In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared War on Drugs.
In the 41 years since then, the United States has arrested and imprisoned millions of citizens, spent hundreds of billions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in a war that, by almost any measure, has been lost.
Today there is more drug use, more violence and higher rates of incarceration than could have been imagined in 1971. Illegal drugs are easy to obtain in most U.S. cities and even small towns. Meanwhile, “designer” drugs continue to appear, and prescription medications continue to be abused, resulting in more addiction and death.
The dollar costs to society are staggering, but the human costs are even higher. Drug addiction not only fills jails and prisons, it ruins lives, breaks up families and sentences children into a cycle of poverty and continuing drug abuse. Prisons provide little in the way of rehabilitation, and only a fraction of those who need treatment actually get it.
Last Tuesday, two states – Colorado and Washington – voted to legalize marijuana and regulate it essentially like alcohol.
Over the next two weeks, the Wise County Messenger will examine the War on Drugs from several viewpoints: law enforcement, the addict, the problem of prescription drug abuse, rehabilitation and the drive to legalize.
The story of this war, like any other, is the story of people: police and prosecutors, users and abusers, reformers and rehabbers, prisoners and families – all of them warriors, victims, or collateral damage in what is, by any measure, America’s costliest war.