State prisons in the
United States house over 250,000 inmates for drug offenses, with another 100,000
in federal prisons. These prisoners represent a huge boon to the economy in
the form of job creation. It’s not just the hours clocked by police officers to
arrest these drug fiends and by lawyers and judges to try them and convict them.
It’s also all of those extra prisons that have to be built, and then have to be
manned with guards, cooks, cleaning staff, and so on. What would all of those
people do for work if we ended the drug war, as the Global Commission on Drug
Policy’s Report suggests? The war on drugs is the mother of all stimulus
As an added bonus for
white racists, people arrested and thrown in jail for drug crimes in the United
States are overwhelmingly members of visible minorities. To take just one metric,
black children are over seven times more likely than white children to have a
parent in prison, in large part due to the uneven prosecution of the
war on drugs.
The country’s first black president has done little to change the status quo in
Finally, the drug war has
been great for organized criminal gangs and terrorists, whose inflated profits
from dealing in banned substances would evaporate if not for prohibition. It
takes someone with a strong stomach to assume the risks associated with
producing or selling illegal drugs. Enter the criminal or terrorist, willing to
use violence to achieve his ends and seduced by the lure of strong demand and
government-restricted supply. Simply put, outlaws have cashed in since drugs
If you think this is a
bad thing, you're probably still focused on the whole harm-reduction angle. But
by helping outlaws, the drug war indirectly helps society as a whole by ensuring that the paramilitary police fighting on America’s city streets, and the
military soldiers fighting in the hills of Afghanistan, will never lack for work.
The never-ending quest to stop people from seeking out altered states of
consciousness—beyond what they can achieve with alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and
the like—guarantees that the war will never be won. But that in itself is the
ultimate victory for police, prison guards, soldiers, defence contractors, and
military commanders, who fear nothing more than a world that realizes it doesn’t
need them as much as they think it does.