Justin Panasiuk

Drugs may be part of a wild night out for some high school and college students, but people’s lives, finances, families and careers are devastated every day by a half-witted war on drugs.

Despite federal and state governments spending more than $50 billion a year and hundreds of billions over a few decades on control and prevention, drugs are still on the streets and have proliferated further within American society.

Every year since 1996, FBI statistics reveal more than 1.5 million nonviolent drug arrests in the U.S., with 858,408 marijuana arrests in 2009 alone.

This constant barrage of mostly possession charges costs state and local governments hefty sums of money for court and imprisonment fees.

When the government spends hundreds of billions on a war, the American people have expectations: an end in sight, a reasonable goal and an exit strategy.

How many more billions must be spent and nonviolent offenders locked away in order for the drug war to be a success? The United States now boasts the largest prison population and the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 1 in every 99.1 adults in a local, state or federal prison.

During Prohibition in the United States from 1920–33, the mafia became increasingly wealthy and powerful as they controlled the alcohol trade on the black market.

Similarly, the criminalization of drugs has incentivized gangs to spring up in nearly every American community and form business networks throughout the U.S., Mexico and other countries. Federal drug regulation causes prices to rise, giving these organized gangs a nearly unlimited and never-ending income source.

By legalizing and regulating drugs the same as any agricultural or consumer product, money would almost immediately transfer from the hands of these powerful gangs to the hands of entrepreneurs, investors and farmers.

Businesses associated with the industry would create an incalculable amount of tax revenue and jobs. Urban ghettoes would experience a renaissance as gangs were dismantled, drug dealers found themselves unemployed, and once-illegal producers competed with large legal businesses that produce a cheap and quality product.

The perpetual cycle of poverty would be broken as fathers and mothers would not be put in prison because of the War on Drugs, and families would be less likely to fall victim to gang violence.

The social fabric not only in urban ghettoes, but across the nation would be renewed. Gangs would be drastically scaled back because the money that keeps them alive would be removed.

The nearly 200,000 teenagers who are refused financial aid each year because of federal drug prosecution would have the chance to receive an education and start a career.

Those against legalization often argue that drugs will seep in the hands of young children, and everyone will pick up a pipe and smoke it.

In actuality, drug legalization has little or no affect on an increase in use, and often leads to a decrease. In recent years, Portugal decriminalized all drugs despite insistence from politicians that chaos would ensue.

Society did not break down into chaos, no one dropped out of school and use of heroin actually declined.

Although most drugs are terrible for your health, the economic and social effects of drug prohibition are wide-ranging.

The current system has been shown to be a complete failure.

Individuals should have the responsibility to say no if they so choose, and be able to say yes without fear of prosecution and incarceration.