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Time to end the war on drugs

America’s “war on drugs” has resulted in a substantial increase in many crimes because it has made illegal drugs expensive.

Burglaries, embezzlements and other crimes are committed to finance drug habits. Homicides, particularly in inner cities, result from drug-gang wars and failed drug transactions.

In some inner cities, drug criminals are the most visible models of financial success. In foreign countries there are drug conflicts between rival gangs and between governments and gangs. Innocent people become victims in all of these cases.

Our anti-drug war is principally an effort to save drug users and potential users from themselves. It poses as a “tough on crime” measure, but it creates crime and crime victims and is tough on taxpayers.

We should consider how many innocent victims we will sacrifice, how much crime we will endure and how much taxpayer money we will spend to try to save people from making bad choices.

Declared over 40 years ago and preceded by years of lower-profile prohibition, our national war on drugs shows no signs of any significant success. No alternative national solution is seriously discussed. Congress, therefore, should let individual states experiment with possible alternatives.

For example, some states might try providing some free drugs to addicts. This would instantly reduce the demand for illegal drugs and should reduce the number of burglaries and other crimes committed to obtain drugs. There should be fewer drug-gang murders and collateral deaths.

Overdoses and diseases of drug users arising from impure drugs and infected needles, which result in substantial public health expenditures, would be decreased.

Any state program providing drugs to users should exclude minors and should require on-site administration of drugs in a clean clinical setting. Users should be barred from leaving the facility while under the influence of drugs. However, other details of such programs, such as what drugs are provided and who can receive them, might vary among the states.

Intensive rehabilitation efforts could be a part of such a program. Participating addicts could be confronted regularly with alternatives to drug use and with support for changing their behavior, which might not be occurring currently. Ideally, some of these rehabilitation efforts will prove successful.

Even if rehabilitation efforts are unsuccessful, users will be less likely to burden our law enforcement, prosecution, judicial and corrections resources and less likely to drive vehicles or otherwise appear in public under the influence of drugs. Their impositions on the public health system will be less than if they consumed unregulated drugs through unsterile needles, and notably less than if they were imprisoned and entitled to very expensive medical care.

States interested in pursuing alternatives to our current unsuccessful policy would not have to follow the above outline or create a different model from scratch. Many countries in Europe and elsewhere have policies different from ours that are less expensive and considerably more effective. States might choose to implement, or be able to improve upon, some of those policies.

A Republican Congress should prefer experimental locally-controlled state programs to a policy imposed by Washington. Such programs might save taxpayer money and reduce crime. They would also reduce our current big government effort to protect people from themselves, which comes at the expense of their neighbors and other taxpayers.

A business-oriented Trump administration should see that our present policy is not cost-effective.

Democrats representing inner city neighborhoods plagued by drug gangs and drug violence should also support changes in the national policy that contributes to the destruction of those neighborhoods.

A major benefit of our federal system is that states can be laboratories seeking solutions to problems not well addressed by Washington. The national war on drugs has been a long-lasting, big government program that shows neither signs of success nor signs of much progress. Congress should let states try something different.