Why The War On Drugs Looks Even Stupider When You See What Other Countries Do

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Emergency rooms have triage, math has the order of operations, and I have my personal mantra "pants first, shoes second." Life is all about priorities. What does the statistic at 0:23 say about our criminal justice system's priorities?

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Narrator: 59 percent of rape cases and 36.2 percent of murders in the United States are never solved. In 2011, less than half of all violent crimes found any resolution. It sort of makes you wonder, why are so many violent criminals walking free?

I'm Alex Kreit, professor of criminal law. To start, let's take a look at New York City.

Since Michael Bloomberg has been mayor, police have spent 1 million man hours working 440,000 arrests for—get this—marijuana possession. That's a lot of police busting parties instead of tracking down violent criminals.

This goes beyond any one city or state. Nationwide, we would save $41.3 billion every year by ending the war on drugs. That's tens of millions of man hours in investigation, office work, and court appearances for drug cases. We're choosing to direct these law enforcement resources to crimes other than rapes and murders, only to end up arresting and incarcerating large numbers of nonviolent offenders.

Worse yet, the war on drugs doesn't even work. In the United States, 7 million people are under correctional supervision, many for drug-related charges. Eighty-one percent of all drug arrests are for simple possession. That's millions of people in the system who never restrained, assaulted, killed, or abused another person. And despite the money and time spent, it's never been easier to buy drugs.

Compare that to Portugal, which decriminalized the personal use of all drugs 12 years ago. Since then, there's evidence that their criminal justice system has become leaner and more efficient. They chose to treat addiction as an illness, not a crime, and to make a meaningful distinction between violent and nonviolent offenders. This has also, unsurprisingly, helped those most vulnerable to the harms of controlled substances by decreasing their use among children and lowering the number of new HIV infections.

Who in our society is in pain, and how can we help them?

We can direct more resources to prosecute violent offenders, actual criminals who leave behind victims and survivors. We can ensure every single victim of assault or sexual violence a full and credible investigation of their claims.

Even if we disagree on the legal status of drugs, can't we make that guarantee to victims first?

We should ask ourselves, who are the real victims of the government's war on drugs?

There may be small errors in this transcript.
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Original by Learn Liberty. Thumbnail courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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