MEMORANDUM DATE: FROM: RE: May 16, 2013 Jason Ryan Thompson An Exit Strategy for the Failed War on Drugs

The following excerpts are offered to provide a summary of the recently published Federal Legislative Guide, entitled “An Exit strategy for the Failed War on Drugs”: • “Over the last four decades U.S. policymakers have enacted a set of counterproductive drug policies collectively regarded as the war on drugs, the drug war, or drug prohibition.” “Despite the incarceration of tens of millions of Americans and more than a trillion dollars of spending, illegal drugs remain cheap, potent and widely available.” “In 2011 alone (the latest year for which data are available) U.S. law enforcement made more than 1.5 million drug arrests (roughly 660,000 for nothing more than possession of small amounts of marijuana).” “The United States now incarcerates more of its citizens in both absolute and per capita terms than any other country in the world, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Half of federal prisoners, and nearly 20 percent of local or state prisoners, are incarcerated for nothing more than a drug law violation.” “As other parts of the world made sterile syringes available in the 1980s and 90s to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C from injection drug use, U.S. policymakers purposefully blocked legal access to syringes. Hundreds of thousands of Americans contracted HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C as a result.” “The criminalization of drugs and the people who use them has also dramatically increased overdose fatalities, both because illegal drugs are by definition unregulated – and because people with drug-related problems are afraid or unable to seek help.”

Memorandum*re*Failed*War*on*Drugs* May*16,*2013* Page* 2*

“Accidental overdose, is now the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and the leading cause of accidental death among Americans age 25 to 54.” “Like alcohol Prohibition, the prohibition on marijuana and other drugs is empowering crime syndicates and terrorists.” “Drug trafficking organizations operating in both Mexico and the United States reaped an estimated $1.1-$2 billion a year from illegal marijuana sales – or between 15 and 26 percent of their illicit drug export revenues.” “Even routine drug law enforcement can increase violence by destabilizing markets and creating power vacuums. A systematic review of more than 300 international studies found that when police crack down on people who use or sell drugs, the result is almost always an increase in violence.” “Over the last several decades civilian law enforcement has increasingly become more militarized. Encouraged to fight a ‘war’ against drugs and then provided military weaponry, the results have been predictably tragic.” “SWAT team raids, which were once rare and only used in hostage or other emergency situations, are now common – at least 40,000 per year – and most often used to serve drug warrants.” “The U.S. clearly needs an exit strategy. The predominant role that criminalization and the criminal justice system play in dealing with drugs is unsustainable in both human and fiscal terms.” “The stated goal of current U.S. drug policy is to create a “drug-free” America. This is not a realistic goal. It cannot be achieved, and in fact has virtually never been achieved in any society.”

Conclusion • This bipartisan legislative guide “recommends ending federal marijuana prohibition, remedying the decades of racial injustice the war on drugs has caused, treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue, and shifting more drug policy decisions to the states.”

** See the enclosed graphics in order to visualize the impact that the war on drugs has had on our country. Read the full report at drugpolicy.org.

Thompson(Advocacy,((a(Law(Corporation( 4760*Felspar*Street,*Riverside,*CA*92509* T.*(800)*491*J*7097*|**F.*(800)*491*J*7097*

Visualizing the War on Drugs
The U.S. has less that five percent of the world population – but nearly 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

The Obama administration says that drug use should be treated as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue. Yet both their budget and their drug policies continue to emphasize enforcement, prosecution and incarceration. Federal Drug War Budget, 1970-2014*
$30,000 $25,000 $20,000 $15,000 $10,000 $5,000 $0 1970 1973 1976 1979 1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2006 2009 2012 Demand Reduction 1980 2011

600,000 500,000 400,000 300,000 200,000 100,000 0

People Incarcerated in the U.S. for Drug Law Violations


Supply Reduction

Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy, FY 2013 Budget and Performance Summary; and National Drug Control Budget FY 2014 Funding Highlights.

4,700 41,000

State Prisons

Federal Prisons



Marijuana prohibition is unique among American criminal laws – no other law is both enforced so widely and harshly yet deemed unnecessary by such a substantial portion of the population. Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or not? •% No, illegal • % Yes, legal
84 81 79 74 69 73 66 77 80 81 79 8181 74 78 7373 70 67 63 61 60 59 57 52 50

Source: E. Ann Carson and William J. Sabol, Prisoners in 2011 (Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012); and the Sentencing Project, Trends in U.S. Corrections, 2012.

More than 80 percent of all drug arrests in the United States every year are for possession alone.

U.S. Drug Arrests, 2011
Marijuana Possession Marijuana Sales or Manufacturing All Other Drug Sales or Manufacturing All Other Drug Possession Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Report, Crime in the United States, 2011.
12 15 28 19 20




45 45 41 30 24 19 22 17 16 17 1616 17 2222 25 31 32 27 33 35 32
















Source: Pew, “Majority Now Supports Legalizing Marijuana,” April 4, 2013.

An Exit Strategy for the Failed War on Drugs

8 www.drugpolicy.org


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