Harmful Effects of the “War on Drugs”

Opposition to the so-called “War on Drugs” isn’t new; this poorly executed policy has been receiving condemnation since its inception in 1971 when President Nixon declared drug abuse to be “public enemy number one.”
The criticism against the bloated crackdown on illegal substances now stems from all walks of life and political affiliations. The issue is getting a lot of attention right now as we approach national midterm elections this November, during which we in Florida will vote on whether or not medical marijuana should be legal and available in the Sunshine State.

Our Palm Beach and Broward County drug crime defense lawyers at Leifert & Leifert know that an overhaul of the current drug laws is long overdue. The facts, as we will discuss in this posting, clearly demonstrate that the War on Drugs is doing far more harm than it is good.

The most commonly used illegal drug, by far, is marijuana, according to the government. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the most common drug-related arrest involves marijuana. What should come as a shock is the sheer volume of arrests that are categorized under the “marijuana-related” label. In 2012, the last year for which there is sufficient data, there were 749,825 marijuana law violation arrests — that’s basically three-quarters of a million arrests!

Now, one might arge, as many stalwart supporters of the War on Drugs do, that marijuana arrests might be classified as such even if the marijuana involvement was a minor component of the arrest (i.e., if somebody was arrested for robbing a bank and was then found to have had marijuana in their vehicle). That’s true, but it only explains a fraction of the number listed above. Of the 749,825 arrests, 658,231 were for possession only. That means that 88% of arrests stemming from marijuana law violations are for posession only.

These incredibly high arrest numbers, coupled with the problematic and harsh mandatory minimum drug laws that are in effect in many states around the country (including ours), result in the outrageously overpopulated prison system in this country. In 2012, there were 2,228,400 Americans in federal, state and local prisons and jails, reflecting a rate of 1 in 108 imprisoned Americans, the highest in the world.

Arrests and overpopulated prisons are a major problem and a major burden. But the effects of the War on Drugs keep negatively impacting its victims even after their time in the judicial system. As Republican Senator (and potential 2016 presidential candidate) Rand Paul told a senate judiciary committee, one in three blacks are now prevented from voting, and that is because of the War on Drugs. This startling number, which makes one think of the injustices of the Jim Crow days, is a function of the racist undertones of the War on Drugs, argued Paul. According to ACLU statistics that he cited in his testimony, blacks are four to five times more likely to be conivicted of drug crimes in the U.S. despite the research which shows that blacks and whites use illicit drugs at the same rate. Moreover, despite research showing the vast majority of drug dealers and peddlers in the U.S. are white, 75% of the people jailed for drug crimes are Latino or African Americans.

In addition to the aforementioned harmful effects of the U.S. War on Drugs, which costs taxpayers over $51,000,000,000.00 (yes, that’s 51 billion dollars) per year, it is critical to recognize that current, outdated drug laws are preventing us from helping people with illnesses that could be treated with medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is unlikely to be vulnerable to abuse, if properly regulated and engineered, in part because the active ingredient in the medical marijauna is not THC, the prinicpal constituent of the cannibis plant, which gives you the “high” feeling. This November, Florida will have the opportunity to vote to approve medical marijuana by way of a ballot measure. It’s time to make medical marijuana a reality for those who could benefit from it; likewise, it’s time to put an end to harmful drug laws that victimize minorities with disproprotionate punishments at a disproportionate rate.

If you have any questions about this or any other criminal law issue, please contact our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363). We look forward to speaking with you.

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