It was 50 years ago that U.S. President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs.
Not exactly an anniversary to celebrate, given that 81,000 people died of a drug overdose in America between May 2019 and May 2020.
Fentanyl and meth overdose deaths are on the rise and there was a 38% increase in synthetic opioid deaths in the same period.
Then there’s all the collateral damage — poverty, broken families and prisons jammed with people arrested on drug charges, many of them minor offences.
Even a minor criminal conviction can create lifelong havoc in terms of lost employment and education opportunities, ongoing housing issues and the like.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was created two years after Nixon’s declaration of war, starting out with 1,470 agents and a budget under $75 million.Today, there are more than 5,000 DEA agents and their budget is about $2 billion.
Bigger, badder, deadlier: The war on drugs has been an epic fail.
In Canada, it’s also a failure, albeit on a smaller scale.
(Mind you, according to the United Nations, Canada is the world’s largest producer of ecstasy and methamphetamines.)
Drug-related law enforcement in Canada costs about $2 billion annually, and closer to $50 billion when you count healthcare, justice, lost productivity and everything else.
There were 22,989 drug-trafficking, production, or distribution offences nationwide in Canada in 2019. That’s a drop from 2018 — no doubt because that’s when cannabis became legal.