Victims of the Drug War

Protestors demand America “fix” our criminal justice system. They are right to want that. Courts are slow, overcrowded and unfair. Sometimes innocent people plead guilty just to avoid waiting years for a trial.

Here’s one change that would make a dramatic improvement: end the war on drugs.

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The drug war hasn’t stopped drug use. What it mostly did, says Professor Carl Hart, former chair of Columbia University’s Psychology Department, was to pit “police against the communities that they serve.”

Hart spent the past 20 years studying drug use. Now he says our drug laws do much more harm than the drugs.

“When you have a new law, you’re going to make crime. That’s just how it works,” says Hart.

Just as alcohol prohibition created violent gangs, today’s drug war creates gang warfare, bad police relations, over-crowded prisons, and more. Yet it hasn’t made a dent in drug use.

Through political messages and anti-drug ads, “we convinced the American people that drugs are the boogeyman,” says Hart. “But that’s nonsense. I know tons of people who do drugs … they are captains of industry, and they’re doing great.”

In his new book, Drug Use for Grownups, he points out, “in every country with a more permissive drug regime, all outcomes are better.”

“They don’t have the same problems that we have with drug overdoses,” Hart tells Stossel.

For example, in Portugal, where drugs are decriminalized, six people per million died from drug overdoses. In the US, 245 died.

If drugs were legal, they’d be much safer.

Some people will still abuse drugs, but Hart points out, “In a society, you will have people who misbehave. But that doesn’t mean you should punish all of us because someone can’t handle this activity … We should show up for our fellow citizens when their liberties are being trampled on.”

He’s right. It’s time to end the drug war, for everyone’s sake.