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.