It’s very clear that the War on Drugs is a complete failure. In fact, the War on Drugs has had many unforeseen consequences that have threatened to tear America apart. The black market that has emerged from the Drug War has caused high crime rates in many parts of the country, has increased the United State’s incarceration rate substantially, has allowed other criminals to get lighter sentences due to the over-crowding prison population, has devastated the poor and various minority groups (such as African-Americans), further increased racial tensions (as if we didn’t have enough of that already with hate-crime laws and affirmative action), and has cost the government and the taxpayers untold amounts of money. 
Another effect of the War on Drugs includes the creation of a permanent underclass. How does it do that? Combined with zero-tolerance policies at public schools, the drug war has successfully caused the suspension or expulsion of 80% of all students charged with drug infractions. Most of these adolescents were charged with simple possession, sometimes for something as small and miniscule as a single pill. 
Also, under the Drug Free Student Loans Act of 1998, these students are barred from obtaining federal financial loans or grants for higher education, essentially ruining many of their chances of getting into college. This law has also lead to the withdrawal of thousands of college students who have no other way of paying the tuition. People are constantly searching for ways to improve America’s educational system but they ignore this one glaring opportunity to help it. Not only that, but sending these “criminals” to prison gives them a criminal record which severely hampers their attempts at getting a job. This is partially why there are so many minority groups on welfare and unemployed. And as if that wasn’t enough, many states actually prohibit ex-felons (including those convicted of drug-related crimes) from driving or voting. You are also prohibited from collecting food stamps, seeking certain occupations, or even serving in the military. 
Drug abusers are punished when, instead, they should be treated. We should learn to help people not punish them. Zero-tolerance policies are just another form of over-criminalization and “getting tough on crime” clearly only creates more crime and despair. 
The only question up for debate, here, is should we legalize drugs…or decriminalize them? What’s the difference? Well, decriminalization is a policy that punishes offenses through means other than prisons (usually through fines instead). It is a low priority for the police but is still punishable by law and the policy is usually limited to possession only. Legalization is a system that allows the use and sale of drugs to adults under a system of regulation. 
Portugal decriminalized drugs and has since seen a reduction in drug abuse by about half. This, however, is more likely due to Portugal’s expansion in treatment for these abusers. Oregon and 10 other states tried decriminalizing drugs as well in the 70’s but drug abuse remained the same. Portugal’s innovative treatment procedures emerged due to its ending its own Drug War and focusing on treatment rather than incarceration. We should do the same. 
Other problems of decriminalization include 
- · It still leaves the illegal supplier in place, leaving youth vulnerable.
- · It’s still costly to law enforcement as it wastes time.
- · It sustains the hypocrisy inherent in the double standard for alcohol and tobacco.
- · And it deprives the government of potential large sums of revenue (which we kind of want to have during a time when our debt is as high as the sky).
The research backs up the claims that prohibition does not work, that over-criminalization and zero-tolerance policies do not work, and that the War on Drugs can more accurately be described as a War on Education or even the War on Jobs. We have done nothing but increase the prison population to the point where rapists and other violent felons are released early to make room for these other “criminals” and prisons getting rid of rehab programs for substance abusers who really need it. 
By legalizing drugs (not just decriminalizing them), we can virtually eliminate (or at the very least alleviate) all of these problems caused by the failed Drug War. Let us fight for treatment for our friends and family members who are abusing drugs rather than punishment. Let us fight for legalization!