognized addiction for what it is - a serious illness that needs to be treated. Modern technology has allowed us to look inside the brain, and see how drug use alters the brain; which means quitting is not always as simple as deciding you want to; or even knowing you are going to jail.

For now, drug use remains a serious offense, which can have a long-term impact on defenders. If you are charged with a drug crime you need to take it seriously, and get the possible you can.

 

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