MOTHERBOARD: So your report is essentially more data backing up the idea that seizing drugs doesn’t work, correct?
Evan Wood: You’re right. The price of cannabis has really bottomed out over the last few years and the potency has increased. The same thing seems to be happening to heroin and cocaine, which was seen as the success story the United States was touting in the War on Drugs. When you look at the data though, it’s essentially neutral. There’s been no gains there in the past two decades. The patterns of supply go up and down but they’re not related to anything the government is implementing.
In popular media, seizures are presented as officers with guns and drugs in a brightly lit room, with the implication being that seizing drugs somehow impacts the availability or supply on the street. But there’s no economic paper out there that suggests it has any effect. The amount seized is so minuscule compared to the actual size of the supply.
Does Don Draper Want to Legalize Heroin?
I’ve been reading about how bad the war on drugs is for so long that I’m not actually sure what the arguments in favor of prohibition are other than, “Drugs are bad, mmmmkay?” The government’s efforts to use law enforcement to get people to stop getting high costs of billions of dollars a year, results in nonviolent people being sent to prisons that ruin their lives and, in many cases, stick them in a cycle of recidivism that’s nearly impossible to escape, decimates poor and minority communities disproportionately and deprives many children of fathers. The war on drugs is racist, cruel, expensive, and it doesn’t even work, since people are still getting high—in the past few years, illegal drug use among kids has increased, while legal drug use (in the form of tobacco and alcohol) has declined. We need to get people out of an overcrowded prison system and back to productive society and their families, and we can do that by releasing those convicted of drug-related crimes. Fuck the law-and-order conservatives who have pandered for votes for decades by describing a world full of violent criminals who need to be locked up for life; fuck the for-profit corporations and prison-guard unions who make money off of human misery. Close the prisons, legalize drugs, stop trying to solve every societal ill with a badge and a gun, end the war on drugs. And so on and so forth.
You probably agree with a lot of the above paragraph—according to the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, and Michele Alexander’s great, bestselling book, The New Jim Crow, brought widespread recognition to the idea that mass incarceration and the war on drugs are racist as well as massive failures. But it wasn’t until the past few days that the movement to end the drug war achieved the mark of every mainstream political cause in America—a bunch of celebrities attached their names to it.