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False Claims of "Success"


Drug War Defined

Failure to Stop Supply

Failure of Prisons

Measuring Results

Figures for

Texas News


The Drug War Does Not Deter Drug Use Or Abuse 

Laws and punishment do not deter drug use to any significant degree. Prohibition is a fundamentally flawed strategy. [See: Drug War Failure for a further discussion of the failure to deter the flow of drugs or the dealers who sell them.] 

The simplest proof is in the fact that about 62% of our young have used an illegal drug by age 22. 

See: 62% Use

 "The licit or illicit status of substances has little impact on their use." 

-- Canada's House of Commons, Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs, report issued November, 2002 

 The simplest explanation is that most people are not interested in using most currently illegal drugs regardless of their legal status; for them the law is unnecessary.  

The others, the few who care the most, get the drugs anyhow.  So many millions violate the law with impunity that the most basic need for effective deterrence - "the certainty of punishment" - is not, and never can be, remotely in place. The number who have ever used an illegal drug now approaches 100 million and our prisons began to overflow when well less than a million or so were incarcerated. 

If users are not frightened by the drugs, they will not be frightened by the threat of arrest. The law is ignored. There may a limited impact on casual users, a group which is highly unlikely to let their use develop into dependency in any case. 

See: Science, Use is NOT Abuse

The failure to deter may also be explained by the fact that we are a society saturated with the use of legal drugs that are equally or more dangerous. 

See: Other Drugs

"Messages" may be viewed more as hypocritical propaganda than credible warnings. 

See: Children 

In any case, even massive increases in coercion have failed to deter. 

 "The total punishment levied for drug control purposes has increased massively since 1981, when concern with cocaine became prominent. The number of commitments to state and federal prison has risen over tenfold during the same time period. By 1996, there were over 400,000 people in prison or jail serving time for selling or using drugs; the comparable figure for 1980 was about 31,000. Arrests for simple marijuana possession have doubled in the last five years." 

- "Drug War Heresies" by Peter Reuter and Robert MacCoun of RAND's Drug Policy Research Center 

 Many top officials have consistently told us that, "We cannot arrest our way out of the problem." Unfortunately, action has not matched the rhetoric, even though official studies and expert research repeatedly confirm this conclusion. We are wasting an enormous amount of time and money on prisons. 

"In summary, existing research seems to indicate that there is little apparent relationship between severity of sanctions prescribed for drug use and prevalence or frequency of use.  

"Perceived legal risk explains very little in the variance of individual drug use."  

- from The White House [ONDCP] 2001 report from the National Research Council, "Informing America's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us."  

 "In the period from 1991 to 1997 -- when arrests for minor drug offenses increased by 70 percent -- there was no decline in drug use statistics."  

-- Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, 2002 (government-funded institute)  

 "Drug epidemics come and go, [not due to] legal institutions [but] the natural ebb and flow of each drug era. Drug users and sellers regulate their own affairs "  

- from researchers Jeffrey Fagan of Rutgers and Wm. Spelman of the University of Texas, New York Times 2/11/94 

 "We find that the severity of penalties plays little or no role in controlling whether or not people prone to using drugs actually use them. This disregard for the law is truly remarkable."  

-- Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga, interviewed by National Review, 7-10-95 

  "Alternate solutions need to be found in order to address drug use - the criminal process does little to reduce the availability of drugs or to discourage their use."  

- report of the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service, in The Australian, 6-9-97


Marijuana Use and Punishment 

Expert analysis is clear: changes in use due to different levels of punishment are at best marginal for marijuana, the most popular, mildest and least dangerous of the illegal drugs. 

Therefore, it is extremely likely that changes in the use rates of clearly more dangerous drugs would be even smaller. 

Changes in use are not even a generally useful measurement for evaluating the impact of a drug on society. 

See: Science: Use is NOT Abuse.

The Canadian and the US studies [US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, based on annual surveys] do agree on one thing: 

drug policies make little difference to the number of people who try marijuana. 

- New Scientist, 07 September 2002

"The Dutch data suggest that, by itself, removing criminal penalties against users has little effect on cannabis consumption. Experience elsewhere reinforces that conclusion. Decriminalization of marijuana possession in 12 U.S. states during the 1970s, and in two Australian states more recently, was not associated with any discernible increase in use." 

- Robert MacCoun (University of California, Berkeley) and Peter Reuter (University of Maryland) of RAND's Drug Policy Research Center. (The American Prospect, June 3, 2002)

  "Decriminalization has had virtually no effect on either marijuana use or on related attitudes about marijuana use among young people." 

- Marijuana Decriminalization:  The Impact on Youth 1975-1980, Monitoring the Future, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 1981. 

(This is the only U.S. federal study ever to compare marijuana use patterns, among decriminalized states and those that have not.)

"Penal policy has little to no influence on the use patterns of experienced cannabis users." 

-The Irrelevance of Drug Policy [International comparative research in Amsterdam, San Francisco and Bremen, Germany] by The Centre for Drug Research, University of Amsterdam [CEDRO]

The University of Western Australia's Economic Research Centre reported (2-16-99) that legalising marijuana would "increase consumption by about 13 percent ... and alcohol consumption would fall". 

  "There is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use." 

- from The White House [ONDCP] 1999 report from the Institutes Of Medicine[IOM] The full report is at: http://books.nap.edu/html/marimed/

  In May of 1998, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, National Working Group on Addictions Policy released a policy discussion document which recommended, "The severity of punishment for a cannabis possession charge should be reduced. Specifically, cannabis possession should be converted to a civil violation under the Contraventions Act." The paper further noted that, "The available evidence indicates that removal of jail as a sentencing option would lead to considerable cost savings without leading to increases in rates of cannabis use." 

- from www.drugwarfacts.org citing "Cannabis Control in Canada: Options Regarding Possession" (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, May 1998)

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