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Will a Crackdown Finally Win the War on Drugs?

Among the federal government’s biggest failures is the war on drugs. Despite decades of warfare, the federal government is still a long way from declaring victory. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Today, the federal government is still fiercely waging the drug war, trying as hard as it can to win.

Throughout the decades, drug warriors have lamented that federal officials just haven’t really been serious about winning the drug war. If only they would really “crack down,” the drug war would finally be won.

But what the drug warriors fail to acknowledge is that over the decades of drug warfare, federal officials have cracked down. For example, there have been the mandatory-minimum sentences, where they sent drug users, possessors, and distributors, especially blacks, to jail for inordinately long periods of time. The idea was that if enough people got locked away for much of their lives, people would be dissuaded from violating drug laws. Then the drug war would be over.

There is also asset forfeiture, which enables the DEA and state law-enforcement personnel to steal cash from people, especially blacks, who are traveling down the highway. They don’t even need to charge them with a drug offense. They just take their money from them. The idea is that if someone, especially a black, is carrying a large sum of money, it has to be from drug dealing. So, asset forfeiture was supposed to discourage people from selling drugs. Then, the drug war would be over.

There are also the no-knock raids on people, especially blacks, in the middle of the night. The idea was that if people knew that the cops could barge into their homes and bedrooms in the middle of the night and even kill them, people would be dissuaded from possessing and using drugs. Then, the drug war would be over.

Except that none of it has ever worked. The more they have cracked down, the bigger the drug-war problem has become.

So, how about if we use the Mexico model? How about if we bring in the military to fight the war on drugs? They did that in Mexico, but the problem is that it still didn’t bring victory in the war on drugs. After more than a decade of having the military wage the war on drugs, Mexican officials are still further away from winning than ever. In fact, after they brought the military into the fray, more than 100,000 people died or disappeared, not from drugs but from the violence of the drug war. 

Well, how about we crack down like they did in the Philippines during the 2016-2022 presidential term of Rodrigo Duterte. During Duterte’s regime, drug-war personnel began killing drug-law violators on sight. No pesky arrests, prosecutions, due process, attorneys, trials, and all the hassles associated with using the criminal-justice system to target people who were violating the government’s drug laws. Just kill them. I think everyone would agree that that would be the ultimate drug-war crackdown.

According to an article at CNN Philippines, “During Duterte’s term, government monitoring platform RealNumbersPH showed over 6,000 people died in anti-illegal drug operations. Local and international human rights organizations, however, estimate an even higher tally of between 12,000 and 30,000.”

Now, I’d say that’s a real drug-war crackdown. Surely, it won the war on drugs in the Philippines, right? 

Well, not exactly. According to that same CNN article, “The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday said 2,092 people nationwide were arrested in anti-illegal drug operations in the first two weeks of the year. In a media briefing, PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said the arrests were made during 1,518 separate operations from Jan. 1 to 14, where a combined ₱70 million worth of drugs were confiscated.”

Oh, well. It would seem that nothing will ever win the war on drugs. I guess we just have to resign ourselves to living under this ongoing, never-ending, perpetual deadly and destructive failed government program.

Of course, the drug warriors never bother to ask some important questions: Why don’t people have the right to consume whatever they want? What business is that of the government? Why can’t the government just leave people alone? Who made the government people’s daddy? Why not just legalize drugs and be done with the drug war, once and for all? 

Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.