Fruit for thought: The War on Drugs

It’s comforting to think that the War on Drugs is fought something like the Civil War: an army of American cops and judges and politicians bands together to take down a rebel army of foreign and domestic meanies who are bringing drugs and trouble into this country so that they can afford in-ground pools and classic cars. Each army hauls out their ¬†muskets and as long as we keep throwing money at the War on Drugs our criminal justice system shall prevail.

Tragically, I don’t believe that there really is a neatly organized Drug Army out there just waiting for some tricky-ass general to take them by surprise after a nice long Christmas bender (or something like that). As Kentucky State Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown put it:

“I don’t think we’re getting the worst drug lords into the prisons. We’re just getting the people who went out and got caught. It’s the low-hanging fruit.”*

So much for the Civil War model. Maybe the War on Drugs looks more like this:

Charming illustrations aside, I would be one sour grape if I was the low-hanging casualty in the War on Drugs. Since we haven’t figured out a great way to stop drug use or drug-related violence through penalizing the fruit, mayhaps it’s about time to try something different?

*I pulled that quote from the Pew Center’s wonderful report “One in 100: Behind Bars in American in 2008.” Check it out for terrific facts and figures.

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