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United States Coast Guards stand by 11.5 tons of cocaine in Alameda, California October 21, 2005. (Reuters/Kimberly White)

The War on Drugs Has Failed: Report

Drugs should be considered public health rather than criminal justice issue, researchers suggest

Jacob Chamberlain

The global War on Drugs has failed, as illegal drugs have only become cheaper, more abundant and more pure in recent decades, according to a report published by a group of U.S. and Canadian researchers on Monday in the British Medical Journal.

"The punitive prohibitionist approach to global drug control has proven remarkably costly, ineffective and counterproductive," said Ethan Nadelmann, director of Drug Policy Alliance, following news of the report.

"It has generated extraordinary levels of violence, crime and corruption while failing to reduce the availability and use of psychoactive drugs."

According to the report, in the U.S. the average price of heroin, cocaine and cannabis decreased by roughly 80% between 1990 and 2007. Average purity increased by 60%, 11% and 161% respectively.

Meanwhile, seizures of cannabis by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration increased by 465% between 1990 and 2010 and heroin seizures increased by 29%. Cocaine seizures fell by 49%.

The increased seizures of these drugs has also meant a massive increase in arrests and incarceration, some for very minor charges, as groups such as Drug Policy Alliance have pointed out.

According to Drug Policy Alliance, 1.53 million people were arrested in 2011 alone on nonviolent drug charges. The number of Americans incarcerated in 2011 in federal, state and local prisons and jails was 2,266,800 or 1 in every 99.1 adults, the highest incarceration rate in the world.

The U.S. has spent more than $51,000,000,000 per year on the War on Drugs.

"These findings add to the growing body of evidence that the war on drugs has failed," said Dr Evan Wood, scientific chair of the International Center for Science in Drug Policy and one of the research team members that produced the study.

"We should look to implement policies that place community health and safety at the forefront of our efforts, and consider drug use a public health rather than a criminal justice issue," added Wood.


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