Samuel Colorado

The War On Drugs, and The Prison Population

The War On Drugs has had a more negative impact than positive, and it's ruining many people's lives

Dear Future President:

Here in the U.S. we pride ourselves on the fact that we live in a free country, but in reality this isn’t true because the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world. One of the biggest reasons the U.S. has such a large prison population is the unnecessarily harsh laws on drug possession as a result of the War on Drugs. During the mid and late 1980s, more and more people began to join a wave of anti-drug sentiment, which caused a huge expansion of the drug war, and resulted in an a massive increase in the number of people in prison for drug offenses from 50,000 to 400,000. This simple fact proves that the war on drugs hurts the citizens of the U.S. more than it helps them. The only way to shrink the prison population is to stop arresting people for doing something no worse than many legal activities. There has to be a better way to promote saying no to drugs than increasing the harshness of drug laws.

What makes this issue more important than other issues is the fact that there are currently hundreds of thousands of American citizens locked up who shouldn’t be. Because of the war on drugs, more people are locked up for marijuana than ever before, and the truth of the matter is, marijuana is not a serious offense. Ask yourself this question: Is it acceptable to lock someone up for possession of marijuana, which isn’t deadly by any stretch of the imagination, if it is legal to consume alcohol which is directly responsible for almost 90,000 deaths a year? The fact that there are almost 600,000 inmates who are locked up for marijuana possession, and only that, is horrifying. These people need to be treated like human beings, and the right thing to do would be to let them out of prison. We need to legalize or, at least decriminalize, marijuana so that more people won’t be imprisoned for something so silly. If legalized, it is predicted that marijuana would bring in around 46 billion dollars worth of tax revenue, and the prison population would certainly decrease significantly.

Many people believe that legalization would not significantly reduce the prison population. My argument against this that the intention of the war on drugs was to target drug lords, but according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Reports, there were 1,552,432 drug related arrests in 2012. However, 82.2% of these arrests were simply for possession, and almost half of these arrests were for marijuana possession. We are do not appear to be targeting drug lords; we appear to be targeting our own citizens. Currently, the number of people incarcerated for marijuana possession only is 574,641. That’s 574,641 people who could be at home with their families, but instead are locked up.

There are several steps that need to be taken in order to shrink the U.S. prison population and reverse the effects of the war on drugs-without increasing the percentage of drug users. The first step is to legalize marijuana. I know what you're thinking: the U.S. has more important things to do than legalize pot. However, the reason it needs to be legalized is not to make all the potheads happy, rather it is to decrease the amount of people in who are in jail for illegal possession. The second step towards a freer U.S. is to implement government programs that help addicts recover and educate the youth about the dangers of hard drugs. If more people knew the consequences of drug use at an early age, including the use marijuana and alcohol, fewer people would use them. The most important step that needs to be taken is all the people currently in jail for smoking and possessing marijuana (and only that) need to be released. These people don’t deserve to be behind bars with murderers and rapists. I realize that preventing people from doing drugs is important, but is it worth ruining thousands of lives just to prevent further marijuana usage? It is time to take a close look at what is truly important to the well being of this country. This issue is extremely important, and it could determine whether this country is truly free or not. I hope, as the future president of this nation, you would choose the “truly free” option.



Wheat Ridge HS

Composition for the College Bound English

Twelfth graders in Colorado

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