A recent report from the ACLU and Human Rights Watch revealed some interesting facts about the 45 year old War on Drugs. It may not come as a surprise to some to read that over 1 million people are arrested each year in the drug war. The surprise come in the comparisons. The report states, “Every 25 seconds in the United States, someone is arrested for the simple act of possessing drugs for their personal use… [Accounting for m]ore than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement.”
Of the 1.25 million people arrested in 2015 in the War on Drugs, more than 574,000 were for cannabis. These arrests are often easier for police to obtain than for other offenses, especially if police target certain neighborhoods. By comparison in 2015 “there were 505,681 arrests for violent crimes (which the FBI defines as murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault).”
That means police made almost 14 percent more arrests for cannabis possession than for all violent crimes combined, with approximately one arrest for cannabis possession every 55 seconds, accounting for or over $1,000 spent every minute just on enforcing prohibition of a plant, or over $524 million per year.
The report adds, “despite officials’ claims that drug laws are meant to curb drug sales, four times as many people are arrested for possessing drugs as are arrested for selling them.” And, “on any given day at least 137,000 men and women are behind bars in the United States for drug possession, some 48,000 of them in state prisons and 89,000 in jails, most of the latter in pretrial detention.”
The report concludes with a recommendation for the complete removal of criminal sanctions for use and possession of drugs for personal use at both the federal and state levels. A footnote adds, “decriminalization would still leave room for civil and administrative sanctions such as monetary fines. There are strong arguments in favor of depenalization as well.” Depenalization would remove all civil penalties as well, thus being better from the standpoint of human freedom than decriminalization. This is also the approach I believe should be taken with all substances. To end the horrors described in the 196 page report titled “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States”, the Drug War must end. To do that, the Controlled Substances Act and all other federal, state and local laws prohibiting the manufacture, sale, purchase, possession and consumption of all substances must be repealed.