Furthermore, when we lock up dealers, we temporarily reduce the supply of illegal drugs. As a result, there is a spike in the price of drugs, which increases the profits for drug dealers and, therefore the incentive to become a drug dealer. We’ve locked up a lot of drug dealers over the past 40 plus years, the resulting void in the supply side of the drug trade has always been filled very rapidly.
The key to “winning” the War on Drugs is to shift our focus from the supply side to the demand side of the equation. If we began to lock up casual users, particularly if we do so aggressively, we would see a decrease in the demand for drugs.
When you lock up users, you reduce the demand directly. (Assuming they don’t find a way to buy drugs while incarcerated.) More importantly, if enough casual users see enough of their friends and family members locked up for years for simply smoking a joint or popping a pill for which they do not have a prescription, the attraction of recreational drugs will dim. With a lower demand, the price of drugs will drop. There will be a sharp decline in the profits of drug dealers and a substantially reduced incentive to engage in dealing.
Of course, if we really want to win the War on Drugs, we would strictly enforce all of the drug laws on the books and lock up both users and dealers.
“The Wit and Wisdom of Ulysses S. Grant” would be a short book indeed. He does not rank among our most effective presidents or deepest thinkers. However, one quotation from him is well worth considering and applying to the War on Drugs: “The best way to get rid of a bad law is to strictly enforce it.”
What would happen if we strictly enforced the letter of the laws that are on the books right now related to the illegal use of drugs? What if we could lock up every single citizen guilty of using or selling illegal drugs?