A confession: for someone who views himself as a liberal with a commitment to social justice, I know woefully little about US drug policy and its broader impact.
Ask me about marijuana decriminalization or the baleful effects of the Drug War, and I will say all the right progressive things, but without any of the conviction I bring to arguments about tax policy, the healthcare debate, or labor law. Maybe it’s because many of the drug policy activists I’ve met have combined their legalization or decriminalization advocacy with hippie-dippie Green Partyish sentiments that I’ve disregarded drug policy as some vaguely counter-cultural distraction.
But it’s not.
The federal government spent at least $14 billion in 2010 fighting the War on Drugs. States and localities spent billions more. So it’s a deficit issue.
Black non-Hispanic males are incarcerated at a rate more than 6 times higher than white non-Hispanic males and 2.6 times higher than Hispanic males. It’s a racial justice issue.
The United States has only 5% of the global population but houses a quarter of the world’s prisoners. See my chart for more. The drug war is not the sole cause of these injustices, but it is a major one, so I for one, will do my best to not relegate the issue to the margins or treat it as a joke. It’s past time to get serious.