The "war" on drugs has improved the nation's health and is a good social policy. There is overwhelming evidence showing that our drug problem has decreased, due to a three-pronged approach of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. Illegal drug use is almost 40 percent less since its high point in 1979. Marijuana use is down almost 50 percent since its peak in the 1970s. Cocaine use is down by 80 percent since its peak in the 1980s. Although we are still challenged by amphetamines and prescription drug abuse, the overall trend is that drug abuse and drug crime have gone down. We achieved this with tougher laws and drug use prevention efforts, such as education. We also use drug treatment in the criminal justice system and drug testing and treatment in employment.
The legalization advocates seek to demoralize the public with propaganda such as "the war on drugs has failed." If they can get the public to doubt the effectiveness of our efforts, then perhaps the public will support legalization.
Most legalization efforts concentrate on marijuana for recreational use. According to a RAND study, marijuana legalization will cause up to a 50 percent increase in use. Other data from Alaska and the Netherlands suggests that marijuana use could double or triple. Drug treatment facilities are already full of young people dependent on marijuana. The levels of THC (marijuana's psychoactive ingredient) have never been higher and is a major contributing factor as to why marijuana is the number one drug for young people and adults to enter drug treatment. Marijuana use has gone down, but its potency and addictiveness have gone up.
The recent use of drug treatment courts is a balanced approach. Drug courts seek to intervene and break the cycle of drug addiction, crime, and child abuse. They are highly effective and the use of them should be expanded. The Obama administration is doing this, to its credit.
Like most propaganda, the legalization arguments appear to be logical and simple, however, they do not withstand critical evaluation and run contrary to experience. When we analyze the proposed legalization benefits against the value of our existing approach of prevention, treatment and law enforcement, our current system's value far outweighs legalization. Recreational use of drugs will have a substantial and irreversible adverse impact on our health and our well-being.
About David G. Evans Special Adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation
Neill Franklin Retired Cop and Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Aaron Houston Executive Director of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Foundation