Over the past four decades, federal and state governments have poured over $1 trillion into drug war spending and relied on taxpayers to foot the bill. Unfortunately, these tax dollars have gone to waste. In 1980, the United States had 50,000 people behind bars for drug law violations – now we have more than half a million. The U.S. is now the world’s largest jailer, drugs remain widely available and treatment resources are scarce. Not only have billions of tax dollars been wasted, but drug war spending has also resulted in the defunding of other important services. Money funneled into drug enforcement has meant less funding for more serious crime and has left essential education, health, social service and public safety programs struggling to operate on meager funding. The Drug Policy Alliance is working to shift funding away from the same old failed policies and toward effective drug treatment and education programs. We are leading the movement to end prohibition’s drain on our economy and to protect your tax dollars from wasteful drug war spending.
Learn more about our priorities for fiscal responsibility.
Enacted in 1973 under then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller, the Rockefeller Drug Laws mandated extremely harsh prison terms for possession or sale of relatively small amounts of drugs. Although intended to target “kingpins,” most people incarcerated under the laws were convicted of low-level, nonviolent, first-time offenses. The laws marked an unprecedented shift towards addressing drug use and abuse through the criminal justice system instead of through the medical and public health systems.
Historically, Byrne Grants have been used primarily to finance drug task forces, which have a record of racially disproportionate lowlevel drug arrests and increased local and state costs with no measurable impact on public safety.
Sen. David Vitter has recently introduced The Drug Free Families Act of 2011 (S. 83). This legislation would require all new applicants for TANF benefits, and all individuals currently receiving these benefits, to submit to drug testing. This proposed policy is a misguided and punitive waste of resources, and would place unnecessary financial burdens on taxpayers and state and federal budgets in order to enact an ineffective policy.
Congress is set to cut spending. Now is our chance to demand that they stop wasting money on the drug war!