Tag Archives: The Drug War

Is the ‘War on Drugs’ Still Winnable?

Forty years. Hundreds of thousands of lives. Around $1 trillion dollars. The AP says those are the costs of the so-called “War on Drugs” in America and wonders: was it worth it?

I wonder subsequently: can such a “war” be won in the future?

Martha Mendoza’s critique examines not only the past but what the Obama Administration plans to do with a record $15 billion-plus budget to fight drugs. There’ll be more emphasis on prevention and treatment, says U.S. drug czar and former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske.

I’d suggest reading the piece for yourself. But here’s the thrust of the story, which presents the drug war as a frustrating stalemate:

“In 1970, proponents said beefed-up law enforcement could effectively seal the southern U.S. border and stop drugs from coming in. Since then, the U.S. used patrols, checkpoints, sniffer dogs, cameras, motion detectors, heat sensors, drone aircraft — and even put up more than 1,000 miles of steel beam, concrete walls and heavy mesh stretching from California to Texas.

None of that has stopped the drugs. The Office of National Drug Control Policy says about 330 tons of cocaine, 20 tons of heroin and 110 tons of methamphetamine are sold in the United States every year — almost all of it brought in across the borders. Even more marijuana is sold, but it’s hard to know how much of that is grown domestically, including vast fields run by Mexican drug cartels in U.S. national parks.”

It’s of course impossible to say what would have happened if our government hadn’t spent that money. But if nothing else, we know a lot more about drug trafficking and addiction than we did when President Nixon began the fight.

I’ll leave you with the same question: is the drug war still winnable? And if so, how?