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Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
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Frank Bernheisel
Posted 09.26.11
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL

US War on Drugs a failure

Let's be clear, the 'War on Drugs’ -- started in 1971 by President Nixon -- has failed. It’s time for a new approach.

Legalizing drugs to save the economy

If the US legalized the use of marijuana and other illegal drugs, the federal government would need to do something like what happened at the end of Prohibition. That is, a joint federal, state, and local control structure was established to control the manufacture, distribution, and use of Ethel alcohol.

After the end of Prohibition each, level of government found that they could rely on alcohol for a steady stream of income. In 2007 the federal revenue from alcohol taxes was over $9 billion and in 2008 state and local governments collected another $6 billion.

There are, of course, off-setting enforcement expenses but alcohol taxes are a money maker. So, too, could legalized sales of other drugs be a revenue generator that could help solve federal, state, and local cash flow problems.

But there is an even greater opportunity to cut the size of government and save federal spending.

In 2010, the federal government spent $15 billion in the so-called war on drugs, which would be available for other programs or budget reduction. This does not count the state and local legal costs to capture, try, and incarcerate drug offenders.

California, alone, spent $10.4 billion on prisons in fiscal year 2009-2010. In 2009 over fifty percent of the 187,886 inmates in federal prison were in prison for drug offences. Of course, some of these were big time bad guys and not just users. Therefore, there would still be some costs associated with prisons for people violating the new drug laws.

Why, legalizing drugs in the U.S. might even save Mexico from collapse. Who knows?

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