The war on drugs was initiated about four decades ago by Richard Nixon who, at the time, claimed that drug addiction was the most powerful internal threat to the United States. After forty years and a trillion dollars, the massively unsuccessful retaliation against drug use and abuse still hasn’t shown many, if any, positive impacts.
It’s a well known fact that the United States has the highest amount incarcerated citizens per capita when compared to any other country. America faces the predicament of imprisoning nearly 710 people for every 100 thousand citizens. Runner up to the American record is Russia with less than 450 inmates for every 100 thousand citizens.
Despite these statistics, the U.S. isn’t necessarily a dangerous country as violent crime rates have been and continue to drop nationwide. Drug arrests, on the other hand, are continuously high, accounting for the largest amount of arrests in recent years. In 2012 alone, 1.5 million people were arrested on drug related charges- of those, 82 percent were possession charges.
Though it’s not a huge issue in Colorado, the criminalization of marijuana has been one of the worst fallouts of the four decade war on drugs. Reeling in just under 700 thousand arrests, marijuana accounts for nearly half of all drug charges.
All of these arrests are not only somewhat unjustified, they’re also expensive. Data shows that there is not a state which spends more on education than it does on their prison system.
The racial imbalance of arrest records are also astonishing despite very similar usage patterns between whites and blacks. In Colorado, particularly, the imbalance has blacks at 1.9 times more likely to be arrested, which is far below the national average of 3.7.
Inside of prisons, the statistical imbalances persevere. Despite accounting for only 12 percent of the total population, African Americans make up 62 percent of inmates busted for nonviolent drug offenses.
A black child is also more than seven times more likely to have an incarcerated parent than a white kid is. The lack of a parental figure makes a child’s life as a student much harder than it already is, not to mention the likelihood of prison time increasing if an individual’s parent has served time.
All of that in mind, the education system of the U.S. is one of the hardest hit victims of the war on drugs. It has made education more difficult for individuals in lower socioeconomic classes and even prevented past offenders from furthering their own education as grants cannot be given to individuals with any previous drug related charges.
Given the waste the war on drugs has turned out to be, we need to all reprioritize our thinking towards things that are more important– things like taxation and regulation and where to put the money that comes from it, hopefully away from prisons and towards education.