The House I Live In
40 Years, $1 Trillion, 45 Million Arrests: This is the War on Drugs.
Forty years ago, President Nixon called a press conference to tell the American people that their “public enemy #1” was drug abuse. He then proceeded to declare an all-out war on drug users and sellers, with resounding repercussions on criminal justice policy and on vast numbers of Americans.
Subsequent presidents, drug czars, and local politicians have followed Nixon’s lead, fueling an unprecedented boom in the country’s prison population and waging an ever-escalating campaign against what many consider to be nothing more than a public health problem.
The war on drugs has been a failure practically, morally, and economically. The result of this law enforcement approach are stark: today, there are more than 500,000 people incarcerated for drug offenses; billions of dollars are spent annually on narcotics enforcement; treatment is still out of reach for millions of people; and drugs are more available and cheaper than ever before.
But there is also a growing recognition that the course of the past 40 years must change, and there is increasing momentum for drug policy reform from all levels of government and civil society.