The War on Drugs is Doomed

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The War on Drugs is Doomed

Jed Nielsen

Professor Wilson

The war on drugs seems to be a never ending battle with victory out of sight to those for and against the means of controlling drugs. It seems to me though, that marijuana in particular has always had the most attention given to it, especially in the case of whether the drug should be legalized or not. There have been many heavy debates and arguments from state to state, all with differing opinions; some states such as California, Washington, Colorado, and Washington D.C. have already legalized the drug, while most other states hold to their views of marijuana still being illegal and against the law. With a lot of confusion on whether or not the drug should be legalized I would like to examine the marginal benefits and costs that legalizing marijuana would have on society.

I have had plenty of discussions with many friends and family members about the issue with legalizing marijuana, and it seems to me that the issue at hand is more of a political and socially moral issue than anything else. One article from Princeton Universities’ newspaper, the “Daily Princetonian” states that, “The most convincing argument for maintaining marijuana as an illegal substance is that marijuana, like alcohol and tobacco, is detrimental to human health. Ideally, then, both alcohol and tobacco would join marijuana as illegal substances. The only difference is that alcohol and tobacco are so commonplace and ingrained in society that getting rid of them is impossible. This phenomenon played out during America’s failed attempt to ban alcohol via the Prohibition. In other words, it is not that marijuana is any worse than alcohol or tobacco, but it would nonetheless be bad social policy to introduce a new legitimate vice into society.”1 I would have to agree with this statement. It is not necessarily about whether marijuana is bad or harmful to our health, but as a society in our culture we have been raised to disassociate alcohol and tobacco with other mainstream drugs, such as marijuana, due to political and social policies. I don’t think that marijuana being legalized is going to change anyone’s decision to use the drug or not based on health claims, due to the fact that anti-tobacco companies run ads on television continuously about the health risks incurred from using tobacco, and regardless of their efforts, tobacco companies still sell billions worth of their product to consumers. From the health risk aspect of keeping marijuana illegal, I don’t see any benefits or costs associated with that argument, other than hoping that the illegalization of the drug currently will keep individuals from easier access to the drug.

However when I do think of some of the costs of continuing the illegalization of marijuana, one instance that comes to my mind are the overcrowded jails and prisons with individuals serving time associated with the drug. An article in the “American Civil Liberties Union” blog sheds some light on this issue by stating, “more than 800,000 people are arrested for marijuana use and possession each year, and 46 percent of all drug prosecutions across the country are for marijuana possession.”2 Later on in the article they conclude, “Our courtrooms, jails and prisons remain crowded with nonviolent drug offenders. And yet, the government persists in its costly and counterproductive criminalization of marijuana. We learned our lesson decades ago with alcohol prohibition; it is long overdue for us to do the same with marijuana prohibition.”3 After reading those statistics it seems that it would be a huge marginal benefit to society as a whole to clear out jail cells with individuals hardly classifieds as criminals to make room for those more deserving to be in there. All those wasted tax dollars would be much better spent on more drug education, prevention, and even user responsibility if needs be, like those used in alcohol promoted commercials to “drink responsibly.” By taking funds that are not being allocated efficiently and redirecting them into better uses we could be saving as much money as we have been spending trying to fight the drug, which ties into my next point.

Our government spends millions if not billions of dollars a year to fight the war on drugs, with marijuana being the biggest contributor. No matter how hard we crack down on keeping the drug out of user’s hands the more creative the cartels and distributors become to get their product to their consumers. We have a huge supply and demand issue, where so many users are willing to pay top dollar for marijuana because its demand greatly outweighs the supply coming through. So why not use that to our advantage and put all that lost money back into our own pockets and economies, and even towards the national deficit.

An article in “The Economist” talks on this very issue as it discusses the effects that complete legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado State would have on Mexico and the drug cartel trafficking business. It states that “between 40% and 70% of American pot is reckoned to be grown in Mexico and that the American marijuana business brings in about $2 billion a year to Mexico’s drug traffickers.”4 By legalizing the drug in our own states we would be essentially “under cutting” the Mexican drug cartels and taking roughly “1.4 billion of their 2 billion in revenue.” In the article they also argue that kilo for kilo “home-grown marijuana is much better quality than the Mexican sort, making Washington pot about half the price of the Mexican stuff, even after illegal shipping cross country to states that still outlaw the drug.”5 Even with a tax hike on marijuana similar to that on alcohol and tobacco it appears that the market price it would clear in the U.S. would be cheaper than that on the black markets. I see a huge marginal benefit in this aspect! The complete legalization of marijuana in the states would greatly diminish its underground presence. It would provide our American economy with a gigantic stream of new revenue by the change in demand from the cartels illegal business to a demand for a legalized one that would be cheaper, safer, and higher quality.

With so many reasons and compelling arguments for the legalization of marijuana you have to wonder why we keep chasing and fighting something that would probably end up producing more good than bad. We could clear up the over-crowded jails and prisons issue and make room for the real problems in our society. We could save millions of dollars a year that goes towards fighting a never ending battle to bring down a drug no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco, by reallocating those funds to better and more practical uses. Hopefully with states such as Washington and Colorado we will be able to, in time, see the many marginal benefits that comes from the legalization of marijuana.


Applbaum, Arron. "Legalize Marijuana." - The Daily Princetonian. Columnist, 08 Feb. 2011.

Web. 30 Apr. 2013. .

Economist, The. "The View From Mexico." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 2

Nov. 2012. Web. 027 Apr. 2013.


Edwards, Ezekiel, and Rebecca McCray. "American Civil Liberties Union." American Civil

Liberties Union. ACLU, 26 Apr. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.


2 American Civil Liberties Union

3 American Civil Liberties Union

5 The Economist

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