The United States prison population has increased a jaw-dropping 800% since 1971, the year that the war on drugs was initiated by the Nixon administration. Half of the 216,000 federal inmates in prison today are incarcerated for drug offenses. The incarceration rate in the U.S. is the highest in the world.
The country that once called itself the beacon of democracy is now the planet’s prison capital. Unsurprisingly, the most vocal constituencies for continuing the drug war just happen to be those groups that benefit economically from the status quo, local and state law enforcement agencies and the private prison industry.
In addition to the human costs, billions of tax dollars are flushed down the toilet annually on this failed policy. If President Obama really wants to leave a lasting legacy, he will begin dismantling the drug war infrastructure and putting the power of his office behind legalization efforts at the state and federal level.