The 5 Best Arguments Against the "War on Drugs"

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Attorney General Eric Holder has finally conceded that the United States' attempts to suppress drug use through mass incarceration have been somewhat misguided. He introduced a new plan Monday to scale back the so-called "War on Drugs," declared over 40 years ago by President Nixon.

Here are five factors that make it clear that the "War on Drugs" isn't working.

The Beginning of the End of the "War on Drugs"?

Attorney General Eric Holder has finally conceded that the United States' attempts to suppress drug use through mass incarceration have been somewhat misguided. He introduced a new plan Monday to scale back the so-called "War on Drugs," declared over 40 years ago by President Nixon.

Here are five factors that make it clear that the "War on Drugs" isn't working.

It's Expensive

Anti-drug efforts have cost the country over $1 trillion over the last 40 years, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. At the current rate, taking both federal and state taxes into consideration, US taxpayers can expect to shell out at least $50 billion every year.

It's Putting Hundreds of Thousands of Americans Behind Bars

The U.S. imprisons more people than any other country in the world, arguably motivated by the conversion of the U.S. prison system into a private, profit-making machine. The number of incarcerated Americans is up to 2.3 million from 500,000 in 1980, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, and more than half a million of those inmates are serving time for drug-related arrests.

Even an arrest for a non-violent charge can have devastating effects on an individual's future, affecting their ability to find employment or receive government aid. By punishing rather than rehabilitating individuals, the prison complex often spirals individuals into a cycle of poverty and incarceration.

The Majority of Americans Have Lost Faith in the "War on Drugs"

Public opinion polls go to show that the "War on Drugs" isn't actually all that popular with the people it's meant to benefit. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), over half of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized. Only one in five American adults, meanwhile, believes that the "War on Drugs" has been worth the costs it has incurred.

It's Racially Biased

According to the NAACP, African Americans are 10 times as likely to end up in prison for drug use as white Americans, despite the fact that they may actually abuse drugs at a lower rate. Black drug users also tend to face much higher sentences than white drug users.

The ACLU also criticizes the FBI's failure to distinguish white and Hispanic ethnicities in their reports of arrest. They suspect that this omission conceals the fact that Latinos are also more likely to be prosecuted for drug possession, sales, and use than whites.

And Last But Not Least... It's Not Working

The rate of addiction and harmful drug use has remained relatively stagnant over the last 40 years, despite skyrocketing anti-drug spending. Efforts by law enforcement to take down major drug cartels, meanwhile, have played out like a game of whack-a-mole. For every kingpin they arrest or ton of drugs they seize, there's a seemingly endless supply of manpower and materials to keep meeting the demand for drugs.

Some economists liken the "War on Drugs" to the United States' attempts to ban alcohol during Prohibition. Forcing the industry underground, they point out, only puts more money into the pockets of producers by driving up prices. By increasing the risk and reward of getting involved in the drug trade, these policies also encourage drug cartels to turn to violence to hold onto their power.