The federal government has led a national charge against the importation, manufacture, distribution, and consumption of drugs. Over the past four decades, hundreds of billions have been spent to interdict drugs coming from foreign countries, and countless lives have been lost in drug raids and skirmishes with drug cartels and domestic gangs. And the number of Americans who are addicted to drugs as a percentage of the overall population has stubbornly refused to budge despite a huge commitment of resources.
Reason.com recently printed a chart showing that federal and state governments have spent about $1.5 TRILLION dollars over the past 40 years on the “war on drugs.” This figure comes from estimates of law enforcement spending at federal and state levels as well the cost of rehabilitation programs and the bill for keeping drug dealers and consumers alike in prisons.
The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the population of addicted Americans fluctuates between a band of approximately 1% to 1.5% of the population over the same 40 year period. There is no discernible impact despite the large commitment of resources.
We believe the role of running rehabilitation programs is best left to private individuals and charities who choose to exercise their freedom to run such programs. Many people incorrectly assume that if the government stops performing a “needed” function, that it will just go away and nobody will step in to fill the gap. But if government is determined to play a role in rehabilitation, we think this is a better use for tax dollars than building prisons and training law enforcement to engage in military style tactical operations against drug distribution networks.
We also believe that the private sector, if given the opportunity, would provide a better, safer, cheaper product to the market. Buying beer and liquor is, for the most part, a legal activity in most US counties. Nobody is routinely gunned down over a case of red wine or beer in a “deal gone wrong.” But rewind nearly 100 years in time to the era of federal Prohibition when alcohol was illegal to manufacture and distribute, and this is precisely what happened. We suggest the same dynamic is true of the “war on drugs.”
We believe citizens are responsible adults and need to be accountable for their decisions. If they choose to engage in drug use, this is their choice. We find that distributing drugs would be far safer for all involved if the activity took place in a respectable store front rather than in the shadows and back alleys of communities.