Editorial: War on drugs is a war on poor

It has recently become common for politicians to speak about their experiences with marijuana and other drugs during their youth.

A whole slew of politicians from Ted Cruz to Sarah Palin have copped to partaking in marijuana use at one point or another. Former President George W. Bush has a well-documented history of cocaine use and current President Barack Obama has also admitted to snorting during his college years.

This type of talk from politicians is typically humorous and gives material for John Oliver and the other late night satirists, but what is not funny is what we have done to millions of Americans who weren’t as fortunate as Bush or Obama.

One would be hard pressed to find a war that has failed more glaringly than the War on Drugs. Birthed during the Richard Nixon years as an attempt to curb drug addiction – which Nixon called the biggest domestic threat to America at the time – this social experiment has yielded no positive results for anyone who doesn’t have a job with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Drug use remains at about the same point it did 40 years ago, and we have spent more than $28 billion this year alone and a total of more than a trillion dollars combating something that humans have been doing since the beginning of time.

Money aside, the worst outcome of the Drug War is the millions of people thrown into prison with harsh sentences for mostly non-violent crimes.

The Drug War is biased. It has not targeted the affluent and privileged, but is has targeted the poor, underprivileged and people of color. Research shows young black men use and sell drugs at about the same rate as young white men, yet are about five times more likely to be arrested.

Imprisoning drug manufacturers and distributors is a separate argument, but there is no doubt that no one deserves to be imprisoned for possessing or using a drug. Drug addiction is a disorder, and we don’t imprison people for having anger issues, anxiety or depression.

Rather than spending billions of dollars fighting an unwinnable war, our government should redirect that money towards rehabilitation for those who suffer from drug addiction, and more education on drugs and their effects; whether good or bad.

Take this into consideration: the average prison sentence for a person convicted of a sex crime is six to seven years.  The average prison sentence for someone arrested for drug possession is just above seven years.

Politicians can continue to make lighthearted comments about their past drug experiences, but until they actually enact legislation that will end this failure of a national policy, they will continue to serve a great injustice to so many Americans in need of help.