The U.S. government seems lately to be going backwards on drug policy by targeting medical marijuana users in states where the residents voted that it should be legal. They refuse to recognize or act on the overwhelming evidence that the war on drugs has been a failure. It has encouraged criminality and criminalized otherwise law abiding citizens. It has done little to discourage drug use.
However, the war on drugs has many more (presumably) unintended consequences. The draconian laws result in ruined lives and many deaths. We are all familiar with the tens of thousands of Central Americans killed at the hands of the drug cartels. However, people are dying right here in the United States who wouldn’t have if not for the laws that make clean needles hard to get and make it difficult for “lawbreakers” to bring an overdosing friend to a hospital. I personally know of two individuals who died because as a result.
Furthermore, the United States has incarcerated more of its citizen (over 1 million, in Federal prisons alone) than any other country. Around 80% on drug related charges. The cost to imprison a person is $35,000 to $50,000 annually. That’s between $28 billion and $40 billion. Just imagine what else we could do with that money. How about treatment centers to help addicts? How about investing in our education system?
Why would our government be so insistent on pursuing policies that not only don’t work but are destructive? Money. The recently privatized prison system lobbies for harsher penalties for victimless crimes and tougher immigration laws resulting in larger prison populations. Additionally, big Pharma has recently developed a cannabis based pill that is being tested for efficacy. Why would anyone in government support legalization of marijuana when a big corporation/big campaign donor could make a processed drug to sell at a profit?
Money trumps doing the right thing. Money trumps people’s lives. Money trumps education.