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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cops Say Forty Years of War on Drugs is Enough

By Philip Smith

This week marks the 40th anniversary of America's contemporary war on drugs, and the country's largest anti-prohibitionist law enforcement organization is commemorating -- not celebrating -- the occasion with the release of report detailing the damage done. Members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) hand-delivered a copy of the report, Ending the Drug War: A Dream Deferred, to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar's office) Tuesday after holding a press conference in Washington, DC.

On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon (R) declared "war on drugs," and thousands of deaths, millions of arrests, and billions of tax dollars later, drug prohibition remains in place -- the Obama administration's declaration two years ago that it had ended the drug war in favor of a public health-centered approach notwithstanding. Ending the Drug War details how the war on drugs continues unabated, despite the recent administrations' less warlike rhetoric, and the ways it has hurt rather than helped drug users and society at large.

"When President Nixon declared the 'drug war' in 1971, we arrested fewer than half a million people for drug offenses that year. Today, the number has skyrocketed to almost two million drug arrests a year," said former Baltimore narcotics officer and LEAP executive director Neill Franklin. "We jail more of our own citizens than any other country in the world does, including those run by the worst dictators and totalitarian regimes. Is this how President Obama thinks we can 'win the future'?"

The report shows that despite the drug czar's nice talk about ending the drug war, Obama administration spending priorities remain highly skewed toward law enforcement and interdiction -- and it's getting worse, not better. In 2004, the federal drug budget was 55% for supply reduction (policing) and 45% for demand reduction (treatment, prevention). In the 2012 Obama budget, supply reduction has increased to 60%, while demand reduction has shrunk to 40%.

The report also demonstrates through arrest figures that on the street level, the drug war continues to be vigorously waged. In 2001, there were almost 1.6 million drug arrests; a decade later, there were slightly more than 1.6 million. Granted, there is a slight decline from the all-time high of nearly 1.9 million in 2006, but the drug war juggernaut continues chugging away.

"I was a police officer for 34 years, the last six as chief of police in Seattle," retired law enforcement veteran Norm Stamper told the press conference. "At one point in my career, I had an epiphany. I came to the appreciation that police officers could be doing better things with their time and that we were causing more harm than good with this drug war. My position is that we need to end prohibition, which is the organizing mechanism behind the drug war. We need to replace that system guaranteed to invite violence and corruption and replace it with a regulatory model," he said.

LEAP slams the Obama administration for its forked-tongue approach to medical marijuana as well in the report. The administration has talked a good game on medical marijuana, but its actions speak louder than its words. While Attorney General Holder's famous 2009 memo advised federal prosecutors not to pick on medical marijuana providers in compliance with state laws, federal medical marijuana raids have not only continued, but they are happening at a faster rate than during the Bush administration. There were some 200 federal medical marijuana raids during eight years of Bush, while there have been about 100 under 2 1/2 years of Obama, LEAP noted.

And LEAP points to the horrendous prohibition-related violence in Mexico as yet another example of the damage the drug war has done. The harder Mexico and the US fight the Mexican drug war, the higher the death toll, with no apparent impact on the flow of drugs north or the flow of guns and cash south, the report points out.

Sean Dunagan, a recently retired, 13-year DEA veteran with postings in Guatemala City and Monterrey, Mexico, told the press conference his experiences south of the border had brought him around to LEAP's view.

"It became increasingly apparent that the prohibitionist model just made things worse by turning a multi-billion dollar industry over to criminal organizations," he said. "There is such a profit motive with the trade in illegal drugs that it is funding a de facto civil war in Mexico. Prohibition has demonstrably failed and it is time to look at policy alternatives that address the problem of addiction without destroying our societies the way the drug war has done."

Ending drug prohibition would not make Mexico's feared cartels magically vanish, LEAP members conceded under questioning, but it would certainly help reduce their power.

"Those of us who advocate ending prohibition are not proposing some sort of nirvana with no police and no crime, but a strategy based in reality that recognizes what police can accomplish in cooperation with the rest of society," said former House Judiciary Crime subcommittee counsel Eric Sterling. "The post-prohibition environment will require enforcement as in every legal industry. The enormous power that the criminal organizations have will diminish, but those groups are not going to simply walk away. The difference between us and the prohibitionists is that we are not making empty promises like a drug-free America or proposing thoughtless approaches like zero tolerance," he told the press conference.

Drug prohibition has also generated crime and gang problems in the US, the report charged, along with unnecessary confrontations between police and citizens leading to the deaths of drug users, police, and innocent bystanders alike. The report notes that while Mexico can provide a count of its drug war deaths, the US cannot -- except this year, with the Drug War Chronicle's running tally of 2011 deaths due to US domestic drug law enforcement operations, which the report cited. As of this week, the toll stands at four law enforcement officers and 26 civilians killed.

It was the needless deaths of police officers that inspired retired Maryland State Police captain and University of Maryland law professor Leigh Maddox to switch sides in the drug war debate, she said.

"My journey to my current position came over many years and after seeing many friends killed in the line of duty because of our failed drug policies," she told the Washington press conference. "This is an abomination and needs to change."

While the report was largely critical of the Obama administration's approach to drug policy, it also saluted the administration for heading in the right direction on a number of fronts. It cited the reduction in the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses and the lifting of the federal ban on needle exchange funding as areas where the administration deserves kudos.

Forty years of drug prohibition is more than enough. Police are getting this. When will politicians figure it out?


  1. The government within the government will not let it end. The billionaires are being deregulated and the small guy further corralled. People on the left and right bicker while corporations have run away with their government. The drug war might get renamed but it will stand.

  2. there is no war that's the problem... police does not fight wars, send the US military to end it.

  3. This article is mostly well written. This drug war has been a massive, massive blunder, and you'd think after 40 years, people would get it. What's the term when you do the same thing over and over and expect a different result? That's right, insanity.

    It's just sick that not only has this war not prevented drugs from being used, but it's also massively increased violence, incarceration rates, and more. So basically the whole thing is 100% counterproductive.

    Only one thing, though... this article did not mention anything about kidnapping. I'm pretty sure if drugs were legalized, those sick drug cartels would kidnap even more because of their massive greed for money (note: anybody who kills for money should never be alive under any circumstances). That's a scary thought.

  4. I agree send them to inner city neighborhods
    in L.A. etc. go after them.

  5. Did you ever stop to think that if America had not had the "War on Drugs", Successful or not that the United States could well be going through the same thing that is happening in Mexico. I refuse to accept wrong as being right, just because it seems to be unpopular. Laws are Laws to serve the majority for the public good. Not just to make a few druggies happy. I also am tired of seeing the Press and Hollywood make heroes out of Drug users and perverts.

  6. Another simpleton view of what is going on down south. These folks have become accidental guerillas for the cartels.

    If are going to legalize pot then go all the way and legalize cocaine, meth and heroin since the cartels will still make money off of those.

    While you are at it you better legalize kidnapping and extortion since that is where the cartels will turn when drugs are not profitable.

    People talks about legalizing and taxing drugs. I see this just as a power grab by the gov so they can get a new revenue source. If you tax drugs then there is still a motivation to smuggle them just as there is still cigarette and liquor smuggling happening.

    The problem is the criminals and criminal culture down south not the comodity that they smuggel.

  7. the idea of decriminalizing drugs is not to "make druggies happy" it is to halt the rising death toll. or are you people reallly ok with another 40,000+ deaths at the expense of your "war on drugs"

  8. This part really hits home:

    "We jail more of our own citizens than any other country in the world does, including those run by the worst dictators and totalitarian regimes."

  9. asylum is for those in a country where there is NO safety in any area. Mexico is perfectly safe in 2/3 the country. 1/3 the country has a lower murder per capita than US...Whereas I appreciate there plight...they cannot use that for entry to the US.

  10. @June 17, 2011 9:24 Am do you think drugs are legal in Mexico? No, weapons like ak47's are illegal in Mexico. When we make something illegal we open a black market economy based on that product. If recreational drugs where legal, like alcohol or aspirin, there wouldn't be people killing themselves over said products. an ounce of pot can cost as much as a ton of corn. what kind of power are these laws giving criminals? The same power that Al Capone received during alcohol prohibition. However, Al Capone didn't have the same type of global reach. as for drug users or "druggies" as you so eloquently put it, Ill agree, as long as you toss alcohol, caffeine, tobacco,and prescription drug abusers, into to the same category. I don't care If one is legal and the other isn't. lets look at the numbers, and we will find more deaths linked directly to caffeine abuse than marijuana. cocaine is a filthy habit, and I don't wish an addiction on my worse enemy, However I believe that treatment is the answer. as well as education, real education not propaganda, I as a child was smart enough to recognize facts from fiction in those school drug programs. had I been less informed I would have thought it was all lies. but they mix them up so you go to either one side or the other. there's a gray area in this civil war. the war on drugs is a war on the people. Nowhere else is it more evident than in Mexico. I pray for peace, and for God to open your hearts to the truth that's killing us here in Mexico. has someone followed the money? who is getting rich from this war? certainly not drug users.

  11. It is not "MY war on drugs" killing people. Its the Drugs and people who want drugs and people who want to sell drugs, killing people. So be it, but Do Not ever expect me to accept that just because you want to make it OK, means it is Right or a good thing....

  12. to me the argument to legalize drugs is like a Rapist telling the victim "relax you know you want it, and expecting the victim to accept it and be happy. When you make the crime acceptable then you accept responsibility for the Crime. yes a lot of people have died and more will die, both good and bad, as has happened in the world since time began, but with hope and prayer for what is right and good and Good People continue to stand up to the fight we will keep evil at bay. But don't expect to be safe from the wolf when you let him in your house.

  13. 99.99 percent of cops do not agree with the members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

    If drugs were legalized the killings in Mexico would not stop. The real problem in Mexico is the fact that the majority of Mexicans live in abject poverty while a tiny minority of the wealthy runs the country. There is only a small middle class. The cartels would find other illegal enterprises if drugs were legalized. The cartels are similar to the insurgencies in Columbia and Peru.

    The War on Drugs is not responsible for the killings in Mexico. It's the lousy socioeconomic situation in that country.

  14. @June 17, 2011 9:24 AM

    The Drug War is a failure and has been for the last 40 years, when you have police officers telling you that, its a lost cause.

    "While you are at it you better legalize kidnapping and extortion since that is where the cartels will turn when drugs are not profitable."

    Do you see anyone that demands to be kidnapped or extorted? The answer is NO! Its the demand of drugs that drive the market! Plain and simple. Demand and supply.

    "If you tax drugs then there is still a motivation to smuggle them just as there is still cigarette and liquor smuggling happening."

    Yeah but the difference is people will be going to their local alcohol/Drug store and not the street dealer even if it was smuggled and cheaper.

    Tell me something, name one success that the Drug War has brought?

  15. @June 17, 2011- 11:32AM,

    I got news for you more people in the United States die every year from alcohol related accidents (DWI) then all the people who have been killed by Mexico's drug war last six years! It's a fact (CDC- approximately 11k people die every year from alcohol related car crashes). Let's say 50k people have died (murdered) in Mexico over the drug war since Calderon took looking at 66k in the US for DWI crashes. Not to mention approximately 79k people die each year in the US as a result of alcohol abuse..whether it be disease or over consumption (poisoning). My point is alcohol is perfectly legal to's taxed and regulated by age..etc..but yet it's the third leading cause of "lifestyle death" in the US. The question remains, how many of those +300k people in the US, who died as a result of alcohol in the last six years, would still be alive if alcohol was illegal? I'm not suggesting we need to go back to the prohibition days..I'm saying making something legal to possess, sell, and consume doesn't save lives! Your talking about criminals (drug cartels) who have engaged in unspeakable crimes of murder..they are the problem!

  16. This who abuse drugs are often times depressed and committing a form of suicide. YES, suicide is illegal, too, but does society go around waging war on those DIRECTLY trying to do themselves in? No? Well then why do authorities try to wage war on those trying to do themselves INDIRECTLY in by obsessively using dangerous drugs? To protect them? Hardly! When drug users are thrown in jail it is never described as 'protective custody'.

    The whole logic of those who advocate criminalizing things like drug use and prostitution is punitive and hateful, not loving and/ or concerned. That's what produces the return meanness in the drug abusing sectors of society.

    Just as an aside, I would love to know what percentage of rank and file cops are against the drug war? After all, they are the ones that have to capture and then throw our society's 'throwaways' into jail for a crime of using substances that themselves are a lot less harmful than jail time is to the cops' prisoners. Wouldn't that be interesting, an actual poll of cops and their actual pov on this matter?

  17. Plan Colombia. Epic Fail.
    Plan Caribe, Epic Fail
    Merida Innitiative, Epic Fail
    Plan U.S. keep crackers on drugs, WIN!!!!!

    Drugs are winning

  18. Because there is not much reliable information, statistically speaking, regarding numbers of drug addicts in the United States, it is difficult to address the necessary cost/benefit analysis of decriminalizing drugs or certain drugs. (The number of drug addicts varies daily. Some believe this might be due to social stigma.) There are so many points where a comparison of our only known model (alcohol) is inapplicable. However, if one examines that model, it is apparent that only approximately 4 million of the 17-18 million known alcoholics seek treatment at qualified facilities, and it is difficult to correlate which of those represent recidivism.
    I need better stats to do realistic comparisons.

  19. Ardent, you are full of it. No one is forcing all those idiot dopers to use drugs. It's their fault when they get locked up, not the cops who are just doing their jobs. As a life member of three large law enforcement associations, I can tell you that 99 percent of the cops would vote in favor of the War on Drugs. Believe me, no cop would lose one second of sleep throwing some dip-shit like you in jail if he caught you with drugs.

    And THANK YOU to the Anon who said, "I got news for you more people in the United States die every year from alcohol related accidents (DWI) then all the people who have been killed by Mexico's drug war last six years!" You have made an excellent case against the legalization of drugs.

  20. Oh, yes, if the idea of legalizing drugs is appealing to any because they "like to do drugs" or "prohibition didn't work", then you do not have my vote. If the idea of decriminalizing drugs is appealing to any because it would alleviate a heavy encumbered legal system, then yes,you have my vote.

  21. June 17, 2011- 11:32AM,

    Exactly the point, making illegal drugs legal will only increase the number of deaths attributable to legal drugs.The war on drugs is preventing the explosion of drug use by those gullible enough to use drugs.Reluctance is currently being provided by the illegality of drugs.

  22. YOU are just kidding yourself here, BarkGrowlBite. Nobody but yourself could actually believe this....

    'BarkGrowlBite said...99.99 percent of cops do not agree with the members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).'

    I don't know what the figure actually might be, but you are merely barking up the wrong tree here with YOUR pretend percentage of cops in love with the drug war, Barker.

    Norm, is not the only cop that can put 2 plus 2 together and come up with the right conclusion....

    "'I was a police officer for 34 years, the last six as chief of police in Seattle," retired law enforcement veteran Norm Stamper told the press conference. "At one point in my career, I had an epiphany. I came to the appreciation that police officers could be doing better things with their time and that we were causing more harm than good with this drug war.'

  23. "It is not "MY war on drugs" killing people."
    are you kidding me? President Nixon is the one who STARTED this "war on drugs" and encouraged all the countries to adopt it as well.

  24. If America just legalized marijuana. There would no fucking war. Dumbasses, think about it.


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