Update: The AP article is getting huge distribution. It’s completely dominating my drug war news feed this morning. Check to see if it shows up in a paper in your area — could be a great opportunity for a follow-up letter to the editor.
After 40 years, the United States’ war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.
Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn’t worked.
“In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. “Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.” […]
From the beginning, lawmakers debated fiercely whether law enforcement — no matter how well funded and well trained — could ever defeat the drug problem.
Then-Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, who had his doubts, has since watched his worst fears come to pass.
“Look what happened. It’s an ongoing tragedy that has cost us a trillion dollars. It has loaded our jails and it has destabilized countries like Mexico and Colombia,” he said. […]
Using Freedom of Information Act requests, archival records, federal budgets and dozens of interviews with leaders and analysts, the AP tracked where that money went, and found that the United States repeatedly increased budgets for programs that did little to stop the flow of drugs. In 40 years, taxpayers spent more than:
— $20 billion to fight the drug gangs in their home countries. In Colombia, for example, the United States spent more than $6 billion, while coca cultivation increased and trafficking moved to Mexico — and the violence along with it.
— $33 billion in marketing “Just Say No”-style messages to America’s youth and other prevention programs. High school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have “risen steadily” since the early 1970s to more than 20,000 last year.
— $49 billion for law enforcement along America’s borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs. This year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of those drugs imported from Mexico.
— $121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana. Studies show that jail time tends to increase drug abuse.
— $450 billion to lock those people up in federal prisons alone. Last year, half of all federal prisoners in the U.S. were serving sentences for drug offenses.
Pretty intense stuff to be seeing from the AP.
An elderly Polk County woman is hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a heart attack when drug agents swarm the wrong house. Machelle Holl tells WSB her 76-year-old mother, Helen Pruett, who lives alone, was at home when nearly a dozen local and federal agents swarmed her house, thinking they were about to arrest suspected drug dealers.
“She was at home and a bang came on the back door and she went to the door and by the time she got to the back door, someone was banging on the front door and then they were banging on her kitchen window saying police, police,” said Holl. […]
“My mother has had a heart attack. She has had congestive heart failure and she is in ICU at the moment. She is not good condition and her heart is working only 35 percent,” said Holl. […]
Police say they have had her mother’s home under surveillance for two years.
Holl says if that’s true, how could police get the wrong address?