In 1971, president Richard Nixon started the War on Drugs in United States, dramatically increasing the size and presence of federal drug enforcement agencies. In the 40 plus years since, more and more money has been allocated to the programs. In fact, the U.S. has spent over one trillion dollars enforcing drug policies. A staggering number to be sure. But what has it yielded? Here is a look:
- Nearly 500,000 people are incarcerated on drug related charges in the U.S.
- The U.S. spends an average of $30,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate – That’s $15 billion per year on incarceration of drug offenders!
- %42.5 percent of Americans have used Marijuana, the highest percentage in the world. Americans are also 4 times more likely to report cocaine use in their lifetime than citizens of the next closest country (source)
- According to drug war clock, $1,716.77 is spent every second of every day on the Drug War
- By 2009, 15,223 Americans have died as a result of the Drug War (esquire)
- 4,919 – the number of black males in prison per 100,000 inmates in 2004, more than 5 times the rate in South Africa at the height of Apartheid in 1993
In the United States, being convicted of a drug crime can have serious and lasting consequences. The War on Drugs has stiffened the penalties for almost all drug related offenses. For example, in Arizona, a marijuana possession charge can come with as much as 3.75 years of jail time. Furthermore, a felony charge can make finding work difficult and make you inelegible to vote.