Recent evidence has suggested that decriminalization may be a viable alternative not only to deal with suppliers, but with users as well.
In Portugal, after a 2001 law that removed all criminal penalties associated with all drugs and referred all drug users to a panel of psychologists and social workers, severe drug abusers were halved, HIV infections were stymied, and Portugal had the lowest amount of lifetime use of marijuana in people above 15 in the EU at 10%. A comparable statistic of people above 12 suggests that the same statistic applies to nearly 40% of the American population.
Prison is the most expansive way to "treat" an addiction. It is an unfair burden upon the taxpayers, who in the United States, have to shoulder the highest recorded incarceration rate in the world. Drug crimes often destroy the lives of those charged with it as well, as they are stuck in a recessionary environment that sees convicted criminals as not worthy of any gainful employment, and therefore, they are left to their own devices, to the detriment of themselves and of society itself. The Supreme Court has ruled that this situation is unsustainable. "California could be forced to release tens of thousands of felons early after the Supreme Court ordered it Monday to reduce overcrowding, in a warning to states that efforts to get tough on crime must be accompanied by adequate prison funding. In a 52-page opinion illustrated with photos of teeming prison facilities and cages where mentally ill inmates are held, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited lower-court findings that preventable suicide and medical neglect "needlessly" cause the death of at least one inmate a week in California's prisons. The state system was designed for 80,000 inmates but holds nearly twice that many." The only people who gain from this situation are those that run the private-prison industry, criminals who profit from the risky nature of illegal enterprise, and to a limited degree, banks like Wachovia that have been to known to launder drug money. This is a very narrow set of interests, but American policy has often been hijacked by those with singular and short-sighted goals in mind.
Economists have calculated that merely legalizing marijuana in the United States would "save $7.7 billion per year in state and federal expenditures on prohibition enforcement and produce tax revenues of at least $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like most consumer goods. If, however, marijuana were taxed similarly to alcohol or tobacco, it might generate as much as $6.2 billion annually. "
Legalizing drugs does not mean condoning their usage. It is merely recognizing the inefficiency of using government force and the threat of prison to achieve this goal, just as the politicians who ended Prohibition realized. Legalizing drugs would allow for regulation that could severely reduce the health effects of improperly using them (sharing infected syringes or smoking marijuana when that is the unhealthiest way of consuming the latter). It would put the hands of the enterprise of drugs in the hands of corporations bound by laws and rules, rather than to psychotic criminals who use violence to achieve their goals.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says there is "no alternative" to confronting the cartels, even as she admits the current strategy is flawed. This is patently false. There is a choice we can make...and it is a choice that our tax dollars, the lives of drug users and the lives of innocent Mexicans depend upon. Sign this petition if you realize that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Sign this petition if you want there to be meaningful change on a topic that has been stuck in irrational static for much too long.