There is apparently at least one campaign promise that Donald Trump intends to keep. As he said in a New Hampshire campaign video: “No drugs are coming in. We’re gonna build a wall. You know what I’m talking about. You have confidence in me. Believe me, I will solve the problem.”
Thus far, Trump’s actions match his rhetoric. He has tapped two bona fide drug warriors for high-level positions: Jeff Sessions for attorney general and John F. Kelly for secretary of Homeland Security.
Sessions has gone so far as to assert that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” casually overlooking the fact that more Americans have smoked pot than have voted for Trump. Kelly, for his part, testified before a Senate committee in April that drugs, including marijuana, represent an ongoing threat to our national security. Nowhere does he consider that ongoing prohibition is what makes the U.S. market so attractive to drug cartels in the first place.
Yet we do have a very real drug problem. The problem is that the government makes more than 1.2 million arrests annually of people possessing a controlled substance. Even where there is no subsequent jail sentence, these arrests cost the victims thousands in legal fees, fines and court costs. And those who are arrested are harmed more by their own government than most of them ever would have been by the drugs from which they were “saved.”
American taxpayers pay dearly, too. The drug war costs taxpayers — at the state and federal levels — more than $45 billion annually in direct costs, and an additional $50 billion a year in tax revenues that would follow from legalization. Together, that means the drug war destroys or damages almost 1 million American lives each year at an ultimate annual cost of almost $100 billion. We have waged the war for 45 years now, and have precious little to show for it.
The incoming Trump administration is doubling down on the failed policies of the past. Instead of looking to Colorado, Washington, Oregon and the other states that have surrendered the drug war, Trump is simply upping the ante.
And, as usual, Americans will pay. They will pay with their freedom, and they will pay with their money. And as is almost always the case in the war on drugs, it will all be for nothing.
ANTONY DAVIES, PITTSBURGH, PA. and JAMES R. HARRIGAN, LOGAN, UTAH
Editor’s note: Antony Davies is associate professor of economics at Duquesne University. James R. Harrigan is senior research fellow at Strata in Logan, Utah. They wrote this for InsideSources.com.