How Governments and Corporations Get High Off the Drug War

Colorado and Washington just passed ballot initiatives that make marijuana legal for recreational use. The Feds however still think it’s illegal because they believe they should be able to dictate to states what their laws should be. Individual state laws are fine as long as they are consistent with what the Federal government wants. At least that’s the impression we get.

States can’t outlaw abortion without the Feds getting involved and declaring such a law unconstitutional. States can’t legalize marijuana without the Feds getting involved and declaring such a law unconstitutional. California made “medicinal” marijuana legal, but that hasn’t stopped the Feds from raiding medicinal marijuana dispensaries. So what’s the point of having state laws when the Feds can just override them under threat of force or cutting off federal funding?

You don’t have to be a pothead to be opposed to the drug war. In fact, some of its fiercest opponents are those who hate drug use and have never used illegal drugs. The only drugs I’ve ever done are caffeine in the form of morning coffee and the occasional Tylenol for a headache. So why am I opposed to the drug war? The same reason I’m opposed to pretty much every other “war” the government declares. Grandstanding political wars have been waged against poverty, drugs, cancer, terror, pollution and many other unfavorable phenomena. These wars appeal to the emotions of the socially conservative and the liberal do-gooders. Collectively, they’ve cost trillions of taxpayer dollars only to get more of what they claim they’re fighting against.

So who is benefiting from the war on drugs? Probably the biggest boon has been to the prison industry. Corrections Corporation of America is the largest of such companies, and they depend on strict drug laws to keep their prisons full. Here’s an excerpt from CCA’s 2010 report to their shareholders:

 “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Legislation has been proposed in numerous jurisdictions that could lower minimum sentences for some non-violent crimes and make more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior. Also, sentencing alternatives under consideration could put some offenders on probation with electronic monitoring who would otherwise be incarcerated. Similarly, reductions in crime rates or resources dedicated to prevent and enforce crime could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.”

It’s no surprise that CCA has donated $4.5 million to political campaigns and spent $18 million on lobbying for stricter drug laws. They want an increase in criminal activity, and they want lots of people to do drugs so that they profit the most.

So, what would to happen if Feds were to allow states to legalize drugs, or at least decriminalize their use? Portugal tried it over a decade ago when 1% of their population were heroin addicts. It was a last ditch effort to get drug use down. Critics claimed that Portugal would become a haven for tourist druggies, and that kids would start shooting up heroin. But over a decade later, as reported by Business Insider, those predictions proved to be nothing more than scare tactics:

“The resulting effect:  drastic reduction in addicts, with Portuguese officials and reports highlighting that this number, at 100,000 before the new policy was enacted, has been halved in the following ten years. Portugal’s drug usage rates are now among the lowest of EU member states, according to the same report. One more outcome: a lot less sick people. Drug related diseases including STDs and overdoses have been reduced even more than usage rates, which experts believe is the result of the government offering treatment with no threat of legal ramifications to addicts.”

This is why the Feds won’t allow states to legalize or decriminalize marijuana use. They don’t care one bit about people’s health and well-being. There is way too much money at stake if they were to end the drug war. Whole drug cartels would go out of business. Drug lords would go bankrupt. Pharmaceutical drug companies would no longer enjoy their monopoly, and they would lose billions of dollars. Over half the prison population in America are in prison because of non-violent drug charges. They would be pardoned, and the prison industry would lose billions. When these corporations lose money, the government loses money.