I spend half of my time as a lawyer defending people accused of drug crimes. In almost all cases, the offense related to these “crimes,” is that they are classified as crimes, to begin with.
June 2021 marked the United States’ 50 year history of its “War On Drugs.” This fiasco has been, from its inception, an utterly miserable failure, akin to the Prohibition era in this country, which lawmakers also utterly failed to learn from. Prohibition did nothing but create underground cartels, rampant crime, and destroyed thousands of lives in the process. Yet, in its terminal blindness and stupidity, the U.S. government learned nothing from this, and in more than a half century has spent trillion of dollars at both the federal and state level. The end result? Trillions of taxpayer dollars wasted, that could have been spent curing horrible diseases, and countless personal lives and reputations ruined.
But the human cost has not been measured solely by wasted money and needless prosecutions. The opportunity cost of these policies is now becoming clear – i.e., what has been lost in human progress as the result of this foolhardy endeavor. When the War on Drugs was declared in 1971, all kinds of drugs that had been legal up to that point, were declared illegal. Five separate “Schedules” of drugs were created by the DEA, with Schedule One becoming arguable the most important of the five, because it listed drugs that were declared to present “No currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This, despite the fact that several worldwide populations have utilized these substances as medicines for more than 5.500 years (including indigenous North Americans). Thrown into this list were marijuana (cannabis), MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly), methaqualone (Quaalude’s), and peyote. Additional drugs included heroin and LSD, which the U.S. government covertly tested in citizens in the 1950’s.