Why do politicians support the war on drugs (even the ones who know better)?

Bob Scott, a former Captain of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, spent 15 years in law enforcement working to keep our communities safe, and he used his unique vantage point as an officer to speak out against America’s costly and ineffective war on drugs.

We know the war on drugs is expensive – 50-60 billion dollars a year to arrest, try and incarcerate millions of nonviolent offenders – and with today’s political environment of massive spending cuts to government funded programs, it may seem counter-intuitive that the billions spent on the war on drugs isn’t called into question.

We also know the war has failed. Decades ago, when the initiative began, 1.3% of Americans were addicted to drugs. Today addiction rates remain at 1.3% and drugs are cheaper and more prevalent than ever before. So why don’t politicians touting fiscal responsibility cut this wasteful spending?

“The war on drugs is all about politics,” explains Scott. “Many elected officials know the war has failed, but are afraid to speak up because they don’t want to seem ‘soft on crime’. When I worked in law enforcement I noticed that the individual police officers were often against the war on drugs, but most sheriffs supported it – as least in public. That’s because sheriff’s are elected officials and they say what they think voters want to hear, not always what is right.”

Bob Scott is involved with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of law enforcement personnel who oppose prohibition policies. “Our current laws criminalize all aspects of drug use, while ignoring the social and economic benefits of treatment,” says Scott. “Treatment for addiction is more cost effective than incarceration, and it’s better for our communities.”

Bob Scott supports harm reduction programs because they promote public health and fiscal responsibility. “Syringe exchange programs make economic sense if you think about it,” says Scott. “If people are sharing needles infected with HIV and hepatitis and they don’t have health insurance, tax payers end up with the bill for their treatment.” Studies show that medical treatment for HIV can cost up to $600,000 dollars per person , while hepatitis treatment costs from $100,000 to $500,000 per person . Compare that to the cost of a clean syringe – about 97 cents – and harm reduction just makes economic sense.

“I think it’s time to put politics aside and start looking at reality,” says Bob Scott. “We’ve so demonized drug use for political purposes that people are overlooking the social and economic costs. The war on drugs is an idea that sounds good, but it’s not a sound idea.”


War on drugs. Attacking citizens for profit.

I'm a 53 year old mother, wife of 34 years, student, grandmother, voter, activist, author. Because of the War on Drugs as of January this year I'm also a convicted felon. My crime was to order prescription pain meds online. I had a decade long painful illness which I tried to treat myself. When I contacted doctors every single one refused to see me as I had no insurance and could not afford the thousands they wanted up front to start testing. Finally bedridden and suicidal I learned I could get meds to allow me to live. I got my life back, started college again (3.9 gpa) could actively participate in life as a wife and mother... that is until Nov 2010 when a 20 man SWAT team broke down my door and took me to jail in handcuffs. They did so for less than one months worth of pain meds. This is what the drug war does and allows to happen. Waging war against citizens.

Politicians do it to appear hard on crime and society has been conditioned to believe drug use is evil/criminal rather than a health issue. Officers, DEA agents and others do it because they get the billions in funding you spoke of. And the corps that make money from having our prisons full lobby congress aggressively for harsher laws. Luckily there are many officers, lawyers, judges etc. who are speaking out after witnessing the carnage from this war. It ruins lives, traumatized children, creates more violence and crime and more addiction and is allowed to continue because it is profitable while completely ignoring all facts. Its unconscionable for a government to do this to its people.

Nancy Rector
Author of "A Painful Truth - The Entrapment of America's Sick"

Attacking citizens for profit

Wow. What an incredible/horrible story you have to tell! Good for you, writing a book and getting the word out. Do you live in North Carolina now?

I am wondering if there was a

I am wondering if there was a complete audit done on the money spent on the war on drugs if one would find many expenditures that have nothing to do with the war on drugs. Allowing drugs would be a good way for the government to control those who are strung out all the time.

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I recall seeing a special on tv (60 Minutes?) that

just tore into the "war on drugs". The main idea was that defense contractors were "suffering" after the end of the cold war, so billions of dollars were sent their way to build stupid crap (like blimps) that didn't work just to prop up their bottom line. The private prison industry had mane beaucoup bucls from the war on drugs as well. I seem to recal that Nixon was actually on the right side of this issue, emphasizing treatment over prosecution.

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