The war on drugs has failed. Its failure has been so categorical and self-evident that the statement itself is bromidic. By any reasonable metric of success—addiction rates, violence, the availability of drugs in our schools— it’s clear that our 40-year jihad against certain plants and chemicals has done far more harm than good. Despite this, the federal government’s drug war strategy, which is founded upon aggressive law enforcement and mass incarceration, remains unchanged. We continue to arrest nearly a million people a year for marijuana offenses. We remain the world’s leading jailer, with an incarceration rate more than five times the global average. And this year, the federal government will spend nearly $4 billion more on drug law enforcement and interdiction than it will on drug treatment.
What has this strategy gotten us? The highest drug abuse rates on the planet and 50,000 corpses in Mexico. […]
I spent 13 years working as an Intelligence Analyst with the Drug Enforcement Administration before resigning last year. Over the course of that time, I gradually realized that our drug policies only served to enrich and empower the very cartels we were fighting. I could have kept up the good fight for another 50 years, and the problem would only have been worse as a result of my efforts.
In 2010, while assigned to the DEA office in Monterrey, Mexico, my family was evacuated as a result of the city’s rapidly deteriorating security situation. As I drove them northward through the desert in a long caravan of heavily-armed Federal Police trucks, trying to comprehend the barbarity plaguing the region, I recalled a wonderful verse from the Tao Te Ching: Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.