The Drug War’s Crumbling Infrastructure
The dismantling of the drug war infrastructure took a major step with Attorney General Eric Holder’s August 12 announcement that the Justice Department will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. Echoing law enforcement leaders throughout the country, Holder noted the nation “cannot prosecute or incarcerate” its way to community safety.
The policy of minimum mandatory sentences for minor drug offenders was a major pillar of the War on Drugs. Instituted in the “get tough” era beginning in the 1070’s, the policy has been an economic and human disaster. On the economic front the policy has led to an exploding national prison population growing 800% since 1980. The subsequent prison costs are estimated at $80 billion annually at a time when both the federal and state governments are scrambling to find dollars for basic services.
The human cost is incalculable and politicians across the spectrum lined up to support the new policy. From uber-liberal Senator Pat Leahy to ultra-conservative Senator Rand Paul, politicians spoke in support of Holder’s policy move.
The development is further evidence that the War on Drugs is on its last legs. Widespread support of marijuana legalization and drug law reform are at a tipping point and I believe the drug policy landscape will be radically changed over the next few years.