War on drugs: What is it good for?

By David Case, GlobalPost

 

 

BOSTON — The global drug war is arguably America’s longest armed conflict, declared 42 years ago and still raging at a pace that would startle many citizens.

It is waged daily, on farmland and streets from Colombia to Mexico to Detroit. It has put millions of people behind bars, and has dramatically influenced our culture and worldview.

By some estimates, it has cost the nation more than $2 trillion dollars.

Ironically, the drug war was nearly stillborn.

Less than a year after he fired the first salvos, Nixon’s Republican-led Shafer commission sought to calm Americans and temper the president’s claims.

The Shafer commission concluded that the drug problem would “not collapse our society,” and noted that “the compulsive use of alcohol remains the nation’s most serious drug problem.” It cautioned against a “drug abuse industrial complex,” that could perpetuate the problem, and called for a review of programs that might be doing more harm than good.

It even recommended abolishing penalties for private use and possession of cannabis.

Nixon ignored these conclusions, and the nation forged on with a strategy that increasingly emphasized force over treatment.

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